Editor’s note: The new documentary "Hellbound?" explores Americans' ideas about hell. We asked two prominent Christians who featured in the film to give us their very different takes on hell.
My Faith: The dangerous effects of believing in hell
Editor’s note: Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times bestselling author. His latest book is "Crazy For God."
By Frank Schaeffer, Special to CNN
Is it any coincidence that the latest war of religion that started on September 11, 2001, is being fought primarily between the United States and the Islamic world? It just so happens that no subgroups of humanity are more ingrained with the doctrine of hell than conservative Muslims and conservative Christians.
And nowhere on earth have conservative Christians been closer to controlling foreign policy than here in the United States. And nowhere on earth have conservative Muslims been more dominant than in the countries from which the 9/11 extremists originated – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
What a pair George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden made! On the one hand, an American president who was a born-again evangelical with a special "heart" for the state of Israel and its importance to the so-called end times, and on the other hand a terrorist leader who believed that he was serving God by ridding the Arabian Peninsula of an American presence and cleansing the "defiled" land of Palestine of what he believed were “invader Jews.”
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So whether you're an atheist or not, the issue of who's going to hell or not matters because there are a lot of folks on this planet – many of them extraordinarily well-armed - from born-again American military personnel to Muslim fanatics, who seriously believe that God smiles upon them when they send their enemies to hell.
And so my view of "hell" encompasses two things: First, the theological question about whether a land of eternal suffering exists as God's "great plan" for most of humanity.
Second, the question of the political implications of having a huge chunk of humanity believe in damnation for those who disagree with their theology, politics and culture, as if somehow simply killing one's enemies is not enough.
What most people don't know is that there's another thread running through both Christianity and Islam that is far more merciful than the fundamentalists’ take on salvation, judgment and damnation.
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Paradise, which Muslims believe is the final destination of the society of God’s choice, is referred to in the Quran as "the home of peace"
“Our God,” Muslims are asked to recite, “You are peace, and peace is from You.”
Since Christianity is my tradition, I can say more about it. One view of God - the more fundamentalist view - is of a retributive God just itching to punish those who "stray."
The other equally ancient view, going right back into the New Testament era, is of an all-forgiving God who in the person of Jesus Christ ended the era of scapegoat sacrifice, retribution and punishment forever.
As Jesus said on the cross: "Forgive them for they know not what they do."
That redemptive view holds that far from God being a retributive God seeking justice, God is a merciful father who loves all his children equally. This is the less-known view today because fundamentalists - through televangelists and others - have been so loud and dominant in North American culture.
But for all that, this redemptive view is no less real.
Why does our view of hell matter? Because believers in hell believe in revenge. And according to brain chemistry studies, taking revenge and nurturing resentment is a major source of life-destroying stress.
For a profound exploration of the madness caused by embracing the “justice” of “godly” revenge and retribution, watch the film “Hellbound?”
The film shows how the "hell" of revenge thinking, and the resulting unhinging of some people’s brains through their denial of human empathy, leads them to relish the violent future of suffering that they predict awaits the “lost” in hell.
Do we really want to go back to a time of literalistic religion. Wasn’t 9/11 enough of an argument against retributive religion?
We need “hell” like a hole in the head. It’s time for the alternative of empathetic merciful religion to be understood.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frank Schaeffer.
My Faith: Hell is for real and Jesus is the only way out
Editor's Note: Mark Driscoll is founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.
By Mark Driscoll, Special to CNN
As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth. Your job is to make a decision.
When controversies over biblical doctrines arise, it’s a humbling opportunity to answer questions about what the Bible teaches without getting into name-calling and mudslinging. Near the very top of the controversial doctrines is hell.
What happens when we die?
Human beings were created by God with both a physical body and a spiritual soul. When someone dies, their body goes into the grave and their spirit goes into an afterlife to face judgment.
But death is not normal or natural—it’s an enemy and the consequence of sin.
Think of it in this way: God is the source of life. When we choose to live independently of God and rebelliously against God it is akin to unplugging something from its power source. It begins to lose power until it eventually dies.
The Bible is clear that one day there will be a bodily resurrection for everyone, to either eternal salvation in heaven or eternal condemnation in hell.
Christians believe a person’s eternal status depends on their relationship with Jesus and that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Our lives are shaped by the reality that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
What does Jesus say about hell?
