Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thank God for Hell, a (hopefully) brief response

Often, the most difficult conversations one can have are within one's own camp. It's often incredibly easy to simply dismiss another person's perspective when we've been trained to see nothing but our own. Well, no more.

Just how deep do you believe?


I will be responding to a blogger who recently wrote a post entitled "Thank God for Hell." I read it several times after finding it through Chris Date, the creator of Theopologetics. I reread it while at work and selling alcohol to old people.

All in all, I think I read it over twelve times. And the more I read it, the less angry I became. Instead, I felt a profound sadness. It isn't often that I am reduced to anger during a theological discussion, but even more so a feeling of almost extreme depression. For the sake of time, I will only be responding to bits I found the most interesting.

Anyway. The blogger stated the following:
"If there is no Hell, Stalin and Moa won’t be punished for the murder of a 100 million people. They will die outside Heaven into nothingness and non-existence like my aunt who didn’t follow Jesus either. They get the same punishment as my wonderful aunt who only crime was not loving God. She never killed anyone, yet she would get the same light sentence as Lenin and Douhlmer."
I would say that the punishment *is* the death. The instinct of self-preservation can turn even the most saintly of churchgoers into raving madmen. I think the blogger is missing the point on top of having a warped view of sin itself. No one is denying that certain crimes would carry certain heavier punishment. However, I think the blogger is emotionally equivocating on the issue.

Emotion does not make a good substitute for exegesis.
"Death would mean RIP. You would sleep forever, not much of a punishment."
Ask an individual what they would do to bring back a loved one. Often, a response could include "I'd move heaven and earth." Losing a loved one is crippling for most of us, and I think death is one of the few things in life can inspire genuine worry. Death is the greatest punishment a human being can face, especially if it entails separation from God and loved ones.

Also, sleep implies consciousness. This is fallacious.

The two things in life that are certain are not "eternal conscious torment and taxes." Think about it. ;-)
"If there is no real punishment, just sleep forever, then there is no deterrent to sin and especially for the most vile types of iniquity. This would prove to promote a “live for today” attitude with ultra-selfish ambitions. This would produce a real chaos."
I fail to see what chaos the blogger is talking about. He is in fear of a slippery slope, and such a fear is irrational. I'm convinced of annihilationism and I have indeed not acted in ultra-selfish ways. I know several brothers who act nothing like the painter has decided to broad-brush his internet canvas.

Again, an emotional appeal that has yet been unsupported by Scripture.
If there is no Hell, I think the sacrifice of God’s only Son on the Cross is the most grotesque waste of beauty. He would have saved us to Heaven and saved us from dying forever. But eternal rest isn’t a bad alternative to Heaven. No more bills and bad marriages, no more tears or sorrows…doesn’t that sound eerily like Heaven? If there is no Hell there is no down side. Why spend His beautiful Son for this?
Annihilationists do not deny the existence of Hell. This entire question is based on a straw man. As the late and (somewhat) great Christopher Hitchens says, "that which can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof."
Hell is a piece of the puzzle without which Christianity would make no sense. The day there is no Hell is the day I leave the faith. I’m an economist. If there is no tension for souls then there is no reason for sacrificial living. I am not an altruist. My pre-Christ nature is “everyman for himself.” Jesus changed me to a value system of love but not for loves sake but for my souls. I do not want to go to Hell.
It seems odd to me that hell is given more power here than the work of Jesus Christ. His emphasis on hell being what he perceives it to be clouds his perception of everything else. This is not Christ-centered theology, this is fear. Fear can be a great motivator, to be certain. But fear only gets one so far, and it does nothing to assuage our own misconceived perceptions.

The blogger then quotes Revelation 20:10-15. This is the only Scripture ever quoted in this post. And this settles the debate. In all my research on the topic of hell, Revelation 20 used to be the *only* verse that could *maybe* be interpreted to support ECT.

If one would like, I'd be open to further explaining. But since the blogger didn't see the need to, I shall wait to do so.

Given that Revelation is using vivid imagery to paint a picture, I would caution everyone to avoid taking Revelation literally. In Revelation you have abstract entities such as death and hades being thrown into the lake of fire, and sea monsters battling with angels.

Hmmmmm.

Do not get me wrong, one is certainly allowed to interpret things in such ways. But an inclination to interpret a passage based on emotion and logical fallacies is hardly a wise way to interpret Scripture.

Finally,

"Me and my Bible" is great for personal salvation. Scripture is clear enough to show the message of salvation in a simple way. However, in relation to abstract concepts such as death and the beast, to reduce Scripture to a "my way and the highway" is not only a slap in the face of Solo Scriptura, it also misappropriates Scripture to feed an emotional need.

God bless.

--Nick

For the entire post and comments, check out http://delugeop.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/thank-god-for-hell/

4 comments:

  1. You just do not like the concept of eternal punishment. I do not either.

    But, I see it as necessary and obviously scriptural.

    Many are very emotional about this.

    Dieing doesn't scare me and if it were simply not to exist anymore it wouldn't be that bad.

    Sleep, and forever sleep seems anticlimactic but not bad considering all negative potential options.

    And relegating Revelations to some sort of mythology...ouch. And especially this scripture.

    Hey have you looked at Matt 25 "when you have not done this to the least of these..." part...dude! This really shines light.

    Seriously, Good luck with your philosophy.

    Huge ramifications...we're are all gamblers.

    GB

    clifrad

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey dude, thanks for commenting. My first comment was premature.

    "You just do not like the concept of eternal punishment. I do not either."

    We agree. But, if I thought ECT was true, I would believe it. Since I do not think it is true, I don't.

    "But, I see it as necessary and obviously scriptural."

    I don't disagree. At least, with what I think constitutes eternal punishment.

    "Many are very emotional about this."

    Very true.

    "Dieing doesn't scare me and if it were simply not to exist anymore it wouldn't be that bad."

    Then you are indeed blessed to not have that fear. I think of non-existence as horrifying.

    "Sleep, and forever sleep seems anticlimactic but not bad considering all negative potential options."

    That is an equivocating. Sleeping entails consciousness. Death does not entail sleeping forever as sleep seems to include consciousness. You are conflating terms.

    "And relegating Revelations to some sort of mythology...ouch. And especially this scripture."

    I did not use the term "mythology." Instead, I cautioned against interpreting it literally. Which you are doing.

    "Hey have you looked at Matt 25 "when you have not done this to the least of these..." part...dude! This really shines light."

    I have read Matthew 25 many times. It certainly shines quite a light, but unfortunately, not on your opinion.

    "Seriously, Good luck with your philosophy."

    And the same to you! ;-)

    "Huge ramifications...we're are all gamblers."

    Indeed, indeed.

    God bless you as well. ;-)

    --Nick

    ReplyDelete
  3. Matthew 25 is much stronger support for annihilationism than for the traditional view of hell. It's clear to me, Cliff, that you do not even understand what we're arguing for from the text of Scripture. I would encourage you to either dialogue about it meaningfully, in the hope of better understanding our position, or stop blogging publicly about something you utterly fail to understand.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hail hell! Hell deters people from committing wrongdoing, therefore keeps the peace of the world. With hell, wrongdoers will be punished accordingly! Hail hell, the world's best police!

    ReplyDelete