Five Preachings on Hell

Perhaps the most offensive Evangelical doctrine to both Mormons and non-Christians is Hell.  It seems unfathomable to some that a loving God would send (or allow) people to go to a place of eternal punishment for a lifetime of sins.

Conversant Life is a popular Evangelical website.  Once a week, they’ve been posting these teachings on Hell from different Christian leaders.  I thought I would borrow what they’ve done and give everyone a quick snapshot of the various ways Evangelical leaders speak about Hell.

Erwin McManus

Mark Driscoll

Tim Keller

John Piper

N.T. Wright (okay, perhaps not an Evangelical)

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77 thoughts on “Five Preachings on Hell

  1. Highly recommended:

    Four Views on Hell

    On another note, I would argue (as I’ve written elsewhere) that Smith (or at least merely D&C 19) was essentially a universalist or annhilationist in 1830, but Mormonism then affirmed an endless outer darkness, and even endless eternal punishments (heavenly hells or hellish heavens) suffered in bottom-heavenly kingdoms or sublevels of the Celestial Kingdom.

  2. I appreciate the post, for me this is certainly the most unpalatable area of Protestant theology. I try to get into the mind of the Protestant to see how they see it and wonder if I was a believer in Protestantism for some other reason, could I swallow the hell doctrine on faith alone with enough of the CS Lewis-esque sugar on the pill?

    Of course all of this second guessing reveals my deep skepticism. As Camus once wrote:

    “When man submits God to moral judgment, he kills Him in his own heart.

    When you judge the clear tenants of your faith by human moral reasoning way there seems to be an inherent denial of its ultimate Divinity.

    If God is not just, what else good can we say about Him? so if there is a Hell, and Jesus is the only door, the believer must consider it just. (But the sophisticated and intellectual will have to make that palatable and square it with our 20th century sentiments.)

    Of course the reality of Hell in the afterlife is as unproven (or proven) as the reality of Heaven. So once we have the faith to believe in a certain concept in the Bible regarding hell, the rest of our talk about that subject is just apologetics, not understanding or even justification. Otherwise its hard to call yourself a “believer”.

    So for that reason it doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to use the Protestant doctrine of Hell as an argument against Protestantism, or even perhaps, a justification for fundamentally disbelieving that religion (which I do, and Hell is a big part of it). If I believe in God, if he told me Hell was the way that Edwards described, I would either believe it or disbelieve God. The only avenue of attack for a believer on the doctrine is to determine that God didn’t really say that stuff and we are confused.

  3. Watching those videos (except for Wright’s) reminded me of how little I miss that kind of evangelical teaching.

  4. The traditional Protestant doctrine of hell (fire, brimstone, eternal torture, etc.) is the hardest thing in the universe for me to swallow. It makes NO SENSE to me.

    A few notes I jotted down as I watched…

    –I’m tired of people saying “God doesn’t want people to go to hell…but His hands are tied and He has to send them there anyway.” I’m sorry, He’s God. If He really doesn’t want it, why can’t He come up with a way to work it out??

    –“Some people don’t want the love of God.” I guess there might be people like this, but I’m not sure I’ve ever met one. Even most atheists I know are atheists not because they don’t want God’s love, but because they don’t believe that the God they’ve heard about is very loving.

    –Mark Driscoll: “The punishment always fits the crime.” Riiiiiight. Because 10 million eternities in a vat of boiling lava is a totally just consequence for that candy bar I stole when I was 12. Great point.

    –John Piper needs chill the hell out. Pun intended. Seriously, I thought he was going to pass out from lack of oxygen.

    –Wright’s approach was much more reasonable and tempered. I appreciated it against the rest of that.

  5. I look forward to watching these.

    I will offer one thought on the idea that “some people don’t want God’s love…” Of the few atheists I know, they all say the same thing. The idea of an afterlife is pointless to them. The idea of seeking love and power from a higher being is pointless. They seem more interested in respecting other humans and living their lives rather than seeking some “extra” sense of belonging and justification. Maybe I just know too many existentialists, but they don’t seem too worried about the “type” of God that’s out there…they think s/he is made up whether s/he is kind or cruel.

  6. If there was a cage match between N. T. Wright and all of the others, Wright would win. And Wright could even be blind-folded with one arm tied behind his back, and McManus, Keller, Piper and Driscoll could have spears, and Wright would still win.

    Briefly, why I am okay with and even prefer the teaching of hell:

    (1) Because if our actions in this life don’t have permanent consequences in the next, isn’t is rather sadistic of God to make us go through the things we put up with in this life? If we’re all destined for heaven and glory regardless, can’t he just dispense with the torment and pain here and move us on to the good stuff?

