Rethinking the doctrine of hell

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brandon1984
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Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by brandon1984 »

This Q&A is really good (link below). I actually find annihilationism to be more intellectually palatable than traditinonalism. I still remember when I went on my agnostic journey the very first step was questioning, why would God punish people with eternally for temporal crimes? This view makes more sense out of what we call "hell"l IMHO.

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/ask-a-c ... t-response" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by ccgr »

Hmm a good read for sure, another topic I wish knew the exact answer to :)

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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by ArchAngel »

I remember coming across a really good article spelling out what hell was in the Bible. I wish I could find it, but I have no idea where it is.

Anyhow, the premises were that our modern understanding of hell is severely different from the Bible. For starters, "hell," or rather the Lake of Fire, is described as an everlasting fire that consumes and destroys, not necessarily as a place of of everlasting torment (not for people atleast).
Check out these verses and look at it with a context that maybe hell isn't eternal tormet for people:
http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Bib ... e-of-Fire/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Does it make more sense, especially with regards to "destroys the soul" and "second death."

But, also, while the lake of fire was pretty straightforward as a punishment for satan, hell is not so clear. See, Hell isn't actually in the Bible. It's a norse word, or proto-germanic. Now, we read the bible as translated, but the word they use in the NT isn't generally "the underworld," to which Hell (or Hel) translates to. It's Gehenna. An actual physical location outside of Jersulem that once children were sacrificed to Moloch and considered cursed, and if I remember correctly, that the bodies of the criminals were burned and left there. It's quite possible that Gehenna was only used a metaphor for punishment and not actually hell. There were other references to the greek underworld (Hades/Tartarus), but I'm not sure how comfortable all of you are for getting your theology from greek mythology.

Anyhow, I'm not telling you what to believe, but I'm just suggesting that the Bible is not as clear on the teachings of hell as many might think. When you pull aside the translation and re-read some of the verses, it's not quite so literal anymore. After all, the Jews had no concept of Hell. It was just Sheol, the grave. They didn't know.

Food for thought.
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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by brandon1984 »

ArchAngel wrote:I'm just suggesting that the Bible is not as clear on the teachings of hell as many might think. When you pull aside the translation and re-read some of the verses, it's not quite so literal anymore.
Agreed here. I think the most frustrating thing is introducing ideas like this to people that have placed their comfortable interpretation of scripture above reason. The guy in the article was the subject of a movie regarding his questioning of "traditional" conceptions of hell. The trailer is definitely worth watching:


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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by TheDad »

In his article, the author never addresses Luke 16:19-31 - in which Jesus is telling of a rich man's sufferings in a fiery torment. In Jesus' teaching, the rich man is having a conversation across the uncrossable chasm with Abraham, asking some water for relief of his torment.

Doesn't seem to be an annihilation for the rich man in torment...
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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by brandon1984 »

TheDad wrote:In his article, the author never addresses Luke 16:19-31 - in which Jesus is telling of a rich man's sufferings in a fiery torment. In Jesus' teaching, the rich man is having a conversation across the uncrossable chasm with Abraham, asking some water for relief of his torment.

Doesn't seem to be an annihilation for the rich man in torment...
You might have missed it, because this is one of the questions Mr. Fudge answers in the article. It's addressed to completion IMHO. I'll copy and paste it for you:

  • "The story of the rich man and Lazarus is problematic on many levels--it posits that we enter bliss or punishment immediately, rather than after resurrection and judgment. It is the one Bible passage I find impossible to reconcile with conditionalism, but neither is it compatible with either of the other two views on offer. How do you read it?

    Although it comes up early in almost every open discussion or Q/A session concerning final punishment, the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus says nothing about the nature of hell or what happens to those who finally go there. It is Jesus' solemn response to some Pharisees who love money more than God, who feel secure in the high esteem they enjoy with the public, and who ignore--even mock--the teaching of the Son of God himself and squander the opportunities God gives them to repent. All this we learn from the context before we ever reach this parable (Luke 16:1-18).

