“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
– John Wesley
“When thou diest, thy soul will be tormented alone; that will be a hell for it, but at the day of judgment they body will join thy soul, and then thou wilt have twin hells, thy soul sweating drops of blood, and thy body suffused with agony. In fire exactly like that which we have on earth thy body will lie, asbestos-like, forever unconsumed, all they veins roads for the feet of pain to travel on, every nerve a string on which the devil shall forever play his diabolical tune of ‘Hell’s Unutterable Lament’.”
Why ISIS Should Make Christians Rethink The Doctrine Of Hell
– Benjamin L. Corey
This essay was reblogged in its entirety from:
“The violence we’re seeing at the hands of ISIS is disgustingly barbaric. If mass beheadings, taking people into slavery, and throwing gay people off the tops of buildings wasn’t enough, they’ve now of course taken to burning people alive. First, it was a single pilot, but now they are parading 17 Kurds in cages with the promise that they’ll be burned alive too.
Burning people alive isn’t anything new, and certainly isn’t unique to ISIS– as Christians we have a long history with this practice as well. Many of the early Anabaptists faced this same fate for the “sin” of baptizing adults, as well as people who had the crazy idea that the Bible should be translated into common language for everyone to read for themselves. Heck, even Calvinism was founded by someone (John Calvin) who had a theological enemy burned alive for disagreeing with his theology (okay, in fairness to Calvin, he tried to do him a favor and get him beheaded instead).
Nonetheless, it’s 2015. Civilized culture has grown beyond the days of burning people alive, recognizing the practice as something that is completely offensive to any rational person. And, not just offensive- we consider it morally repulsive to the degree that many Christians want the perpetrators wiped off the face of the earth.
I must say, those instincts are correct– torturing people by burning them alive is morally repulsive. And so, we pray to God that he would intervene on behalf of these people who are suffering such unimaginable barbarism.
But here’s the irony of it all: while we find burning people alive morally repulsive when ISIS does it, most Christians seem to have no moral qualms about believing in a God they think will do precisely that. In fact, the traditional doctrine on hell paints God in a far worse light than ISIS– instead of just burning people to kill them, this doctrine believes that the people will never die– but will be tortured by the pain of the flames for all eternity. And somehow, they believe God will pronounce this as being good.
The doctrine of “eternal, conscious torment” can get even sicker depending how far one wants to take it: instead of people like Hitler being eternally tortured ISIS style, many would believe that folks like indigenous tribes living in the jungle who have never met a missionary or seen a Bible will all be tortured in the flames too. In fact, some areas of Christianity, such as extreme Calvinism, actually believe that God created most of humanity for the express purpose of torturing them in flames and that they have no right to complain or object– because God has every right to create things for whatever purpose he has in mind, including ISIS style torture.
I’d hope that if we could all detach from our individual Christian tradition for a moment and step back, we’d be able to see that this is actually sick.
As a follower of Jesus, I believe that we were all created in the image and likeness of God, and that God has planted in our hearts a sense of justice and morality. When we see hostages paraded in orange jump suits, caged up and about to be tortured, we feel moral outrage– and I believe this moral outrage comes from the spirit of God within us, reminding our consciences that it’s never okay to torture a fellow image bearer.
That same moral outrage at images of hostages about to be burned alive (such as the image above) should also cause us to pause for a moment and rethink what we actually believe about God and his character. Is God perfectly moral in all his ways? Is God altogether good? Is he altogether lovely? Does God look exactly like Jesus– the one who said “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”?
If God is– and I believe he is— this alone should cause us to be willing to rethink and reexamine the traditional doctrine on hell as “eternal, conscious torment.” Because if we don’t, we’re saying that burning people to torture them is sick and twisted when ISIS does it, but that it’sgood and wonderful when God does it.
I’m tired of the canned statements designed to stifle actually using the hearts and minds God planted inside of us.
“But you don’t understand God’s justice.”
“You have no right to question God.”
“Being tortured is what we all deserve.”
“What is moral for God is different than what is moral for us.”
And you know what, I call BS on all of it.
It’s time to question. It’s time to rethink.
Is it possible that our views on hell have been more shaped by medieval barbarians who practically burned their enemies for the sport of it than the actual words of Scripture and the nature and character of Jesus?
Is it possible that we have taken these concepts given to us by people who enjoyed burning their enemies and then read them into the pages of scripture?