    (2) Because I believe in agency. We shouldn’t assume that everyone is going to like what God is and want to be with God for eternity. There are people in this life who say they find the Christian concept of God appalling, and I think it’s patronizing to insist that their feelings are entirely due to a misunderstanding of what God is. Why should we assume that these people are going to feel differently in the next life?

    (3) Because Jesus said more about hell than anyone else in the Bible. It’s very strange to me that people today see hell as some kind of mean-spirited, intolerant Protestant concept and lament that we can’t just love everyone like Jesus did. What Bible are they reading? I think the concept of hell is inseparable from Christianity.

    All that said, as I’ve said elsewhere, I am an inclusivist. And I also like this statement that’s attributed to Roman Catholic thinker Richard John Neuhaus: “You know, I guess I have to believe there’s a hell hereafter because scripture says so, but I can always hope it’s empty.” (H/T: aquinas)

  7. Jack…

    (1) Because if our actions in this life don’t have permanent consequences in the next, isn’t is rather sadistic of God to make us go through the things we put up with in this life?

    This is a good question, but I don’t know why God is somehow *less* sadistic by sending people to eternal torture just because they didn’t “get it right” about Him in a confusing and difficult mortal existence.

    What if there is a better reason for this life than getting our butts out of hell, and into heaven? I’m not sure what it is, but what if?

    (2) Why should we assume that these people are going to feel differently in the next life?

    I guess we can’t make that assumption. I just think that if I were an unbeliever, and then I was confronted by God, I’d believe. But not everyone is like me…

    (3) Because Jesus said more about hell than anyone else in the Bible.

    That’s true.

    I still don’t get it, though.

  8. I hesitate to post here, because my knowledge of apologetics is old (and probably outdated, lol), and I haven’t watched the videos, so my apologies if I repeat something already said, or say something ridiculous…

    Hasn’t the protestant concept of hell evolved over the years? And if not, shouldn’t it have? Because it hasn’t been used very well; certainly not the way I’d hope God intended it (if it was even His idea in the first place).

    To wit: “Be saved, or go to hell.” Well, there’s some solid motivation for you, the fear factor. Problems: How many people claim “salvation” just to avoid “hell”? Do they really get to know Jesus, or just a list of rules that will keep them out of the fire? Doesn’t that sort of thinking create the equivalent of Christian Pharisees, the very people Jesus rebuked? And how long before these hell-avoiding converts give it up all together, get pissed and rebel at their Authoritarian Father in Heaven, and give it up entirely? “Go ahead, send me to hell… at least I’m going to enjoy life here for awhile without that constant pit in my stomach!”

    Seems like a pretty amateurish parenting technique for an Almighty, All-knowing, loving heavenly parent.

    On the other hand, I don’t find it strange at all that Jesus talked about hell a lot. He also talked about love a lot. And if you define hell as “apart from God”, and take it a step further to mean “apart from love,” well… that makes a lot of sense. Living without love, or dying without it, or living afterward for eternity without it… sounds like hell to me.

  9. “Briefly, why I am okay with and even prefer the teaching of hell:

    (1) Because if our actions in this life don’t have permanent consequences in the next, isn’t is rather sadistic of God to make us go through the things we put up with in this life?”

    So is it a contest? We’re all trying to outdo one another? And I thought under protestant teaching our “actions” don’t have consequences in the next life (because they are forgiven) but only that one “action,” the decision for or against Christ. So all our foot-stomping and “it’s not fair! I did more than HER!” and all the trouble we put up with in this life isn’t going to mean a hill of beans if we both answered the altar call, right?

    “(2) Because I believe in agency. We shouldn’t assume that everyone is going to like what God is and want to be with God for eternity. There are people in this life who say they find the Christian concept of God appalling, and I think it’s patronizing to insist that their feelings are entirely due to a misunderstanding of what God is. Why should we assume that these people are going to feel differently in the next life?”

    Maybe so… but does that mean they have to burn for eternity? “You thought it out on your own, made your best guess, but you were WRONG! Haha, barbeque this, you lame-a**!”

    I agree there are people who avoid God, who even snub Him, laugh in His face… but why? Is there something they’ve been through or something they’ve missed in their lives that cause them to reject what is all around them? Or, as they walk along their own path, have they just not been able to see Him yet? If so… why all the damnation, from the One who created them that way in the first place?

    “I think the concept of hell is inseparable from Christianity.”

    Again, maybe (though I’m not sure I agree with that)… but can’t our definition evolve? Instead of hell being a punitive place for those who are not as good and as wise as we are, can’t it be simply the sad, empty place people find themselves, in life or after, when they DON’T have knowledge of God?

  10. ; )

    Well, here’s one more thought I had in all this.

