The other day I shared the trailer for a film titled “From the Dust: Conversations in Creation” that addresses Christian views on the evolutionary paradigm for human origins. Today I want to share another interesting trailer on a film addressing the doctrine of hell called “Hellbound?”
You can learn more about this film at hellboundthemovie.com. Some of the people interviewed include Brian McLaren, Gregory A. Boyd, Mark Driscoll, Peter Kreeft, and Robert Perry, among others. I intend to watch both of these films since these are subjects worth discussing.
Now this is a more critical subject, IMO, to get accurate for the entire Church than any other debate. Is the Bible one large, unified narrative or not? IF it is, the “hell” the western Church has preached is nonsense because there is nothing remotely like that in the OT text.
Almost all the English renderings “HELL” are from the Greek term “Gehenna”, which is a geographic location below Jerusalem which we do find in the OT text. It’s where apostate Jews worshipped Ba’al and then murdered their children by burning them in fire after having sex orgies.
Our Church has just missed this one bad, IMO. Jesus is using apocalyptic language there just as the OT text does when it says things like “Yahweh will destroy you with unquenchable fire”. Well, we have access to human history and the bible and that NEVER literally happened.
Not to mention the very concept is antithetical to God’s character. It is a pagan concept we’ve accepted because we don’t realize how metaphorical the Jewish prophets were and Jesus was the most metaphorical of them all.
The whole idea of an eternity of suffering in hell is so easily overturned by a verse most of us learned in Sunday School: For the wages of sin is death, but the true gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. What happens when we sin? We die. What is the gift of God? Eternal life. How then can we live eternally in hell, suffering? There is an eternal price for unforgiven sin: death, forever, irreversible. But God’s gift is eternal life. Therefore, if we don’t have enteral life, we die. This may seems like an over-simplification, but in fact, all the “eternal suffering” passages must be interpreted in the light of this very clear text. You interpret the unclear with the clear. The vast weight of “eternal death” passages outweigh the few “eternal suffering” passages and therefore must be interpreted differently.
There are verses that indicate ‘wrath is to come’ … [Rom 12:19][1 Thess 1:10][1 Thess 5:9][Rev 6:17] etc. The problem is to either de-tangle this talk of God’s wrath from ‘Hell’ as Patrick suggests, or to confirm it – establishing a more sound theology of hell.
I believe in the wrath to come, but I believe it is enternal death, not suffering. The wages of sin is death.
Brian, do you know that there is a movie soon to be released called “Hell and Mr. Fudge.”? It’s based on the background story of Edward Fudge’s famous (or infamous) book “The Fire That Consumes”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYitcv8uBkc
As an annihilationist, I’m (cautiously) excited to see it.
Andrew T. – The wrath to come could just mean the general resurrection at the end of the world. The wicked are raised to face judgment and are destroyed. The righteous to eternal life, etc. Some might say it seems strange that God would raise the wicked just for them to die again but it does make sense of the term “second death”.
I agree, it is very hard to reconcile eternal punishment with the character of God. I think God’s judgment and wrath are good things because we want someone to remove evil, but that humans would be like a spider over a flame (ala Edwards) is hard to swallow.
I did see that. That will be another interesting film to watch.
I should note that I find many aspects of the traditional teaching on hell to be very problematic.
(1) Jesus’ teaching on the subject is always directed toward the hypocrites but never toward people like prostitutes or tax collectors. It is apparent that the Evangelist wanted to portray Jesus as a friend of “sinners” and an opponent of those who pretended to speak for God, but who misrepresented God instead. This should cause us to pause.
(2) I don’t see any evidence in the Hebrew Scriptures for something like the “traditional” doctrine of hell.
(3) Paul never mentions hell, not once. He talks about eschatological wrath and judgment in the language of a prophet but he curiously leaves out any details about a pit of fire. Luke doesn’t portray him as preaching or teaching on hell in Acts either.
(4) The “hell” images in the Apocalypse should be approached with caution, especially as we realize that apocalyptic literature is not what many dispensationalist types make it. It is a “behind the scenes” type of literature with prophetic elements, not a purely prophetic form of literature.
No question there is “wrath of God” theologically. Often believers are confronted with it, not just unbelievers.
The western concept of hell is a separate issue though.
Study the OT and you won’t find much about the afterlife at all( because the Jews expected heaven to come to them and restore eschatological Israel on earth), and nothing about eternal punishment of any sort, let alone burning hellfire. You read of sheol and it appears you can escape the place, sometimes it is interpreted as “the pit”, “the grave”.
The term “unquenchable fire” is used apocalyptically for God’s negative judgment in the OT text and Sodom and Jerusalem appear to have been examples of it being executed. We know that wasn’t literal, it was metaphorical.
2 ideas of the modern, western Church are not OT ideas and this makes me think we need to re-examine our views. 1) Going to heaven 2) Going to hell
Remember, Jewish prophets majored on apocalyptic genre( the moon will be blood red, pillars of smoke and fire, the stars will fall, etc) and it was predicted Messiah would speak in metaphorical language ( Isaiah or a Psalm) and Matthew tells us He didn’t speak in any other form of lingo up to then I think in chapter 13. Jesus was the most metaphorical of them all, He was the “most” in all respects.
Eastern Christians never believed this was literal and in a way I think it is a shame Augustine has had so much influence on us. Augustine was a great man, but, I think on hell he erred greatly. John Chrysostom would have been a better theologian on this issue, IMO. I am not Orthodox, so I am not evangelizing about it, I just think those folks have this one more accurate.
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