Is it possible that God is actually Jesus on the cross dying for his enemies and not an ISIS terrorist torturing his enemies?
I believe a solid case can be made from scripture that hell as a place where God eternally tortures people because they grew up in a jungle without Christian missionaries, is actually unbiblical (you can find the archive of my hell articles, here). But even before we get to the biblical arguments, our moral outrage at ISIS burning people alive presents a completely good and valid reason to begin questioning and rethinking this doctrine. God gave us a conscience that bears witness to his– let’s use it.
Because I am convinced that if we rethink, reexamine, and attempt to rediscover, we might just see that God is not like an ISIS terrorist burning his enemies– but God is actually Jesus on the cross dying for his.
So… Charles Spurgeon, for all his agonizing over the certain damnation of the lost, is safely ensconced in heaven while billions are doomed to be tortured forever in Hell. Perhaps this is a comfort to him. Today I watched an old Muslim man bend down to pick up a Pigeon that had been hit by a car. I. Noticed this little act of kindness and was moved as He gently stroked the bird’s head. Apparently Good sees the bird and the man, but because He is a Righteous Judge the Muslim man will spend eternity in pain. His little kindness counts for nothing.
I watched as He moved slowly away, cradling the wounded bird ever so gently. I thought how very lovely it would be if God was like that old Muslim man, and not like Mr Spurgeon whose words cast billions into the fires of hell.
” The angel, binding you hand and foot, holds you one single moment over the mouth of the chasm. He bids you look down—down—down. There is no bottom; and you hear coming up from the abyss, sullen moans, and hollow groans, and screams of tortured ghosts. You quiver, your bones melt like wax, and your marrow quakes within you. Where is now thy might? and where thy boasting and bragging? Ye shriek and cry, ye beg for mercy; but the angel, with one tremendous grasp, seizes you fast, and then hurls you down, with the cry, “Away, away!” And down you go to the pit that is bottomless, and roll for ever downward—downward—downward—ne’er to find a resting-place for the soles of your feet. Ye shall be cast out.
And where are you to be cast to? Ye are to be cast “into outer darkness;” ye are to be put in the place where there will be no hope. For, by “light,” in Scripture, we understand “hope;” and you are to be put “into outer darkness,” where there is no light—no hope.”
But, in hell, there is no hope. They have not even the hope of dying—the hope of being annihilated. They are for ever—for ever—for ever—lost! On every chain in hell, there is written “for ever.” In the fires, there blaze out the words, “for ever.” Up above their heads, they read “for ever.” Their eyes are galled, and their hearts are pained with the thought that it is “for ever.” Oh! if I could tell you to-night that hell would one day be burned out, and that those who were lost might be saved, there would be a jubilee in hell at the very thought of it. But it cannot be—it is “for ever” they are “cast into utter darkness.”
“From Spurgeon’s sermon, “Resurrection From the Dead”
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the
soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul
and body in hell.” -Matthew 10:28.
Hell will be the place for bodies as well as for souls. There is a real fire in hell, as truly as you have now a real body-
a fire exactly like that which we have on earth in everything
except this- that it will not consume, though it will torture you. You have seen the asbestos lying in the fire red hot,
but when you take it out it is unconsumed. So your body will be prepared by God in such a way that it
will burn forever without being consumed. It will lie, not as you consider, in a ‘metaphorical’ fire,
but in actual flame. Did our Savior mean fictions when he said he would cast body and soul into hell? What should there be a pit for if there were no bodies?
Why fire, why chains, if there were to be no bodies? Can fire touch the soul?
Can pits shut in spirits? Can chains fetter souls? No! Pits and fire and chains are for bodies, and bodies shall be there.
Unconverted man, you will sleep in the dust a little while. When you die your soul will be toalone-
there will be a hell for it.
But at the day of judgment your body will join your soul, and then you will have twin hells-body and soul shall be together, each brimfull of pain,
your soul sweating in its inmost pore drops of blood, and your body from head to foot suffused with agony;
conscience, judgment, memory, all tortured,
but more- your head tormented with racking pains,
your eyes starting from their sockets with
sights of blood and woe;
your ears tormented with shrieks;
your heart beating high with fever;
your pulse rattling at an enormous rate in agony;
your limbs crackling like the martyrs in the fire,
and yet not burned up;
yourself, put in a vessel of hot oil, pained,
yet coming out undestroyed;
all your veins becoming a road for the hot feet of pain to travel
on; every nerve a string on which the devil shall ever play his
diabolical tune of Hell’s Unutterable Lament; your soul for ever
and ever aching, and your body palpitating in unison with your
Again, I say, they are no fictions,
and as God lives, but solid, stern truth.