    Mormons who reject all the “duties” as essential for salvation, and who focus on living and loving like Jesus, start to look a lot like Protestants.

    Protestants who reject the avoidance of hellfire and exclusionist rhetoric, and who focus on living and loving like Jesus, start to look a lot like Mormons.

    Don’t know how watertight those statements are, but interesting to ponder…

  11. Clink, I don’t believe in hell as a literal place of fiery torture. My view of hell is more in line with that of C. S. Lewis, i.e. “The gates of hell are locked from the inside.”

    And yes, our actions do have consequences in the next life, even for those who are saved. I discussed my view on works and rewards here.

    Is there something they’ve been through or something they’ve missed in their lives that cause them to reject what is all around them?

    For some people, yes, but I think it’s condescending to assume that this is the case of every non-believer who has examined Christianity and rejected it.

    I’m reminded of those Mormons who insist that the stuff their church teaches about the subordination of women and polygyny in the next life isn’t going to bother me when I get there because I lack understanding here. I beg to differ.

  12. Clink said:

    And I thought under protestant teaching our “actions” don’t have consequences in the next life (because they are forgiven) but only that one “action,” the decision for or against Christ.

    That’s a mischaracterization of what many Protestants believe. You might want to check out this:
    Eternal Rewards
    and this:
    Salvation and rewards

    Clink also said:

    Mormons who reject all the “duties” as essential for salvation, and who focus on living and loving like Jesus, start to look a lot like Protestants.

    Protestants who reject the avoidance of hellfire and exclusionist rhetoric, and who focus on living and loving like Jesus, start to look a lot like Mormons.

    As I said somewhere (I think on Jack’s blog), the best of Mormonism and the best of evangelicalism are surprisingly similar in terms of how we live our lives and understand the personality of God. So I don’t disagree with what you said.

  13. Okay, so all this chatter gets to a question that makes me really uncomfortable.

    Let’s say that God really *isn’t* perfectly loving and kind, and really *does* make women practice polygyny in the afterlife or condemn people to eternal misery because they got their theology wrong.

    What am I supposed to do with a God like that?

    Which is better: to go along with an evil God, just so I don’t catch His fury? Or oppose God, and then wind up in eternal torment?

    Or if He *is* perfectly good, loving, and kind, with all these other sad and scary ideas about Him floating around out there, how do you even know which God is the real one?

  14. I think the debate for me comes down to two basic questions.

    1) Is the idea that God would allow people the free choice to be apart from Him forever fundamentally unfair? (The alternative being torment or annihilation being unsolved for the moment.)

    2) Do you trust someone like Jesus to be a good judge?

    It’s the clear teaching of scriptures that all of us have been separated from God by our own sin. The “make-right” for that sin has been made available to all people by Jesus (whether they’ve heard of him or not). All people have to do is accept that gift and bend their knee to a loving merciful God.

    How Jesus judges is something he’s earned my faith in him to do correctly, fairly and righteously.

  15. As much love Wright is getting from everyone, I’m not sure what he has to say is all that different than the other video clips. It’s mostly just the way he says it.

  16. 1) Is the idea that God would allow people the free choice to be apart from Him forever fundamentally unfair?

    Well, I guess this is where I get tripped up. Is that really the only reason people will be in hell?

    Because the things I’ve heard, people go to hell because they get their theology wrong or have basic human weakness. Maybe they never hear about Jesus, or His message doesn’t make sense to them so they don’t accept Him, or they’re gay, or whatever.

    I don’t see how you get around the idea that a God who would throw these people into hell is fundamentally unfair.

    I suppose if hell really is just for people who fundamentally and eternally reject God’s love, and He really is the loving, just, and merciful God we all seem to think He is, then okay…I suppose I can see that God won’t force people to be in His presence.

    But I’m just having a hard time picturing a person who would stand in the presence of this kind of all-loving, all-encompassing, beautiful God and say, “No thanks — I’ll take the torture”???

    Maybe I just have too generous a view of humanity or something, but it’s really hard for me to imagine that.

  17. “And yes, our actions do have consequences in the next life, even for those who are saved. I discussed my view on works and rewards here.”

    I read the Bible references, and I didn’t see either as hard-and-fast evidence that we are rewarded in heaven based on works here; in fact, I’ve never heard that theory in regard to the talents parable. And wouldn’t that interpretation be in direct opposition to the parable about the workers in the field, who were paid the same at the end of the day no matter when they’d started or how much they’d accomplished?

    “For some people, yes, but I think it’s condescending to assume that this is the case of every non-believer who has examined Christianity and rejected it.”

