Blog

Can I Reject an Eternal Hell and Still Be Saved?

I don’t really like this question. No, let me be stronger: I hate this question. Please forgive me. I understand the question and empathize with it on just about every level, no matter what it’s source may be (philosophical, biblical, or emotional). However, when you ask me this question you put me in a difficult position. I want to be as honest as possible, yet remain aware of the pastoral nature that addressing this subject requires. In other words, it is not an impossible question, and should never be seen as such.

This question, and others like it, are becoming more and more common today.

  • If I become a Christian, do I have to believe in Hell?
  • Do I have to believe that those who have never heard of Christ are going to hell?
  • Does God really elect some people to go to heaven and not others?
  • Do I have to believe in inerrancy, a six-day creation, the sinfulness of homosexuality, or the reality of a literal being named Satan? Really?

Don’t get me wrong, not all these questions have equal gravity. Some are more debatable than others. Moreover, there are many questions similar to these which leave me relatively unsure that I have the best answer. Therefore, it is not so much the questions themselves that are most important. The difficulty comes down to the fact that we are often tempted to give people a loophole to theological issues that may be, otherwise, too intellectually or emotionally unpalatable. Often, for the sake of peoples’ acceptance, we will reduce the tenets of Christianity down to a minimal set of truths that are the easiest to swallow.

In some ways, it is not unlike another question that I don’t like: “If I commit suicide, can I still go to heaven?” I was asked this by my sister in 2003. I was asked this by my very depressed sister in 2003. I did not want to answer. At least I did not want to answer honestly. I believed my answer would somehow give her permission to do something we all feared she was about to do.

Technically speaking, whether or not one believes in an eternal hell, a literal Satan, or whether or not God used evolution to create man, these issues, while important, are not cardinal issues of the Gospel. What I mean by this is, if you push my back against the wall, I would not say that someone who says they don’t believe in a literal Satan is not a Christian. Nor would I say that all the other questions, including the one concerning the existence of an eternal hell, is so doctrinally central that a denial of such is a damnable offense (or evidence of one’s retribution). This would include the question of suicide. Suicide is not an unforgivable sin, nor does it keep people outside the gates of heaven. (Though I would often rather this to remain a secret.)

So, if someone asks me these theological questions in a more academic or objective sense (which is almost never the case), I am comfortable—indeed obligated—to say that their respective positions regarding such beliefs do not evidence or determine their status as a child of God (as I was with my sister who, as some of you know, did commit suicide in 2004). But I am not a fan of making Christianity “palatable enough” for anyone to accept. In other words, my goal is not to win you to a Christ that is necessarily easy to believe or follow. And I am afraid that some of those who are attempting to be theologically astute wind up becoming academically agnostic. That is, they are agnostic enough to find every place where they don’t have to take a stand, which allows them to remain neutral for the sake of evangelism.

However, if you were to look at the life and ministry of Christ, you would never find him lowering the bar of doctrine or life in order to make people feel more comfortable. Rather, at every turn he seems to close loopholes, up the ante, and make the Gospel not less difficult, but more difficult to believe.

In the Gospel of John, for example, we frequently find Christ gaining a significant following. A good thing, right? Then people begin to question some of his more difficult teachings. In John 6, Christ claims to have come down from heaven (John 6:41-42). I mean, who does he think he is? This is a hard teaching. However, Christ does not make things easier. In fact, he makes it a lot harder, pushing those who may be on the fence in the opposite direction. He basically tells them that they are having trouble believing that his is the bread that came down from heaven because the Father is not with them. Notice: “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). When they raise another eyebrow and further question him, he not only says that he is bread that came down out of heaven, but his followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood. Again, the doctrine becomes harder to accept, not easier. Additionally, upon their misunderstanding of his statement (thinking that he meant they would literally have to eat and drink his body), he does not correct their misunderstanding (which is characteristic of Christ cf. Luke 8:10;  John 2:18-21, John 3:3-4, John 4:31-33, John 12:40).

Therefore, if Christ is unconcerned that people get tripped-up by non-cardinal hang-ups, we don’t really see much evidence of this in the Scriptures. From Christ’s perspective, when one believes God he believes God. That is, becoming a believer is not the simple act of believing one or two not so difficult things about God, but of having one’s life immersed in the belief of everything that God says, no matter how hard, no matter how difficult. It is in the trusting that God’s knowledge and understanding are perfect, and that our emotions, will, and intellect always bow to his revelation.

So when someone asks whether or not they can reject an eternal hell and still be saved, the most important thing for me to attempt to discern is the underlying reason why this person is asking such a question. More times than not, people reject hard doctrines such as this due to an emotional allergy toward it. They end up putting God on the stand and presume to pass judgement. “I would never believe in a God who allows people to suffer in Hell for all eternity!” As I said at the beginning, it is not that I don’t empathize with such emotional reactions (Lord knows, I do.), but do you really want the alternative? Do you want to believe in a God who ultimately bows to your preferences? Do you want God to seek your permission before he can claim something to be true? At this point, it is much more important to deal with your definition of what it means to be “God.” The biggest problem in your theology is not likely within the individual discipline that gave rise the the question, but the epistemological approach to authority in your life.

Having said this, it is important to realize that I am not asserting the opposite view. It is not as if (as in the discipline of textual criticism) “the harder reading is preferred.”I am not saying that we should always be looking for the least palatable option. Neither am I saying that because the palatability of a doctrine does not determine is veracity, that palatability will not have some voice in the decision-making process forming our theology. After all, while we are fallen and our moral compass is damaged, it does not follow that the palatability of a doctrine does not work at all. We are still in the image of God. Therefore, our emotions should often guide us and inform our understanding of God and his attributes.

Technically speaking, people can be saved and have all sorts of wrong doctrine (after all, I do). But that is not the right question. It all comes down to whether or not we are allowing God to have the right to reveal and have his revelation be the authority even when the truths of his revelation do not sit well with us, emotionally. I would never ask anyone to blindly believe in an eternal hell, unconditional election, the doctrine of the Trinity, the authority of the husband over his wife, or any number of emotionally difficult doctrines. Neither am I saying that those who disagree with me concerning these issues are doing so based on their emotions, or that there are no valid logical or biblical reasons for rejecting the traditional doctrines. What I am saying is that, more often than not, I find that these questions and the persistent rejection of traditional views in these areas are based on the premise that we have permission to create God in our image rather than forming our understanding of him according to his revelation.

72 Responses to “Can I Reject an Eternal Hell and Still Be Saved?”

  1. Michael,

    I totally agree with the gist of the article. We should not put God in a box we are comfortable with. We should be the one to change to conform to His will. I get that and I totally agree with it.

    However, I do not believe in an eternal hell. I believe that this whole doctrine of eternal punishment is NOT biblical at all.

    1. History has shown us that the Catholic Church made up the eternal burning to drum up more money for the church.

    2. When the bible says eternal damnation, eternal judgement, eternal punishment…etc., it is talking about the results. The results of judgement is eternal. The results of punishment is eternal. i.e. eternal flames of Sodom and Gomorrah. We know perfectly well that Sodom and Gomorrah are not still burning.

    3. It is more merciful and graceful for a one-time death in hell rather than an eternal torture. This is more in line with the loving God that we know.

    4. “The wages of sin is death”, and not eternal torture.

    5. We die our earthly death due to Adam’s sin and not our individual sins. Our individual sins result in judgement and a second death (Rev 2:11, Rev 20:6,14, Rev 21:8). NOT eternal torture.

