VARIOUS VIEWS OF HELL:
AS SEEN BY CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS
||"If anyone says that the punishments of the damned in hell will
not last forever, let him be anathema." Vatican I, (1870).
||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
||"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
||"...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
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:
||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
||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:
||The inherent dignity of the individual,
||Humane treatment of prisoners,
||Freedom of religion, and
||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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