    Not if Christianity is true, lol! No seriously, you’re absolutely right, that can be a condescending assumption, but mostly applicable when people view faith and their spiritual journey as a staircase right up into the gates of heaven. I’m not sure that’s how it really is, though. For me it’s been more like that mess of tangled yarn at the bottom of the knitting bag… lots of twists and turns, ups and downs, and dang, those knotted obstacles. No way I can feel superior to someone else just because I’m at the top of the tangle at the moment; for that matter, no way to judge where I am spiritually compared to someone else. How can we tell who is “further along” in their own knotted up mess of yarn? And if we can, does one of us get more points if we’ve had to travel a lot longer to get to that point?

  18. “I think the debate for me comes down to two basic questions.

    1) Is the idea that God would allow people the free choice to be apart from Him forever fundamentally unfair? (The alternative being torment or annihilation being unsolved for the moment.)”

    Could be, depending on how much involvement and credit we give Him in creating us, placing us in our circumstances, and being present in our everyday lives.

    “2) Do you trust someone like Jesus to be a good judge?”

    Sure. But I don’t fully trust fallible human beings, me included, to be able to completely, 100% correctly define His criteria for every single person in every single situation.

  19. “But I’m just having a hard time picturing a person who would stand in the presence of this kind of all-loving, all-encompassing, beautiful God and say, “No thanks — I’ll take the torture”???

    Maybe I just have too generous a view of humanity or something, but it’s really hard for me to imagine that.”

    What she said. ; )

  20. Please don’t take anything that I am saying wrong, I struggle with the entire concept of divine judgement not just Hell, but I simply don’t know how a person can consistently take the language of the Bible that proposes the ultimate end of this age is the physical resurrection of the body and the creation or recreation of a new Heaven and a new Earth and then deny a physical hell?

    I recognise that NT Wright is much more learned than I am but the Orthodox have an exceedingly scary version of eternal punishment the opposite of theosis, that includes suffering because of the presence of God.

    I am also not a patristic scholar but there is a clear view from the earliest writing that “…hell is a place where those are to be punished who have lived wickedly, and who do not believe that those things which God has taught us by Christ will come to pass.” (Justin Martyr)

    I don’t have any good answers that would solve the objectionable character of Hell but I don’t think it can be ignored

  21. But I’m just having a hard time picturing a person who would stand in the presence of this kind of all-loving, all-encompassing, beautiful God and say, “No thanks — I’ll take the torture”???

    You have your example in Lucifer. I don’t think anyone is saying “give me torture”. Instead they’re saying “Nope, I’m better at being in charge than you”.

    Why does my daughter look directly at consequences and still decide to do it her way?

  22. Clink ~ And wouldn’t that interpretation be in direct opposition to the parable about the workers in the field, who were paid the same at the end of the day no matter when they’d started or how much they’d accomplished?

    I think the parable of the talents is talking about rewards in heaven and the parable of the workers in the field is talking about salvation in heaven.

    As Tim said, I don’t really have a hard time conceiving of people who know that their choices will have painful, permanent consequences for themselves and still make those choices. It happens in real life all the time (and not just with children).

  23. There is so much that is symbolic and metaphorical found in the Scriptures that I don’t see how some people can take everything literal. I think that just about all of it is symbolic, in that we don’t really know exactly what the next life is going to be like, because we are limited by our current understanding.

    So even though I believe in a literal resurrection, and in a literal new heaven and new earth, I have absolutely no idea what those will actually be like.

    Likewise, I believe that Hell, as a separation from God, does exist. I think that NT Wright put it best: “Hell is what happens when we say to God, “We don’t want [what you have to offer]. We want to stay as we are. We think we know better than you.” Staying as we are would keep us from returning/going to God’s presence. This is Hell.

    I also really wish that Wright hadn’t been cut off at the end. It sounded like he was going to say more, but I definitely like this statement: “The choices we make in the present are more important…” More important than what, though? This statement also jives very well with what Amulek taught in the Book of Mormon about this life being a time to prepare to meet God.

  24. I am not saying that I know what the new Heaven and Earth will be like. I just don’t think that you can be consistent in the belief of a literal new Heaven and Earth and reject belief in a literal Hell.

    I will have to pull down some of my Eastern Orthodox books to get into this deeper but they reject the idea that Hell is a separation from God but believe that the unrighteous are tormented eternally because they are in the presence of God and His divine energies. I find it to be a terrifying thought to be unjustified and subjected to the glory of God unable and unwilling to take part in His love.

    I imagine that lakes of fire and other graphic language is used to get the point across but, “progressive dehumanization” doesn’t quite seem to measure up to the the Orthodox beliefs of being “chastised with the scourge of love. How cruel and bitter this torment of love will be!” (Isaac of Syria)

  25. Tim said:

    I’m not sure what [Wright] has to say is all that different than the other video clips. It’s mostly just the way he says it.

