Showing posts with label Hell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hell. Show all posts

Monday, November 27, 2023

Anonymous Asks (277)

“Will everyone in the lake of fire suffer to the same degree?”

Catholic theologians speak of mortal and venial sins, distinguishing between degrees of evil. Dante’s The Divine Comedy contemplated a hell divided into nine descending circles, with the worst sinners at the bottom, distinguishing between degrees of punishment in the afterlife. Greater sin in this life, greater punishment in eternity, or so goes the thinking.

“But much of Romanist theology has no basis in scripture,” you protest, “and Dante’s not the Bible.” Very true. If some Protestants view the lake of fire as a great equalizer, perhaps they are simply reacting to extra-biblical traditions proclaiming the opposite.

If the Catholics believe it, it must be wrong, right? Well, maybe not in this case.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Misery and Obduracy

I know a woman who is utterly miserable, or so she will tell you if you have time to listen. She lives on welfare with a man she claims to dislike, convinced her daughter is abusing her, and is forever begging for handouts to help with rent or groceries. But when concerned family members point out local job openings in her field, there are always multiple reasons she can’t possibly apply.

They are proposing real solutions ... just not the solution she wants.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Tolerating Evil: Moral Relativism and the Slippery Pole to Hell

This is the third in my series on relativism.

I began by pointing out the two types of relativism, epistemic and moral, and showed that epistemic relativism is irrational. After that, I did a post showing that whether we are thinking of science or religious belief, we really know things only probabilistically … and that this is okay — that high-certainty belief is much better than low-certainty belief, and that in any case, being a Christian means knowing God both as an evidentiary probability and as a relational Person, which means with pretty great certainty; better, even, than a scientist can offer. So it is true that truth exists, and it is true that we can know that truth exists.

So far, so good.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Recommend-a-blog (31)

Do you have difficulty with the concept of hell? Or, even if you are personally okay with the idea, would you have difficulty defending the reasonableness and fairness of eternal damnation to the unsaved?

Tim Barnett at Stand to Reason has written an interesting and thoughtful post on the subject called “Hell: A Solution, Not a Problem” in which he points out that the existence of hell solves two problems: the problem of evil, and the problem of our existential longing for justice. I’m glad he took the time. It’s worth a read if only to prompt our own reflections on the subject and to consider how we too might make such a case.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Anonymous Asks (119)

“What is hell like?”

There are two different words used in the Greek New Testament to describe the destination of those who refuse to take the opportunity currently available to all to enter into a saving relationship with God on the basis of the sacrifice of his Son. These are hadēs and gehenna. Older translations use the word “hell” for both, while some modern translations distinguish the two. Either way, the book of Revelation teaches that these are not precisely the same place: a time is coming when “death and Hades” will be thrown into the “lake of fire”, which seems to be the same place Jesus was speaking about in the gospels when he used the word gehenna.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Anonymous Asks (109)

“If God loves the world, why does he make people choose between loving him back or spending eternity in hell? That sounds more like an ultimatum than love.”

I agree: that choice does sound a bit like an ultimatum. The Bible also frames it as a command.

Why is that? Why is there no third option where God simply leaves me alone to do my own thing, and I leave him alone to do his? Surely a policy of benign indifference would be more loving than condemning millions of people to a lake of fire.

I wonder what simply leaving humanity to its own devices would look like ...

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Thank You for the Failures

God wants to save “all people”, or so we are told.

Some readers understand that concept very broadly. They see that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”, and conclude from it that God would prefer it if every single human being on the planet were to turn from sin and self to Christ, who is God’s only way of salvation.

This may very well be true, though I don’t think it’s exactly what Paul was telling Timothy.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Fate of the Coward

We are living in scary times. People are afraid.

Biblical fear can be good or bad. Perfected love banishes it, but in a fallen world, fully mature love is a rarity and fear still serves the occasional valid purpose in God’s dealings with us. For one, Christians are encouraged to bring our pursuit of holiness to completion “in the fear of God”. For another, fear sometimes gets your attention in a busy world when nothing else will.

Our modern translations tell us one of the things the miracles of Christ regularly produced was awe, usually accompanied by giving glory to God. The word for “awe” in Greek is phobos, more commonly translated “fear”. This is fear at its most useful.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

His Own Place

“Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”

I have often wondered what the apostles meant by saying that Judas went to “his own place”.

I’m not the only one. For example, I’ve heard at least one Bible teacher say from the platform that the apostles (or perhaps Luke, the writer of Acts, in summing up their prayer in his own words) were sort of hedging their bets; discreetly avoiding passing judgment on Judas’ fate since they could not be 100% sure what had really happened to him. In this — or at least so it is alleged — they are modeling for us Christian virtue.

I find that explanation weak tea.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Tolerating Evil: Moral Relativism and the Slippery Pole to Hell

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Awfully Specific for a Parable

I find the account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 a little unusual for one of the Lord’s parables, if indeed it is a parable at all.

For one thing, it employs plain language rather than the symbolism consistently associated with parables. Secondly, is not called a parable. Third, there is no ‘such-and-such is like’ to introduce it. Fourth, there are some awfully specific details given: The poor man, Lazarus, is named, something I’m not aware of the Lord doing anywhere else. Abraham, father of the Jewish nation, appears. The rich man has ‘five brothers’, rather than just ‘family’. Finally, it seems unlikely to me that the Lord would use a real, historical Hebrew saint with whom he had — and continues to have — a relationship as a mere character in an otherwise-concocted narrative just to make a moral point.

