95 Tweets Against Hell

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.

Ethical/rational

#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.

Theological

#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.

Biblical

#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

Conclusion

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.

  • http://twitter.com/bunnytoes1 Robin Manrique

    Fire and brimstone keeps more butts in the seats (and keeps them awake). The threat of eternal damnation is all about control and judgement. It’s much easier to scare people into good behavior (or at least the appearance of it) then to teach them everyone is worthy of God’s love.

  • http://notes-from-offcenter.com Drew Tatusko

    The Eastern Orthodox view has never subscribed to this medieval, and I venture to say unbiblical, view of hell. To quote: “Thus it is the Church’s spiritual teaching that God does not punish man by some material fire or physical torment. God simply reveals Himself in the risen Lord Jesus in such a glorious way that no man can fail to behold His glory. It is the presence of God’s splendid glory and love that is the scourge of those who reject its radiant power and light.” This was the view of the church Fathers, saints, Jesus, and continues to be the view of the Eastern communion. If we look back over scripture all those sayings about weeping and gnashing of teeth side by side with the passages about the presence of God it all makes sense. Even at the 11th hour we will always have a choice to enter into the Kingdom. This is one among a host of reasons I am converting and no longer consider myself a Western Christian. http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/bible-history/the-bible/heaven-and-hell

    • aricclark

      This view is one that has always made a lot of sense to me as well, though I would clarify that for the loving presence of God to qualify as loving it would have to be compassionate to those who find it a scourge at first. The refining fire would have to accomplish its task and successfully purify and redeem the ones who reject God at the start. If God knew that an individual would eternally reject God’s love then the loving thing to do would be to permit that individual to die. Eternally sustaining someone who rejects God can only be justified if God seeks and is able to redeem that person.

  • Scot Miller

    “Hell is other people.” — Jean-Paul Sartre

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Douglas-Hagler/848645164 Douglas Hagler

      As an introvert, I feel some resonance with this theory.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=871940056 Phil Snider

    Freaking awesome

  • http://thewholedangthing.wordpress.com Ben Emerson

    This is a super interesting list. A lot to think about. I have been studying the OT and am almost done working through the Torah on my blog. Hell seems basically nonexistent, which I find interesting and disturbing if it is real. It seems like God is holding out on telling people about it. Not cool.

    I notice that you didn’t talk about Matthew 25 (sheep and goats). What is your take on that? (i’m not trying to be antagonistic at all. Just curious)

    Even if one ends up justifying Hell from that story, one ends up in Hell for vastly different reasons than most have been taught.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Douglas-Hagler/848645164 Douglas Hagler

      The way I see Matt 25 is that the fire being referred to is not one that will burn conscious beings forever, but a fire that will consume (annihilate) those who do not respond to the needs of the poor and the vulnerable around them. In this project we’re not getting into what the three of us each actually think about judgement, eternal life, etc. The focus of this was simply to undermine the doctrine of eternal Hell as much as we, and the many resources we drew upon, could manage.

      And yes, definitely not the reason most people try to give for people “going to Hell”. It makes the alliance between market capitalism and American Evangelicalism all the more baffling and frustrating. According to Matt 25, Jesus on his throne will have very simple standards.

  • Brandon_Salesberry

    Amazing, I’ve loved these tweets the past few days. I’m curious though, as I’m not sure from all the posts I’ve read since I’ve been a reader, where you guys end up landing then. Annihilationism? Christian Universalism? Other?

    • Brandon_Salesberry

      Saw Doug’s reply to Ben, totally cool. :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Douglas-Hagler/848645164 Douglas Hagler

        My own position, honestly, is in flux as to the details. The general gist of it is that I hope that God has decisive victory over evil, and that this victory is expressed only through love and, to use an ethical term, restorative justice. So if God’s presence, into which we are all called one day, is a refining fire, even if uncomfortable or painful, that fire’s purpose must be not to inflict suffering but to overcome and eradicate evil for the sake of the person being refined – not for the sake of God’s need to dish out cosmic spankings.

        It seems like we might conclude that, once refined, more will be left of a good person than a bad person. That is, Hitler will need a lot of refining, and who knows who would be left? A young man dreaming of being an artist? On the other hand, Dorothy Day probably requires much less refining, and would come out of the experience still quite recognizable to herself, only entirely whole, without the emptiness and wounding which evil engenders.

