April 21, 2011

"Why the Hell Does Hell Still Matter?"

"Controversies over hell keep recurring because to its believers, hell stands for more than fire, brimstone, and worms that never die. Hell also represents a backstop on the slippery slope to social chaos in a nation founded not on ethnicity or religion, but on the premise of a virtuous citizenry."

What if people really believed in hell?  I mean really. Come on! The world would be completely different.

118 comments:

David Gray said...

The Tsar believed in hell, Stalin did not. That's why Stalin's bodycount is so much higher.

m stone said...

Hell matters for any thinking person who understands consequences and fears God. For all others, there are convenient roads that end abruptly at death. Place your bets now.

Paddy O said...

Oh no! My last surviving bastion has fallen.

Now "does hell matter" is everywhere in my worlds!

John Lynch said...

Hell is other people.

gemma said...

Good point David. Imagine if there were more people who didn't believe in Hell. We would be living in a world which is the equivalent of constant nonsense such as WI is currently enduring. WI is currently enduring what the country endured thanks to Al Gore in 2000. He doesn't believe in Hell I'll bet.

bagoh20 said...

If hell matters to you, you suck.

foxlets14 said...

OT...Ann you're quoted by Wretchard over at Belmont Club:

http://pajamasmedia.com/richardfernandez/2011/04/21/the-rise-of-the-machines/#more-14212

The Crack Emcee said...

Two things;

1) It's very NewAge to dismiss Hell in this fashion. If you're going to eliminate Hell, then get rid of Heaven, too - that way you're safe.

2) I'd prefer you drop the whole concept of belief, thank you very much.

vbspurs said...

Hell is other people.

I believe in Hell, but I also have a tiny belief that everyone gets what they expect, in the afterlife. If you believe in Heaven/Hell/Purgatory, that's what you'll get. And if you believe in Nothing...that's what you'll get too.

This may seem like the easier of the two outcomes, but for me, a blank void is much, much scarier.

Cheers,
Victoria

sunsong said...

My view is that if Love is eternal - hell cannot be. Love would never create hell.

LawGirl said...

The article misses the point entirely. He'll is not a trump card for believers. Rather, to believers, it is what we all deserve, by virtue (no pun intended) of having violated God's law, as summarized in the 10 commandments. We have all, at some point in our lives, lied, stolen, cheated, taken God's name in vain, or other sins. Because He made the place, He gets to set the rules. We have violated them. What must a judge do if He is just? He must punish law-breakers. It would be patently UNjust of Him to do otherwise.

So, how is it any can be forgiven? The just Judge of all the universe stepped out from behind His bench, where He has just pronounced sentence on the law-breaker and takes the punishment for the criminal. This is what we remember tomorrow - that Jesus (God in human flesh) took the punishment we deserve, paying our fine for us so we don't have to. On Sunday, we celebrate His conquering of death by rising again, anfpd the hope of everlasting life for those who trust in Him, by His grace. This is how God demonstrates His mercy. He'll is how He demonstrates His justice.

So, Christians do not see Hell as a trump card, but as something we are very thankful to be saved from, not because we deserve it, but because Jesus took the punishment we do deserve.

bagoh20 said...

If you live a good life because you believe in hell, then great! You still suck, but I'm glad you believe.

If you behave badly because there is no hell, then you also suck and I hope you're wrong.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

If you're going to eliminate Hell, then get rid of Heaven, too

It's easy if you try...

LawGirl said...

Grrrrrrr - autocorrect changed all my "hells" to "he'lls". <_<

vbspurs said...

Grrrrrrr - autocorrect changed all my "hells" to "he'lls". <_<

He'lls be'lls!

Apfelkuchen said...

Crack Emcee, Obsessed by the New Age? What's that all about? I have a cookie that is made by the New age company, dare I eat it?

LawGirl said...

Postmodern notions like "all get what they believe" don't work anywhere else (try believing a Lexus costs $100 and see how far that belief gets ya), so I'm not sure where the idea that it works with things eternal came from.

Scott said...

What if people really believed in God? I mean really. Come on! The world would be completely different.

vbspurs said...

Apfelkuchen (heh) wrote:

What's that all about?

Oh no you di'int, snap, snap.

All kidding aside, Crack has legitimate reasons to be very very wary of New Age everything...

Quayle said...

So the Mormon view of the afterlife is that you'll get what you really want - you'll go where want to be and where you are most comfortable.

If you're comfortable being in the presence of an all knowing, all loving, no-bs God, then you'll be there and you'll be fine.

But if you're more comfortable with liars, thiefs, and thugs - you'll be able to hang with them. You'll fit right in.

And if the liars, thiefs, and thugs turn the place into hell - well, that's their prerogative. It wasn't necessarily hell before they arrived.

