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.
there is no arguing either side because both are valid. People who believe have made a leap of faith. No explanation or proof is required. People who do not believe (like me) require that proof. The bible (a story) is not proof in itself, at least not for me. as a devout atheist I do not believe that humans have a soul, so there are no consequences after death as there is nothing after death. That makes the point of heaven or hell moot. I have to wonder how many wars over the centuries would not have been fought if people did not demand that others believe as they believe. And I also firmly believe that people who do not believe in god are just as moral as those that do.
Once you have the idea of hell you will never abandon that idea. Even during the times I'm not sure if I believe in God, all I have to do is ask myself am I still scared of hell. And I am.
I understand that there were 3 words in the old testament not all equal to "hell" and that there was association of these different words with the Roman or Greek ideas or myths of Hell. Somehow this lumping together and mythologically connected idea made its way for over a thousand years into the idea of a LOVING God set up to torture the helpless souls who just don't realize how much God loves them, likes them - whatever the bond ideally is.. And Jesus is watching over the torture? For what reason? I thought no one gets out. I guess its good that America is land of the free and free religious thought so we can feel somewhat free to get scared away from hell, or drawn by love into heaven. The bigger question is: what's the point of heaven or hell? (AND THIS VERY LIFE OF about 25,000 days) What are we going to be skiing in heaven with God? Are there warm showers after a exercising some strange biological desire with a collection of 72 virgin maidens? How do these maidens get to heaven? Are they tossed out after the one climax? If Jesus is overseeing hell, Then how can we have time with him in heaven? Are the tee times pre-arranged. Can pizza be purchased that is nice and warm, but without risk of burning by cheese? How really can we benevolently deal with not having a loved one near who did not make it into heaven? After a 1000 years and several hundrend golf games with God or Jesus, is there any chance that they would soften up and let in someone from hell who absconded with a cookie from the cookie jar and then fibbed about it – cause they knew they would be grounded for it? But for these commandment violations would they then actually be in heaven eating plenty of the same type cookies? Is it true that Jesus loves the heavenly cookie eater more? Or is it just the fact that the heavenly cookie eater acknowledges or turned to Jesus? Any chance that God will just relax a little bit and stop hell? OK NOW we are talking cause hell seems either WAY excessive or else the ORIGINAL mistranslations as to it's existence seems HIGHLY LIKELY, if in deed God is loving and forgiving, in a way that we generally notice in nature. Be strong and no that you are soul and you exist (and will continue to exist) casue GOD LIKES you and even LOVES you, and no little kids need cry that they might not see Daddy or Mommy anymore if one dies. I other words God is not mean buttocks orifice OTAY? And let's not be mean as to ultimate theological ideas, or we will miss out on some good lovely times during these 25,000 to 35,000 days we are given. -- Mike Papps (VinNie Mpsuj on Facebook)
We don't actually know what is in the universe next door..what if it's hell? It could be anything.
Yes the "truth is the truth", and the truth is a Loving God does not torment people in a Fiery Hell.
When the israelites practiced child sacrifices as in burnt them alive. God condemned them. Try reading Jerimiah 7:31: "They [apostate Judeans] have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, in order to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, a thing that I had not commanded and that had not come up into my [God] heart." It is unthinkable for God to burn people alive.
You disgrace God in this teaching of Hell Fire.
hell exists in only one place: between the ears of delusional people who believe in it.
those of you who "believe" should be ashamed to be so stupid in the 21st century.
grow up and evolve.
But the question remains why does it exist between the ears of delusional people. Of all the things for people to hallucinate about why consistantly that thing?. Furthermore how much of madness might merrit a second glance. There are things we know we dont know and things we dont know we dont know and never eve thought to ask.
This is my experience... Thank you.
MY personal testimony.
A thought to consider without an ego response
I Accepted Jesus christ as my lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
The world denounces truth....
Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.
Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.
The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.
Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.
We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .
Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
See the truth...
do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..
Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .
Trancsend the temporal world.
Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .
Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.
Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.
Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....
Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.
You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.
Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.
I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .
Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?
Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.
once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it
You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus
"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved
Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
The, looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
“How many anvils have you had,” said I,
“To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
“Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
“The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,
For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.
Hell is real. If you dissagree well i'm sorry. Read your bible it gives out the truth
Oh, no kidding? Wow, that was a very convincing argument Tristan. I never thought the Bible was true before, but when you said it "gives out truth", that totally changed my mind! Thanks for your worthwhile contribution to this discussion!
Okay Stutz let me add to it then..why is there a Bible? Why would something like that even exist in the first place? And what about those on line posting occultists and astral travelers who swear they've seen something "hell-ish"?? I dont know the answers to those questions...I'd like too.
The idea of an eternal hellfire doesn't bother me at, but what worries me is eternity in heaven. Do Christians have any idea of what they will be doing for all eternity in heaven? Is there baseball, golf or all the other music, opera, sports, television, internet, bars,cruise ships, iphones, xboxes, etc. in heaven, for these are the things that help us to past time instead of being bored to death doing nothing. It seems to me that hell is a better place to be atleast there is no time to be bored as we will be busy hollering and screaming for all eternity.
Unfortunately, the existence of Hell does not depend on anyone's belief in it. God wants everyone in Heaven with him but if you choose to live apart from him, you choose to do so eternally. God's infinite mercy is to forgive all those who want to be forgiven and ask. He is not going to force anyone to live the way he taught us to live. That is what the ultimate loving Father does. He gives us free will. The will to choose him or choose something else to love.
Unfortunately, the non-existence of Hell is unaffected by the billions of deluded people who still believe in ancient mythologies.