Jesus was emphatically clear on the subject of hell. He alone has risen from death and knows what awaits us on the other side of this life. A day of judgment is coming when all of us — even you — will rise from our graves and stand before him for eternal sentencing to either worshiping in his kingdom or suffering in his hell.
The Bible could not be clearer: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
These are not just obscure Bible verses. In fact, Jesus talks about hell more than anyone else in Scripture. Amazingly, 13% of his sayings are about hell and judgment, and more than half of his parables relate to the eternal judgment of sinners.
Keep in mind that Jesus’ words come in the context of the rest of Scripture, which says that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Furthermore, he “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
God is far more loving, kind and patient with his enemies than we are with our enemies.
What does the rest of the Bible say about hell?
The Bible gives us many descriptions of hell including (1) fire; (2) darkness; (3) punishment; (4) exclusion from God’s presence; (5) restlessness; (6) second death; and (7) weeping and gnashing of teeth in agony.
A common misperception of Satan is that he’s in a red suit, holding a pitchfork at the gates of hell. But Satan will not[j1] reign there. Hell is a place of punishment that God prepared for the devil and his angels, and it’s where those who live apart from God will, according to Revelation:
. . . drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb [Jesus Christ]. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night.
At the end of the age, the devil will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Hell will be ruled over by Jesus, and everyone present — humans and demons and Satan alike — will be tormented there continually in perfect justice.
Jesus says, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. ... And these will go away into eternal punishment.”
Is there a second chance after death?
The Bible is clear that we die once and are then judged without any second chance at salvation. As one clear example, Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
We live. We die. We face judgment. Period.
How long does the punishment last?
Some argue that the punishment of sinners is not eternal, a view called annihilationism. This means that after someone dies apart from Jesus, they suffer for a while and then simply cease to exist.
Annihilationism is simply not what the Bible teaches. Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus speaks of those who “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Grammatically, there is no difference here between the length of time mentioned for “life” and that for “punishment”; rather, there is simply eternal life and eternal death.
Am I going to hell?
The good news is that the closing verses of the Bible say, “Come!” Everyone is invited to receive the free gift of God’s saving grace in Jesus. Jesus is God become a man to reconcile mankind to God.
He lived the sinless life we have not lived, died a substitutionary death on the cross for our sins. He endured our wrath, rose to conquer our enemies of sin and death, and ascended to heaven where he is ruling as Lord over all today. He did this all in love.
The stark reality is this: either Jesus suffered for your sins to rescue you from hell, or you will suffer for your sins in hell. These are the only two options and you have an eternal decision to make.
My hope and prayer is that you would become a Christian.
Have you confessed your sins to Jesus Christ, seeking forgiveness and salvation?
If not, you are hellbound, and there is no clever scholar who will be of any help when you stand before Jesus Christ for judgment. You’re not required to like hell as much as you need to believe in it, turn from your sin, trust in Jesus, and be saved from an eternal death into an eternal life.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Driscoll.
"As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth."
This has to be the most oxymoronic statement I've ever heard.
Life with truth absolute is heaven and life in hinduism, denial of truth absolute is hind, hell, in this life and hear after, One can not be without the other, La, truth absolute of existence. If day does not exist, night will not exist, If black does not exist, A white does not exist, they may not like each other for their hinduism, racism .please visit limitisthetruth.com and click on word Choice on website to open file to learn more.
The ultimate goal of Hinduism and Buddhism is to liberate ourselves from this physical existence and become one with the impersonal all or the brahman-atman or the true reality. Your cult teaches that everything is God. Really? Everything isn't God, only God is. A cow, boat, pig, ant ot tree cannot be God...
Evidence that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth. Please read Psalm 16:10, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Zechariah 9:9, Genesis 3:15, Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14, Daniel 9:26 for starters. And I will also state what Christ said, after He had risen from the grave on the 3rd day, to His disciples:
Luke 24:25-17: " Then Jesus said to them, You are such foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the scriptures. Wasn't it clearly predicted by the prophets that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering His time of glory? Then Jesus quoted passages from the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining what all the scriptures said about Himself."
Luke 24:44-47: " Then Jesus said, When I was with you before, I told you that evrything writen about Me by Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must all come true. Then He opend their minds to understand these many scriptures. And He said, Yes, It was written long ago that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again from the dead on the third day. With my Authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to Me. You are witnesses of all these things."
Jesus Christ is God, Lord, Messiah, Creator, Lamb of God, Redeemer, Prince of Peace, The Good Shepherd!