Quayle said...

sorry, should read: "you'll go where you want to be...."

WV: "banes" - my crap typing and editing are your banes of my participation here.

shiloh said...

Grrrrrrr - autocorrect changed all my "hells" to "he'lls". <_<

Will say a few Hail Mary's for you and offer up a few more for the poor souls in purgatory ...

So it shall be written, so it shall be done!

>

Keith Richards had a leather jacket, in the late '60s, w/a caption on the back: When I die I'll go to heaven, 'cause I've spent my time in hell. :-P

I stuck around st. petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain
I rode a tank
Held a generals rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
I shouted out,
Who killed the kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me
Let me please introduce myself
Im a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached bombay
~~~~~

Sixty Grit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
virgil xenophon said...

There is a famous lapsed Jewish labor attorney/philosopher long an atheist (whose name I cant recall) who recently converted to Catholicism. When asked why Catholicism out of all the religions he could have picked he replied because of its concept of Hell. "For if there is no Hell" (paraphrasing, here) he stated, "then what is everyone doing in Church on Sundays? Without the threat of Hell one might as well be out for a good walk or enjoying a good movie or something else worthwhile and more enjoyable."

m stone said...

This is what we remember tomorrow - that Jesus (God in human flesh) took the punishment we deserve, paying our fine for us so we don't have to.

Well said, Lawgirl.

mccullough said...

Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven

edutcher said...

Autocorrect is going to He'll. The rest of us have a choice.

PS Hell is out there, even if it's the Hell of non-existence. One thing we are promised with Heaven is to see all our loved ones (this is a great source of comfort for The Blonde).

If so, Hell is not only where we are punished, but where we are alone.

The old wheeze about it being easy to be brave in a group comes in here, I think. Something about that loneliness is very frightening.

Freddybear said...

The self-righteous don't believe that they're going to hell anyway, so it doesn't matter.

Jack said...

If people really believed in Hell things would not change.

People know that "judgment is coming" human wisdom self evidently reveals that truth. Hence why atheists believe that Global Warming is the Earth's way of punishing man for environmental sins.

The problem is... We as people are so futile in our imaginings we dream our way out of the problem. In Isaiah 44 God describes the idolator. He takes a tree cuts it down some of it he uses for firewood then with another part he makes an idol KNOWING that hs own hands made the idol then he prays and worships it! Look at the comments on here people know there's a hell but they make something up about (they know it's a creation of their own imagination) and then they say "that's what I think hell is". I mean really? God, in his Word has revealed truth about eternity and we choose to take "this is what I just made up over that?" And we do ALL the time.

Self deception is soooooo dangerous it is eternally destructive.

EnigmatiCore said...

Not sure it would be different. People would simply be convinced that the others would be destined for it.

Quayle said...

Mormons believe that family is forever and all eternity. That's my idea of hell right there.

Yeah, I hear you.

We've over-hyped and under-defined that whole "families are forever" message quite a bit, IMHO, considering how little we know about family life in the hereafter.

Joseph Smith talked about everyone being sealed together as part of God's family.

The church PR department in the 70s narrowed the concept to a slogan that intimates that it means only your own family is 'sealed.'

But I think what we're really trying to say is (a) that if we like to hang out together here, we'll like it even more there, and (b) that if you want to love and nurture someone else, or be loved and nurtured by someone, your family is the low hanging fruit.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

I think hell makes a fair amount of sense. When alive, our souls would be expected to be more in touch with spirits associated with life. When we're dead, probably we are more influenced by spirits that are associated with death, which probably in the main aren't as good. And maybe what life offers spiritually isn't so much the ability to communicate with spirits as the ability to filter out the bad ones so our spiritual influences are better. Diseased or overstressed conditions like insanity tend to lead to bad hellish spirits, not absence of spirits. Of course, all my notions are vague and uncertain; I'm not at all sure what I mean by spirits or to what extent they exist.

traditionalguy said...

The scripture says that hell is a place, but that it was not designed for men. Men only end up taken there to join the Devil when they refuse to accept Jesus' sacrifice of Himself in place of their sentence of and hell done on Good Friday. So men now end up judged worthy of hell only when their independent will refuses to believe and accept Jesus. So Happy Easter following Good Friday's close call for all of of us Barabbases. Let's celebrate our full pardons proven by the resurrection of Jesus in our place on Sunday.

Jason (the commenter) said...

What if people really believed in hell? I mean really. The world would be completely different.

They'd make it punishable by death to convert to another religion, suicide-bomb people of different faiths...