    • I completely understand the desire to believe there is no eternal hell. The idea breaks my heart, and I find myself thinking about it more and more all the time, as the days grow short.
      *BUT*
      I would not make assertions about things which are alluded to in the book of Revelation, if you are not ABSOLUTELY certain you are not in error. You are treading on dangerous ground.

      For all you who speculate on the doctrine of hell or anything else alluded to in the book of Revelation:

      Look up Revelation 22:18-19 and be warned. I say this only because I care. All must pray to God with humility, in the name of Jesus, and ask for help to understand the truth as it is, not as we would like it to be. We must not create doctrines around our emotions, or spread such doctrines. We will be held accountable.

      I recently realized that I don’t much care for the attributes of God pertaining to judgment and justice. I have had to repent of this. We want God to love us even though we are wretched sinners, and He does (though you only get so many chances before you die, then that’s it. If you didn’t know Jesus, you will face eternal wrath). And we must ask God to help us to love and understand Him as He is. How dare we wish Him to be anything less, or other than what He is? I am ashamed that I am this way. I ask Him for His help with this often. I know that if I keep asking, I will receive, and so will those of you who find the idea of hell too painful to accept, if you keep asking. But you must not distort what the book of Revelation says. Period. See above Bible reference.

      Another point:
      Romans 9:2 King James Version
      2″That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
      3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh…”

      Why does he have “continual sorrow”? I can tell you why I do. The thought of “eternal hell” does that. Any other scenario can be coped with. Annihilation? Not crazy about that either, but it can coped with. A temporary hell? Not crazy about that either, but ok. I mean, you can get through that. But… Forever? I can’t handle it either. I get it.
      And why does all sin deserve such a severe punishment?
      I had a thought recently. Maybe it’s because Christ willingly suffered SO MUCH for the atonement of our sins so we could go and live with Him forever. Each time we sin, we are not only guilty of the sin itself, but of putting the Lord Jesus to death on the cross. “The Jews” didn’t kill Jesus. We all did. And if we then choose to ignore His invitation to come to Him (John 6:37), how cruel are we? What’s wrong with us? That does deserve eternal hell fire. I still don’t like it, but there it is. That may not be right, theologians teach that every sin would be deserving of hell in any scenario. I’m sure they’re right, but thinking of it my way helps me to accept it more. It’s one thing to say “you deserve to go to hell because you stole a comic book when you were ten”. That still escapes my finite understanding. But to say “you deserve to go to hell because you stole a comic book when you were ten, AND Jesus died a horrible death on the cross for that so you could go to Heaven, But YOU SAID, no thanks, I’m good.” That I can understand.

      I recently became aware of “Christian” Universalism, which as I understand it, basically turns hell into a kind of purgatory which everyone, or nearly everyone, eventually comes out of after they are brought to repentance. As I read through the reasoning on one of the websites supporting this, I wanted SO BADLY for it to be true. Just the thought of it, temporarily lessened the “continual sorrow” in my heart. I am certain that only the knowledge of an eternal hell would have caused Paul, or anyone such profound grief. Like I said before, the alternatives would be sad, but not unbearable. I’m sorry, but you’re wrong.

      • I want to clarify that I am so cautious about distorting anything in the book of Revelation, that I do not even like to type out the verses, in case I get something wrong by mistake.
        That’s why I only listed the reference for Revelation 22:18-19, rather than typing it out. These verses are different in the translation this website uses, than what it says in my Bible, so I strongly suggest you look it up and compare.

  2. I believe in the nihilist position when it comes to the issue of hell. I think one needs to take the idea of satan and demons seriously.. (You only have to be involved in a deliverance situation once to know the seriousness of it)

    But, when it comes to the issue of who is in and who is out.. I can never go past Romans 10:9

  3. CMP,

    You are nothing if not consistent! Great Post!

    Can I Reject Hell…? To quote a line from I-Robot, “That is the right question!”

    Jesus, lived, died, was raised from the dead as represented by 62 prophecies with over 300 specific details written 100s of years before his birth. He is the center. We are called to relationship with him, obedience to him, and becoming ambassadors that accurately reflect his values to the world.

    If someone wants to reject inerrancy so be it.

    If they want to reject certain credal understandings, yes even the diophocite nature of Christ as most cults do then I am willing to allow it as long as they are working toward understanding and not in stasis.

    Mahatma Gandhi did not share my understanding of Christ. But he was a better example of one who was willing to lay down his life for his brother than I am.

    I find Mother Teresa’s view on salvation to be indefensible and leading people into a “works will help me be saved” mentality, but look at her love for the broken, poor and dispossessed.

    Jin, and others may not share my view on Hell…SO WHAT! They are very possibly better ambassadors. Christ will measure and reward the latter and I don’t think he will even mention inerrancy at the judgement.

    I take passages in Mt 7:22 and 25:40 very seriously. Inerrancy, Hell, End times, Origins and even aspects of orthodox Christology (was a Christian for 15 years before I understood hypostatic union) don’t make my top 5 list.

    What is the purpose of scripture? It is not to argue the greatness and supremacy of scripture but point us to Christ.

    “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

    For much more on this subject see Paul G. Hiebert’s “Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues” specifically his section on set theory (p110ff)

  4. Truth Unites... and Divides February 25, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    “but do you really want the alternative? Do you want to believe in a God who bows to your preferences?”

    CMP, you know there are plenty of folks who want exactly that!!

    “Do you want God to seek your permission before he claim something to be true? At this point I would think it is more important to deal with your definition of what is means to be “God.” I would say that the biggest problem in your theology is not within the individual discipline that gave rise the the question, but the epistemological approach to authority in your life.”

    Yep. Great article, CMP. God defines the terms, I don’t. I submit and obey, and am happy to submit and obey. At least most of the time.

  5. After a lengthy study of grace, hell and eternal punishment I don’t understand how we have been duped into believing something so contrary to what the Bible actually says. We believe we have been elected, chosen, preordained but then we also believe that we must make a choice to follow Christ like we somehow have the ability to override His choice to save us? We believe in eternal punishment for those that don’t make a decision for Christ in this short period we live on earth when they apparently were not chosen for salvation anyway?

    We obviously don’t believe in a very big God because we don’t believe He was actually able what to do what He sent his only begotten Son to earth to be sacrificed for? He couldn’t have possibly have been sacrificed to save the whole world because He really didn’t have the power to do it, He is only powerful enough to save the ones that first of all “hear”, secondly “understand” and thirdly “submit”. He wasn’t nearly as powerful as Adam, who condemned the whole world by his “original sin”. He couldn’t have saved the whole world with his sacrifice?

    We don’t really believe He is able to defeat death because after we die there is no way He could still have the option to save those that die without making that ultimate decision to follow him? It is so sad that we use the scripture He gave us to discredit him by our unbelief of his power and grace. We protect our religious traditions, dogmatic views and fundamentalist beliefs at all cost and no matter who we reject, offend or condemn. We cannot be wrong although there are 41,000 different denominations of Christianity who can’t agree and be one Church because “our” theology is always right!