Evidence from book of hindu Mithraism, pagan savior ism, Chrisitianity called bible, hinduism, fabrication of hindu Jew's, filthy self centered, atheist to hind fool huamity.
Hell and Sheol mean the same thing: The Grave. People can be brought back to life from Hell. Jesus was in hell for three days. Soon millions now dead in hell ( or death sleep, dirt nap) will be alive again. Think about that! There is a difference between Hell and the lake of Fire (or Gehenna) with the former one a person can be resurrected; with the latter one, there is no chance of returning back to life.
Any god who would allow a "lake of fire" of place of eternal torment to exist can go fvck himself. Seriously, can we imagine a more evil and despi cable character than one that could eliminate, but chooses to allow, a place of eternal torment for souls? I'm sick of people worshiping disgusting dovchebags like that.
hinduism, absurdity of a Mithriac hindu, pagan savior ism, Christian, hind, hell is reserved for none other's hindu's, deniers of truth absolute like you. please visit limitisthetruth.com and click on word Choice on website to open file.
Hell is real, and Jesus spoke more about hell than anything else in the Bible! I bet you did not know that?!!
I'll bet you didn't know that very few people give a ripe fvck.
psst... Jim... the bible also talks about unicorns.
well done Mark You are servant of the Lord keep preaching it and dont weary from it
Without Hell there would be no Christianity.
Without Hell, there would be no Heaven. Interesting, that all people want to go to heaven, but don't think there's a particular entrance? For many, this will be too spiritually minded, to understand, as understanding only comes from seeking, and I see from many comments, that the very reason for Hell is being made clear by many of the posts: people in rebellion of a Holy God. God has the right to ask anything He chooses of us. He only chooses for us to believe in His one and only Son. Trusting in Him, and and following His ways of love and mercy are the only price to enter Heaven. One can choose to look into that truth, and find out for ones' self, or one can deny it, and still find out, but when it is too late! True followers of Christ love others and share truth. If we were in a burning building, and I knew there was only one way out, yet passed many running in a different direction, how unloving would it be of me, not to let them know where the one exit really is? God wants all to know and find the exit...or entrance, as it were, in the case of Heaven. If one does nothing else on earth, forget what pain others have inflicted on you, who supposedly called themselves Christians... seek God for yourselves, and humble yourselves in wanting to find Him, and He will give you understanding and the ability to see and walk in truth. I'm so sorry so many people have come in contact with judgmental, unloving and downright ugly people, who called themselves believers in Christ... that's not God's fault. That is sin nature, and people choosing not to bend their knee to God's ways, over their own. Just know, Scripture says the following, about those people: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord', will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father, who is in Heaven. And many will come to me on that day, and say to me, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we heal in your name, didn't we prophesy in your name, and didn't we cast out demons in your name?", and I will tell them "Get away from me, you evil-doers!"
@unTruth: "Without Hell, there would be no Heaven."
We're off to a pretty good start. Neither exists.
"Interesting, that all people want to go to heaven, but don't think there's a particular entrance?"
Ugg... Show me the research that everyone wants to go to heaven. Please show me the video of the one door to this imaginary place.
"For many, this will be too spiritually minded, to understand, as understanding only comes from seeking"
Rather I would think many may not understand you because you use no facts to support your assumptions and sprinkle your thoughts with madness. That can limit our understanding. But these things aren't our fault.
"and I see from many comments, that the very reason for Hell is being made clear by many of the posts: people in rebellion of a Holy God."
you may be on to at least part of the truth here in that the idea of hell, the reason so many religions need to use it, is to scare people into acting the way they believe others should act. So, yeah, if you see what you think is rebellion then you would assume we need a hell. We're not in rebellion of god so much as rebellion from your delusions.
"God has the right to ask anything He chooses of us."
Flat out wrong. You simply do not want to take responsibility for your actions.
"He only chooses for us to believe in His one and only Son."
Disingenuous. Your sky daddy asks for much, much more than just belief. He demands your servile obedience.
"Trusting in Him, and and following His ways of love and mercy are the only price to enter Heaven."
You just refuted yourself. Now you say one must believe AND follow his ways of love and mercy. This makes me wonder... Aren't you supposed to follow ALL his ways, or do you get to pick and choose which ways to follow? Is it OK with him if you only follow the ways of love and not the ways of hate, which are displayed so numerously throughout your book of rules?
"One can choose to look into that truth, and find out for ones' self, or one can deny it, and still find out, but when it is too late!"
"True followers of Christ love others and share truth."