Conserve Liberty said...

"Oh, Faustus, leave these frivolous demands, which strikes a terror to my fainting soul."

LawGirl said...

Jack said people know there's a hell but they make something up about (they know it's a creation of their own imagination) and then they say "that's what I think hell is". I mean really? God, in his Word has revealed truth about eternity and we choose to take "this is what I just made up over that?" And we do ALL the time.

Amen. See my above comment about postmodernism - it's one of the most puzzling phenomena to come along - the idea that something is what (or is because) I believe it is, and not that it simply IS, irrespective of my belief about it. God made the place, we rebelled against the Creator, and He redeemed us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He wrote a boom (66 of them bound into 1) describing this and what He expects of us. There's really no wiggle room around that. There is adiapheron (that which is neither forbidden nor commanded), and entire denominations centered around this non-Scriptural stuff, but the central message of the Gospel is firm.

LawGirl said...

*He wrote a BOOK, not a "boom." darned iPad. <_<

David said...

If you include Russia's deaths in WW I, the Tsar's body count was right up there with Lenin's. Not sure what that proves.

YoungHegelian said...

I always thought that the orthodox Christian teaching on the eternity of Hell always smacked too much of Manichean dualism.

The eternity of Hell means that for ever and ever, Satan holds grips over a separate kingdom opposed to the Will of God, a kingdom perhaps useful for God's justice, but always opposed to Him in every other way.


The Church Father, Origen, thought that ultimately God would redeem everything, including Satan, and Hell would be empty. This teaching was posthumously condemned, and is still condemned, as "universalism".

In this matter, as with predestination, I veer into heterodoxy all too easily.

pduggie said...

I thought Madison's point in the Fed papers was that because men weren't virtuous, we needed divided govt and check's and balances to make sure non-virtuous men had their ambitions checked by others.

Henry said...

Jack's right. Even when people really believed in Hell (think Dante) they didn't act like they believed in it.

w/v: firstess / I'm lastess with the firstess

Palladian said...

"Crack Emcee, Obsessed by the New Age? What's that all about? I have a cookie that is made by the New age company, dare I eat it?"

From what I've read of your comments, it seems you've already eaten it, dear.

Sixty Grit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BEK477 said...

Evryone that goes to Hell is a volunteer. It works just like it does to get into Heaven. You have to want it and you have to actively pursue it. There are no accidental tourists in Hell.

Christ ransomed many. But not all so ransomed exercised their right to avoid Hell. You (the sinner)were eligible choose to partake of the opportunity but you did not.

As Woody Allen has said,".. half of success is just done by showing up." Christ knocks on your door. You have to answer the door. If you do not answer then Christ will move on down the street.

Alex said...

So why do H. Sapiens get an afterlife, but not dogs, cats and weevils?

Alex said...

Christ knocks on your door. You have to answer the door. If you do not answer then Christ will move on down the street.

haha, nice fantasy. Religion is indeed the opiate of the masses.

blake said...

That should be Hell with a capital "H", no?

I think What Dreams May Come had it right: Hell isn't a place God made and sentences people to; it's a place we create by denial. As St. Augustine said, "Evil is distance from God."

Victoria, there's an old Lucasarts game called Afterlife, where you ran Heaven and Hell, and the people who died would pass through based on their belief system.

These were all described with absurd acronyms. HAHA was Heaven Always/Hell Always, meaning you believed when you died, you would go to one, then the other. HOHO was Heaven Only/Hell Only. Every person had a combo of which afterlife they believed in, how the visits went, and whether there was reincarnation.

Tragically not a great game (SimCity + micromanagement), but ten out of ten for style. And philosophical amusement.

mccullough said...

Hell is 72 virgins.

Jack said...

Alex:

"God breathed the breath of life into man and he became a living soul" And "let us make man in our image"

...What opiate? From what do I escape by why of Biblical Christianity? Can I be foolish and escape the consequences by prayer? "Be not deceived God is not mocked whatever a man s owsthis to shall he also reap."

I mean really what does this opiate do? It tells me to work and honor God. Some "drug.". Sounds to me like sobriety.

30I passed by the field of the sluggard
         And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense,

31And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles;
         Its surface was covered with nettles,
         And its stone wall was broken down.

32When I saw, I reflected upon it;
         I looked, and received instruction.

33“A little sleep, a little slumber,
         A little folding of the hands to rest,”

34Then your poverty will come as a robber
         And your want like an armed man.

edutcher said...

blake said...

Victoria, there's an old Lucasarts game called Afterlife

I thought we were the only ones who had a copy.

Hah!

garage mahal said...

Hell is 72 virgins.

Hell is 72 wives.

Apfelkuchen said...

Palladian, come over to the dark side we have cookies..... Come to the New Age..... Come.....come.... Go to the light.....oops, I mean the dark....