        This is also more than just people, though here we get farther and farther away from what I can imagine in detail. But everything – every thing – is redeemed by God, I trust. Evil has no victory anywhere, and nothing is left of it in God’s restored cosmos.

        The important part of all of this, to me, is how it impacts us here. If we can have a clear vision of the restored cosmos – no more suffering, full equality of all beings, loving-kindness toward everyone, the last being first, no more violence or predation, fairness in all dealings, and so on, we have a vision of what it is we are to fight for here and now in our own lives; what is valuable; what is worth dying for.

        Perhaps the worst thing about the doctrine of eternal Hell is that it makes evil, suffering, sin, remorse, weeping and so on eternal. There is a vast part of the “restored” cosmos of God where people burn and scream and beg forever and ever, and are never healed, never made whole. Even worse, they suffer this fate because they are limited human beings who do not make wise choices and who do not see clearly.

        This is the worst thing I can possibly imagine, and it baffles and frustrates me that people who call themselves Christians hold this view, either because they were told they had to in order to be Christian, or because they’ve internalized it and honestly think that it is “justice”.

        • Fascination1980

          I think for some people, there’s a bit of schadenfreude going on as well.

    • aricclark

      Glad you have gotten something out of this. As Doug says below, with this set of arguments we are just taking aim at the specific version of the “doctrine of eternal Hell” that holds that some people (the vast majority) will endure endless conscious torment after death. We’re not really making a constructive proposal – though it appears to me that the vast majority of the Biblical witness is most consistent with the doctrine of annihilationism wherein those things which cannot be reconciled to God merely cease to exist.

      To be clear about a few things: nothing we’ve said means that there couldn’t be a temporary form of punishment, or the existence of metaphorical Hells in this life. Hell remains a useful metaphor in many ways. It just doesn’t mean a metaphysical realm of never-ending torture for the immortal souls of human beings.

      Speaking for myself, I am a Christian Universalist (on my good days). Though it may not be the dominant view of scripture it has strong scriptural support, and more importantly (in my opinion) makes the best sense of the character of Jesus of Nazareth and the goodness of God. But that is a conversation for another post.

      • Brandon_Salesberry

        Thanks for the reply Aric, greatly appreciated.

        I certainly understand the clarification, and agree with it all. Those clarifications are often the most difficult piece of having such conversations – fighting the assumptions that Hell, judgement, etc. are thrown out completely when arguing against an eternal Hell.

        I’ve done my fair share of reading on it all (Talbott, Parry/MacDonald, Beck, George MacDonald, etc.) and understand where you’re coming from. Without further discussion I’d venture to say I’m on the same page. But as you said, a conversation for another post :)

        My question really was mostly curiosity on where such thoughts ended up for you guys. I’ve really grown to value this blog and the posts, yours especially – no offense to the other guys :) – and thought I’d just ask instead of piecing together from past post readings. Thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/reflectant Nick Larson

      Just to chime in and add my part here too. Mostly I would want to go Universalism, but feel like scripture most accurately describes an annihilationism view. Part of me also rebukes the strict universalist perspective because I value what I read in scripture to be so form of “free will” that even if we are largely stuck within the structures of our world, I do think our action in this who mess we call faith is important.

      • Brandon_Salesberry

        Thanks for the part, Nick. I certainly agree (and as you guys pointed out in the 95 Tweets) that scripture weighs heavily towards annihilationism. But I did eventually leave it behind in favor of universalism, for very similar reasons that Richard Beck describes here:

        http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2011/03/musings-about-universalism-part-4-why-i.html

        In the language of this post, the theological and ethical reasons outweighed the biblical for me in this case. But at the same time I can echo Aric in saying that it’s really on my good days that I’m a Christian Universalist.

        As far as your last sentence, though, I’m not sure if I’m fully tracking with what you are trying to say. Is there a word or two missing that’s keeping me from getting it?

  • Scot Miller

    Of course, the next question is whether self-conscious post-mortem existence in heavenly bliss is necessary or desirable. Fear of hell and hope for eternal reward seem like two sides of the same selfish motivation for faith: what’s in it for me? The next thought experiment is, “Would I believe even if I don’t survive death in a self-conscious way?” Is there any intrinsic value in belief apart from eternal reward? (I think there is….)