If God is true, and this Bible is true,
what I have said is the truth,
and you will find it one day to be so.
“The modern English word Hell is derived from Old English hel, helle (about 725 AD to refer to a nether world of the dead) reaching into theAnglo-Saxon pagan period, and ultimately from Proto-Germanic *halja, meaning “one who covers up or hides something” The word has cognates in Latin (see verb cēlō, “to hide”) and in related Germanic languagessuch as Old Frisian helle, hille, Old Saxonhellja, Middle Dutch helle (modern Dutch hel),Old High German helle (Modern GermanHölle), Danish, Norwegian and Swedishhelvede/helvete (hel + Old Norse vitti, “punishment” whence the Icelandic víti “hell”), and Gothic halja. Subsequently, the word was used to transfer a pagan concept to Christian theology and its vocabulary(however, for the Judeo-Christian origin of the concept see Gehenna).
Some have theorized that English word hell is derived from Old Norse hel. However, this is very unlikely as hel appears in Old English before the Viking invasions. Furthermore, the word has cognates in all the other Germanic languages and has a Proto-Germanic origin.Among other sources, the Poetic Edda, compiled from earlier traditional sources in the 13th century, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, provide information regarding the beliefs of the Norse pagans, including a being namedHel, who is described as ruling over anunderworld location of the same name.”
“Sir: It is good to see Hyam Maccoby ranging so widely in his survey of the origins of the idea of Hell (letter, 24 December). In my view, however, he does not range widely enough.
He should have ventured into the second millennium BC when, the evidence from Ancient Egypt shows, belief in a fiery Hell was earnestly held. It is massively attested in both texts and iconography and is firmly linked to the doctrine of divine judgement after death. I have examined this belief in my book The Divine Verdict (Leiden, 1991), comparing the later parallel beliefs in other cultures. The priority of the Egyptian concept is beyond question.
According to the Egyptian doctrine, the damned suffer manifold and agonising tortures, but they end in annihilation. Eternal torment is not suggested. It seems that this sinister refinement was first produced by the Judaic idea of the fiery Hell of Gehenna, which was subsumed by Christianity. I accept Mr Maccoby’s claim that the idea was modified in later Judaism, whereas in the Christian tradition it was unhappily magnified.
Yours faithfully, PROFESSOR J. GWYN GRIFFITHS
Letter: Hell in the ancient world
Sir: Bishop Montefiore, having previously derived the concept of Hell from Judaism, now says (letter, 21 December) that it comes from the ‘Jewish apocalyptic literature’. This literature, produced by fringe Jewish groups, was rejected by mainstream Judaism but accepted and given central significance by Christianity.
Thus, it was the decision of Judaism to reject the concept of Hell (ultimately derived from the pagan sources Zoroastrianism, Pythagoreanism and Stoicism), and of Christianity to accept it. The same thing happened in relation to the concept of the Devil. There is a familiar pattern of prejudice, however, in which everything unpleasant in Christianity (eg the position assigned to women) is blamed on Judaism.
Later, in the Talmud, we find the idea that eternal punishment is for a handful of great sinners, while the vast majority suffers a very limited purgatory (estimated at periods from three months to a year). This contrasts with the medieval Christian belief that the majority of mankind suffers eternal hellfire and that even purgatory lasts for centuries (see Aquinas). Also, the Talmudic teachings on Hell do not have the status of dogmas, but merely of opinions. Hell is central in Christianity because implied by the doctrine of salvation, which plays no part in Judaism.
I am surprised that Professor Ashley Grossman (21 December) saw fit to say that Christianity ‘replaced the avenging God of the Old Testament with a more ‘human’ representative’. To replace the merciful God of the Hebrew Bible (Psalms 78:38) with a God who condemns the majority of mankind to eternal torment was hardly a step in the direction of humanity.
Letter: Christian responsibility for the concept of Hell
Christian Theology: As a fully communicating Catholic, Adolf Hitler is now with Jesus in heaven where he can daily observe Anne Frank burning in hell for failing to accept Jesus as her personal savior.
