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bullet "If anyone says that the punishments of the damned in hell will not last forever, let him be anathema." Vatican I, (1870)
bullet The non-elect "...shall be cast into eternal torments and be punished with everlasting destruction." Westminster Confession of Faith (1648 CE), Section 33.2. (A foundational document of Presbyterianism & Congregationalism.)

"Personally, I would rather not talk about hell: it is an awful embarrassment in an age that prides itself on tolerance. But Jesus and the Bible took it seriously and so must we." Rev. Joel Edwards, general director of the UK Evangelical Alliance, 2000-APR-2 1
bullet "...we are asked to believe that God endlessly tortures sinners by the million, sinners who perish because the Father has decided not to elect them to salvation [while they were alive on earth], though he could have done so, and whose torments are supposed to gladden the hearts of believers in heaven. The problems with this doctrine are both extensive and profound." C.H. Pinnock, 2

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Passages describing Hell are found throughout the Bible with a particular concentration in the Gospel of Matthew. The existence of Hell has been taught continuously by almost all Christian faith groups throughout their history. Hell has traditionally been viewed as a place of intense, eternal physical torment. In fact, because the Church has taught that inmates of Hell are trapped there for eternity without hope of release, their punishment is infinite in nature. Historically, the churches taught that many, perhaps the overwhelming majority of humans, would be punished there for all eternity, for sins committed during their life on earth.

Beliefs about Hell have profoundly affected Christians: 

bullet Fear of punishment in Hell, either for the believer or for unsaved friends and family of the believer,  has probably caused more personal anxiety and distress than any other single Christian belief.
bullet Hell has also motivated many Christians to follow the Great Commission and attempt to convert the world to Christianity, . 

Modern secular concepts of justice conflict with the traditional Christian beliefs about Hell. The idea of sentencing a person to eternal punishment for a thought crime - (i.e. the crime of believing differently about God) is repugnant to most people. Some of the concepts of justice that are violated by the existence of Hell are:

bullet The inherent dignity of the individual, 
bullet Humane treatment of prisoners,
bullet Freedom of religion, and
bullet Freedom of individuals to hold diverse beliefs.

The gap between the traditional descriptions of Hell and modern concepts of human rights can only widen with time. As Rev. Joel Edwards commented in the above quote, Hell is an embarrassing reality to countless Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians. It is a major stumbling block that prevents many potential converts from accepting the beliefs of conservative Christianity.

Many unsaved persons reject the concept that an all-good and just God could create a Hell. They could fear such a God, but they could never respect or worship Him. However, the concept of Hell and its tortures are a main theme throughout the Bible, particularly in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). It cannot easily be avoided.

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Topics covered in this section:

bullet Beliefs about Hell (literal, metaphorical, Purgatorial and other beliefs)
bullet Trends & implications: (Shifting viewpoints; implications for evangelism; who will go to Hell?)

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Related essays on this web site:

bullet Salvation: the  beliefs of modern and ancient Christians
bullet Can non-Christians be saved?

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  1. "Church report calls for greater emphasis on the teaching of hell," UK Evangelical Alliance press release, 2000-APR-2, at:
  2. William Crockett, "Four views on Hell," Zondervan, (1992), Page 136. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store has a 25% price reduction on this book. This is one of the Counterpoint series of books published by Zondervan. Each book presents conflicting views by Evangelical leaders on basic Christian beliefs. 

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Copyright 2000 to 2020 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-APR-4
Latest update: 2020-DEC-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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