Palladian ,so why do you think I've eaten the New Age cookies? and Palladian don't call me dear, that makes you sound like an ass. Asses tend to got to hell ya know.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Somebody once said this:

"Faith is what you know is true, even if you don't believe it."

el polacko said...

when i read some of the fanciful gobbledygook that some folks believe in and the 'how many angels dancing on the head of a pin' arguments that flow from those beliefs....all i can do is roll my eyes and sigh.

reformed trucker said...

If there is no hell, there is neither justice nor grace.

But at least Bell finally took off his sheep costume.

Quayle said...

And, Mormon and descendant of a polygamist though I am, I finally, actually agree for once with Garage.

I'm going to bed until May; April has peaked.

garage mahal said...

:)

Gladys said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gladys said...

Hell is to be surrounded by lawyers

Allen Garvin said...

"hell stands for more than fire, brimstone, and worms that never die"

And yet, I would like to believe Hell's computer network consists of VAXen running BSD 4.3, and the Morris worm is still stack-smashing its finger daemons and sendmail processes.

The Crack Emcee said...

Apfelkuchen,

Crack Emcee, Obsessed by the New Age? What's that all about? I have a cookie that is made by the New age company, dare I eat it?

Nothing new. In your case, I'd say yes, eat it - love it - and keep going back for more with my blessing.

vbspurs,

Oh no you di'int, snap, snap.

ROTFLMAO!

Sixty Grit,

Mormons believe that family is forever and all eternity. That's my idea of hell right there.

Oh, man, some of you are really hitting it tonight! LOL!

Palladian,

From what I've read of your comments, it seems you've already eaten it, dear.

High five [*smack*]

Apfelkuchen,

Palladian, come over to the dark side we have cookies..... Come to the New Age..... Come.....come.... Go to the light.....oops, I mean the dark....

For those of you who know, isn't it bizarre how lightly this is treated? "Come over to the dark side,..." If he only knew the half,...

traditionalguy said...

Gladys...Heaven is to be represented by an advocate before The Father. That advocate is a Jewish Lawyer related to The Father, and he has has never lost a case once he presents the evidence which is His Blood.

Gladys said...

Is a spanish curse: may you be surrounded by lawyers.
Read the post about Bratz abd Barbie or any post here or Volock
BTW: Satan was a lawyer, a prosecutor must be one.

opfor311 said...

YoungHegelian,

There is a slight misunderstanding that you have about hell...and that is that Satan rules in hell. He doesn't, he is one of the beings in torment there. The idea that Satan rules in hell is more Milton than New Testament. Most people's idea of hell is based on Dante and Milton instead of the Bible.

wv: merns
Short form of men earns?

opfor311 said...

By the way, I thought that Hell was other Robots....

Gladys said...

Most people's idea of hell is based on Dante and Milton instead of the Bible.

Dante? In La Divina Comedia ,Satan is bounded with Brutus, Casius a Judas in his teeth but he is being punished too.
In Job`s Satan is nmaking bets with God

YoungHegelian said...

@opfor311

There's precious little about Hell in the Bible in any case.

The version of Hell presented in Dante and Milton is merely the codification of traditional and orthodox Church beliefs in the nature of Hell.

Do not assume that the religious beliefs of Roman and Orthodox Catholics, Anglicans, etc, are only biblical in origin, because they aren't. People who believe in the Bible as the sum total of God's revelation to man are called Protestants.

Jack said...

There's precious little about Hell in the Bible in any case.

And really there's more enough... I mean what more does one need to know. A significant point is not to instruct regarding hell but instead to encourage the avoidance of it.

Apfelkuchen said...

Good grief, I come away from reading this blog feeling I have been to some alternate reality inhabited ( with the exception of a few) by vapid self absorbed pretentious wanna be philosophers. With all the REAL problems this world presents, people here are merely wasting time responding to a bored Althouse blog. My other daughter is an attorney and did attend UW Madison Law School for her third year . I will have to ask her if her she had Althouse as a professor. In one way I hope she did, but in another I worry that Althouse may use her students in the same way she uses her readers here, which seems to me to be a way to massage her ego and amuse herself. Nothing wrong with that I suppose.
. Having said that, I will now go contemplate my navel.

traditionalguy said...

Apfelkuchen...Normal is way over rated. Just hang in here and learn some ideas and share some ideas. The Professor puts up with us commenters. We enjoy her for her exceptional writing skills. She has a good heart, a sharp mind and is way closer to normal than any of us are.

YoungHegelian said...

@Apfelkuchen

So you consider what happens to our immortal souls to be a trivial issue? Why shouldn't an on-line community discuss such issues?

What exactly are those REAL problems the world presents?

I guess you never spent any time reading Pascal's Pensees, did you? You might want to give them a try.

shiloh said...

With all the REAL problems this world presents, people here are merely wasting time responding to a bored Althouse blog.

Again, political blogging is basically pointless, if it is not somewhat entertaining er thought provoking. Adhering to my own philosophy ;) I would not be here.

