As promised, here are all of our 95 tweets, categorized by the kind of argument they are making – ethical, theological and biblical, in that order. What it boils down to is that there is no ethical justification for Hell whatsoever, no good theological reason to posit a doctrine of Hell, and there are literally hundreds of Biblical passages that do not support an eternal Hell of conscious torment. Given enough time and dedication, we probably could have assembled 190 tweets, or theses, against a doctrine of eternal Hell.
We did not even scratch the surface of the ethical, theological and interpretive work done to contend against the doctrine of eternal Hell. What we did is draw from our own thoughts as well as places where arguments accumulate, particular debates around the issue of Hell and some of the books we have read and are reading.
Obviously, we are hearkening back to Luther’s 95 Theses. We have no expectation that our tweets will have anywhere near that impact. On the other hand, we agree that the doctrine of Hell is far worse than indulgences could possibly be. We want to fire the equivalent of grape-shot into the doctrine of Hell and sink it forever, so that no one ever has to feel it is necessary to believe in Hell ever again. Over-ambitions, we know, but it’s a start.
#95Tweets #E1: Eternal Hell is not in any way restorative – it eternally severs relationship and eternally prevents redemption
#95Tweets #E2: In fact, eternal Hell is the teaching that there are people and things that can never be redeemed, even by God
#95Tweets #E3: Eternal Hell is vengeance made infinite, and is therefore even less noble than vengeance
#95Tweets #E4: Eternal Hell lacks the sole moral underpinning of punishment, which is correction
#95Tweets #E5: Eternal Hell is beyond disproportionate – eternal Hell cannot be an earned punishment, no matter what a finite being does
#95Tweets #E6: Humans perpetrate horrific, incomprehensible evil – eternal Hell is infinitely worse than any human (finite) evil
#95Tweets #E7: Punishment in an eternal Hell would even be unfair to Hitler, who committed incomprehensibly evil but finite crimes
#95Tweets #E8: With the effects of poor information, bias, culture, neurobiology, psychology and so on, we do not make free decisions
#95Tweets #E9: This amounts to a situation where human fallibility, not even human misdeeds, can result in eternal torture in Hell
#95Tweets #E10: As eternal Hell is traditionally understood, mental illness could easily be an absolute bar from salvation
#95Tweets #E11: Fear of (eternal) punishment is the most brutal, crass and callous way to seek to encourage good
#95Tweets #E12: Fear of punishment is not effective in encouraging good, it only prevents overt misdeeds while being watched
#95Tweets #E13: Whatever happens after death, there is no concrete evidence whatsoever that anything like Hell exists
#95Tweets #E14: Eternal Hell is the worst possible story ending – for the vast majority, the end is an infinite and insurmountable tragedy
#95Tweets #E15: It is morally untenable to expect any person of conscience to enjoy Heaven knowing that others are in Hell
#95Tweets #E16: Eternal Hell makes Heaven look a lot like North Korea – worship the ruler or else, and ignore the suffering around you
#95Tweets #E17: Believers in eternal Hell must either be hypocritical, saying they believe but not behaving as if they do (1/2)
#95Tweets #E18: Or believers in eternal Hell must be callous, understanding the infinite stakes but not caring proportionally (2/2)
#95Tweets #E19: The doctrine of eternal Hell encourages either hypocrisy or callousness by necessity
#95Tweets #E20: A reasonable person’s response to any possibility of eternal torture in Hell would be constant panic and desperation
#95Tweets #E21: A doctrine of annihilation is morally preferable to eternal torture by every conceivable measure
#95Tweets #E22: A doctrine of universalism is morally preferable to annihilation, given that God is both powerful enough to save and good
#95Tweets #E23: Since Aristotle, we have a strong case that good is not good simply because God says it is
#95Tweets #E24: For God’s actions to be good, they must actually be good, not just called good; eternal Hell could only be “good” by fiat
#95Tweets #E25: The only crime that might justly warrant a punishment of eternal torture would be…eternally torturing people
#95Tweets #E26: Yesterday, 100,000 human beings died. In traditional Hell theology, we must conclude that the majority are in Hell
#95Tweets #E27: That’s at least 18,250,365 human beings to be tortured for eternity in a single year – the pop. of Shanghai or Mozambique
#95Tweets #E28: Given that being in Hell is to burn, and scream, and beg, and weep for eternity, 1 human being in this condition is too many
For all of these reasons and more, eternal Hell is an ethically unjustifiable belief.