    This is a familiar parable told by the rabbis and found in several versions. Jesus apparently borrowed it, then changed the characters to emphasize his points of interest. The dead rich man is pictured in Hades (the unseen realm of the dead, mistranslated as “hell” in the KJV), not Gehenna (“hell,” the place of final punishment). Meanwhile, the rich man's brothers are still living on earth, where Moses and the prophets are still the final authority. Hell is nowhere in sight.

    At most, this story might say something about an intermediate state for unfaithful Jews at some time before Jesus died and rose from the dead. However, neither the context nor the punch-line is about any intermediate state of the dead, so we need not think that this parable teaches even that. Some traditionalist authors conclude that this parable has no place in a discussion of hell."

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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by ArchAngel »

That's a good point, Brandon. Also, it should be considered that the story is a parable, and as parables goes, it shouldn't be read further than the intended lesson. Nobody does so when talking about sowing seeds and threshing the chaff. Some parables were taught using farm analogies, and this one was with mythology.
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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by selderane »

AmazingFacts, a 7th Day Adventists outreach, has some really good teachings on this topic. It certainly altered my position. But that shift was already happening due to a closer examination of the Old Testament. The idea of "eternal damnation" doesn't exist within it. That alone should tell us something.
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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by brandon1984 »

Shweet, what are you current views on the topic?

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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by selderane »

brandon1984 wrote:Shweet, what are you current views on the topic?
To be perfectly honest? I really don't know.

To be perfectly super, duper fer-realz honest? I really don't care.

It boils down to this for me: Is God just and loving? If the answer is yes, then His judgement will be just and loving. If the answer is no, then I'm boned and why give a rip at that point.

Gun to my head I'd say souls are annihilated. Eternal life only comes through Yeshua, and since the traditional view on hell holds that, no, eternal life also comes through damnation, I have a problem.
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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by brandon1984 »

Sounds pretty reasonable. *agreeing nod*

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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by fathom123 »

First off, I will say that Mr. Fudge sounds like a humble and good natured person. He references how he reacts to even abusive criticism with a gracious and forgiving tone. It shows that the work of the Lord has done much in his life.

With that said, here's where I had a difficult time with the interview.

He says several times that popular translations mistranslated the word Gehenna as hell.

I have a hard time with this statement. He may be an author and an accomplished theologian but the process regarding the translation of scripture is not handled by simpletons or people who regard it lightly. It's a process that has been in refinement for thousands of years. Those who are responsible for our modern translations are individuals who are on par in regard to their theological backgrounds.

NIV: http://www.niv-cbt.org/
NASB: http://lockman.org/nasb/nasbprin.php

Note that each of these translations both have entire committees overseeing the translation of the the word. It's not one scholar, it's many who cross reference their input to assure that there are no errors.

This guy is basically saying that these guys, who have devoted their lives to the Gospel, have missed it and he finally sees it. The rest are in the dark.

Or he's saying there's some kind of theological conspiracy. If that is the case, then all scripture is suspect because who knows how deep this conspiracy will go.

Regarding the argument about the lake of fire and the translation of the word torment. He never definitively says that it, without a doubt, means destruction. He simply says, "In these closing chapters of Revelation, the word "torment" itself sometimes means a total destruction and death."

I don't want to base my biblical doctrine on a "sometimes."

Any way, he makes some good points but it isn't enough for me to change my understanding of hell or eternal punishment.

I did enjoy the read however.

Here's a podcast that has the opposite (or more traditional view) by a pastor who works for Desiring God (John Piper's Ministry)

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-lib ... ne-of-hell

It's pretty short and is really a detailed summary of the doctrine, but it sums it up nicely.
Jeremiah 20:9-But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by brandon1984 »

Fathom123, thanks for an insightful response!
fathom123 wrote:He says several times that popular translations mistranslated the word Gehenna as hell.

I have a hard time with this statement. He may be an author and an accomplished theologian but the process regarding the translation of scripture is not handled by simpletons or people who regard it lightly. It's a process that has been in refinement for thousands of years. Those who are responsible for our modern translations are individuals who are on par in regard to their theological backgrounds.
Take for example Mark 9:45. The actual Greek word used γέενναν (geennan) which when Anglicized is Gehenna. Now, let's look at how it's translated:

New International Version: hell
New Living Translation: hell
English Standard Version: hell
New American Standard Bible: hell
King James Bible: hell
International Standard Version: hell
Weymouth New Testament: Gehenna

The question is not, do these intelligent translation committees not have integrity? The question is, do they have adequate justification to translate geennan as hell?
fathom123 wrote:Regarding the argument about the lake of fire and the translation of the word torment. He never definitively says that it, without a doubt, means destruction. He simply says, "In these closing chapters of Revelation, the word "torment" itself sometimes means a total destruction and death."

