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.
First, I disagree with the implication in the question "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?". This is not a war of religion nor is it a crusade. I served in Iraq and not one time did I see a religious banner at the forefront of U.S. Forces. Mr. Schaeffer, you need to rethink your question/statement in that regard. That being said, it's difficult for me to believe that God would create someone for the express intent of worshipping him. If youforce love or through threat of eternal damnation demand it what's the point? As for MR Driscoll, Preachers preach the dogma of the religion to which they belong. They preach which they were taught. I' sick of hearing from Protestants that Catholics will burn in hell. Yes, I've heard it. In bot the Assembly of God and Church of God churches. Ridiculous. I've heard the same from Catholics about Protestants. I've also heard that the bible commands you not to drink. Nope, it doesn't. Not in there anywhere. As a matter of fact the bible does talk about drinking wine. Christ turning water to wine ring a bell? Man preaches the interpretation of the bible or the doctrine of the church as laid out by the Council of Nycaea which was convened by Emporer Constantine of the Holy Roman Empire. Books were selected based on council vote. The Catholic Bible was created. Protestants derived their Bible from the Catholic Bible. Both books selectively created by man. They are nothing more than guides of how to live your lf just like the parables contained therein. You will be judged on your personal relationship with god not yor adherence to dogma.
Im Hell bound and down...Yeee Haaaa.
REPENT and TURN TO JESUS CHRIST and you will be heaven bund
I am comforted in the thought that the 9-11 terrorists are roasting in hell, along with Adolph Hitler, etc.
not just them but anyone else that lives in sin is going to roast with them, unless they repent and change from their sinful way!!!
Frank, the book seller sayz, '........Why does our view of hell matter? Because believers in hell believe in revenge.......' You got that right, pal.......... 'Rom 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but [rather] give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance [is] mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.'.....................'Rev 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?'
I am a Christian and I disagree with both Schaeffer and Driscoll.
Contrary to what Schaeffer says, we don't believe that non-Christians are our enemies and that we want to kill them and send them to hell. Actually, we believe that God loves everyone, whether they believe in Jesus or not, and Jesus teaches us to love our enemies, and tell people about him. Jesus died for those who attacked him.
I also disagree with Driscoll, whose view is held by most evangelicals. First, Driscoll says that what determine whether you go to heaven or hell is whether you believe in Jesus. While this view is not entirely false, it is not complete. The point is that due to sin, we cannot enter heaven, and the only way to go to heaven is because Jesus died for us, not because of anything we do or anything we believe. Taking Driscoll's quote from Jesus: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. ... And these will go away into eternal punishment, " Jesus said this in the context that those who go to eternal punishment are the ones who do not help the poor. No mention about believing in Jesus there.
Yes, hell is real for those who choose to go to hell. Hell is absence of God, and God will not force you to go to heaven with him. Schaeffer is wrong because he denies the justice of God. He thinks that no matter what evil we have done, no punishment is required. Actually, God is BOTH Justice and Grace, and this is found in the cross.
We are all sinners until one day God calls us and invites us into his Kingdom, and when we accept that gift, we enter into a relationship of trust and obedience with God.
Get help! You have drank the kool-aid and are now suffering from its toxic effects.
Heaven is here on earth, so is hell. Our behavior dictates one or the other. We each have one and only one blessed life on this beautiful planet, after that, just a long nap with no dreams. Folks I am in heaven and cherish every minute of it.
what the hell?!?? This is a ridiculous article.
Above all, remember that you cannot be anyone’s judge.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor; Andrew R. MacAndrew; Konstantin Mochulsky (2003-11-04). Brothers Karamazov (p. 429). Bantam Classics. Kindle Edition.
Sorry for reposting but I think this is kind of relevant:
Mr Driscoll (author of the second article), contrary to what you may be believing about yourself , you are (currently) a deeply immoral, or unethical, person. Your lack of any kind of universal compassion or empathy is disturbing. People like you are, and have always been, a major force of evil in this world. Anyone who believes that eternal torture is an appropriate consequence or punishment for anything is either severely deluded or a monumentally vicious and hateful person.