"true followers"... this would be where you embarrass yourself and pile one belief on top of another: that every other believer who doesn't share your exact set of delusions isn't believing the correct set of delusions.
Nearly all of us are capable of loving others as the simple product of evolving human society. We don't need a book or religion to do that.
"If we were in a burning building"
You are. It's called religion. Save yourself by getting out. Do mankind a solid and grab 1 or 2 babies on the way out.
"God wants all to know and find the exit...or entrance, as it were, in the case of Heaven."
god doesn't want anything. *You* want others to behave in accordance for what you feel is appropriate. Be responsible for your own actions and quit pawning it off onto god.
"He will give you understanding and the ability to see and walk in truth."
He does the opposite. He blinds you to reality, leading you to live, as you do, in delusion. Read more about your delusion:
"I'm so sorry so many people have come in contact with judgmental, unloving and downright ugly people, who called themselves believers in Christ... that's not God's fault."
Charlatan. Something good happens, "it's god!" Something bad, "not god, free will!" Apparently somehow god is also responsible for every sport team winning yet responsible for none losing. The lunacy of it all is just amazing.
"Scripture says the following..."
why bother? it's all fiction, and within the fiction is plenty of contradiction on exactly how to please your sky daddy. The book is shown unreliable in every way, over and over. Sounds like a mental condition called Religious Delusion.
Hawaiiguest: Don't believe what I have said, but believe in what the only human being who was sinless said about heaven and hell. Matthew chapter 7 and Luke chapter 16. God bless...
1) Learn to use the fucking reply button.
2) You'd need to accept the bible as historically accurate, which I do not.
I don't accept your asserted premises, and find no reason to take you seriously when you cannot even form a coherent defense of your own beliefs like 1Peter 3:15 says you should.
The LORD is just, His ways are perfect. He gives humanity free will to accept or reject Jesus Christ, who was sinless. Those who choose to separate themselves from God while alive will be eternally separated from Him forevermore. It's an easy choice for me! Unfortunately it isn't for much of the unbelieving world. Jesus Christ can be your Lord and Savior if you welcome Him into your life! God bless...
Prove your assertions that there is a god, that Jesus was somehow divine (or that there is enough contemporary evidence o accept he even existed in the first place), and then estblish the existence of a form of consciousness that will continue after death, then we can talk about whether the god you believe in is worth any kind of worship.
The god of the bible cannot be "just" and "perfect" as is clear to any person who can read unbiasedly and think in a critical manner.
Hawaiiguest, you are so right! Most Christians have forgotten the call to be prepared to give a defense for what we believe! Shameful, because that means we cannot possibly believe it ourselves! God is indeed worthy of our worship, and He is indeed, undeniably real, but it is true that if you are seeking (and I hope I am not wrong in asserting that you are), you are due some truth. That won't obviously happen on short posts, so let me give you two truth-based website addresses that would allow you to pursue this in depth (and I hope you do! Because even though we have never met, it is my prayer that all who seek, would be saved!). http://www.probe.org and http://www.truthforlife.org Let me caution you up-front, that in your search for truth and life everlasting, there are TONS of deceptions and untruths (though I can testify that the two previous websites won't lead you astray). The Devil, who does exist, wants nothing more than to gain your spirit in his realm, and away from God. That's why so much confusion on truth and Christianity exists...because his sole purpose is to lead you astray, or distract and entertain you, until the point of no return (death is the only point of no return). I do hope you are truthfully searching... I hear your heart, and you are right... I hope to get to call you my brother or sister some day!!!
@unTruth: "God is indeed worthy of our worship"
Only as worthy as a Leprechaun, Bigfoot or perhaps the Tooth Fairy, though I don't believe in the Tooth Fairy myself. Leprechauns, of course, are real. And well, Bigfoot, I mean we do have video of him, right?
"He is indeed, undeniably real"
Then you have photos, video, yadda. I mean at least we have video of Bigfoot. God probably has an email address? If he's "real" in the way we humans have agreed to reality, then there would be empirical evidence. There is not, so the likelihood of his reality is miniscule.
"let me give you two truth-based website addresses"
lol, and there's the sales pitch, ladies and gentlemen, combined with the predictable redefinition of the word "truth" to anything but.
"The Devil, who does exist, wants nothing more than to gain your spirit in his realm, and away from God."
Yes, we're aware of the supposed $5 and an ice cream bet riding on our souls. Please provide the piles of video and photos that surely exist for said "real" devil.