“Have you ever wondered…do earthly parents love their children more than God loves us? Does God ask you to forgive your enemies—as many times as necessary—when He is not willing to do the same? Is being punished forever for sins committed in a short lifetime really a demonstration of justice? Does everybody get the same fair chance to believe in Jesus before they die? Most of all, if hell is mankind’s worst possible fate, and if God is truly loving, then…
– Why does He fail to mention hell in Genesis as the price for sin?
– Why doesn’t the Old Testament ever speak of hell?
– Why does Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, never once mention hell?
– Why was hell not part of early Church established doctrine?”
“Writing seven days after his death, Mrs. Spurgeon said “he has now been a week in heaven.” It is natural that she should think so, and we do not wish to rob her of any consolation, nor do we suppose that this article will ever come under her notice. But is it not just possible that Spurgeon has gone to hell? And why should not the question be raised? We mean no personal offence; we speak in the interest of justice and truth. Spurgeon was very glib in preaching about hell, and we do not know that he had a monopoly of that special line of business. He never blenched at the idea of millions of human beings writhing in everlasting torment; and why should it be blasphemy, or even incivility, to wonder if he himself has gone to perdition?
Predestination, as the Church of England article says, is wonderfully comforting to the elect; that is, to those who imagine themselves to be so. But what if they are mistaken? What if a man, yea a fancied saint, may be damned without knowing it? God Almighty has not published lists of the elect. Many a Calvinistic Pharisee is perhaps a self-elected saint after all, and at the finish of his journey may find that he has been walking in the wrong direction.
One of Spurgeon’s rooted notions was that unbelievers were sure of hell. They bore the mark of predestinate damnation broad upon their foreheads. Now at the bottom this means that a man may be damned for believing wrongly. But how can anyone be sure that Spurgeon was absolutely right? The Baptists are only one division of Christians. There are scores of other divisions. All cannot be right, and all may be wrong. Even if one is entirely right, how do we know it is the Baptists? According to the law of probabilities, Spurgeon was very likely in the wrong; and if wrong belief, however sincere, entails damnation, it is quite possible that at 11.5 p.m. on Sunday, January 31, Spurgeon entered Hell instead of Heaven. [Footnote: the next article will explain this matter.]
Far be it from us to wish a fellow creature in Hell, but there is always a certain pleasure in seeing the engineer hoist with his own petard. All tragedy has a touch of comedy. Fancy Spurgeon in Hades groaning “I sent other people here by the million, and here I am myself.”
How would this be worse than the groan of any other lost soul? Few men are devils or angels. Most are neither black nor white, but grey. Between the best and vilest how much difference is there in the eye of infinite wisdom? And if God, the all-knowing and all-powerful, created men as they are, strong and weak, wise and foolish, good, bad, and indifferent; there is no more injustice in Spurgeon’s burning in Hell than in the damnation of the worst wretch that ever cursed the world.
Spurgeon used to preach hell with a certain gusto. Here is a hot and strong passage from his sermon on the Resurrection of the Dead:
“When thou diest, thy soul will be tormented alone; that will be a hell for it; but at the day of judgment thy body will join thy soul, and then thou wilt have twin-hells, thy soul sweating drops of blood, and thy body suffused with agony. In fire exactly like that which we have on earth thy body will lie, asbestos-like, for ever unconsumed, all thy veins roads for the feet of pain to travel on, every nerve a string on which the Devil shall for ever play his diabolical tune of Hell’s Unutterable Lament.”
After preaching this awful doctrine a man should be ill for a fortnight. Would it not afflict a kind-hearted man unspeakably to think that millions of his fellow beings, or hundreds, or even one, would suffer such a terrible fate? Would it not impair his sleep, and fill his dreams with terror? But it did not have this effect on Spurgeon. After preaching hell in that way, and rolling damnation over his tongue as a dainty morsel, he went home, dined with a good appetite, drank his wine, and smoked his cigar.
There was not the slightest doubt in Spurgeon’s mind as to the endless doom of the damned. Here is an extract from another sermon —
“Thou wilt look up there on the throne of God and it shall be written, ‘For ever!’ When the damned jingle the burning irons of their torment they shall say, ‘For ever!’ When they howl, echo cries, ‘For ever!’
‘For ever’ on their chains;
‘For ever’ burneth in the fire,
‘For ever’ ever reigns.”
