Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Are The Scriptures REALLY Clear On Hell

With all the hype going on right now about heaven and hell (mostly just hell, and if it exist as an actual, physical place, and even if it does... Is it eternal conscious torment, annihilation, purification process etc ) there is one claim I keep reading over and over by those who hold strong to what is referred to as the eternal conscious torment view of hell.

People keep claiming that the scriptures are very clear about hell. I have to disagree. While I do think the scriptures are clear on somethings, the after-life, especially hell, is not one of them.

A few observations, but first, I remind you that the purpose of this post is just to argue that the scriptures are not as clear on the issue as some are claiming.

- No mention of Hell in the Hebrew Scriptures.

- Jesus never speaks the word "hell" but rather uses the words Gehenna (a real, geographical place) and Hades (greek mythology) which have all been translated to hell.

- The two most common used passages to argue the existence of hell, Luke 16 and Matthew 25, are both parables which are fictional stories which use all kinds of different types of literature such as metaphors, hyperbole, and allegory.
• also, rich man ends up in Hades not because of theology or belief, but because he didn't help Lazarus.
• sheep and the goats, commonly viewed as believers and non-believers, also never mentions beliefs, but rather how those being judged treated the "least of these"(which both parties responded, "when did we see you...") Anyone could be a sheep at times and anyone could also be a goat other times .

- in fact almost every place we see talk of hell, metaphorical, hyperbole, and/or allegorical language is used.

- the book of John, which seems to be most concerned about one believing in Jesus as the Son of God, doesn't mention hell.

- We probably wouldn't be having this much discussion over something that was clearly presented in scripture.

On such an important issue as ones eternal destiny, why wouldn't the scriptures or Jesus just come out and say something like, " there's a real place called hell and those who don't believe in me will end up there, I'm serious"? I mean, that does seem to be the point of the gospel if a literal place called hell is what Jesus came to save us from.

I like how Doug Pagitt put it while participating in a debate on hell. He made the point that we don't have to go back to the culture or the greek words or even talk about the type of literature being used on important issues such as giving to the poor. Jesus is very clear about taking care of the poor, there is really no one who would debate that.

Hell, on the other hand, is at the forefront of debated topics, and there are many different beliefs and ideas about the existence, nature, reality of hell.. Something that is supposedly so clearly presented throughout the scriptures.

What do you think? Can it be said accurately that the scriptures are CLEAR on Hell? Do you consider someone who holdS a different view or who doesn't believe in a literal hell is deserving of a label such as heretic? Do you think one will go to Hell for not believing it exist?

1 comment:

Izzy said...

Of course, we're all clear on Jesus' views about the poor... yet how far do we follow them? Sobering thoughts for myself.