Re: Catholicism ie my (12) years of parochial school and theology, the one concept which was always a bridge too far, infinity ie always was and always will be. Which begs the question: Where did God originate from.

Faith ~ the belief in "spirits", no pun intended. :D

As Bill Maher says, to believe in religions is to believe in ghosts.

>

For some/many, religion brings a certain order/raison d'ĂȘtre to the universe ...

>

The axiom I first heard in the mid '60s is applicable ~ Jesus is comin' again, and boy is he pissed!

shiloh said...

phrase/quote, not axiom, carry on.

vbspurs said...

Blake wrote:

These were all described with absurd acronyms. HAHA was Heaven Always/Hell Always, meaning you believed when you died, you would go to one, then the other. HOHO was Heaven Only/Hell Only. Every person had a combo of which afterlife they believed in, how the visits went, and whether there was reincarnation.

Oh, Blake, you do really know me, don't you! Curiously, just yesterday I bought the 7th Guest for my iPad, that famous old CD-ROM game from the 90s, that I never got to play. This Afterlife not only sounds hilarious (HAHA, indeed), but for a Catholic like me who used to play Nuns & Priests as a child, positively intriguing.

BTW, Afterlife is apparently now owned by Mobygames.

Mobygames just came out with another death game for the iPad, called Quietus:

You are a dead man hanging from a tree. Death appears and offers you a last chance to get back your life and a chance of happiness. To do that, the man is turned into a skeleton and needs to run a gauntlet in hell. Quietus is a platformer that consists of 40 levels, with each one made up of a single screen. The player needs to guide the character to the exit and optionally open chests to collect blue orbs. Obstacles include enemies that jump up from lava, swinging spiked balls, chomping teeth, temporary platforms and other kind of hazards. The character is only able to jump and can die an unlimited amount of times. Progress is saved in the main menu, where each completed level can be selected.

It's just a little flash game, but I think I'll buy it. ;)

Chef Mojo said...

Heaven and Hell presuppose a god.

God/gods doesn't/don't exist.

Seems pretty obvious to me that Hell is a hammer to wield against the faithful to keep them in line.

Basically, it's all silly bullshit.

I'll have none of it...

vbspurs said...

Apfelkuchen wrote:

Good grief, I come away from reading this blog feeling I have been to some alternate reality inhabited ( with the exception of a few) by vapid self absorbed pretentious wanna be philosophers.

Although pretentious and wannabe are two of my middle names (the others are Mildred and Raquel), I challenge you to label Althousians that seriously.

Some of the absolute best threads on Althouse have been about religion; in fact, just recently we had one which, upon finishing to read it, I had such a smile on my face, that you'd think we had all won a collective Nobel Prize.

(I believe it was about prayer)

This world has so little serious discussion, so pretentious or not, I have Althousians never avoid these threads for fear of being labeled intellectual snobs.

vbspurs said...

The Young Hegelian wrote:

I guess you never spent any time reading Pascal's Pensees, did you? You might want to give them a try.

Great reference! God, it's been an age since I put that down on my "future reading list". I'm sure they have a Kindle version, so thanks, YH.

(Please never hesitate to suggest reading material to anyone)

Methadras said...

Why does hell matter? Well, when you read stupid shit in the above next article about the homosexuals in Ireland goofing on Christ having two dads, then you know why there is a hell.

wv = hellion = that's awesome how that works sometimes.

The Crack Emcee said...

Methadras, you are in fine form tonight, dude.

William said...

There was an early Church Father who taught that one of the pleasures of heaven was gazing down at the torments of the damned. Harsh times back then. Nowadays, I suppose such a belief be considered more typical of the wicked than of the elect. But that's the way they looked at things back then, and I, for one, can really get into it. I think I could even offer some constructive suggestions for further torments for the damned on my own select list. Anyway there's a fearful symmetry between heaven and hell. You can't have one without the other.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Christ knocks on your door. You have to answer the door.

Why? Imagine if the fire department worked that way!

Paul Zrimsek said...

Good grief, I come away from reading this blog feeling I have been to some alternate reality inhabited ( with the exception of a few) by vapid self absorbed pretentious wanna be philosophers.

What I can't figure out is how you got here without going through the Internet first.

Paddy O said...

A relevant portion from an interview with theologian Jurgen Moltmann, whose approach to Hell is similar to that of Origen, as mentioned by YoungHegelian.

How is hell considered, if at all, in your theology of hope?

I believe in Christ's Descent to hell. He came back and declared: “I have the keys to death and hell!” What does He do with these keys? He opens them up of course! When you think of hell, you should never think about it in the context of the question whether you yourself or someone else is going there, but always look to Christ. In His wounds, death and hell have been overcome. Which is, by the way, also the counsel Johann of Staupitz gave to his pupil Martin Luther.

What would happen if the church at large would follow this counsel and proclaim such a victorious Christ?