    It’s no wonder so many are shedding religion, leaving the church and seeking truth through other means. Our Christianese ideologies and arguments against hell, eternal punishment, homosexuality, atheism, evolution or any other number of issues we face are so incredibly weak…

    • A thought on predestination. We have free will. God exists outside of time. It’s not that He makes the choice for us. It’s just that from before the foundation of the world, He already knew which choice we would make.
      I don’t know how some of the preeminent theologians have failed to grasp this. It’s so simple. The Bible is very clear those who trust in Jesus are the ones who are saved, and those who reject Him are not. There are no accounts in any of the gospels of anyone being told “trust in Jesus, and you will be saved, so long as you are elect.” Or, “since you’re elect, trust in Jesus, or not. Either way, you’re golden.”
      And yes, Jesus did die for the sins of all. Otherwise, God could not have offered us free will, because that would allow for the above mentioned scenario, with a bunch of people not included in various verses that say “whosoever”. “Whosoever” means “whosoever”. Let God be true but every man a liar.
      Sorry to be so intense, but we don’t need a bunch of people walking around wondering, “Will Jesus save me? How do I know I’m part of ‘whosoever’ ?” He said the one who comes to Him, He would not cast out. I believe Him.
      There are some excellent teachings on salvation at
      illbehonest.com. Rather intense, but excellent.
      Now, assurance (knowing that you’re saved) is another topic, and God can help you with that too.
      Also, Jesus did conquer death as well. Ask Him for that conviction. And don’t ever give up asking. Hebrews says God rewards those who seek Him diligently. Even you can’t believe it, ask for help with your unbelief. Even if it seems stupid, try it every day for the rest of your life if you have to. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. And read the Bible. It will change you and renew your mind.
      As for the 41,000 different denominations, we have the Bible, and if we read it, we’ll know which ones are right.
      And if you think Christian theology is weak in its reasoning against various sins listed in the Bible, then you must not believe in regeneration. i.e. the power of God to not only convict, but help us overcome our habitual sins when we seek His help. It’s not always instantaneous, but if you persevere, He helps Christians change to the likeness of Christ. You don’t see that in some churches, so your skepticism is understandable. The church I grew up in didn’t even teach regeneration, and I saw little tangible evidence of it there, unfortunately.

  6. Sure.

    The Lord will save whom He will save.

    Bad theology notwithstanding.

  7. Great article. Tough questions with no easy answers but dealt with very well. I have wrestled (and still do) with some of them. I think the answer in most cases has to do with the reasons behind the question.
    I am sorry about your sister, really sorry.

  8. Maybe before pondering these questions together, we say to each other: “First, let’s remember together: we completely trust the Lord’s perfection in character, holiness, beauty; we remember fog reduces visibility; we remember the attack from the very beginning; we remember we are not amazed Jesus says, ‘You must be born again.’”

  9. Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” It’s interesting how little has changed since the serpent made this statement that calls into the question the veracity of God. To reject what is clearly taught in scripture is to impugn the character of God. To reject doctrine, no matter how unpopular, is to artificially elevate our own understanding to a level equal to or greater than the one who established it.

  10. John Stott startled the Christian community when he came out in defense of anniihilationism. One would be hard pressed to say that he wasn’t a serious theologian.

  11. Michael,

    Fair enough article, but in my own experience the people (at least those already in the church) complaining about a doctrine of eternal conscious torment aren’t looking for permission to do what they want and get away with it, so neither are they looking to create a God in their own image. They just feel (and I’m talking about those who have nothing more than feelings along this line) that mistakes are being made in understanding facts about God. They do want to rightly worship and testify about God to others (in both senses of ortho-doxy) but can’t get past the feeling a serious mistake is being made somewhere by the people in authority over them who they’re otherwise trusting to be expert students on the topic.

    When they say something doesn’t (to them) make sense, and they’re given an answer amounting to “it isn’t supposed to make sense (or no one can possibly make sense of it) just believe it and stop being prideful”, they’re hurt because they aren’t in fact being prideful and they’re still left with the unresolved feeling which regularly alerts them on other topics a serious mistake is being made somewhere. So such answers don’t help them.

    (I’m not talking about my own situation here — I was perfectly happy believing in eternal conscious punishment from God, along a roughly Lewisian Arminianist line, when I started believing universal salvation is true. But I ran into that problem for other people before and since then, and I’ve always tried to respect that problem in my apologetic work.)

  12. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

  13. I agree with CMP.
    The basis of our salvation is what Jesus did for us, not how much good doctrine we know.
    If good doctrine were a qualifier for Eternal Life, we’d all be up a creek with no paddle. Or perhaps I should say down an abyss with no fire extinguisher.

    We are not saved based on what we “know.”
    Abraham knew not the personal name of YHWH, nor anything about Messiah, Calvary, or virgin birth. He was likely rather confused with a Mesopotamian upbringing. But he BELIEVED in God. That is all that counts when it comes to resurrection. I heartily agree with Craig from #2 on Rom 10:9

    But good doctrine is important for maturity. Some Christians remain in diapers all their life. Heb 6:1-2 says that final judgment is a primary, fundamental doctrine. Growing up out of childhood means learning to read and study for yourself. It means no longer just accepting what your spoon fed, but to be a Berean and search out the Scripture independently with a open yet critical mind. This is where I disagree with CMP.

    Eternal torment is one of those traditions that is really not supported by the Bible. Jin from #1 is correct. Jesus was our substitute and he DIED for us. He did not suffer eternal torment in our stead. This is evidence of what what the punishment is. CMP makes it sound as if you think for yourself and critically search and come to a different conclusion then he did, then you must be arrogantly putting your prideful emotions ahead of God’s plain word.

    There may be some cases wherein that is the true, but the Conditionalist position is not a good example.

    • I would point out that although we know what happened to Jesus physically, we really don’t know exactly what He suffered in the spiritual realm when He took all of our sins upon Himself.
      I have heard many preachers who speak as if they know exactly what was taking place, but it’s really beyond our comprehension. We can reasonably infer that Jesus experienced some sort of separation from His father for a time, or (some say) His actual wrath, (which would be too terrible for words), since He said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”.
      Not to get too weird here, but since the spiritual realm is not subject to our understanding of time, is it possible, that Jesus actually did experience the anguish of eternity, even though it wasn’t actually eternal? What I mean is that, even though He is not still suffering our punishment now, He may still know what eternal punishment would feel like, and therefore have experienced it in a way.
      What I do know for sure is that His sacrifice and suffering are incomprehensible, and we should be careful about making assumptions about it. When we do, we undoubtedly underestimate it.

  14. I really enjoyed reading the opening post and found it echoed a lot of my own questions.

    For many of us the question of accepting or rejecting a particular doctrine is not so much a question of palatability as of a recognisable consistency with other doctrines, and it is when we try to match them in a coherent way that we are forced to consider: not “Do I believe this scripture?”, but “How do I understand the truth of this scripture and others like it?”

    The problem is that scripture is packed full of figurative language, and I think that almost all our doctrinal differences seem to stem from variations in how literal or figurative we understand particular passages to be.

  15. This really is a good article. And although I’ve never asked that specific question, I have asked others that are similar.

    I think the crucial error is whether you’re asking permission to ignore a doctrine you don’t like.

    I liked the doctrine of hell as torment, in the sense that I was comfortable with it. I don’t like the fact that I’m convinced the Bible doesn’t teach it. That means I was morally obligated to go before my elders and tell them. When I did so, I had to ask both whether I could stay in the church, and whether I was outside of ANY church. So I’ve asked a different version of the article’s question — not whether I CAN disbelieve, but whether my convicted conscience is compatible with our church (or any church).

    (My elders’ answer was that I could stay.)

    -Wm

  16. “Technically speaking, whether or not one believes in an eternal hell, a literal Satan, or whether or not God used evolution to create man, these issues, while important, are not cardinal issues of the Gospel.”