"That's why so much confusion on truth and Christianity exists..."
The confusion is caused by YOU and all the other brands/branches/flavours of religion continually asserting belief as truth. You are arguing your own case against yourself.
"I hope to get to call you my brother or sister some day!!!"
This is the one of the most disgusting things about religion. You don't even consider other humans as equals unless they have the same beliefs as you, which of course nearly require them to be born in your same country, state, perhaps even family, since living outside those groups usually produce other beliefs. You purport love and fellowship yet your message is transparently hatefully divisive.
We do not need other people forcing their beliefs onto us. We know how to be kind to each other, so just do it. Why the need to have some imaginary god force you to it?
Mormons don't believe in Hell. Maybe that's why Romney lies so much. What does he have to lose?????
Regarding Romney: how do you know that is true? As far as him lying? What lies are you accusing of? It's never decent to just come up with stuff like this. The proof?
@untruth: why would you of all people ask for proof? You never provide a shred of it for the existence of god.
I believe both arguments are predicated on the the false notion that the human soul is naturally immortal Or maybe worse. Maybe God is such a twisted lunatic that he resurrects people from their sleep in their graves so he can torture them forever and ever and ever. Now that's twisted and its not God.
With all you see, and how perfectly everything goes together, that science knows that if even one molecule were different, none of this would exist, and that it takes a creator (according to science, because something CANNOT come from nothing), it's much harder to believe that all there is, is this short life, a physical death, and nothing more... seek, and you will find, if you are truly seeking God, He will reveal all truth to you!
"Hell" is merely a tool used by Evangelical pastors to exert control over their "sheep." Driscoll demonstrates his ignorance in calling death "unnatural," science proves otherwise.
Hell no. How else do we scare little children into towing the party line?
This guy is an idiot right from the get go. The 911 terrorists originated only from Saudi Arabia, not from the other 2 countries.
For all we know hell could be metaphorical, for the depressed majority we already are in hell, "nashing of teeth" as it says in the bible. Our own personal hell, could be genetic who knows, a family tree of depression and failure. The energy you put out there is the engergy we get right back/you reap what you sow as it says in the bible. We create our own hell we live in till we die. I guess it could get worse if there is an actual "lake of fire" hell like it says in the bible for the after life. Just some thoughts.
Matt, there is a way out. I pray you find it.
You see, Jesus is the only one, who went to the cross an give his life for our sin nature ; give his blood for the penalty of our sin nature . however we were separated from God because of Aden and Eve sin. he united us, by sharing hi blood for our sin, that who so ever believed in him should not perished but have everlasting life.you see , the price has been pay by Jesus blood for every sin, we have done before God.The payment was his blood sacrifice and he pay it all, When we are coming to him or accepted him as our personnel savior. You see no one ever did what he has done ;He's go up on the cross and died for humanity another they could received the forgiveness of their sins.Only Jesus did it. since more then two thousand years ago . Gouda, Mohammad nor other religions men dogmas did it, as a matter fact Mohammed came 600 (ad) after everything has been done. Jesus said, I 'am the way, the truth, in the life, no one see God, except by me.not by any body else.except through Jesus. With out that.you will died in your sin. Aden& Eve and plus your sins. Accepted Jesus you will live eternal life.
Other than the bible, what source can you point to that indicates that man has a "sin nature"?
Without guilt (i.e. the "sin nature"), what will the pious use to threaten non believers?
sam, you don't recognize sin?
Saying you do not believe in hell does not change the fact that YOU are still going there.
Saying you believe in hell doesn't change the fact that it does not exist.
Speaking for god, are ya now d-bag?
all men who have four wifes will go to hell , their is not 70 virgins in haven
all men who have four wife will go to hell , their is not 70 virgins in haven
first and foremost– no debate or argument intended here– It is not God's plan that ANYONE SHALL PERISH, BUT THAT EVERYONE WILL HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE, per the Bible (which I wholeheartedly believe in) If one goes to hell, it because that person sent him/her own self there. I do believe heaven and hell are both very real places. God gave us free will to choose who we will serve, him or the devil. It is Gods will that everyone except him and live for him but if we do not we are endangering 'ourselves' to hell. Romans 5:8 God showed his great love by sending Christ to die for us yet while we were still sinners.And since we have been made right he will certainly save us from condemnation
first and foremost....purporting to speak for god shows incredible arrogance
god can forgive people without the accepting jesus as savior, right?
if that is correct, why does he not do it?
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.