    • aricclark

      Indeed, that is a good follow up. Speaking for myself I don’t believe in Heaven in the sense of self-conscious disembodied post-mortem bliss. A lot of the arguments we use here would double-up for that discussion: the Bible says nothing about immortal souls, the contrast of the gospel is between Life & Death, not afterlife & torture etc…

      I also think there is intrinsic value to Christian practice apart from post-mortem reward. Indeed, Peter Rollins has a great parable in the Orthodox Heretic that speaks to this. To paraphrase:

      You awake after death in a throne room where Satan sits. He informs you that he has dethroned God and Christ and thrown them into the Lake of Fire. He offers you a choice, you can join Jesus in Hell or you can swear allegiance to Satan and get a ticket into Heaven. What do you choose?

      In other words, would you follow Jesus if there was no reward or even if there was a guarantee of suffering? Incidentally, Jesus does guarantee his disciples suffering.

      • Scot Miller

        It sounds like you and I think alike on this matter….

      • http://twitter.com/Aurorabela Rosemarie B

        Heaven is just as real as hell.

        Do not fall for the lie of Satan,least you spend eternity with the damned.

        Be Wise! God sent His Son,Jesus, to save you from eternal damnation. Otherwise Christ would have not been beat,scourged,nailed,ect…to a cross! His blood was shed and his life laid down for our Redemption! I know my Redeemer Lives!!!

        • aricclark

          I agree Rosemarie, Heaven is just as real as Hell. Thank you for caring enough about the fate of the eternal soul neither you nor I possess to write some cliches with extra exclamation marks!!!

        • Jim731

          “Do not fall for the lie of Satan, least you spend eternity with the damned.”

          Thankfully, “Christ was manifested to destroy the works of the devil,” so any lies and deceptions on Satan’s part will be overturned and corrected.

          If “God sent His Son, Jesus, to save you from eternal damnation,” whose fault will it be if you’re not saved? Apparently not His… He’s just the son of God. We all know that Satan is really the one with all the power. ;)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Douglas-Hagler/848645164 Douglas Hagler

    How can we help people who feel like they need to believe in eternal Hell in order to be Christian? Or who will be rejected by their community if they realize there is no good reason to believe in Hell, and many good reasons not to? All the reasoning in the world won’t overturn fear of rejection and exile, and most of the push-back I’m getting is from people who haven’t read the theses but rather are just defending Hell (!) as a sort of knee-jerk reaction.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/X2MF7YIYWACZGIJWJVRIZG2F4I Patricia

      I think you ARE helping people, Douglas, by putting the conversation out there. As far as rejection by communities, sometimes communities aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Sometimes communities are built around the need to control people tightly, and ultimately it’s a good thing to get rejected. Not that there’s any guarantee of landing on one’s feet, or finding an alternative. But a fear-based community promotes fear-based theology, and sometimes it takes a rude awakening to see its game.

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  • http://greenchestnuts.blogspot.com/ Aydan Sellby

    This is fascinating, and I really enjoyed reading it.

    I’m curious what y’all made of the verses in Revelation about those who have accepted the mark of the beast being tormented eternally?

    • aricclark

      Aydan,

      Thanks for reading and responding. We included that chunk of Revelation (chapter 20:7-15) in our 95 Tweets above (it’s #B8) but since it has come up in a number of different conversations I’ll make a full reply here. I’m going to be pretty thorough, so I apologize in advance for the novel. This way I can refer other people who have the same question here.

      To begin with, I am not a futurist when it comes to the Revelation of John. It is not like a movie showing us the future. It is a work of apocalyptic poetry. It uses fantastic imagery to metaphorically describe the relationship of the church in John’s time to the Roman Empire. All of the situations and events in the book refer to things which were happening or soon to happen in John’s own era. Dispensationalism, which is the heresy of believing that God set out specific eras and dates and coded signals in scripture which we can untangle like a Dan Brown novel to predict the end of the world, is a giant load of bunk.

      Revelation remains a fascinating and important part of scripture precisely because its metaphorical language and fantastic imagery enables it to be a rich source of interpretation for how the church should relate to the world in our own time. But there are no dragons and beasts and women with starry crowns on the horizon. Neither are there literal lakes of fire or giant bejeweled cities descending from the sky.

      With the disclaimers out of the way here is what I believe the Revelation of John teaches us in relation to God and salvation:

      #1 and most importantly the central figure of salvation and the judge of history is the lamb who was slain (5:6). Jesus who died forgiving those who murdered him does not suddenly become a laser-beam shooting monster who delights in the torture and destruction of humanity. The “sword” which he wields comes out of his mouth (19:15), it is his word. Just as the Gospel is called a sword by Paul – the point of this metaphor is that Christians don’t wield actual swords. We have only our words, our persuasion as a weapon.