    CMP, you are incorrect. Jesus Christ preached and taught of the consequences of sin, which includes hell. To reject His word is to reject Him.

    What is happening to your sect? Read these comments on your blog…my goodness!

    You all need a good dose of old-time religion:

    http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/allsaints/jesus_is_real_hell_is_real

  17. Without a literal, real, conscious, Hell what is the point of salvation? What are we actually being saved from? Why would you be willing to die for the sake of the Gospel if there was no literal hell? Should we look back at those in our history; the disciples and other martyrs and shake our heads??? It’s ridiculous to even think about.

    It is a theological issue, but I believe it has more to do with a Cultural understanding of fairness/Justice. Our culture feels entitled to “equality” at least their understanding of it, but what is fair is no Grace all going to hell. That’s equality.

    Hell(wrath)/Grace/Love are not mutually exclusive, at least not to God.

  18. Ross, the hope of “Heaven” may well appear compellingly attractive when compared with the fiery torments of everlasting hell fire, but as far as we can tell, the Israelites in Old Testament times had no concept of such alternatives. Time and again they were challenged by God’s prophets to choose either Life or Death.

    Death was understood only as a cessation of life, i .e. unconscious oblivion (Job 14:12; Psa 146:3,4; Eccl 9:5). Life may have been understood by some as extended mortality (Exod 20:12) but there are clues that some had a deeper perception of the conditionally-promised Life being dependent on Resurrection (Psalm 71:20; Job 19:25).

    Unfortunately these alternatives became compounded by the introduction of imaginary ideas which originated in surrounding nations. (for example the influence of Zoroastrianism is described here http://www.pyracantha.com/Z/zjc3.html). The Greeks also added into the mix their ideas about the afterlife.

    In Christ’s day these ideas had become deeply embedded into Jewish thought. Christ himself (in Luke 16) made a parody of “eternal torment” by opening it up to contact with “Abraham’s bosom” (another of their traditions) adding the ridiculous idea that a finger dipped in water and touching the tongue of a burning of a burning victim could alleviate his sufferings! You can just imagine how those who believed in such concepts must have felt.

    Today the simple choice remains between Unending Life or Unending Death (John 3:16)

    Incidentally, I’ve just discovered this website with some further thoughts on Hell (unorthodox but well worth considering I think): http://www.helltruth.com/

  19. Rose,

    Many Christian universalists, myself included, actually do believe in a literal, real, conscious hell. We don’t believe the punishment is hopeless, but we do believe it’s coming for people who don’t repent of their sins, and will last for as long as people don’t repent of their sins, into the eons of the eons where applicable — and as prophesied. (We don’t necessarily believe, myself included, that every impenitent sinner’s punishment will be so utterly maximal but that God will apportion the discipline as He sees fit to achieve His end as soon as possible while still preserving the free will of the person.)

    While it’s true sinners are being saved from God’s punishment, the prime salvation is being saved from our sins. If the latter requires God’s punishment, then God sees fit to chastise those He loves and intends to inherit. The scriptures talk about this a lot, so it’s a point generally agreed by non-universalists, too.

    We ought to be willing to die for the same reason Jesus came to us and was named Jesus: so that His people will be saved from their sins. There are also many truths about God worth dying as a testimony (martyr) for, even if someone doesn’t believe that the Gospel will be victorious for everyone (or even intended by God).

    Consequently, I don’t know any trinitarian Christian universalist who derides the martyrdom of non-universalist trinitarian Christians.

    Also, TCUs are not so much concerned about mere equality of treatment, but about all unrighteous persons coming to be righteous (toward God and toward our fellow creatures), with the righteousness/justice of the Trinity Who grounds all reality (a mutually supporting interpersonal communion of fair-togetherness — the term in Biblical Greek which translates as righteousness or justice), rather than ending in final unrighteousness. And that’s precisely a theological issue, not a cultural one.

    JRP

  20. CMP

    The 2 real (salient) questions derived from your post are:

    What is the minimum content a person must believe in order to have eternal life?

    What doctrines cannot be denied, and still allow a person to get eternal life?

    Then of course, the same questions can be asked about one who claims to be saved, born again (an authentic) Christian.

    What doctrines does a person HAVE to be believe to be considered a true Christian?

    What doctrines can a truly saved person deny and still be a Christian?

    BTW, it is worth noting that the greatest defender of the Gospel in the Bible is clearly the Apostle Paul.

    And do you know how many times Paul included a warning about Hell in his presentation of the Gospel?

    The answer is the same amount of times he wrote about Hell in his 13 epistles….0!!!!!!!

  21. I gave some thought to Jeff’s question: “What is the minimum content a person must believe in order to have eternal life?” and, so far, I can only find the following clearly stated as essential:

    Applicable in all time and everywhere:
    Belief in the existence of a God who rewards those who seek him. (explicitly stated in Heb 11:6)
    Recognition of our sinfulness and our need for God’s forgiveness (principles upheld constantly throughout scripture)

    Applicable in New Testament times and thereafter
    Belief that Jesus is God’s Son (the necessity of this strongly implied in John 20:31)
    Belief that Jesus is the means by which we can be saved (John 3:16 and explicitly stated in Acts 4:12)
    Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus (the necessity of this is strongly implied in 1 Cor 15:1-3)

    The above list seems surprisingly short and may not be complete, but it does lead me to ask:
    Does the orthodox understanding of Hell (or any other doctrines I have missed!) have the same kind of clear Biblical statement as those above to show that its acceptance is “essential” for salvation?

  22. I want to clarify the second question about “What doctrines cannot be denied, and still allow a person to get eternal life?”

    Some have argued that “A sinner does not have to believe in the Trinity, the hypostatic union of Christ (That he is 100% God and 100% man), the virgin birth and the sinless of Christ in order to GET SAVED….. But a person cannot deny these truths and still get saved”

  23. @ Paul

    Im confused to what point you are making? Regardless what the OT “teaches”, the concept is found in the NT.

    @ Jason

    I forgot to put eternal in the adjective list. Again as with Universalism, no eternal Hell = no immediate or urgent reason to share the Gospel, especially when it would mean death.

    Part of the problem is our differing view of Soteriology, more specifically the issue with regeneration. You make it sound as if the person in hell, one day, decides to repent from HIs/her sins; my understanding of regeneration is that it is an act of God that is PRIOR to a person repenting. Meaning it is impossible for salvation unless God regenerates the heart, bc sinful people are dead in transgressions, and dead people cant/wont choose life.

    I would appreciate any passages that say or teach that hell is not eternal.

    • “No eternal hell=no immediate or urgent reason to share the gospel”

      Exactly. This teaching of temporary punishment takes away all urgency. Less soul winning is “bad fruit”. More soul winning is “good fruit”. Jesus said good trees produce good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit. And how can truth produce bad fruit? If the doctrine of universal salvation were true, it would produce good fruit (more soul winning) Period.

  24. CMP, you are incorrect. Jesus Christ preached and taught of the consequences of sin, which includes hell. To reject His word is to reject Him.

    Do you _literally_ believe that I have to agree with you on every single interpretation of every single word Jesus spoke in order to be saved?

    I believe in hell (gehenna and sheol), but you’re responding to a person who’s asking about the _eternality_ of hell. There’s only one single _verse_ in the entire Bible that even hints that hell itself might be eternal, and it’s in the Apocalypse, in the middle of a vision involving a multiheaded beast whose very heads are kings and whom an angel says is going to be destroyed (which at first glance seems to contradict being preserved forever — but I say we shouldn’t read Revelation by first glances).

