Hell (if I care)

2 Mar

Part 4 (maybe the last for a while) on the topic of Hell

So now you’ve seen how I was introduced to the wonders of hell and the havoc it wreaked  on my 8 year old mind….I actually didn’t think much about hell after that summer.  I guess when you feel it’s not your problem, then you don’t worry about it.  But there are 2 other times from my former Christian life in which Hell does stick out.

My first memory is from college….I had just spent a week at Daytona Beach, FL for spring break.  It was a total college freak out scene….lots of students on the beach partying, live MTV concerts, thousands of people just lining the streets.  But I was there for spiritual reasons….meaning that I was there with Campus Crusade to hit the streets and share the 4 spiritual laws with anyone not drunk enough to listen.  After returning from Daytona, I was on a bit of a spiritual high….I felt great kinship with the other folks I had traveled with and hit the streets with to share the gospel.  I had also spent a week consuming the Crusade Kool Aid from none other than Josh McDowell….the Christian Apologetics rock star of that time.

So I was pumped, primed, and ready to whip out my 4 spiritual laws to the first person I encountered….

Which, unfortunately for him, was a fellow music student.  He was one of your long haired, totally mellow types, who was too polite to not let me share the 4 Spiritual laws with him.  He patiently listened as I presented my Amway inspired booklet of the good news….but when I was done he asked me question with a disgusted tone ,which was uncharacteristic for such a mellow dude.  He looked, and sounded like he was choking or gasping as he said “You mean, if I don’t believe this stuff, God’s gonna send me to Hell!? ”  His intensity surprised me, but being the faithful Christian I was, I sheepishly informed him that the Bible teaches exactly that-you will go to hell if you do not accept God’s gift of salvation.  He was really put off by this response, and he quickly got up and left the couch where we had been chatting…I didn’t pity him or anything, I just didn’t understand why he was so offended by the thought of hell.

 

My second memory is from one of my children when they were 8 years old….

It was dinner time, the sun was bright and shining into our kitchen as we ate….and my 8 year old piped up that a friend of his had been talking about God and the Devil.  He then went on to tell us that he believed in God (whew!) but that he was quite sure that there was no such thing as a devil (uh-oh…liberal Christian).  So faced with major heretical doctrine within my own family, I gently disagreed and told him that no, the Bible tells us that the Devil and Hell were quite real.

He seemed genuinely surprised and began to question me about these new truths to his ears.  He asked me what Hell was and what it was for?  I wasn’t sure how to answer, so I decided to tell him about the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus that Jesus taught.  You know, the one where a poor beggar named Lazarus begs at the gate of a rich man every day, but the rich man does nothing to assist Lazarus.  Somehow, they both die around the same time and Lazarus goes to heaven and the Rich man goes straight to hell, because he did nothing to help those in need, even though he had the means.  At some point, the rich man begs Father Abraham to send Lazarus over to him to put even a drop of water to relieve the fiery anguish he’s experiencing, but Abraham says he couldn’t do that-even if he wanted to….and so the story ends there.

At this point, my son was intent on listening, but didn’t seem too phased by this truth of hell.  He replied by saying that ok, maybe hell is real, but God is going to let the rich man out eventually.  I mean, in his mind, hell sounded like a bigger version of time out.  But every kid knows a good loving parent doesn’t punish you forever.  You commit your crime, you do your time, and then your back to the local culdesac to skateboard or whatever else the kids do these days to have fun.  But “no” I said,  “God will not ever let him out…that’s how hell works”.

It was right after my telling him that Hell is forever, and that God punishes people forever, that he burst into a huge uncontrolled sob…I mean, snot nosed crying.  I wasn’t sure what to do, on the one hand, I was just trying to teach my son “sound doctrine”, but his reaction so shocked me and shook me, that I began to realize just how dreadful the thought of Hell really is.

 

I wish I could say, it was at this point that I really took the time to think critically and examine the contradictory claims of a Loving Father-God punishing people with Eternal Torture….I didn’t until after I lost my faith….but I did begin to realize that faith is not always a comfort to one’s soul.  Sometimes, it’s a hell of a burden to carry.

 

 

 

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9 Responses to “Hell (if I care)”

  1. atimetorendmetorend March 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    I mentioned to my kids a few years back something about people going to heaven when they die, and one, about 8 years old, said, “We can’t really know that is true.” I said no, “but the bible says…” To which he replied, “But nobody can *know* that, nobody has been there and come back to tell what is there…”

    I didn’t have an answer for that, other than to say, “You’re right, we can’t know, we can only believe it is.” For some reason that was a real turning point to me, a point where I said to myself, “I don’t really know that is true.” It put an end to trite answers for me, and somehow opened things up for me to investigate and deal with my doubts, rather than shoving them down in my subconscience. I am grateful my child asked those questions.