How bodies are to burn without consuming, how a fire could last for ever, or how a good God could roast his own children in it, are questions that Spurgeon did not stop to answer. He took the damnable doctrine of damnation as he found it. He knew it was relished by myriads of callous, foolish people; and it gave such a pungent flavor to a long sermon! His listeners were not terrified. Oh dear no! Smith, the Newington greengrocer, was not alarmed; he twirled his thumbs, and said to himself, “Spurgeon’s in fine form this morning!”
Archdeacon Farrar protests against the notion of a fiery, everlasting hell as the result of fear, superstition, ignorance, hate, and slavish letter-worship. He declares that he would resign all hope of immortality to save a single human soul from the hell of Mr. Spurgeon. But is not the hell of Mr. Spurgeon the hell of the New Testament? Does not Jesus speak of everlasting fire? Why seek to limit the duration of hell by some hocus-pocus of interpretation? It is idle to pretend that “everlasting” means something less than everlasting. If it means that in relation to hell it must also mean it in relation to heaven. Dr. Farrar cannot have two different meanings for the same word in the same verse; and should he ever go to hell (he will pardon us the supposition), how much consolation would he derive from knowing that his doom was not “everlasting” but only “eternal”? There was more honesty and straightforwardness in Mr. Spurgeon. He preached what the Bible taught him. He set forth a hateful creed in its true colors. His presentation of Christianity will continue to satisfy those who belong to the past, but it will drive many others out of the fold of faith into the broad pastures of Freethought.”
From the Free Thought Archives:
God is love
“If we are thinking Biblically, how can we not conclude that Calvin was the greater heretic? Burning someone alive is not loving them, doing good to them or blessing them (Lk 6:27-28, 35). And without love, whatever other truth Calvin may have been defending becomes worthless. If we’re thinking biblically, how can we avoid concluding that Calvin was not only a worse heretic than Servetus, but that he committed the greatest heresy imaginable?”
Greg Boyd at Patheos
There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.
“Ten years ago a tsunami ripped through the Indian Ocean claiming more than a quarter of a million lives and displacing nearly two million more. In the face of such devastation, horrified silence is the only proper response I can think of; but many voices arose, claiming that God is clearly dead or that God was again cleansing the earth…
“What is a Christian to do in the face of overwhelming tragedy? In the Gospel of John, Jesus addresses human suffering and Christian hope:
Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. (Jn 16: 20-21)
We Christians can say nothing more than that we hope for some sort of transformative apocalypse, a revelation that will wipe away all tears, give meaning and value to the suffering endured during this life, and reconcile us all to one another and to nature. In other words, the Christian does not have anything to add. Silence and enduring with our brothers and sisters is the only gift we have to give.”
“The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies… the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.”
“A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.”
The God of Nahum:”jealous… avenging… wrathful … indignant… angry…“. How free could submission to such a deity ever really be? It would be neither a free act of conscience, nor a courageous act, but a submission born of fear.
in contrast to the words of Nahum, the prophet Isaiah reveals a divine mercy we usually equate with the Jesus of the Gospels, who commands his disciples to forgive “seventy times seven”, to seek not revenge but to turn the other cheek. The Jesus who came not to condemn the world, but to save it. The friend of sinners, freely breaking with the religious taboos of his day and associating with tax-gatherers, prostitutes, adulterers, the unclean, demoniacs, heretics, the diseased. And yet Jesus also said,
“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Christians explain these apparent contradictions in terms of the old and new covenants – but the paradox is in both Covenants and is not resolved by setting the old against the new. Scholars who know the bible to be an amalgam of redacted texts from diverse authors, ancient languages, from different times and social contexts explain the contradictions by this very disparity of authorship.
In “Christ, a crisis in the life of God” by the former Jesuit Jack Miles, the author proposes the Incarnation is the act of a God struggling with His own conflicted dealings with man. He becomes a man, not as a warrior king – but as a physician come to heal a broken world.
Of course Miles is not ‘doing theology’ here, but looking at the Bible as a work of literature with God as the protagonist.
But even as the dispensation of the Incarnation and the Paraclete have come, the apocalyptic visions of Saint John of Patmos seem once more a return of the wrathful God of the Old Testament. The Gospel carries with it this shadow that will not be erased. When Christians share God’s love, His Wrath is the counterpoint.