    Jeff, I suspect you would admit I’m correct that “the number of times [Paul] wrote about hell” is not the same number as “the number of times Paul named hell.” I claim that Paul wrote about hell, even though only Jesus and James actually used the word ‘gehenna’. (The same is true about Isaiah, who wrote about hell in Isa 66, even though he didn’t name the valley either.) Jude and Peter wrote a LOT about hell without naming it either.

    • Speaking of Paul, I would remind you that he would have little reason to be so burdened about his unsaved kinsmen if he believed that they would one day be saved as well, even if they had to sweat it for a thousand years.
      An above poster said the same thing pertaining to how this affects evangelism. I personally wouldn’t worry too much about it if stubborn people went to hell, for a time. But for all time, that is another story. Forever can be the saddest word in the English language.

  25. Wm Tanksley,

    Yes, I believe that we must believe every single word Jesus Christ said in order to claim that we believe in Jesus Christ.

    “Only 1 single verse”?

    Matthew 18:8 “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire.

    Matthew 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

    Matthew 25:46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    Luke 16:9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.

    Mark 9:43-45 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— where
    ‘Their worm does not die
    And the fire is not quenched.’
    And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—

    2 Thessalonians 1:8-10 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,

    Jude 1:6-7 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of ETERNAL FIRE.

  26. Wm Tanksley,

    You have some options:

    1. Jesus had some gaffes, some “oops” moments, that we can safely ignore.
    2. The Bible ain’t 100% reliable.
    3. Or maybe…just maybe…the doctrines of hell – who’s going there, what it is – that you’ve been fed all these years aren’t the same as what Jesus taught his disciples 2000 years ago.

  27. //I would appreciate any passages that say or teach that hell is not eternal.//

    There’s one passage I can think of that implies it is — Revelation 20 (three beings are seen as tormented forever and ever in the lake of fire) and one that implies it’s not, Malachi 4 (the wicked are burned utterly to ash which the righteous then tread down). Both are fairly highly symbolic; it makes sense to look to other passages for guidance on interpretation.

    But none of the others actually say whether hell, as an entity in and of itself, lasts forever. The “God will be all in all” passages seem to _imply_ that the beings in hell won’t be resisting Him — but that could be read in ways compatible with hell existing (although frankly, I suspect that attempting this is unwise).

    One thing, though. I spent two years delving into this before I was convinced to change my mind; but I started because I realized I had only one verse solidly on “my” side (Rev 20:10), and it didn’t even mention humans. I wouldn’t be persuaded if all I’d found was that ONE passage seemed to say that hell didn’t last forever. I don’t think your question is therefore the best way to distinguish.

  28. Yes, I believe that we must believe every single word Jesus Christ said in order to claim that we believe in Jesus Christ.

    That’s not the question I asked. I asked whether you felt I had to agree with your interpretation of every single word. (I actually do agree with you that Scripture is infallible.)

    Indeed, the fire of hell is everlasting. But that doesn’t mean that hell is everlasting. Let’s look at a concrete example of everlasting fire:

    Jude 1:6-7 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of ETERNAL FIRE.

    Thank you for citing that verse — and what punishment have Sodom and Gomorrah been set forth as an example of? In the actual text of the Bible, they’re burned to a pile of ashes.

    The fire that descended on Sodom and Gomorrah was either THE eternal fire, or it served to demonstrate the punishment of eternal fire in some other way. Either way, S&G are gone, reduced to a black spot and smoke rising up.

    The fire is eternal; the people who are thrown into it are NOT. And that’s appropriate; only God is immortal; man is by nature made of dust and returns to dust, apart from the gift of God. Adam had that gift through a tree, but God blocked access to prevent him from living forever. Those in hell — however long it lasts — have no access to the tree of life.

    -Wm

  29. //3. Or maybe…just maybe…the doctrines of hell – who’s going there, what it is – that you’ve been fed all these years aren’t the same as what Jesus taught his disciples 2000 years ago.//

    In the middle of a silly false trilemma you accidentally hit on the truth. Yes, I had been taught that hell is everlasting alongside the New Earth. What I had been fed all those years crumbled when I read what was actually written.

    And you quoted one of the most amazingly clear passages on the topic. Let me add some context:

    …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might…

    The Lord appears personally, with mighty angels, in flaming fire, and inflicting vengeance. And what’s the vengeance? Everlasting destruction. That destruction is carried out where? ESV throws in “away from”, but the Greek says “from”, and many translators admit as much (NIV being the absurd exception). But Christ is there INFLICTING vengeance, not setting it up; and other passages agree that the penalty happens in the presence of the LORD.

    I’m aware of the effort some make to say that destruction means torment; but this is simple absurdity. The verse says what it says; you don’t get to translate black as white just for your doctrine. Destruction is an accomplishment; if it never gets completed, it wasn’t ever done.

  30. …but the question isn’t whether I’m right; I got distracted. The question is whether I’m damned if I’m _wrong_.

    I _think_ the Bible teaches that the wicked will be raised on Judgment Day, given a truthful view of their wickedness and the reality they’ve suppressed and denied, and then will be killed. Note that contrary to your claims I do NOT think I’m disagreeing with the Scripture — feel free to disagree with my conclusions, and argue with them, but don’t mistake me — I’m convinced of this because of what I’ve read in the Scripture, not because I don’t believe.

    But what if I’m wrong about my interpretation? And while I’m asking that, what if you’re wrong?

    Seems to me that although this is an important error to make, it’s not an “essential” one — that is, it doesn’t distort the heart of the Gospel, or the authority of the Scriptures (by which we know the Gospel). Either way the wicked will never escape their just punishment.

    It’s not like disbelieving that Jesus is truly God or truly man, or that the Bible is authoritative. It’s more like believing that Jesus meant that Jerusalem would be destroyed rather than that the end of the world would include a revived Roman empire.

    That’s my reading of the situation. What do you think?

  31. If we could obtain a perfect understanding of the complex, sometimes( presumed) contradictory or ambiguous doctrines, we would be held accountable for perfect adherence to them. Since we are not God, but His fallen creation, we lack His omniscience. This is the majesty and perfection of scripture. The simple Gospel message is understandable by the most immature mind and is sufficient for salvation. One hears or reads, believes and obeys. The more one seeks and obeys the more is revealed, and the higher level of accountability is required but the greater the blessings.
    The legalistic Jews in the first century were mercifully blinded by God because of unbelief, their complete judgment would have been inevitable with out this temporary blinding . Rm. 11. & 2 Cor, 3. God has never released humans from the requirement of faith, nor the requirement to seek His truth, but has mercifully with- held complete, perfect understanding of His doctrines.
    The more we understand, the more responsibility, the higher level of accountability. God will not hold us responsible or accountable to Him for things He has not clearly revealed.

  32. Wm T,

    Sorry for the delay…it’s Forgiveness Sunday in my tradition…he he.

    “I spent two years delving into this before I was convinced to change my mind” The thought of an “eternal hell” as you understand it bothered you a lot. That is understandable. But it sounds like you didn’t like a part of Christian teaching that has been around since the beginning, and went looking and looking for another theory that you liked better. Many people throughout the ages of done this: they CHOOSE something other than orthodox teaching. The word “heresy” is from the Greek word “to choose”.

    Sounds like you believe in Annihilationism and Conditional Immortality. Well…if that’s true understand that there is no record of any Christian teaching of these two theories for the first 1500 years of Christianity. I know this won’t bother you because you are Protestant, but it must be mentioned.

