There were some other thoughts I forgot in my first post regarding hell so I figured I’d just write a part 2. Again I’m arguing against the eternal conscious torment understanding that I was taught growing up.
One really big problem with hell is that for all the talk of a happily ever after for the ones God saves (no tears, no more death, ect. as understood in Revelation) hell throws a few monkey wrenches into that scenario.
If hell is eternal then sin, evil, pain, and suffering will exist alongside of us for eternity regardless of whether we see it or not. How is this a victory for God? Sure some might say it displays His wrath and anger against sin but it will also stand as an eternal testament to God’s failure to love, redeem and restore the majority of His image bearers.
1 John tells us that perfect love casts out fear. How many times does are we told not to fear in the Bible? Yet hell keeps most Christians I know in constant fear and anxiety wondering about their loved ones. And if they manage to somehow make peace with God torturing the majority of humanity that seems pretty problematic since Christians are supposed to love everyone (no exceptions). Yet even if we do love those around us now apparently those feelings of love and concern will evaporate upon death and we will spend eternity indifferent to those who have missed the boat and are suffering endlessly for it.
In my first post I listed some books I’ve read on this subject but I didn’t really spend time showing Scriptural support. Below is a chart showing three of the main possible understandings of hell with Bible verses that could support each theory. Frankly I find the Annihilation column to be a bit weak here but have read books and other peoples writings that build a much better case from the Bible some of which are referenced beneath the chart.
As an addendum here is a link to a blog post by Benjamin Corey further illustrating Scriptural support for the annihilation position titled 25 Bible verses that disprove eternal conscious hell.
At this point though I don’t consider myself a universalist I am sympathetic to the view and would not be at all disappointed to discover that God chose to love and save most if not all of humankind. For anyone who doesn’t like the idea of everyone being saved I genuinely have to wonder what that person’s understanding of love is.
And I am not one to think sin is something to be taken lightly. I hate the evil I’ve seen on this planet in my short life. But I want to see and believe that healing, redemption and restoration will be accomplished more fully than any of us could begin to realize. And I think only God can make this happen.
There is a reason God presents Himself as a Father throughout the Bible. And for anyone who thinks some sins are simply unforgivable or that He really puts a timeframe on how long He will wait for repentance I would like to ask a couple questions.
If you are a parent (just imagine even if you aren’t) what would your child have to do in order for you to start torturing him/her as punishment for whatever it was they did to you?
Would you/have you put time limits on how long you will wait for a loved one to reconcile themselves to you?
Another problem I have with hell is that if it is in fact part of the reality that God has created then the Gospel (good news) isn’t really that great or unique. Every religion that offers relief from an angry, vengeful god can claim it has good news to offer you. How is Christianity different?
Here is another thought that helped push me away from the ETC position regarding hell. Since the rise of ISIS ( a terrorist group that known for some of the worst brutalities happening in the world today) I have seen various people ask how people (particularly Christians) can be repulsed by things like ISIS burning people alive yet we are fine with the idea of God doing that to most people for all of eternity. Benjamin Corey covers this in a post as well and as he wrote quite succinctly “… God is not like an ISIS terrorist burning his enemies – but God is actually Jesus on the cross dying for his.”
Along these same lines one of the books I mentioned in my other post makes this observation regarding God’s hatred of child sacrifice (Lev. 18:21, Duet. 18:10, 2Kings:17:17, Jer. 7:31):
“We ought to also note the irony and incongruence of the Church utilizing the very place where God became violently offended by the literal burning of children as our primary metaphor for a final and eternal burning of God’s wayward people in literal flames. Thus, God becomes the very Molech who decrees that the angels must deliver his children to the flames, even though this is the very reason he ordered Hinnom to be desecrated in the first place.”
From Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell, and The New Jerusalem by Bradley Jersak
Ultimately I can no longer square this “traditional” view of hell with a God who is supposed to be above all other gods in his offering of love, kindness and hope to humanity.