#95Tweets #T1: Eliminating a doctrine of eternal Hell does not mean eliminating justice, judgement, punishment, and so on
#95Tweets #T2: Eternal Hell is entirely unnecessary to any traditional view of salvation, no matter how exclusivist
#95Tweets #T3: Eternal Hell does nothing whatsoever to glorify God, unless the powerful torturing the weak is glorious
#95Tweets #T4: Eternal Hell is about vindication of an exclusive, violent orthodoxy even at an infinite cost to those left out
#95Tweets #T5: Eternal Hell renders God’s love meaningless – no definition of love could include allowing infinite torture
#95Tweets #T6: Eternal Hell renders God’s justice meaningless, unless God’s justice is infinitely more retributive than human justice
#95Tweets #T7: Eternal Hell renders God’s mercy meaningless – there is eternal punishment which will never abate
#95Tweets #T8: Eternal Hell renders God’s sovereignty meaningless if God is good – God is impotent to save the vast majority of humans
#95Tweets #T9: Eternal Hell renders God’s power meaningless, since God’s plan to restore all creation can be foiled by human sin
#95Tweets #T10: Eternal Hell renders God’s omniscience meaningless, since God just can’t figure out how to save most people
#95Tweets #T11: Eternal Hell renders God’s holiness meaningless, given that evil and sin and torture would be eternal
#95Tweets #T12: Eternal Hell teaches of a God with finite patience but an infinite capacity for retribution
#95Tweets #T13: Rather than a “day of wrath”, Eternal Hell means that a trillion trillion trillion days of wrath are just the beginning
#95Tweets #T14: Eternal Hell means that whatever else God is, God cannot be good by any reasonable definition of the word
#95Tweets #T15: Eternal Hell annihilates meaning of all kinds – what is the point of doing anything but fearing eternal torture?
#95Tweets #T16: Eternal Hell means we know God primarily as monster – monstrous judge, monstrous father, monstrous savior, etc.
#95Tweets #T17: Eternal Hell is far beyond even the most evil we could visit upon our children – and are we not God’s children?
#95Tweets #T18: Eternal Hell cedes eternal victory to sin, evil and suffering
#95Tweets #T19: In contrast to scripture, Eternal Hell promises eternity to unrepentant sinners
#95Tweets #T20: Eternal Hell ascribes infinitude, eternity and finality to pain, horror, despair and terror
#95Tweets #T21: A doctrine of eternal Hell puts torture at the heart of the Gospel
#95Tweets #T22: Eternal Hell makes a mystery of horrific evil – it is beyond comprehension, rather than limited and destined for defeat
#95Tweets #T23: Eternal Hell teaches of a God who is incapable of empathy – an image of God the sociopath
#95Tweets #T24: Eternal Hell ascribes to human sin the power to overwhelm and defeat Jesus’ incarnation, life, death and resurrection
#95Tweets #T25: If there is an Eternal Hell Jesus’ incarnation, life, death and resurrection accomplish nothing definitive
#95Tweets #T26: Eternal Hell breaks God’s covenants – ex: it is infinitely worse than a second Flood
#95Tweets #T27: Eternal Hell means that God calls “good” a creation in which flawed beings can err so greatly they are tortured forever
#95Tweets #T28: Eternal Hell means, in justification theology, that First Adam’s sin is more powerful than Second Adam’s obedience
#95Tweets #T29: Apparently Jesus descended to Hell, as in the Apostle’s Creed, but left it intact, only saving himself – cowardly
#95Tweets #T30: Eternal Hell, if you believe in the Devil, ascribes to him victory in the vast majority of human souls
#95Tweets #T31: Eternal life contrasted with annihilation more fully fits the themes and teachings of both the Old and New Testament
For these reasons and more, eternal Hell is an unnecessary and destructive theology.