We would experience the power and life of the Holy Spirit. Especially the true power of forgiveness. If you think about it, wanting to send someone to hell has to do with the desire of revenge. Only if one looks to Christ can such a evil desire be overcome. And I am talking from experience here.

rick said...

Ever been in complete darkness? I mean total darkness, with no light anywhere? You look around and see nothing, absolutely nothing. Can't even see the nose in front of your face. That is what hell is like. No light, complete separation from God.

All that dismiss God and hell, you had better hope your right. I'd rather be a believer and be incorrect, than be a non-believer and be wrong.

Paddy O said...

Some more thoughts, on this early Good Friday morning:

1) I personally really like CS Lewis's perspective on Hell as found in his story "The Great Divorce." The contrast there is about substantive versus insubstantial. Eternity is not as much about perpetual elongation of time as much as it is about fullness of being. Which is more of a Plotinus approach, if I'm not mistaken.

2) Hell mattered as a matter of justice. The teachings on hell in Scripture, as far as I can tell, are almost always in the context of teaching to people who are enduring great injustices in this present life. At the same time, such people were called not to make revenge or such the primary goal of their lives, but to pursue love and forgiveness, letting the act of judgment become God's responsibility. It was a teaching to the oppressed that their oppression mattered and that those who oppressed were not going to win out in the end, but were going to face judgment for their behavior. Turn the other cheek is put into the context of "God will take care of my suffering." God is asserting that he believes in justice and there will be such justice.

The trouble is that this message to the oppressed became a tool of the oppressor, using it as a club to keep people in ecclesial line. It also became a tool for revenge, a way of hating the other without seemingly doing so directly. Moreover, it became a tool for the self-righteous to mark themselves as being on the in crowd, a way of separation. Hell was never meant to be a spiteful tool of elitism.

It was, as Crack Emcee so nicely puts it, acknowledges that evil is very real, very malicious, and that such evil will not be overlooked. God takes justice seriously, which then frees us up to take love even more seriously, allowing us to let go the hurts and offenses caused by others.

In other words, Hell matters, because Hell is God's area of worry. It is a testimony of God's justice. But when we worry about it, making it a weapon of moralism to use against people who irritate us, we become enslaved no less than the people we'd want to send there. We take over God's role, and in this might be liable to putting ourselves in the same place that Satan did.

LawGirl said...

Reformed trucker says:

If there is no hell, there is neither justice nor grace.

But at least Bell finally took off his sheep costume.


That's exactly what I said when I read the exerpts from his book that made it crystal clear (I'm not going to line that goat herder's pockets by buying the thing). Sadly, he has deceived many and continues to do so, though.

dreams said...

Some people do believe in hell and then there are those of us who wish there was a hell so that liberals could burn in hell for eternity.

Paddy O said...

What's also interesting to me is that teaching on Hell seems to be made into a decisive doctrine for salvation. Have the right opinion on hell or you're going there!

Which is curious because this often comes from people who would otherwise argue we're saved by grace alone. Saved by grace and right doctrine isn't really grace alone, it's works righteousness. But that's the pernicious manner of works righteousness, we think our particular bit of works isn't really works. It's also curious that people who insist that debts are forgiven by Christ are so quick to highlight the debts of others as requiring severe judgment.

"Sure, I believe in grace and I'm glad God doesn't hold my faults against me, but that fellow he offends me with his wrongly nuanced doctrine. To hell with him and all his goats!" Which is a dangerous approach to people given the key story that imagery comes from.

Class factotum said...

So why do H. Sapiens get an afterlife, but not dogs, cats

How can it be heaven if our pets aren't there with us?

Jack said...

If one thinks that the value of a beloved pet compares to the glory of the creator of the Universe, one has missed the point. As wonderful as a pet may be.

carrie said...

It would only be completely different if the belief in Hell was not also accompanied by a belief in forgiveness/absolution.

Dad Bones said...

I won't claim this is the truth but there could be a world of the dead waiting for us. The brighter your light is now the longer what's left of you would linger there before fading away forever.

Freeman Hunt said...

What if people really believed in hell? I mean really. Come on! The world would be completely different.

I don't think it would. There are all kinds of things that people really believe that do not translate into different behavior.

Eating habits are a good example. Most of us think we could eat better and that there will be consequences for not eating better, and yet, we don't eat better.

Everyone knows that smoking is terrible for you, and yet, people smoke. Everyone knows that hard drugs like crack and crystal meth completely and utterly ruin people's lives, and yet, people still try crack and crystal meth.

There are all sorts of things people do even though they know the consequences are dire. Knowing what you should do does not automatically translate into doing what you should do.