Personally, I lean toward thinking of the anecdote as historical. At very least, ‘story’ seems a better word for it than ‘parable’.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Inbox: Message and Motive

“All your goats are belong to us!”
An anonymous reader takes issue with an older post on the error of universalism:

“Why so angry?”

Good question. It was April 2014 when I wrote that one as part of our “Heavenly Myths” series. I’ve lived ten lives since then, it seems to me. I couldn’t remember how I was feeling at the time if my life depended on it. Maybe I was a bit ticked about something.

So I went back and read the post and … nope, not even close.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Just Play the Hits

Bear with me. This is trivial. And then maybe it isn’t.

Last night I dreamed I drove down a long, winding highway in the dark to a great lodge, festively lit. Upon parking, I was greeted deferentially and shown to a huge stage with sound, lights and seating for thousands. People with tickets and drinks in hand were gradually being seated, talking among themselves. A crew was wiring up mics and amplifiers, a sound man was testing levels. A buzz was in the air.

I looked at my watch: it was 7:25. My host said, “You’re on at eight.”

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Tolerating Evil: Moral Relativism and the Slippery Pole to Hell

The most current version of this post is available here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Work in Progress

My clumsy attempt to visually represent the relationships between the various biblical spiritual domains that impact on the afterlife:

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Thank You for the Failures

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Can A Loving God Send People to Hell?

Hell is a terrible place. It is described as an everlasting fire which was created for the punishment of the devil and his angels. Christ told the story of how one man in hell was in such torment that he begged for just one drop of water to cool his tongue. Some want to know how, if God is love, he could send people to eternal judgement ‘just because’ they did not put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The problem is that we do not realize the seriousness of sin.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Debunking Heavenly Mythology VIII: Captain Kirk Was Wrong

“Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”
— John Milton, Paradise Lost
I know, I know, it’s Satan’s famous line from Milton, but the first time I heard it, it was delivered by William Shatner’s Captain Kirk in the original 1967 Star Trek episode Space Seed. In my frequently-inaccurate childhood memory the line belongs to Ricardo Montalban’s villainous character Khan, but thanks to YouTube, I stand corrected: Montalban doesn’t ever actually get to say it. Rather, with unusual subtlety for the genre, Khan, offered the choice between a comfy prison or the challenge of taming a wild planet, asks Kirk, “Have you ever read Milton?” Kirk, being a renaissance man, replies “I understand”.

Thankfully for my fascinated pre-teen self (and most of the audience, I’d suspect), Kirk later explains the significance of the reference to his engineer Scotty (who, despite spectacular feats of speed-engineering, is apparently not a renaissance man).

And really, it’s Shatner, so who better to deliver the line?

But that line stuck in my head. I thought it was really cool, and defiant, and independent, and all those things the TV screenwriters thought it was supposed to evoke (hey, I was probably twelve, okay?). Anyway, it worked.

But whether you choose to attribute the line to Kirk, Khan, Milton or Satan himself, it’s still wrong: Nobody reigns in hell.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Debunking Heavenly Mythology VI: Everybody’s Going

For reasons only they fully understand, the Christian Universalist Association would like you to believe the following:
“We believe in universal salvation, the idea that there is no such thing as eternal hell or annihilation because God has planned the universe to produce a positive outcome for all people of all times.”
Under the banner “All God’s Children — No One Left Behind”, clutching tenaciously to their proof text “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” and a bunch of quasi-logical justifications, these folks take the position that it’s all okay: no matter what you do, say, or think in this life, there has to be SOME good in you somewhere, and God’s omnipotence and benevolence will not allow that to be lost for eternity.

So we’re all in. Whew! Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin. Charles Manson. Paul Bernardo. John Lennon and Mark David Chapman.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Tolerating Evil: Moral Relativism and the Slippery Pole to Hell

The most current version of this post is available here.

Friday, January 31, 2014

A Great Chasm Fixed Between

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Ninth Circle

Maybe you’ve heard the expression ‘the Ninth Circle of Hell’ used to describe an excruciating week at the office, a brutal exam or a particularly acrimonious divorce — hyperbolically, one hopes.

The Origin of the Expression

Over six hundred years ago, an Italian named Dante Alighieri wrote an epic poem entitled Divine Comedy. Inferno (Italian for ‘hell’) is the first part of the three-part poem, and it’s from Dante’s allegorical exploration of hell that the concept of the nine circles comes. Hell is depicted as a series of concentric circles representing a gradual increase in wickedness — and corresponding torment — that have their culmination at the very centre, where Satan is held in bondage.

The Ninth Circle of Hell is reserved for the treacherous: Cain, who killed his brother, is there in Dante’s poem, along with Mordred, murderer of King Arthur, Brutus and Cassius, traitors to Julius Caesar, and Judas Iscariot, betrayer of the Lord himself. Judas is charmingly pictured being gnawed at by Satan, Satan’s claws skinning his back, in perpetual agony for eternity.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

How Can God Allow Evil?

People who wonder how a loving God could allow people to go to hell often pose this question as well. But the very act of asking it defeats the argument, for the first question assumes that God judges too harshly, the other that He does not judge harshly enough!

Where Evil Grows

Evil does not float around unattached, like a big black cloud over the earth. Rather, evil originates in men’s hearts and is committed by men. Sin and death came into the world when Adam disobeyed God in Eden. God could have destroyed mankind then, but He chose to redeem us instead.