In Part 1 of this discussion, we focused on two sides of the debate over the existence of Hell, doubt, raised by showing examples of logical problems which are created by invoking eternal divine retribution. And we took a stab at the critics of Christianity that ignore the fact that Hell is almost universally taught in every religion, pretending these issues only affect Christians. It doesn’t, and they show their biases when they overstate the problem of evil as an Atheist gambit. Any criticism that can be leveled at religion can equally apply to Naturalism, Scientism, and Atheism as well.
For the Christian, Hell becomes a brandished weapon, a threat.
For the unbeliever, Hell becomes a justification for ignoring the message and the threat.
Christian would be apologists need to improve on their explanations, not make things worse by regurgitating ancient medieval theology visualizing little imps and demons poking the wicked throughout eternity because they never did see the narrow road of the call of God, the smokescreen of bad apologetics was covering it up.
We cannot prove the point anyway, so why pretend we can and then be shown the fool?
Instead, we should carefully craft our understanding of the various technical issues about Hell, so that when the conversation at the Rave Party turns to all things Devilish (thanks to all the LSD getting passed around), you’ll be the most interesting guy to speak on the subject…I rarely find an individual who can actually speak at all these days, except in garbled monosyllabic grunts and sign.
Hell is the great equalizer, it is necessary, but philosophic baggage, simultaneously.
The world cannot claim to be seeking Justice For All without a standard of right and wrong, without thesis and antithesis, and a system of judgment and retribution to inflict on violators and the perpetrators of horrible evils done in the name of fallen humanity. Humanity historically has both great virtues, granted, but they are also extremely gullible to deception or stunted thinking, due to the nature of religion.
In Mt. 25, Jesus tells a parable of the “Sheep and the Goats,”
“When the Son of Man comes with all of His angels, He will gather the nations for judgment, separating them into sheep on His right, and goats on His left.”
The criteria for good and bad is Works of Grace, or charitable work in the service of humanity. Jesus sees Himself in the refuse of humanity, and sees service to the least of them is service to Him, salvation is seen as earned by practice, not presuppositions.
Catholic theology (Merited Favor, Purgatory, et al) creates highly complex and deeply intellectual doctrines that end up answering one aspect of an issue while creating ten more questions in its place.
Protestantism maintains a more simplified approach to salvation (it’s all Unmerited Grace), ignores passages alluding to human effort and good works, or redefines the whole thing to become a literal judgment (separate from the Last Judgment at the end of days) called the “Judgment Seat of Nations” wherein the population of the world gets saved (or rejected) without reference to Jesus’ act of propitiation at all. This way they solve the issue of working for your salvation….or not. It’s the Church that gets saved by grace without having to actually do anything to go to heaven. This is a common malady in American Churches on Sundays, show up to Club Dead, punch the ticket, and off to the pub for football and real living.
The real point of the parable has nothing to do with Heaven or Hell anyway, it’s about the separation of the good and the wicked at the end of the age. Long story, short meaning. Creating complex and interminably idiotic solutions to real questions is an example of how NOT to interpret the Bible.
In verse 41 of that same passage, Jesus states that Hell was created only for the Devil and his angels. I think Jesus was tailoring His teaching from a post-Fall view (angelic Fall, that is) and that we cannot even take this statement too literally. Saying that any creature of God is predetermined to sin and suffer damnation is a repudiation of Free-Will and Creation (Jesus has limited space and time to provide seminal teaching, so He relies on me to rightly divide His words, and expand on the Truth).
Hell was created to be empty, a hypothetical antithesis to the potential of evil, not the necessity of evil.
If both Lucifer and Adam had chosen to obey, the development of “salvation history” would not have included sin and redemptive theology, but would have developed along a pattern of Christology, Christ-centered theology, rather than sin-centered or anthropocentric theology. We can’t explain that here, but it’s the meat of the Word, believe me….you won’t find a theology in Christianity (except mine) explaining what the world and history would have looked like if Adam had obeyed. That kind of thinking actually solves real problems, and is the true kind of intelligent design theory.
In Mt. 23:15, Jesus issues another teaching on Hell, a polemic aimed at the Pharisees and hypocrites of religion who will go to great lengths to convert people and turn them into a “Son of Hell” like themselves. Evil loves discipleship, Christians, not so much. No metaphorical ambiguity here, Hell will be filled with religious jerks and manipulators who pretend they know something you don’t just to get your money and your awe. Don’t give them either. He said,
“You snakes! You vipers! How will you escape being condemned to Hell?” He was quoting John the Baptist, a Prophet they had just murdered. The question isn’t whether there’s a Hell, but how they could possibly avoid it? They thought about evil always and they acted out the evil always. To not put them in prison would be a gross injustice to the universe. Nothing vague there.
The last teaching we’ll discuss is in Luke 16, The Rich Man and Lazarus, a parable.
Again, Christians have turned a non-literal genre into a literal systematic theology, thoroughly defeating Jesus’ intent in the teaching. It’s not about Hades or Abraham’s bosom, it isn’t a exposition on personal eschatology at all. The point is the five brothers of the rich man (Dives). The point is that even if one (or five) were to rise from the dead testifying to the fact of the resurrection (of Jesus), they would not believe.
They are in Hell, because they want to be in Hell. They are deluded and tortured, because they like it. Unbelief and critical credulity is an addiction, and stunts personal revelation, intellectual honesty and progress, and regeneration.
Belief (which is really a form of Hope) is for those who desire release, and there will not be ONE SOUL in Hell that does not want to be there. God does not put people in Hell, they put themselves there, keep themselves there, despite everything that God does to keep us out of it.