    Even if I were to agree with you (and I’m not saying I do), “the way he says it” matters. One reason Wright’s comments may be more appealing is because of his emphasis on free will (agency in LDS lingo). As I understand him, those who end up in hell are there because of the free choices they have made, choices that relate to refusing to be the type of character that God has meant for his people to be (or something like that). If we end up in hell, it’s not because God is sending us there per se, but because by our own choices we have set things up so that we wouldn’t fit into heaven. (I’m paraphrasing substantially here.)

    I wouldn’t say that’s inconsistent with anything I believe. To Wright, as I understand him, God wants his children to be with him for eternity, and if they’re not it’s because they themselves have chosen not to.

    Driscoll, on the other hand, seems to paint the picture of the kind of God that I was taught in my early days as an evangelical (teaching that in the long run had the effect of making Mormonism attractive to me in many ways). To Driscoll and those of his ilk as I interpret them, God is a punishing God waiting to pounce on people when they make mistakes and send them to hell. Of course, Driscoll says no such thing and would probably deny believing such a thing, but that is what I see as the subtext. Driscoll seems to delight in the fact that there will be plenty of people who won’t make it.

    If I didn’t know better, I’d wonder if Driscoll and Wright worship the same God.

    BJM said:

    Briefly, why I am okay with and even prefer the teaching of hell: …

    Actually, there’s nothing that you say in that particular comment that I disagree with.

    I don’t really disagree with the evangelical view that there’s a hell (or outer darkness), although I don’t know exactly what that is. Where I part company with evangelicals is that I believe that we can continue to make decisions that affect our eternal destiny even beyond the grave. Ultimately, it becomes our choice where we will spend eternity.

  26. To Wright, as I understand him, God wants his children to be with him for eternity, and if they’re not it’s because they themselves have chosen not to.

    I don’t know of an Evangelical that wouldn’t agree with that.

    Perhaps a better way to frame Wright’s comments is that I don’t think any of the other four would substantially disagree with him.

    I concur that amongst fundamentalist there are a great many people who delight in the thought of sinners finally getting their what-for. Perhaps if I were part of the persecuted church I would be encouraged by hell.

  27. “I concur that amongst fundamentalist there are a great many people who delight in the thought of sinners finally getting their what-for. Perhaps if I were part of the persecuted church I would be encouraged by hell.”

    Seems to have seeped into the evangelical camps as well… at least amongst the general population, and in my experience.

    Or maybe I just can’t get my mother’s voice out of my head… ; )

  28. I think Tim is right the N.T. Wright doesn’t say a whole lot different that the others except with his more sophisticated and “learned” description.

    I think we should be clear- Mormons believe in hell, just not a endless hell. There are plenty of horrible punishments that await the unrepentant sinners in he Mormon paradigm,but the punishment stops when they pay for their sins . . . I think that is a critical difference. Are there any Evangelicals that believe that punishment might end? Is their interpretation of the bible open to that?

    If Hell is endless doesn’t that make any punishment and infinite punishment, and only fitting for an infinitely appalling crime?

  29. Also, what is the Evangelical opinion of another Evangelical “preaching” about hell: Hell House

    Where do Hell House’s fit into the Evangelical preaching, is this a mainstream view among Evangelicals?

    Are Hell House shows generally controversial or accepted?

  30. I think Hell Houses are absolutely horrible.

    Then again, I thought Saved! was delightfully funny, so maybe I’m out of touch.

  31. Jared, that is the first I have ever heard of a Hell House, and I thought it was tasteless.

    I mean, points for presenting their message in a creative fashion at least, but still tasteless.

    It did seem to me from that trailer that the Hell House was more focused on hell in this world rather than hell in the next life.

  32. Wow, I keep hearing about Hell Houses. The “movement/fad” started at the church the documentary is focused on. Supposedly they are popping up all over the country during Halloween.

    http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/1996/october7/6tb87a.html

    Of course I am always listening to the “liberal” media who look at this stuff as evidence that Christians are loony tunes. Maybe its more marginal than its made out to be.

    The hell house concept is they show all kinds of people engaged in wild living and sin and then dying in sick ways and then they have demons come out and drag them to hell, then they have a heaven at the end and the possibility of saying the sinners prayer.

  33. I actually heard about Hell Houses from the commentary in Saved! four or five years ago. I guess that counts as liberal media, but from other things I’ve read, apparently those “kits” go for a few hundred dollars, with “bonus” scenes available for purchase if the group putting it on really wants to scare people. So it may be marginal, but there’s a healthy market for it.

    All I know is that I would find another church if mine ever pulled something like that.