WoW Lawbringer said...

Re: Pets

I like to appropriate a Muslim concept to deal with the problem; namely, all parts of creation excluding humans are completely obedient to God. In a Christian context, this would seem to imply that no bar exists against pets inhabiting Heaven with us.

Of course, all this talk about Heaven also misses a very important point; namely, that the only mention of souls in Heaven in the New Testament is in Revelation when the souls of the martyrs cry out for God to hasten His return. Jesus's own story of Barabas implies that souls after death (at least up until that point) live in an afterlife wherein the righteous souls inhabiting Abraham's bosom can see the torments of the unrighteous souls in Gehenna.

The great hope of Christianity is not to be split into body and soul, the former rotting and the latter going on to live in Heaven. The great hope is to have everlasting life: for our corruptible bodies to put on incorrutibility and for Heaven to descend from the clouds and be established on Earth. After all, why would God create a new heavens and a new earth after Christ's return if we're all going to be in Heaven anyway?

Freeman Hunt said...

I personally really like CS Lewis's perspective on Hell as found in his story "The Great Divorce."

Same.

Additionally, that book is easily within my top ten favorites. I first read it while leaving the Episcopal Church and got a great laugh out of the all too familiar Anglican vicar.

MInTheGap said...

This is what we remember tomorrow - that Jesus (God in human flesh) took the punishment we deserve, paying our fine for us so we don't have to.

I would have said "because we can't" instead of "so we don't have to". It was impossible for us to pay the fine, so He did it for us.

Otherwise, a beautiful comment.

Larvell said...

Creating imperfect creatures and then punishing them for all eternity for their imperfections -- unless, during their vanishingly brief time inhabiting a corporal body in a cruel world, they happen to overcome the limits of the reason they were created with, and "believe" something that can't be proven and has little or no evidence to support it -- there might be a term for that, but "abounding love" is not the first one that comes to mind. You might fear an all-powerful deity who does such things, and try to placate it, but I can't see why you would love it.

Alex said...

Larvell - the concept of hell was very important for keeping people in line. A great means of crowd control. Back in the middle ages, people REALLY believed in it. So much so, they would pay indulgences to get absolution from it.

Phil 3:14 said...

from the about page of "Religious Dispatches" (my emphasis added):

Religion Dispatches is a daily online magazine dedicated to the analysis and understanding of religious forces in the world today, highlighting a diversity of progressive voices and aimed at broadening and advancing the public conversation.

Rigorous, open and respectful debate about central issues of the day is essential if democracies are to survive and flourish. Although religion is one of the most powerful forces shaping domestic and global politics today, it remains among the least understood and under-analyzed dimensions of our world. Partisan religious voices are all too common, but they do little to help us understand the dynamics of religion in the contemporary world. Whether dealing with fundamentalist movements at home and abroad, the purported clash of civilizations or public controversies over sexuality, immigration, and AIDS, gaining a deeper understanding of the role of religion, for good and for ill, is imperative.


In short, we're liberals talking to liberals having a civil conversation without all of those nasty conservatives (political or religious), oblivious to our own biases but doing God's work in fighting sexual discrimination, AIDS and ....well you know the rest.

(PS We apologize for having to use the "God" word. If we offended anyone, we deeply regret that.)

Simon said...

Why does Antarctica matter? What if people really believed in Antarctica—would the world be different?

It doesn't matter whether you believe in Antarctica or not; it doesn't matter whether it makes sense to you; it doesn't matter that you kick or scream about how unfair it seems to you or what trite "clever" rhetoric you can advance about what it says about God; it doesn't matter if Lovecraft came any closer to describing it than did Dante. Whether you believe in it or not, whether we understand what's there or not, it's still there waiting.

Larvell said...

Larvell - the concept of hell was very important for keeping people in line.

I don't deny the utility of the concept of hell, just the idea that its existence is consistent with the idea of a loving God. Something has to give -- the existence of hell, the existence of God, or the idea that he is loving.

wv: biloni - a good source of msg

Alex said...

Something has to give -- the existence of hell, the existence of God, or the idea that he is loving.

No it doesn't. That's a very wish-oriented belief. Nothing "gave" for the Jews during the Holocaust. They were ground to dust, with no mercy.

Phil 3:14 said...

There's an interesting irony in the article. The guts of the article reviews the new "Universalists" (Rob Bell isn't quite there). Universalists believe we all go to Heaven. Given the greater prominence of atheism and the coincident core belief that when you die THAT'S IT and given that some see hell as complete separation from God, I'm surprised we haven't seen a rise in
Anti-Universalism (i.e. we all go to oblivion)

But that doesn't seem just or fair to a progressive.