    “But what if I’m wrong about my interpretation? And while I’m asking that, what if you’re wrong?” If I’m wrong, I’m on the side of 2000 years of Christian teaching on the matter, straight back to the 12 apostles.

    “The question is whether I’m damned if I’m wrong”. There is a big difference between pointing out heresies (I’ve got no problem doing that) and declaring that someone is going to hell. Jesus said “Judge not”, so I take him at his word. I don’t know what your fate will be. That is God’s business.

    “Seems to me that although this is an important error to make, it’s not an essential one.” That’s another difference between us: I try to follow ALL important teachings. I’m not a cafeteria Christian. The orthodox Christian teaching, for 2000 years, supported by Scripture, is that everlasting separation from God in a state most often called “hell” is waiting for those who reject Him.

    But I think we both can agree upon the horribleness of the NIV translation?

    Glory to God

  33. Pete Again,
    Conditional Immortality is very old. It reaches back to the Patristic period. The earliest unambiguous annihilationist (that I am aware of) was Arnobius of Sicca in the 300s. At the 2nd council of Constantinople (5th Ecumenical council) in 553ad, Annhilationism (along with Origen’s Universaliism) was condemned by the church leaders. So apparently it was going around well before that date.

    However, please bear in mind that just because a theory has tradition and majority on its side does not make it correct. Truth is not defined by majority rule. The majority at Gabbatha one early morning wanted to crucify Jesus (John 19:15).

    I am proudly what you call a “cafeteria Christian.” I consider it the most humble honest approach. The Spirit of God dwells in everyone who confesses His name. All true believers are part of the body of Christ, regardless of denomination/tradition. Salvation is based on faith not organizational membership. This means that Catholics, Orthodox, Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal, et al are varying organs of the body:ear, nose, foot, hand. All brothers in Christ. There are many fakers in each group, but also each group has many wonderful Christ-like, humble believers that serve God with great righteousness.

    The HSpirit has given some truth to each of these groups. To assume that YOUR group has a monopoly on the HS is arrogant.
    But likewise each group is human and has made some mistakes.

    So by utilizing the cafeteria line, I can learn from EO, Pent’l, 7th DAdv, Church of Christ, and any group that proclaims Jesus as Lord. If someone thinks that they cannot learn from their brother then they have reached the height of Phariseeism.

  34. @PaulH &Jeff
    You try to answer the ques”minimum content of belief” I think it is a sliding scale. Sort of like how the IRS taxes at higher rate if you have higher income.
    There is no definitive quantity of knowledge/belief required. Salvation is based on how you REACT to the revelation that has been given you.
    Thus 1000bc nomads had very little revelation. But Creation is itself revelation that a God exists (Rom 1:20)
    200bc Jews living in Palestine had quite a lot of revelation-TaNaCh. They are held to a higher standard than the gentiles (IRS analogy-taxed at a higher rate).

    John 19:11 High Priest had MORE culpability than Pilate because HP had the Law. He should have recognized Messiah. He should have known better.

    PaulH is onto this concept, he mentions “Applicable everywhere” vrs “Applicable NT.” However it doesn’t matter what century you live in, it matters what grace of revelation has been given you. Australian Aborigines in 1700 (preCapt Cook) had same revelation (nature only) that BC gentiles had had. But 1700 Englishman had an extremely high level of grace. He will be accountable for what he was afforded.

    Rom 5:13 wherever revelation had not been manifest, sin is not charged. So to answer CMP’s post, there is no minimum level of head knowledge. There is only a minimum level of faith/humility/repentance. Christ quantifies that faith volume of a mustard seed can move mtns(Luke 17:6). How much too just be saved?

    There is a flip side to this: sliding scale of accountability is tightening noose around the neck of everyone in the modern West. How has our country REACTED to level of revelation and hearing of the gospel that has been given? Not good. So too Jesus warned that the pagan Assyrians achieve the resurrection and watch the condemnation of Israel (Mat 12:41).

    Everyone reading these blogs of CMP’s is especially gifted. James 3:1 tongue in cheek, he warns that teachers will have the highest tax rate.

  35. Hi Jay,

    “The HSpirit has given some truth to each of these groups.” Unfortunately, that is impossible. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of TRUTH. It is impossible for God to give the truth to one group (say Baptist) and lie to another group (say Roman Catholic). In this example, both Baptists and Roman Catholics claim that they received the truth from the Holy Spirit, but unfortunately, one (or both!) of them are wrong.

    Also, I’m sorry, but the beliefs of a church that was invented 150 years ago does not get the same consideration as a church that can claim an unbroken lineage straight back to the apostles.

    Don’t you think that it is sad that anyone would feel the need to set “minimums” in order to be a Christian? After all, the Christian life is a RELATIONSHIP with the Holy Trinity, made possible through Jesus Christ.

    Can you imagine a book called “Minimums you must do/say in order to stay married to that gal” in which someone outlines the 5 “minimums” to do for your wife, and/or say to your wife, in order to “stay married”?

    Imagine the shock of one of your reader if they followed your advice (of this fictional book on marriage) when, even after they follow the advice (put the toilet seat down, buy roses on her birthday, etc.), then they end up getting served with divorce papers! “But honey, I followed the minimums…”.

    Fast forward to the Last Judgment. “But Jesus, I followed the minimums…”.

    Lord have Mercy on us all

  36. Hi Jay,

    “The HSpirit has given some truth to each of these groups.” Unfortunately, that is impossible. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of TRUTH. It is impossible for God to give the truth to one group (say Baptist) and lie to another group (say Roman Catholic). In this example, both Baptists and Roman Catholics claim that they received the truth from the Holy Spirit, but unfortunately, one (or both!) of them are wrong.

    Also, I’m sorry, but the beliefs of a church that was invented 150 years ago does not get the same consideration as a church that can claim an unbroken lineage straight back to the apostles.

    Don’t you think that it is sad that anyone would feel the need to set “minimums” in order to be a Christian? After all, the Christian life is a RELATIONSHIP with the Holy Trinity, made possible through Jesus Christ.

    Can you imagine a book called “Minimums you must do/say in order to stay married to that gal” in which someone outlines the 5 “minimums” to do for your wife, and/or say to your wife, in order to “stay married”?

    Imagine the shock of one a male reader if they followed your advice (of this fictional book on marriage) when, even after they follow the advice (put the toilet seat down, buy roses on her birthday, etc.), then they end up getting served with divorce papers! “But honey, I followed the minimums…”.

    Fast forward to the Last Judgment. “But Jesus, I followed the minimums…”.

    Lord have Mercy on us all

  37. Shalom PeteA, Fully agreed on setting minimums. Thank you.
    Agreed God is not a liar so He does not give different groups contradictory revelations. My point is that all denominations receive some gifts. Eph 4:7, 1Cor 12:29-30. As you said if Baptists +Catholics have contradictory teaching on a particular subject, then at least 1 of them is wrong (perhaps both). But I find it likely that Baptists are correct on some topics, and so too Catholics, +EO+ anyone else that proclaims the name of Jesus.

    Not to belittle any particular church, but a lineage deep into history does not make it true. Zedekiah claimed a lineage back to David. But he was still a bad king.

    Every man’s belief system and every church’s doctrinal platform should be growing in grace +knowledge 2Pet 3:18.
    If you come to a point where you think that you now know everything or if a church comes to the point where they think that they are perfect (ex cathedra), then growth has ceased+ pride has set in. Growth means change. Changes within the Christian body within the last 150yrs have been huge and we certainly know more now (and have superior exegesis) than we did 2centuries ago. Yet some churches sit on their laurels and stagnate, while they scoff at newcomers.