"As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth. "
Really! How do you know it is the truth? Tasting one apple among twenty and declaring it to be the sweetest is foolish, muchless claming it to be the truth.
And when it comes to hell, you don't have to wait to die to experience it. It is right before our eyes every second of the day. Every act of pain (diseases) and suffering (boredom), weeping and wailling, man-made or the effect of natural disaster, is hell. If you are not there yet, don't get too anxious, it will come, unless you can create the desire to avoid it by seeking the correct knowledge and putting it into practice.
I believe that we can't deny of an existance of hell,because of God saids about it in the Bible, but we need to try to not always focus on stuff like that.
You may need a better translation of the Bible. Hell is not what you think. Some translations translate the word Gehenna (Greek for eternal death) and also the common grave for mankind (where we all go) into the word Hell. So that is where the confusion is. I suggest the New Worls Translation as it renders the word for grave consistantly and using Gehenna when it was used in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
The teaching of a "Hell Fire" is inconsistant with a loving God. Would you torment your child with eternal fire for a mistake? I don't think so, and niether would God. When someone dies, they are simply dead. Read Ecclesiastes 9:10, it uses a Hebrew word for grave "Sheol", this is the common grave of mankind.
Ann, Paul is telling you the truth, there is no burning Hell the word only means the common grave of mankind & Paul thanks for the info for all eyes to read keep up the good work brother...Sheryl J.W.
Hi sheryl, Nice of you to omment. I just hope there are people reading this info will see the ring of truth in God's Word. I keep an eye on some of these blogs, some are just not wrth answering, but occassionally you see one like Anne who needs to know the truth and break free from the false teachings that bind so many in fear. Keep up your hard work. JW
Hey there. Ann just wanted to tell you I believe and know that your right. Hell is a very real and evil place. Obviously because reading through revelations alone it shows it just so well. I'm sure you know this I just want others to see that Hell is real, and if you don't believe in hell and enteral suffering rather than just death, then why believe in Jesus? I'm sure some people can come back with an argument against me, but the truth is the truth. God Bless You.
Has anyone got a tally of the vote so far? Is Hell winning or losing? Might be something important to know!
'Should we abandon hell?" Well, hell isn't going anywhere, but if you want to walk around more comfortable in your own delusions than yes, perhaps you should stop thinking about it. Good luck with that.
First of all this old money grubbing preacher is a liar. the OT does teach of everlasting destruction and judgment. Second the Old testament is not the complete revelation of God. Jesus was a hellfire and brimstone preacher.
HELL IS A PLACE BEFORE THE SECOND DEATH ; HELL YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE GOING TO DIE BUT YOU DO NOT KNOW WHEN = THIS IS HELL :
Sin Will Not Rise Again
God promises that sin will never rise again. His people will be filled with perfect peace, love, joy, and contentment. Their lives of complete happiness will be far more glorious and thrilling than mere words could ever describe. The real tragedy of hell is in missing heaven. A person who fails to enter this magnificent kingdom has made the saddest choice of a lifetime.
17. I am thankful to learn that God does not punish the wicked throughout eternity in hellfire.
16. What are God's post-hell plans for the earth and His people?
"He will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time." Nahum 1:9. "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." Isaiah 65:17. "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain." Revelation 21:3, 4.
Answer: After hellfire goes out, God will create a new earth and restore it to His peoplewith all the beauties and glories of Eden before sin entered. The horrors of sin and the past will be forgotten. Pain, death, tragedy, woe, tears, sickness, disappointment, sorrow, and all sin will be banished forever.
15. Isn't the work of destroying sinners foreign to God's nature?
"As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?" Ezekiel 33:11. "For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." Luke 9:56. "For the Lord shall rise up ... that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act." Isaiah 28:21.
Answer: Yes, the work of God has always been to save rather than destroy. The work of destroying the wicked in hellfire is so foreign to God's nature that the Bible calls it His "strange act." God's great heart will ache at the destruction of the wicked. Oh, how diligently He works to save every soul! But if one spurns His love and clings to sin, God will have no choice but to destroy the sinner with his sin when He rids the universe of that horrible, malignant growth called "sin" in the fires of the last day.
What's he waiting for? He's omnipotent. He could wipe out all sin in an instant WITHOUT sending any souls to eternal torment, just by fiat.
I think we need to redefine just what the nature of hell really is. Do we experience hell after death or right here in the world of the living. Every day I see people who are in hell in my opinion! They're pain is real, they're suffering is real, Fear a daily Factor of life! Why can't the hell they're living every minute of they're life's be the real hell! After all that's the only Hell, that as a group mankind can do any thing about!
Eternal Hell a Man-made Theory
The "eternal hell of torment" theory originated not from the Bible, but from misguided people who were (perhaps inadvertently) led of the devil. And, incidentally, no one will be in heaven because he feared hell. People are saved because they love and obey Christ.
Eternal Hell Would Perpetuate Sin
An eternal hell of torment would perpetuate sin and make its eradication impossible. An eternal hell of torment is not part of God's great plan at all. Such a horrible theory is slander against the holy name of a loving God. The devil delights to see our loving Creator pictured as such a monstrous tyrant, and he alone can benefit from such teachings.
14. What is God's real purpose in hellfire?
"Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Matthew 25:41. "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:15. "For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be." "The enemies of the Lord ... shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away." Psalms 37:10, 20.
Answer: God's purpose is that hell will destroy the devil and all sin and sinners and make the world safe for eternity. One sinner, if left on this planet, would be a deadly virus forever threatening the universe. It is God's plan to isolate sin and blot it out of existence for all time.
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.