My guess is that you have no idea what you are talking about when you speak of “eternity” because if you know what this term means and nonetheless demand that those who disagree with your world view should suffer and be tortured into all eternity, then you are a psychopath, i.e. insane or evil.
In fact, it would be an absolutely terrible injustice to condemn even someone like Adolf Hitler to an eternal hell. Why? Even if you say that Hitler is personally responsible for the suffering and death of several millions of innocent people, would you consider it to be justice that he be tortured for a million years for every life that he destroyed? How about a billion years of agony for every second of suffering of every single one of his victims? Do you consider that to be appropriate and in proportion?
Well, that is nothing compared to eternity. Even a billion times a billion years for every grain of sand on this planet, for every atom in the universe, is nothing compared to eternity. Do you seriously think that a punishment that is infinite times as cruel as the crime committed, is justice? That a supposedly good, compassionate and loving god would come up with such a vile, horrifically evil idea for the punishment of his “children” if they don’t do what he says?
Would you treat your children like that if they disobey you – because they don’t know better or for some reason didn’t get the chance to develop the kinds of qualities you want them to have? Would you lock your children in the basement and go down there and torture them day and night, without end, and watch them cry and scream and beg for mercy? Would you feel no compassion, no desire to stop their pain and fear? Would you continue torturing them for the next couple of decades until the day they die, and then, because this was not even close to what they really deserve, leave it to god to torment them for the rest of eternity? Because your child made a mistake, and this is justice and there are no second chances?
The idea of an eternal hell is arguably the worst, the most disgusting and evil idea human beings have ever come up with. The cruelty of medieval torture chambers, witch burning and the like is practically insignificant compared to the darkness, viciousness and malevolence of this disgraceful religious dogma.
If you really think the existence of an eternal hell would be justice, then you are a monster!
Hell isn't a belief or idea that Driscoll or any other human came up with. It is your choice to believe in the Bible or not...call it free will. Eternal is a word in the Bible...the fact you don't like or believe it is fair doesn't change that. Again, your choice to believe what that book says.
The human race does not accept its prophets and its prophets are slain, but men love their martyrs and honor those who have been slain.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor; Andrew R. MacAndrew; Konstantin Mochulsky (2003-11-04). Brothers Karamazov (p. 431). Bantam Classics. Kindle Edition.
If you are an adult and you believe in Hell than there is something very wrong with you. It is the 21st century and it is time to abandon Bronze Age thinking. It's time to stop with the magical thinking. Adults should not be killing eachother over magic and make-believe (I.e religion).
1st of all you have to be a total loser with no life 2 write something this awful. Who knows if there is a hell? Only if we (humans) can prove it & we can't. But if u believe in ghosts & spirits & that we have a soul then there probably is some seperation of good from evil in life after death. Still just a theory but a strong one since men have been writing about for 1000's of years. Ok so u have a valid theory anything else? I think I'll get a little drunk & watch football now.
God loves you so much that he will torture you for eternity if you tick him off...so, God is a vindictive maniac?
My idea of Hell is a place full of right-wing fundamentalist Christians who actually believe in that version of Hell. LOL
God Loves you so MUCH Claude that everyday you wake up God is giving a chance to turn to Him and your sinful lifestlye !!!
What "sinful lifestyle", j? The one you lead? Because you know less than nothing about anyone else here.
@ Tom Tom
Read the Bible Tom, and you will find out really quick what is sinful lifestlye, God can't make it any more clearer !!!!
Ahahhhahhhhaha! "Any more clearer"?
I was right. You failed 5th grade English and Language Arts.
Why are all of you thumpers illiterate boobs?
Whatever made you think you're not in Hell right now? Where else would the evil one himself show up for work every day wearing red shoes?
Pseudo-intellectuals interpreting a bible that was used to justify slavery in the south and to judge Galileo a heretic, and has numerous mistakes. What a waste of time.
God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Heaven is a reference to the spiritual realm.
The word ‘hell’ was translated in the Old Testament from the word ‘Sheol’ which comes from an Assyrian root meaning ‘chamber’. It was regarded as an underworld for the dead, often called the grave.
Two words are translated in the New Testament by ‘hell’, namely ‘Hades’ and ‘Gehenna’.