I don't want to base my biblical doctrine on a "sometimes."
I agree that there's tension between certain passages that seem to support eternal conscious torment and passages that seem to support annihilation. What is your opinion of when we can be confident that one interpretation is better than the other?

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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by fathom123 »

The question is not, do these intelligent translation committees not have integrity? The question is, do they have adequate justification to translate geennan as hell?
Regarding the translation, I am no linguist so I don't have the answer to this question, but if a translation finds a better descriptor regarding what it is you are trying to communicate through verbiage that was popular during Jesus' time to better communicate how things are regarding the realities of hell (Gehenna), then why would you choose a word that would not strike you with what you are trying to properly communicate? For instance, Hell is the word that has been associated with the torment of souls for the last 2000 years. Why would I try to communicate something different when the word communicates the realities I'm trying to convey is already effective in using the word Hell?

If people understood chikentortureland as a place where you don't want to go because of how unpleasant it is, then why would I use Gehenna (and have to explain why I use Gehenna) when chickentortureland in and of itself communicates what it is I'm trying to say?
I agree that there's tension between certain passages that seem to support eternal conscious torment and passages that seem to support annihilation. What is your opinion of when we can be confident that one interpretation is better than the other?
This is a hard call. Honestly, it will have to be the Lord who shows me before I'm willing to change my opinion. He's done it before with my doctrine. Otherwise my policy is to be on guard until I know it's the Lord who is changing my opinion. Right now, this article may be one piece of the puzzle. Two years form now, He may show me more evidence and as the pieces come together (often times slowly) my view is reformed according to His will, not my interpretation. In the end, I can not be wrongfully judged by erring on the side of God's will above mine. I'm stubborn until I know for sure. Otherwise, this may be another article out of many that challenge what I believe but fades away and has no purpose for me anymore.
Jeremiah 20:9-But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

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Re: Rethinking the doctrine of hell

Post by brandon1984 »

fathom123 wrote:Regarding the translation, I am no linguist so I don't have the answer to this question, but if a translation finds a better descriptor regarding what it is you are trying to communicate through verbiage that was popular during Jesus' time to better communicate how things are regarding the realities of hell (Gehenna), then why would you choose a word that would not strike you with what you are trying to properly communicate? For instance, Hell is the word that has been associated with the torment of souls for the last 2000 years. Why would I try to communicate something different when the word communicates the realities I'm trying to convey is already effective in using the word Hell?

If people understood chikentortureland as a place where you don't want to go because of how unpleasant it is, then why would I use Gehenna (and have to explain why I use Gehenna) when chickentortureland in and of itself communicates what it is I'm trying to say?
There may be significant differences between Gehenna and hell and chickentortureland, that using the literal translation of "Gehenna" is more appropriate to avoid popular misconceptions of what the word means if there are popular misconceptions. If it's harder to conclude that Gehenna is eternal conscious torment because it's a physical place on earth and so on, then maybe Jesus used this word for a reason.

But, I understand the tension between "translate meaning" and "translate literally" schools of thought. They each have important contributions to every case of translation.
fathom123 wrote:This is a hard call. Honestly, it will have to be the Lord who shows me before I'm willing to change my opinion. He's done it before with my doctrine. Otherwise my policy is to be on guard until I know it's the Lord who is changing my opinion. Right now, this article may be one piece of the puzzle. Two years form now, He may show me more evidence and as the pieces come together (often times slowly) my view is reformed according to His will, not my interpretation. In the end, I can not be wrongfully judged by erring on the side of God's will above mine. I'm stubborn until I know for sure. Otherwise, this may be another article out of many that challenge what I believe but fades away and has no purpose for me anymore.
Yeah, I agree and respect that. It's certainly important to not be duped by theological trends, but at the same time be open to correction even if it's something monumental, for example, the Reformation.

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