      #2 It is that judge, Jesus, who in Revelation 20 condemns several things to the Lake of Fire. The first things so condemned are Death and Hades. Right there is the core of our argument in this passage against the doctrine of Eternal Hell. Hades is thrown into the lake of fire and destroyed. This is consistent with the character of the slain lamb. Why would the victim of torture want to see perpetual torture? No Jesus’ entire purpose is to end all suffering. So he destroys Hell. He also sends those whose names are not written in the book of life into the lake of fire. They suffer “the second death”. They are destroyed. This is a doctrine of annihilation not perpetual torment.

      #3 Before the Lake of Fire bit it says that the Beast and the Devil and the false prophet etc.. will be “tormented day and night forever”. The word for torment here is “bastanizo” which means “to test with a touchstone”. When you want to test how pure metal is you can rub it against a special rock called a touchstone. Based on the streak it leaves you can see how pure it is. In other words, this “torment” has a purpose and a goal. Something which is endless in duration can’t have a meaningful goal because it will never end – never arrive at the goal. if the goal of this torment is to purify the things tormented it has to have an end. The word eternal gets thrown around a lot in the New Testament. It almost never connotes “endless in duration”. It almost always connotes “constantly – (as in no breaks)” “fully” or “abundantly”. Jesus says you can have eternal life now but he doesn’t mean you will live forever – you will die like the rest of us. He means you can participate in a kind of life that is deep and abundant. Furthermore, since this line about “being tormented day and night constantly” comes right before the part where everything is thrown in the lake of fire and destroyed it makes the most sense to interpret it as finite.

      #4 Lastly, all of this stuff about torture and lakes of Fire has to be read in the context of what comes next – the fulfillment of the New Creation in which there is no suffering, no tears, no death (21). There is no tears or death because these things have just been destroyed in the Lake of Fire. If Hell is eternal then there should be plenty of tears and screaming and pain right? I mean the devil and all the people not written in the book of life should be right over there howling in agony. But they aren’t because there is no eternal Hell. Jesus didn’t come to institute a perpetual realm of torment for the majority of all humans. Jesus came to do the opposite – to proclaim the arrival of God’s piece in which suffering and death are defeated.

      Hope that helps.

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/X2MF7YIYWACZGIJWJVRIZG2F4I Patricia

        “He also sends those whose names are not written in the book of life into the lake of fire. ”

        As one raised in traditional Baptist fry-when-you-die theology (now recovering from it), this has always been a frightening verse to me. What would be the criteria for having one’s name “blotted out?” Baptists tell you it’s “not believing” as in a mental checklist. I don’t buy that anymore. What’s your take, Aric?

        • aricclark

          Well, as I said above, I don’t think Revelation is a book about the far future or the metaphysical afterlife. It is principally about the relationship between the church in John’s day and Rome. So for John having your name written in the book of life was a way of offering comfort to a small persecuted community in the midst of the vast powerful machinery of death that was the empire of Rome. He was saying “you are secure,” which is an important thing to say to people facing a decent chance of martyrdom. By extension, saying that those who are not in the book of life (aka: their persecutors) are going to be thrown into the lake of fire is a way of saying that this persecution will end. The very machinery of death will be dismantled – a necessary precursor of there being no more suffering or tears.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/5OPDTGMVEFDYDKHEXSNNWOFNWY Jim

    Some people complain about the idea of being able to come to God after death.

    If only Christ had been thoughtful enough to include some sort of parable about how grace is universal. Maybe something like a bunch of guys who started work at the beginning of the day complaining that they got the same wages as the people who came at the end of it. Just throwing the idea out there. You’ll obviously never find that in Scripture.

  • Robyrt

    I like the concept, and I think I agree on your broader point, but reading down this list, the tweets are profoundly unconvincing. Many simply restate the premise or only make sense if you already agree with it, like #T14 and #T16. Others make unsupported assertions about big questions that anyone you would hypothetically convince would already disagree with you on (#E8 for example). Many assume a cartoonish “traditional model of Hell” which is basically Dante’s Inferno warmed over, the kind of thing that even fundamentalists would say is bad theology. By contrast, the Bible section is great, as a dozen statements on the same point are actually effective when the goal is to show a preponderance of evidence.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Douglas-Hagler/848645164 Douglas Hagler

      Fair enough. I remember the Catholic Church finding Luther’s Theses pretty unconvincing as well. I’m sure there is a similar situation here where there are different definitions functioning. Any ethical argument, of course, comes down to being about 90% definition of terms. Here’s my honest challenge: propose some arguments in 140 characters or fewer that are more convincing. I’d love to read them.