  34. Surprisingly enough, we had an activity when I was a youth in my ward that was kindof the same vein. They started the youngmen/youngwomen activity with a carnival in the gym where you played midway type games ostensibly to win tickets to earn prizes like a stereo, TV set, walkman, and other cool 80s electronics but you also had a chance to win scriptures. Of course I already had scriptures so I tried to win all of the other stuff.

    After about an hour of playing the games they brought us into the hall and said we had died and now we were going to see what happens, they then showed three skits about outer darkness, the Telestial kingdom and the Terrestrial kingdom. It was all dark and unpleasant, they quoted the scriptures and depicted the denizens of those kingdoms as listless and unsatisfied, one of the telestial dudes was dragged down to hell, but there was no gore.

    I remember they had a sort of bishops interview and counted up our tickets to see if we had sought after the right things in life. I, of course, was SOL. I don’t remember what the next plot twist was but we all ended up going to the Celestial kingdom, we all walked into the bright Relief Society Room where all of our parents were there dressed in white to great us. It was a nice ending to the night and had a dramatic effect. Still remember how happy my Mom looked, as if to say, “this is the kind of love you can expect”. Then they had some sort of talk and we went home.

    As a young teenager I am sure I would have liked a nice Columbine reenactment prior to the Telestial kingdom skit, but but those were the wistful days before Columbine. . .

  35. I remember being invited to an evangelical neighbour’s church for a Halloween activity once years and years ago… possibly fifteen years ago or more… (two of my brothers were in high school, so it had to have been at least that long ago) and they did a Hell House type of thing. It was essentially just like the one in the video, except with a much lower budget.

    I remember thinking at that point that I would never go to another event like that again. I found it immensely tasteless and unsettling, but not in the “wow, I need to change my life” way. More like a “wow, I can’t believe that people think this is a good way to reach out to others” way.

  36. Jared C.

    I don’t agree with what I think you meant by this:

    There are plenty of horrible punishments that await the unrepentant sinners in he Mormon paradigm,but the punishment stops when they pay for their sins . . .

    I can’t find anywhere in the standard works where it says that sinners in hell will pay for their sins and gain forgiveness because of that. I think it’s sloppy wording on the part of some Mormons that can easily be misunderstand by Mormons as well as Evangelicals.

    Please clarify as to whether or not you think people are released from sins because of their suffering (e.i. punishments) in hell, or if because of another reason.

    FTR, I do not believe that suffering in hell is a payment for our sins. I do believe that suffering in hell can get me to turn to the only Source for redemption out of those sins, and Who can end my suffering.

  37. Jared C asked:

    Where do Hell House’s fit into the Evangelical preaching, is this a mainstream view among Evangelicals? Are Hell House shows generally controversial or accepted?

    I wouldn’t say they’re mainstream. But they aren’t exactly an isolated phenomenon either. Each year around Hallowee there’s one in my community (I forget which church it is, but it isn’t one of the megachurches in town), but I don’t know how many people it draws. I gather that they’re more common in the Bible Belt than elsewhere in the country.

    The final line of the clip

    If you were to die tonight, do you know where you will go?

    brought back some not-so-pleasant memories of the manipulative altar calls I experienced growing up.

    For the uninitiated: An altar call usually would take place after the end of an evangelistic sermon, or perhaps a sermon on the evils of sin. Persons in the congregation would be invited to come forward, either to “give their lives to Christ” or to “recommit their lives to Christ.” There was almost always a manipulative aspect to this, often playing on fear (the line above) or guilt. And since one sin could cause you to burn in hell for eternity, you had better get right with God. (Of course, the good news was that if you were at a Calvinist-oriented church, you only had to become a Christian once, because once saved, always saved. But if you have committed a sin, were you really saved to begin with? So it wouldn’t hurt to give your life to Christ again. In practice, the Calvinists behaved like the Arminians.)

    I am not saying this is the everyday approach of mainstream evangelicalism today (and I suspect that Tim and Jack, among others, would find such manipulative approaches distasteful). I suspect that this approach still would be used at the churches (probably more fundamentalist than evangelical in character) that would put on a hell house. But this approach was very, very common at least through the 1970s in mainstream evangelical churches. I last experienced this sort of thing in the early 1980s, when I gave up that type of evangelicalism for good after realizing that is was spiritually destructive to me.

    This “scare ‘em out of hell” approach has diminished substantially with the megachurch/”seeker-friendly” movement, and that’s a good thing. (The same movement has also had the effect of turning Christianity into merely another consumer choice, but that’s a whole other issue.)

  38. PC,

    Well, I don’t believe in any specific theology. . . I gave up trying to reconcile everything said about what can’t really be said effectively.