    I remember reading about those who though babies go to hell when I started exploring stuff outside the fundagelical circles of theology. A pastor at our church lent me apologist Normal Geisler’s of “encylopedia of difficult questions” book about the bible, and he holds to some form of the “babies go to hell” argument. Which most rational people would not support, yet they will hold his pretzel-logic bible answers up as a defense of their faith. Just plain silly.

  2. christianagnostic March 5, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    That’s interesting….kids are often the skeptical ones. I remember hearing Christians teach that children are spiritual by instinct. I’m not so sure…

    I think we impute them as “spiritual” because they so easily believe what adults tell them…like stories about Santa, the tooth fairy, etc….But when things don’t add up, often times, kids are the ones to question it outright.

  3. atimetorend March 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    I think we impute them as “spiritual” because they so easily believe what adults tell them…But when things don’t add up, often times, kids are the ones to question it outright.

    That’s great, so true. I find Jesus’ words, “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child…” very difficult to handle as an adult. I take it to mean, “Trust what you are being told without analyzing it.” No thanks!

  4. Freedom March 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    Just got through reading most of your blog posts including your series on hell. While I still have Faith, I don’t into the whole concept of hell. It’s just a way to scare people into control. The modern concept of hell is an odd mix of Pagan, Mythology (multiple mythology from all over the world) and a slight hint of Judaism rolled into a nice package to scare people into behaving. It doesn’t come “straight from the Bible” as the protestant evangelical crowd likes to believe.

    • christianagnostic March 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

      yeah..I always had accepted hell as a fact. I agree that it seems to be more of a pagan influence on Judaism.

      I did once have a Methodist minister explain her dis-belief in hell. I probably nodded politely and noted that she was after all, a women pastor in a liberal denomination…

      My problem for Christianity, is that it’s pretty clearly taught as Eternal torment in Revelation, Thessalonians (second letter, I think) and Jesus teaching on the Rich man and Lazarus.

      I do agree that the whole concept seems to be a scare tactic…and it sure has worked, in my opinion.

  5. Freedom March 26, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    My take on Hell in The Bible is that the majority of the time it is mentioned, it refers to a trash dump (Gehenna) and the rest of it is imagery. When Jesus spoke about it, it referred to Sheol, not about a God is just waiting to toss you into the eternal fire because you didn’t go say the sinner’s prayer during an altar call at your local evangelical church and then gone through your local evangelical church’s sanctification process.

    One thing I should explain is my view on The Bible – that it is man’s understanding of God and not God’s revelation to man. There is too much that has been added, subtracted and changed though out time for every single word in The Bible to be inerrant. If it was inerrant, it wouldn’t contradict itself. For me, it teaches me about God though what man has learned though time. I also look at the big picture instead of getting caught up in what every single word means, since that may not have been what the author originally wrote and the fact that meaning of words change through time and our current translation of a word is our best guess as to what the author meant when he wrote it.

    Also, when I say man I mean all humans, not the control tactics taught in evangelical Christianity today that women are just to be slaves to men. But that’s a another topic…..

    On Revelations, the only reason it was added to the overall canon (referring to the multiple canons that exist, not just the protestant one) is that it was deemed the right conclusion to the Bible because of the apocalyptic nature of the book. The Bible begins with the beginning of time and ends with the end of time.

    FYI on me so you know my background – born and raised Catholic, started going to a Wesleyan type church, moved to charismatic, then to the then called PDI. Left when they started on their current puritanical path, picked that up pretty quickly, before most people even knew what was happening. As soon as they started quoting Edwards and the other puritanical writers, I started my own exit process. Went through the many years long personal detox needed after being part of what I called a cult (even told them that when I left, which I was threaten with legal action for saying that, but you know the drill). I am what is now referred to as the unchurched Christian.

    I hope you do post more! As I said before, I will never judge you and I look forwarding to reading your take on things!

    • christianagnostic March 26, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

      Freedom-

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply….totally understand the detox needed after PDI…what a mess.

      Anyway, you said this

      “If it was inerrant, it wouldn’t contradict itself. For me, it teaches me about God though what man has learned though time”

      I think that is a very fair description of what Scripture actually is, man’s view of God. To claim anything else is to ignore the evidence of how the canon came to be (you hinted at some of the politics about Revelation) and the manuscript evidence, which is not encouraging for anyone who wants to claim the Bible as God’s perfect word.

  6. Freedom March 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    One of the biggest things I find in reading the New Testament is that as soon as Jesus died, man started screwing things up and adding in legalism. For example, Jesus never put ANY restrictions on women. As soon as Paul is active, he starts right in on women and tells them they need to cover their heads. It doesn’t fit in with what Jesus taught. Even Paul and Timothy had disagreements, but the evangelical crowd automatically assumes that Paul was the one correct, especially the calvinistas crowd. The Bible doesn’t say who was right or wrong. Man pushing their view point again.

    Yes, pdi/sgm detox is necessary. That place was a mess. I am convinced they are a cult and fit the definition of a cult.

  7. christianagnostic March 28, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    I agree that PDI/SGM is a cult…it was just so hard to admit it to. Who wants to think of themselves as a dupe?

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