      I also kind of think that if you need to be *convinced* that torturing someone for eternity, with no hope of reprieve, is monstrous, we’re already on entirely different pages. E8 I also see as either knowing how the mind/brain is understood, or not, honestly. I’m not aware of any argument that could be made, supported by the findings of scientists who study the brain, in favor of “free will” without massive caveats and limitations. But, as I said, no question we’re dealing with differing viewpoints here. This list hasn’t converted many fundies – it has, however, empowered a number of people who weren’t comfortable with Hell but felt like there were good ethical, theological or Biblical arguments in favor of Hell that they’d need to contend with.

      Glad you enjoyed the Bible portion – definitely a preponderance there.

      • Fascination1980

        Yes, number 8 is supported by a lot of neuroscientific studies. In fact, if you read any modern book dealing with neuroscience (and psychology, evolutionary psychology, etc) this is covered in detail. I highly recommend Steven Pinker’s books on neuroscience and Frans De Waal’s books about evolutionary psychology and empathy.
        This is an excerpt from an article about a recent study at the Max Planck Institute:
        In a kind of spooky experiment, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences reveal that our decisions are made seconds before we become aware of them.
        In the study, participants could freely decide if they wanted to press a button with their right or left hand.
        The only condition was that they had to remember when they made the decision to either use their right hand or left hand.
        Using fMRI, researchers would scan the brains of the participants while all of this was going on in order to find out if they could in fact predict which hand the participants would use BEFORE they were consciously aware of the decision.
        The Results
        By monitoring the micro patterns of activity in the frontopolar cortex, the researchers could predict which hand the participant would choose 7 SECONDS before the participant was aware of the decision.
        “Your decisions are strongly prepared by brain activity. By the time consciousness kicks in, most of the work has already been done,” said study co-author John-Dylan Haynes, a Max Planck Institute neuroscientist.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Douglas-Hagler/848645164 Douglas Hagler

          I remember reading exactly that article, actually, and it was also referenced in…something I was watching recently. It was also featured on Radio Lab, where they interviewed a scientist who talked about the various parts of your brain all competing with each other for control – how having an argument ‘in your head’ is literally what is happening on a non-conscious level.

          I basically fall back on my position that I have had since first encountering this idea somewhere in college – it seems unlikely that we have free will, particularly not purely free in any way, maybe not even mostly free – but it is nonetheless very important that we behave as if we do have free will, or else nothing we do is all that meaningful. Not being a determinist (which to me is the same, functionally, as nihilist, but less interesting), I think of free will as a sliding scale with asymtotes at “entirely free” and “entirely bound”.

          And this doesn’t get us into the tangle of conscious decision-making, and how we are primed unconsciously before-hand, etc. etc. Obviously, the result of all of this with regard to Hell is that the doctrine of eternal Hell is rooted in the idea that people make a choice between God and not-God, and it’s important to have in mind as we think about this the apparent fact that as humans we make zero entirely free choices, and most of our choices are far more bound than we’re consciously aware of (or willing to admit).

    • Fascination1980

      Great science article explaining why we don’t have free will:
      http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2012-01-01/free-will-science-religion/52317624/1

  • hamletta

    I grew up librul Lutheran, so I say keep goin’ till you get rid of hell in its altogether, lingerie and all.

    There is no Hell, y’all. There is only turning against God. And even there there isn’t much.

    What there is is living for God. Living to love your fellow man. Giving because you’ve received this beautiful salvation.

    Everything else is commentary.

    • Fascination1980

      I’m not religious at all but I find your philosophy very beautiful. Just wanted to let you know that! :)

  • Fascination1980

    Great article! It’s refreshing to read such an enlightened view about hell. Very well written too!

  • Rrtmailmom

    Totally agree, I was raised in a denomination that taught the destruction of the wicked, not hell. Why would God condemn someone to hell at death only to resurrect them , judge them and return them to hell. Seems redundant to me. Not to mention, cruel.

  • http://www.fastinghq.com/ Travis

    #95Tweets #E2: In fact, eternal Hell is the teaching that there are people and things that can never be redeemed, even by God. Hell doesn’t teach that, CALVINISM DOES.

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