    BUT, it is obvious that there is an element that the torments of he are a consequence for sin, and there is a lot of talk about Jesus paying for sin, settling the accounts.

    AND, Mormons often talk this way about suffering, and hell.

    Alma tells us: “Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell” (Alma 36:12–13).”

    Sure there is a lot of ways to look at the issue and some are careful and more systematic. I think paying for sin with our pain, a punishment that fits the crime, is one way people have looked at sin, hell and justice. From what I see its a part of both LDS and Protestant though.

    believe it or not.

  39. Whitney said:

    I’ve read, apparently those “kits” go for a few hundred dollars, with “bonus” scenes available for purchase if the group putting it on really wants to scare people.

    The current price for the basic set is $299. Here’s part of the pitch:

    Shake your city with the most “in-your-face, high-flyin’, no denyin’, death-defyin’, Satan-be-cryin’, keep-ya-from-fryin’, theatrical stylin’, no holds barred, cutting-edge” evangelism tool of the new millennium!

    You can find it here: New Destiny Christian Center. Yeah, I think this is for real. If it’s a spoof, it fooled me.

    I’ve read, apparently those “kits” go for a few hundred dollars, with “bonus” scenes available for purchase if the group putting it on really wants to scare people.

  40. wow, I can’t believe that people think this is a good way to reach out to others” way

    What PC said. I think they’re terrible. I would probably find a different church based on it.

    Southern California is more Evangelical than Fundamentalist. So I’ve only ever seen one church doing one of these (Fundamentalist Baptist).

  41. From New Destiny’s website:

    The gospel has circled the globe because of it!

    Outreaches average a 33% salvation and rededication decision rate!

    Huh?

    Hell House is the reason the gospel is world-wide? I thought that had a lot more to do with European missionaries from the 1500s…

    How does one measure a salvation rate?

  42. Jared,

    I don’t think you’re representing Mormon/Christian beliefs quite accurately (perhaps your own though). Mormon Spirit Prison is more like the Catholic idea of Purgatory. While it doesn’t have to be endless in Mormon thought it certainly could be if someone chose not to accept the Gospel.

    Isn’t Outer Darkness more like Hell? I’m not sure if that’s eternal or not. Is annihilation the end result for the sons of perdition?

    [of course I'm not a Mormon so it's more likely I'm the one who's got it wrong.]

  43. How does one measure a salvation rate?

    a better question for them is “how are you measuring your discipleship rate?”

  44. “For the uninitiated: An altar call usually would take place after the end of an evangelistic sermon, or perhaps a sermon on the evils of sin.”

    Yup, and while I appreciate the sentiment, and the poor altar “caller’s” intent, I believe it’s misguided at best. “Seeds thrown on rocky ground,” maybe? IF the person sticks with anything Christian, they are the ones most likely to ingest and exhale all the rule-following, finger-pointing, intolerant and judgmental “Christianity” that was the opposite of Christ. AND causes people to leave church. And hurts people, followers or not! Where the h*ll (pardon the pun) does this fit in with a good, loving God?

    John Wesley’s first little nugget on living the faith was “First, do no harm.” FIRST! That is so, so far from how Christianity as a whole is seen, isn’t it? (A little closer to how Mormonism is seen… until the non-Mormon kid in Utah tries to make friends, or the well-dressed missionaries come and steal all the children, piping their cultish songs through the community, lol).

    Wow, can you imagine what the world would look like if more people had followed that maxim?

  45. “But this approach was very, very common at least through the 1970s in mainstream evangelical churches. ”

    Still common here, even in your mainline churches (the ones that haven’t grown old and died yet). Ha, that suddenly makes sense… the ones who are now pulling in young families with kids and are trying to “Willow Creek” their Sundays are also throwing in quite a few altar calls. To them it is probably MODERNIZING. Hmmmmm.

    Throw it all at the wall, see if something sticks, I guess.

  46. I am not really representing my beliefs, but I am representing some Mormon/Christian beliefs. My point is that a lot of people see hell this way, as a punishment for sin. Of course I understand there are lots of readings of the Bible and LDS scripture.

    However, when it comes to more systematic “doctrine” there is a hell of suffering and torment for those in the Telestial Kingdom during the millennium, not just a spirit prison. It gets a bit complicated.

  47. I don’t think Jared’s out to lunch. It goes back to D&C 19.

    That section says that while punishment is called “endless punishment,” it’s not literally endless, but called endless because that is God’s name.

    Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment. … For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. (verses 6 and 10)

    Then, it’s written that those who don’t let Christ suffer them will suffer for their own sins:

    For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I…” (verses 16 and 17).

    Put the two together, and I think you can come up with something reasonably close to what Jared is saying.

  48. Tim said:

    Mormon Spirit Prison is more like the Catholic idea of Purgatory.