‘Hades’ is the Latin translation of ‘Sheol’ and means literally ‘the unseen world’ or the ‘grave’.
‘Gehenna’ is however the word that is most often used. Originally the valley of Hinnom (Ge-Hinnom) was the area where Molech and Tammuz were worshipped and eventually became the place for burning the local refuse and was regarded as a fit symbol of the destruction of wicked souls.
The words ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ are symbolic in nature as are many other words in the Bible.
At the return of Christ only those that are dead in Christ (referred to as asleep) will rise with him (1 Thess. 4:16). It is noteworthy that there are only few that are dead (asleep) in Christ (Matthew 7:14), as this whole world has been deceived (Rev. 12:9).
At the final judgment, all those whosover was not found written in the book of life will be cast out into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15).
The above mentioned article by Frank Schaeffer is a good example how distorted things have become in society with the media industry as the main culprit.
He is spiritually blind as the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:15).
In order for anyone to be able to understand the Word of God they must repent and turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18). Frank Schaeffer does not know what spirit he is off (Luke 9:55).
The Word of God is not to be interpreted (2 Peter 1:20) and it is the discerner of every thought and intent of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
The media does not provide accurate information on ‘Religion’ as it continues to ignore the truth and the history of deceptions (John 14:17). They only report how they want you to hear things. They have created the big chasm that now exists without offering any solutions.
For a better understanding of the role of the media we invite you to read the articles ‘Influence of the Media’ and ‘CNN Belief Blog – Sign of the Times’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
Consider the truth about Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, Judaism, Evangelicals and Christianity and all other religions and ask yourself the following question.
Are so-called Catholics, Muslims, Mormons, Israelites and Evangelicals and all those that call themselves ‘Christians’ followers of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God, or do they follow after an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Gal. 4:8)?
For a better understanding of the history of Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, Christianity, and Judaism and its spread throughout the world, we invite you to read the articles ‘The Mystery Babylon’, ‘Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You?’, ‘World History and Developments in the Middle East’ and ‘Clash of Civilizations’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
For a better understanding how and by whome this whole world has been deceived we invite you to read all the pages and articles of our website.
Seek, and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7)
Beat it, spam bot.
Same old spam I see. Paul was like the Joseph Smith of his day. Just about as credible.
Tom, Tom, the Pipers's Son
What is your message to the people of this world? Or are you just one of those that calls people a spammer when you do not like someone else's message?
Here is our message that yoy are unable to accept or understand (John 14:17).
But the natural man (like yourself) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:15).
In order for anyone to be able to understand the Word of God they must repent and turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan (whose spirit you are of) unto God (Acts 26:18).
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (1 Cor 2:15).
I don't care what your message is, you lying sack. You're spamming your website. Knock it off. You're no better than an Amway shill.
Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son
Matthew 5:11. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecte you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Oh and I see the ref to Revelations is just in another place. Of course we know that whoever wrote that mess was high as a kite. St John the Opium Addict, evidently.
poor Tom Tom he is so blinded on this earth, walking around blind folded!!!
How pathetic that the spam-bozo needs to use a sock-puppet. If you have to advertise your manure on a blog, AvdBozo, it isn't worth the band-width it uses. Get a clue-stick and smack yourself with it.
Hell is CNN's ratings share for the past few years so yeah, Hell is DEFINITELY REAL!
Religion was created by men so they could control other men by using fear, coercion, & persuasion, nothing more.
Stupid people..Hell is right here on earth,
the devil is on earth!!! that's why millions and millions will be going to hell, unless they repent of their sinful way and turn to God the maker of heaven and earth!!
For fifteen hundred years we were pestered by that notion of freedom, but in the end we succeeded in getting rid of it, and now we are rid of it for good. You don’t believe that we got rid of it, do You? You look at me so gently, and You do not even consider me worthy of Your anger? I want You to know, though, that on this very day men are convinced that they are freer than they have ever been, although they themselves brought us their freedom and put it meekly at our feet.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor; Andrew R. MacAndrew; Konstantin Mochulsky (2003-11-04). Brothers Karamazov (pp. 334-335). Bantam Classics. Kindle Edition.
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.