Not to sound like Crack but I think that's why the New Age worldview holds so much sway among liberals. None of that nasty tradition religion stuff like sin and condemnation but all of the good stuff like enlightenment and transcendence

Phil 3:14 said...

And I'd be remiss for not declaring:

Thank God for today's celebration of his son Jesus' death. For without it I would be condemned by my own sinfulness.

Amazing Grace.

Original Mike said...

"Autocorrect is going to He'll."

Microsoft Word IS hell!

William said...

In the same way that some need capital punishment for the fulfillment of justice, others need hell for the fulfillment of divine justice. I'm sure God has his own ideas on this subject, but the fact remains that in the early years of the Church divine retribution was actively preached and was one of its major attractions. It just seems totally unfair that my life sucks, and Donald Trump is having so much fun. I would hope that God in the afterlife straightens out this injustice.....I think that after five or ten thousand years of pissing hydrochloric acid on the open wounds of my enemies, I would tire of the sport and relent. Does this make me a more forgiving entity than God? But, if at the end, God treats us all alike, doesn't this make a moral life just a matter of sentiment? You like justice. Me, I prefer chocolates. It's all very confusing.

blake said...

Edutcher,

Nope, I still have a copy of Afterlife. The production values were so excellent, I come back to it every few years.

Victoria,

Mobygames is an "abandonware" site that reviews and (when legal) makes available games that the producers are no longer distributing.

The music and voice acting for "Afterlife" (and really, all the Lucasarts games of the '90s) are pro quality, and added a lot of entertainment value to what was essentially a Sim City clone.

The writing was great, too: Heaven's rewards and Hell's punishments were based on the Seven Deadly Sins and their complementary virtues. The texts were amusing and (of course) ironic.

For example, charitable SOULS might be rewarded with "The Final Piece Convention"

Most collector’s conventions have the same old stuff for the same high prices that you’ve seen a hundred times before. At the Final Piece Conventions (which are held in sumptuous and economically-priced hotels) though, a Charitable SOUL can always find that last card, comic, doll, or trinket that will make his collection complete; and he’ll always be able to get it for a reasonable price.

Cute stuff.

shiloh said...

@dreams

Some people do believe in hell and then there are those of us who wish there was a hell so that liberals could burn in hell for eternity.

AA's blog in a nutshell! lol

Oh the irony of self-righteous conservatives, who are clueless re: the Bible's tenets, espousing eternal damnation to their opposition on this Good Friday.

Perfect!

>

Religion notwithstanding, one either has a conscience ie the intellectual capacity to distinguish between right and wrong er the intellectual capacity of a conservative to keep from makin' a complete fool of themselves at a fairly unremarkable political blog.

Go in peace and sin no more. Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!

nuf said!

Jose_K said...

Science killed god. Without god people can do whaever they want. Nietzche ,The gay science.
And for the people quoting without atribution Pascal, La Place, Philosophical essay on Probability answered him
For the Leibnitz followers ,Voltaire

Jose_K said...

Two recomended lectures on the subject: Spider tread and Hell screen by Akutagawa
and:
El condenado por desconfiado by Tirso de Molina

Simon said...

Jose_K said...
"Two recomended lectures on the subject"

Two further recommendations: Eschatology, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI), and Scott Hahn's CD Why the Hell. They should suffice as a broad overview.

Joe said...

Do any Christians really believe? If the afterlife is so much better, why not just start a big nuclear war and do everyone a favor?

(Mormons believe infants are saved. So why not kill them all? Failure to do so increases the unsaved by a pretty damn big margin. This tells me that Mormons are damning their own children to hell just to protect themselves. Talk about selfish!)

rick said...

@Joe "Do any Christians really believe? If the afterlife is so much better, why not just start a big nuclear war and do everyone a favor?"

Because not all of my friends and relatives are not saved (yet).

ken in sc said...

I think hell is like those dreams I have where I can’t get where I need to be, or find what I’m looking for, or complete the task I am supposed to do. It's total frustration until I wake up--except in hell you never wake up.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

What is the difference between Jewish and Catholic or Christian theology in regard to the afterlife?

reformed trucker said...

@LawGirl: I had concerns about Bell when I attended a non-denom church a while back, and the youth pastor was featuring his Nooma videos. Red flags flew like mad. He's like some of the other Emergents like Doug Pagitt...reads a book by Plato and thinks he's a philosopher; reads a book by Bart Ehrman and thinks he's a theologian.

Myself? (to be vague but percise) I'm an infralapsarian, amillenial, compatibalist; Augustinian with heavy Kuypernian leanings, but I carry a bid VanTilian stick. But I'm not paedo, I'm credo. What am I?

reformed trucker said...

That should be BIG VanTilian stick...

reformed trucker said...

@Paddy O: We are saved by grace alone, but don't diminish the importance of proper theology.

I enjoyed your posts on this tread. And BTW, hell isn't something I would wish on my worst enemy...