    True. there are strong similarities in the two concepts.

    While it doesn’t have to be endless in Mormon thought it certainly could be if someone chose not to accept the Gospel.

    I assume that there’s no need for a spirit prison after the Judgment. I don’t see the spirit prison as lasting forever.

    Isn’t Outer Darkness more like Hell?

    That’s what I would say. Unfortunately, the King James Version of the Bible uses the same word to translate gehenna and hades, and I think that’s a cause for confusion, especially since the language of modern revelation has followed suit.

    I’m not sure if that’s eternal or not.

    I’m not sure either. D&C 76:44 describes outer darkness (I assume that’s what it’s talking about) as endless and everlasting. But the following two verses suggest that there could be an end.

    Is annihilation the end result for the sons of perdition?

    No. Maybe you’re confusing us with Seventh-day Adventists.

  49. Thanks for posting these , Tim. I watched each of them.
    I think each one of these pastors had their own unique teaching style, presentation methods, etc. …. but essentially I believe they are saying the same thing in essence. I definately did not like Piper’s baptist “fire and brimstone” teaching style. Nor, did Tim Keller’s soft, and easy going “yeah there is a hell” style do anything for me.
    But I do believe they all are saying in essense: ” Yes, there is a place called hell, and hey God doesn’t want you to go there. It will be a very sad, awful place to be in”. The bottom line, the Bible does teach about a place called, hell. Jesus preached more on hell than any other person in the Bible.

    I just finished a study on the book of Revelation. Yeah, there is a place called Hell. I know some don’t like to to hear it in today’s age, and it most definately is not politically correct to say it.

  50. I’ve heard some people speculate (my mom and seminary teacher among them) that sons of perdition get “disorganized” and cast back into the primordial soup of intelligences from which God organized our spirits, perhaps with a chance to give it another go at some point in the future.

  51. In fact, now that I’m remembering it correctly, somehow I think I was taught that the state of disorganization is what Outer Darkness actually is.

    I grew up with a lot of weird ideas that were not necessarily within the Mormon mainstream.

  52. Has anyone brought up how it’s just of God to condemn people to an eternity in hell because by sinning, they have sinned against an infinite being and thus have earned infinite punishment?

    Yeah, that’s total bullsh!t.

  53. I Think Katie is indicative of the LDS position on hell, i.e. there is no consistent position and its rarely talked about in any detail. So you get all kinds of views on what the punishment is and is for precisely. Most of the talk is about overcoming things in this life while we have a body so we don’t get stuck in the next.

    The “hell” that is mainly discussed is just not making it to the pinnacle of exaltation. Damning somebody is just stopping progress. that is the LDS hell that is mainly spoken of. Hell for the LDS is practically heaven for the Evangelical – you are with Jesus all the time, and your not saddled with a wife/husband forever. . but we had that discussion about whose heaven is better. (and why it is pointless to talk about).

    Now that said, there are still all of the fire and brimstone scriptures that create all kinds of views, so generally you ask a Mormon about hell and you may get 10 different answers depending on which scripture they remember.

    “Jesus preached more on hell than any other person in the Bible.”

    he did (or at least it is recorded that he did, who knows how much he actually talked about it in relation to everthyelse), but what he said certainly didn’t clear much up. still more questions than answers as far as I am concerned.

  54. I disagree with that Jared.

    The Mormon hell is a real state of suffering – even if you’re an Evangelical.

    But Mormon theology posits hell as being the post-death temporary state that people inhabit prior to the final judgment. But it does not view this state as permanent.

    But we don’t need to sugar-coat it. The suffering there is real.

  55. My point is not that hell is not described suffering in the scriptures, but that Mormons don’t have a unified position on the subject.

    D&C 19 makes it clear that the LDS doctrine is that the unrepentant are in for unfathomable suffering.

    However, we don’t here D&C 19 as the subject of many sacrament meeting talks.

  56. I can’t recall ever hearing a sermon/talk on hell given in an LDS sacrament meeting or conference talk. Maybe I am wrong, ( please correct me if I am).

  57. That’s cause we never asked Ian McKellen to give the concluding talk.

    Well, it’s not like the Church is exactly friendly to Sir Ian McKellen and his comrades.

  58. Personally, an afterlife without ice cream, peanut butter, and cheese would be hell for me.

    I hope I’m not setting myself up for an eternity of disappointment, though. Maybe, just maybe, there is something better than these.

    Maybe.

  59. For that matter Mormon doctrine allows for butter in Hell. . . which is why our Hell is better. . . and why the Ian McKellen types aren’t allowed in Sacrament meeting.

  60. Gloria — It wasn’t really meant as a correction. I was just curious to see what I could find.

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