#95Tweets #B1: The overwhelming majority of Bible verses support some form of annihilation; more support universalism than eternal Hell
#95Tweets #B2: Gen 3:19: Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, not dust to eternal conscious torment. Death, not eternity, is our default end
#95Tweets #B3: The Bible never mentions Hell in the original languages. We (mis)translate Sheol, Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna as “Hell”
#95Tweets #B4: Sheol, the realm of the dead in the OT, is nothing at all like Hell, but is clearly where they thought the dead went
#95Tweets #B5: Tartarus, translated as “Hell”, is a prison holding the Greek titans after the Olympian gods defeated them
#95Tweets #B6: Gehenna, or Ge-Hinnom, translated “Hell”, was the smoldering garbage-dump outside Jerusalem
#95Tweets #B7: Hades, translated as “Hell”, is imported from Greek mythology, and is simply the realm of the dead, or the god of death
#95Tweets #B8: Hades, while still not Hell, is thrown into the lake of fire and destroyed at the climax of the book of Revelation
#95Tweets #B9: Genesis and the Gospels compare Satan/sin to a croucher or devourer, never an eternal torturer
#95Tweets #B10: In Job, Satan is clearly an ally of God, or at least a colleague, and is busy going to and fro, not torturing anyone
#95Tweets #B11: In 1 Samuel 28, “Sheol”, elsewhere translated as “Hell”, is apparently where the prophet Samuel is. Prophets in Hell?
#95Tweets #B12: Psalm 139 – God is everywhere, even Sheol, elsewhere translated as “Hell”.
#95Tweets #B13: In Psalms, sin = death, perish, consume, destroy – examples are Psalm 5:5-6, Psalm 37:38 – no eternal torture
#95Tweets #B14: Sin = death in the Prophets: Jer 12:3, Isa 1:28; 33:12, Ezek 18:4, Nahum 1:2-13, Zeph 1:14-18, Mal 4:1-3
#95Tweets #B15: Isaiah 25:6-9, God swallows up death forever, and everyone rejoices. Except the billions screaming in Hell, right? No.
#95Tweets #B16: The NT dichotomy is clearly between life and death – Luke 20:34-38, John 3:16; 6:48-58, Rom 6:23
#95Tweets #B17: Matt 7:21-23 Jesus contrasts those who enter into his kingdom and who do not – no eternal torment mentioned
#95Tweets #B18: Matthew 10:28 Jesus threatens Satan’s power to destroy, not eternally torture
#95Tweets #B19: In Matthew 24:36-51 the sinner is cut to pieces, destroyed, not tortured for eternity
#95Tweets #B20: Mtt 18:34; Luk 12:58-59 Jesus implies that the unreconciled receive finite, proportional punishment
#95Tweets #B21: The rich man & Lazarus is not literal – if literal, then all in Heaven will hear people begging from Hell for all eternity
#95Tweets #B22: Sin in John = death, die, perish – John 6:50, 8:51, 10:28, 12:25 – no eternal torture
#95Tweets #B23: Sin = death – examples are Matt 3:10 and 13:40, and then Luke 9:25, and Acts 3:23
#95Tweets #B24: Rom 2:7, 1 Cor 14, 2 Tim 1:10 – the NT message from start to finish is rescue from destruction, not eternal torture
#95Tweets #B25: Paul says nothing about Hell – kind of a big thing to omit from every single letter, because like all Biblical authors he did not believe in an eternal Hell
#95Tweets #B26: Romans 6:23 Paul says the wages of sin is “death”, not “eternal conscious torment” – an important distinction
#95Tweets #B27: In 1 Corinthians 15:22 the grammar and context are clear that all are made alive in Christ
#95Tweets #B28: Galatians 6:7-8 – Paul is pretty clear that there is destruction or eternal life, not eternal conscious torment
#95Tweets #B29: Phil. 2:9-11 says every knee will bend and tongue confess, not that most knees and tongues will be tortured forever
#95Tweets #B30: Col 1:18-20 – God reconciles with all creation through Christ…or fails miserably to do so if eternal Hell exists
#95Tweets #B32: More in the Epistles – 1 Cor 1:18, 2 Cor 4:3, Phil 3:19, Thess 5:3, Heb 10:27, 10:39, 12:29 – still no torment (2/3)
#95Tweets #B33: And more – James 1:15, 4:12-14, 5:20; 2 Peter 2:6, 2:10-12, 3:7 and 10 – sin = death and destruction; not torment (3/3)
#95Tweets #B34: The Bible writers’ worldview does not have a place for the default immortality of a disembodied “soul”
#95Tweets #B35: The NT culminates in a new Heaven and new earth where there is no longer suffering – where is the torture exactly?