  38. Pete again, I see I was entirely unclear. I didn’t intend to connote that I hated the “traditional” view. In fact, I liked it so much I stayed with it for two years _after_ I become intellectually convinced that the Bible didn’t teach it — mainly because I know it’s easy to make mental errors. I’m now much more positive about conditionalism than traditionalism, but I have no dislike for the latter’s torment; in fact I see the Bible teaching torment (just not everlasting torment).
    And this is the crucial difference between the person who’s looking for the minimums, and the person who’s simply honestly convinced of a different view. I do not get to pick and choose which doctines I want; contrary to your conversion efforts, I do not even get to pick which church I like. (And by the way, it’s inaccurate for you to call Baptists a sect — they’re a denomination, which means that they recognize that the church catholic and apostolic includes more than just them. Sectarians are the ones claiming the church includes only those who profess adherance to their particular leader or peculiar doctrines.
    And, in turn, I believe this gives a respectable answer to the question in the OP. Someone whose conscience is convicted by careful and honest study of scripture, and who isn’t rejecting the orthodox or giving aid and comfort to heretics, is to be tolerated (although tolerance does not mean agreed with, and should include healthy argument).

  39. But as Jay indicated, conditionalism is old. Arnobius is clear to us in his teaching of it, partially because he’s arguing against pagan beliefs similar to Augustine’s on the topic (and from Augustine almost all traditionalist arguments spring); but Arnobius is not the oldest conditionalist, simply the longest-winded, and one of the latest ones whose writings were preserved. St. Augustine (and Tertullian) taught unashamedly that everyone is inherently immortal; St. Ignatius taught in contrast that the bread of the Eucharist “is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which causes] that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.” He told the Magnesians “For were He to reward us according to our works, we should cease to be.”
    Irenaeus was much less conditional in his conditionalism (ha ha). “But he who shall reject it [life], […] deprives himself of [the privilege of] continuance forever and ever. And, for this reason, the Lord declared to those who […] have shown themselves ungrateful to Him who bestowed it [life], shall justly not receive from Him length of days for ever and ever.” Sorry about the editing; read it in context at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103234.htm.

    These are the clear ones– there are also many who simply quoted the Bible directly, whose writings therefore cannot be claimed by either side. Then there are some who clearly supported everlasting torment, and they did grow more common towards the time of Tertullian. By the time of Augustine, it’s likely that eternal torment was close enough to consensus; but as I showed above, the other beliefs were not disrespected.

    Even now the vast majority of evangelicals follow a “hopeful universalism” for infants.

  40. Hi Jay,

    “My point is that all denominations receive some gifts. Eph 4:7, 1Cor 12:29-30.” I guess we’ll agree to disagree. Paul was talking about individuals within the Church, a Church at the time which held identical orthodox teachings in every single church (not that they were always followed 100%, hence Paul’s admonitions!), vs. the Protestant reformation that spawned 1000 denominations.

    “My point is that all denominations receive some gifts.” Again, this doesn’t make sense. The Church practiced infant baptism in all churches throughout the world for 1500 years…until (some) Protestants said the Holy Spirit told them that this was incorrect. So what happened? Was the Holy Spirit lying for 1500 years? Certainly not.

    And God “is the same today, tomorrow & forever”. He doesn’t change his mind, or “evolve”. So I don’t buy the “that was good for the Church 1000 years ago, but not now” theory.

    “If you come to a point where you think that you now know everything or if a church comes to the point where they think that they are perfect (ex cathedra), then growth has ceased+ pride has set in.” My response is that the Lord told me and you to “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect”. I do not subscribe to the “different strokes for different folks” view on Christianity. Either infant baptism is correct, or it isn’t. What did the apostles teach? What did the Church practice in 100AD? It’s not too hard to find out.

    “Convert you”? LOL you just spent 2 years researching conditional immortality. You would look too silly if you radically changed your mind on these issues.

    PS: I’ve already “looked silly”…best choice I ever made.

  41. Pete again, I think I need to respond again, having again not said everything you called on me to say.
    I had said there was only one verse that hinted that hell might be eternal. You responded by listing passages.
    Matthew 18:8, Mark 9:43-45:
    There are three features here.
    First, the emphasis isn’t on torment; it’s on loss. It’s better to lose a part of yourself than to undergo eternal fire. If eternal fire produced total loss (annihilation) that would make sense; if it produced eternal torment this isn’t a comparison illustrating it, but just saying that it’s worse than loss of bodily integrity.
    Second, there’s a mention of eternal fire. But although the eternal fire burns the things in gehenna, it isn’t kindled by gehenna; it’s the fire of God brought by Christ at His glorious appearance. In other words, it’s of God, and “God is a consuming fire”. I posted a parsing of Jude 1:7 that shows that Sodom was consumed by eternal fire, and was reduced to ashes (confirmed also in 2 Pet 2:6) — and its _example_ is the example of being destroyed. Matthew 25:41 uses the same figure, q.v.
    Third, there’s a worm that doesn’t die and a flame that isn’t quenched. This is a citation of Isa 66:24, where the worm and fire consume shamefully exposed corpses. Yes, read it — CORPSES. Not living people.
    Luke 16:9 is about paradise, not hell.
    Matthew 25:46 “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” This is a comparison and contrast. Both fates are eternal; but the contrast comes in that the _punishment_ is in implied contrast to _life_. What that punishment is isn’t made explicit here; but being reduced to ashes as in Mal 4:1-3 or 2 Pet 2:6 would qualify.
    2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 – you got the references off by one; you left out the Lord and His angels. This passage stands alongside Jude and 2Peter in its remarkable in-context support for conditionalism. I’ve covered this above.

  42. Ross (sorry for the mistype on the name, btw): “Again as with Universalism, no eternal Hell = no immediate or urgent reason to share the Gospel, especially when it would mean death.” A non-hopeless punishment is just as much reason to share the Gospel (so far as avoidance of punishment per se counts as a reason) as a hopeless punishment; and to keep on sharing the Gospel with those in the lake of fire outside the New Jerusalem at the end of RevJohn, exhorting them to slake their thirst and wash their robes in the freely given water of life flowing out of the never-closed gates of the city (whether literal or as a figure of the Church) so that they may obtain permission to enter the city and eat of the tree of life (a figure of Christ like the water of life) the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations (i.e. those still outside the city). RevJohn also reveals that all evil and grief will eventually cease, even though it talks about sinners holding out into the eons of the eons.

    Obviously the details can’t be adequately covered in a 2Kchar comment; but there’s much more in the Bible along those lines, including in some of the places quoted upthread as prooftexts for hopeless punishment. St. Paul in 2 Thess for example is verbally referencing the first major prophecy in Isaiah where those who don’t survive the coming of YHWH eventually repent and are cleaned by the spirit of fire, even valuing the justice of God’s punishment — which is also how the Greek of 2 Thess 1:9 happens to read. Paul also uses a term there for whole-destruction which he uses in 1 Cor 5 to describe a punishment (apparently to death) that he explicitly hopes will lead to the salvation of the evildoer in the day of the Lord to come.

    I actually agree that no one can repent without regeneration from God providing the ability to do so, but such people can and do still sin impenitently for a while and have to be chastised; nor do they immediately become Christian.