#95Tweets #B36: Almost every verse taken to refer to “Hell” talks of destruction very clearly, and not of eternal torment at all
For all of these reasons and many more, the Bible clearly does not teach a Hell of eternal torment.
The Tweeting-Room Floor
Those are all the tweets as we posted them, put back in their categories. What follows is what we called “The Tweeting-Room Floor” – ones that we cut for various reasons. One of the challenges, particularly in the Biblical section, was combining texts and arguments so that we could be more efficient. Taking each passage that we wanted to use individually, we could easily have had 95 tweets based only on Bible verses.
Some were cut because they were weak, or weaker than ones nearby, or could be combined, or didn’t fit with our ultimate plan for putting them out there. If you would like to argue some of these, and we’re sure many of you will, please stick to the ones listed above.
In the Epistles, sin = death and destruction, not eternal torment – Rom 1:32, 2:12, 6:23, 9:22 – no eternal torment (1/3)
Nor can we account for those who hear a ‘false’ Gospel, or who unknowingly have wrong beliefs or practices
Eternal Hell is far worse than the worst human calamities: the Inquisition, the Holocaust, Soviet labor camps, etc.
With a doctrine of eternal Hell we cannot really account for those born before Jesus
Eternal Hell cannot really account for those who never hear the Gospel, which is almost entirely an accident of birth
This means that a vast number of people supposedly tormented in Hell were doomed at random
There is nothing in the mostly-apocryphal story of Satan to explain how he would become such an avid torturer
Jude 1:6-11 “everlasting” is defined as “until final judgement”; then sinners compared to animals who simply perish (1/3)
Jude continues 12-13 with imagery of emptiness, futility, twice dead, fruitlessness, etc. Not eternal torment (2/3)
Jude 1:7 compares fate of sinners to Sodom and Gomorrah – no eternal torment, just destruction (3/3)
Eternal Hell makes all of God’s talk of salvation in the OT into nonsense at best, lies at worst
Adam and Eve are not warned about Hell – seems like a big deal, and something they’d want to warn us about
Neither Sheol, Tartarus, Gehenna, or Hades are the Hell of popular imagination and theology
Jesus uses the example of the tower of Siloam in Luke 13:3-5 – the example is of perishing, not torment
“Hel” in Norse mythology, presides over a realm of the same name, and receives a portion of the dead
In the Gospel of John 10:24-30, God’s judgement looks like death rather than life – not eternal torment
We’ve already said a lot. If we were convinced that the doctrine of eternal Hell was necessary to Christianity, or even strongly supported, then we would have to become misotheists. We cannot possibly worship a God who permits an eternal realm of torment to exist, and would actually have to do all we could to undermine belief in that God.
Fortunately, the doctrine of Hell is merely an infection that has been spreading corruption throughout the Body of Christ for a long time. It is indefensible on ethical, theological or Biblical grounds, and it is time to lance the wound and heal.
Thank God, and good riddance.