  43. Which, getting back to the context of the original post, means I actually agree with Calvs that whomever God intends to save He’s going to save from their sins (sooner or later as He sees most properly in accord with His other intentions). I agree with Arminians that God intends and acts to save everyone from sin, of course, but since salvation isn’t achieved or earned by doctrinal assent (which would be the basic heresy of gnosticism) then the salient point is that God will bring people to the true doctrines, and to the truth, regardless of what they happen to believe at the moment. If universalism or annihilationism is wrong, God will lead us to the truth of some variety of ECT instead (or back to it in the case of most of us, myself included) eventually, just as God will lead people to trinitarian theism eventually (if that’s true, which I believe it is). But just as obviously, based on various scriptural examples (such as the thief on the cross), God doesn’t have to wait until people hold to a particular doctrine before saving them: He acts in the fulness of deity to reconcile all those to Himself who need reconciliation, i.e. all sinners whether in the heavens or on the earth (per Col 1) through the blood of the cross; and if we have been reconciled to God by the blood of the cross, how much more surely we shall be saved into His life (per Rom 5). Arm scope; Calv victorious persistence — St. Paul testifies to both on the same topic (reconciliation of sinners to God by the blood of the cross).

  44. Pete again, stop LOLing around and read.

    Jason, I agree that universalism doesn’t block the preaching of the gospel, and honestly I find that this claim is rotten to the core — traditionalism equally blocks the preaching of hell, because normal traditionalists fear to call people’s attention to what you think God is going to do. None of this is a serious argument; it’s all consequentialism. Those arguments are only valid either if they’re unavoidable (they’re not) or if the Bible doesn’t teach the doctrine (so I respect the fearful traditionalist who insists on preaching hell even though he hates how it drives people away).

    The gooey brainless and unscriptural sentimentality of the radically liberal universalism that was so common in the early 1900s is no longer a serious opponent; the churches sucked into that vortex are dying in it.

    But I have searched, in all sincerity, to find a serious exegesis of any passage that actually teaches a universalism that works against conditionalism. Your reference above sounds like it might be backed by one, but I’ve seen some attempts on Isa 1:24-31 (I’m guessing that’s what you’re talking about) and I wasn’t impressed. The purifying is for the city and the people, not for every person. The forgiveness is only for the repentent sinners. The fire is for the wicked, and it’s intended to consume them and their works utterly, like “tow” under a spark (tow is basically the fluff that’s used in a flint firestarting kit). Can you explain what you mean or point me to something written? (Sorry, no video; I guess I’d tolerate audio, but I really have a hard time studying things through audio.)

    (I know about the reconciliation passages, but honestly those only work against the traditional eternal life for the wicked view; of course they’re incompatible with that.)

  45. Hi Pete Again,
    Am I correct in assuming that you might be from the Orthodox tradition?

    BTW, I am bapticostal. Jay in Texas.

  46. JasonP, I appreciate your heart for those dying in Hell and I wish that Universalism could be true. But I must agree with WmT, that I can’t find Biblical support. Origen et al had some very good points against Traditionalism: How can God meaningfully be “all in all” while Hellfire is torturing a majority of people ever born? The Universalist hope (Psalms 103:8-9, Habk 2:14, 1Cor 15:28, Phil 2:9-11, Col 1:20) is the Achilles heel of traditionalism. The message throughout these verses and others is that in the eschaton, everything that exists will be in unity+communion with the Creator. It leaves little room for cosmological dualism with Hell perpetually in rebellion and torment. But Conditionalism fully satisfies the universal glory of eternity. Every knee that remains will honor +worship Christ as Lord. Every nook+cranny of the cosmos will be filled the knowledge of YHWH as waters cover the sea, it will soak in and permeate everything that remains after the great purge at Gehenna. The Hebrew of Hab 2:14 uses the same root word: all the land will KNOW God. Just as Adam KNEW his wife, this “knowing” implies intimacy as in marital sex. Unity +Communion with all of creation [that remains]. Unvl’ts have correctly noted the deep problem of an everlasting torture chamber. I think they should give Conditionalism a 2nd look.

    Unvl’ism requires post mortem evangelization (PME). This is the idea that people can make a decision after death. However, I think the Bible teaches that TODAY is the day of salvation (Mat 12:32; John 8:21; Rom 2:5-11; 2Cor 5:10;2Cor 6:2; Gal 6:7). This life is the only forum for choosing Life or Death.

  47. hi Jay,

    Yes, and it is not an Achilles heel unless you believe in irresistible Grace. What I mean is, we assume that once everybody sees God and heaven after the 2nd coming, ALL non-believers will snap out of it and start trying to follow Jesus (even if it is too late).

    But, that isn’t going to happen. There will be people that STILL reject God’s love.

    Hard to believe? Yes…but not as hard if we remember that 1/3 of God’s angels “turned to the dark side” and rebelled against Him. I mean, how the heck does that happen? These are angels…they know what God can do! (Yeah yeah I know, they were jealous of us, but still.)

    Anyway…some folks will still reject Christ in the “after-life”…just like the demons and the evil one still do…

    Wm Tanksley, why are you so angry? If I was an atheist, you wouldn’t be snappy and sarcastic. Think about it.

  48. Agreed that even in the face of God many will arrogantly reject him+ continue in their hardheartedness. My point on the Contra-Unvl’ism post was after death there exist no more a chance/ opportun for repentance. No man repents unless God draws him. We cant do it, God gives us the ability to repent: 2 Cor 7:10, Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18, Rom 2:4, 2 Tim 2:25

    Bible clearly teaches that repentance is the effect of God’s pull, not ours. God’s spiritual action comes before our mental/physical reaction. His action is the cause+source of our action, even repentance. Repentance is a GIFT from God, not something that we do. I know this sounds a wee bit Calvanistic. I do not intend to undermine the Arminian truth that those in Hell get exactly what they deserve. They are responsible and bear the guilt for their punishment.

    My point is that Hell is a place of total separation from God Mat 25:10-12, abandonment by God 2 Thes 1:9, outer darkness (god is light) Mat 8:12, Mat 25:30.
    If God has TOTALLY abandoned them, how can they repent?

    So when I said universalist hope was Achilles heel of Traditionalism, I meant the total and complete restoration of the ENVIRONMENT of the Universe. Acts 3:21 proclaims that Jesus will “restore all things”=”apokatastasis panton.” This was Origen’s favorite verse.
    This does not mean restore every single person. It means restore every type of object. The cosmos groans under sin, but inanimate environment will be restored along with some of the people. Just as not every person will be restored, not every inanimate object will be restored. Idols, porno magazines, weapons of mass destruction will be destroyed. Idols will not linger in suspended fire, they will simply and literally burn up to ash. The Unvl’ist Hope is that ultimately EVERYTHING will be at Shalom (Peace) with God. There is no room anywhere in the universe for a seething boil pot of wickedness to remain.

    Was that a yes to EO?

  49. Pete again, I politely asked you to stop LOLing (mocking, scoffing) and respond to arguments. I’m not angry at you, and I assure you that I’ve asked atheists to pay attention to the arguments they were deliberately ignoring as well. Please consider the company you want to keep — you are the one who just compared your reception of Biblical arguments to an atheist’s.

    Are you actually completely without response?

  50. JasonPratt and other Universalists:
    Have you considered Rom 10:17?
    In Hell do the wicked have ears to hear?
    In Hell is the Word of God proclaimed? (Ps 6:5, Ps 88:11, 1Sam 2:9)

    I feel that that this is further evidence that this life NOW is the option for mercy (James 2:13).
    After death, books are closed and judgment begins.

Leave a Reply