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.
The world is getting ahead and we are the only force that can destroy it by belief sprouted centuries ago. I am a muslim but it's not that we are to be herd by Hell to do the right thing and we foresee rewards of honey and milk. We are more civilized humans. Ideas and belief of hell are making this world more volatile than peaceful place. We need to tame ourselves unless we will loose the most accessible planet to live for our upcoming race.
Mentally ill is mentally ill, whatever the flavor of their religious delusion.
As long a the insanity of organized religion exist, their will be a place called hell and it will be this planet.
OH, My ! ! !
HOW can one doubt HELL - We and others live in it RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW ! ! !
We, TOGETHER with the creatures, were created and then totally abandoned in this hole by the Creator ! !
WHY ? - Now THAT is the puzzle ! ! !
The only people who are stupid and naive not to believe in hell are those who do not believe in Allah. If you choose not to beleve in Allah, on your day of judgement you will find hell very true because you sined, did not believe and spoke bad of our prophet's. May Allah guide you to the correct path and forgive you for all your sins. Ameen.
You are obviously a paid-up member of the Comedy Club ! ! !
People are so dumb. This is news? The simple answer is NO There is no hell. And in case if the next stupid news story ask is there a heaven ill answer that also. NO. Can we get back to stuff that matters to us living people!
hell exsists and has a physical mainifestation on this plane of exsistance that can be interacted with by the living. eat some taco bell take out. wait about 2 hours. you'll have no problem locating hell's current geographic location. it will be in the region of your belly.
My only real problem with the "hell" line of thinking is that it is supposedly eternal. Now people can argue a lot of things, and I have children, so I understand punishment. But lets say my son disobeys me, do I punish him forever? No, primarily because I love my son, and that sentence would be far too harsh.
So lets really take this into context. There is accordingly to this line of thinking an eternal punishment for disobedience. For this reason alone I find conflict between the "loving god" and the "vengeful god". If god is in fact perfect why such a glaring disconnect? How can eternal punishment for a temporal sin be considered fair in any way? How can eternal pain and suffering be a just punishment for a temporary crime such as disobedience? In this way it is the same as if I looked at my child and said, "you have disobeyed me, now I shall torture you and feed you my wrath until the end of days". This is not just, nor fair, nor in any way loving. It is mean, spiteful, and in the end a mirror more of what is evil than good.
This is but one thing that pushed me into an agnostic view, and if my soul is lost than so be it...I will not kneel before anything that is so spiteful.
@ gregg, hell isn't so much because of disobedience. we all stumble and fall short of gods will.
it's because people fail to receive the grace of god. that's what the cross and resurection are all about.
we all sin and as the bible says : our flesh wars against us. but that's all covered when you
simply believe and accept the work of the cross. ie. the thief on the cross next to jesus.
he said " jesus , remember me when you go to your kingdom " , jesus said i tell you assuredly that
today you will be with me in heaven. "
god disciplines his children who are his , but it's failing to acknowledge your creator that seperates you from god.
gregg: to many people, translated, edited iron age hearsay is not relevant in the here and now. we cannot have any feelings (love, hate, fear, etc) toward beings in which we do not believe. is this difficult to understand?
It makes me both laugh and cry to see the ignorance in CNN. How can they even think of arguing with something written in the BIBLE? Get a life atheists. Heaven and hell is very very real..as said in the bible and you will have a hard..a very hard time in hell if you die an atheist. Find Christ and your path to heaven will be assured.
No one believes every word of the Bible because of it's contradictions, errors, and hypocrisy. Everyone just picks and chooses whatever they like and ignor the rest.
"How can they even think of arguing with something written in the BIBLE?"
Quite easily. And you believe all that nonsense just because it was written in a book that's over 2000 years old? Really? Why? Do to you believe everything you've read in every/any book just because it's written? What kind of ignorance thinks that way?
Get a life? Perhaps you should stop living yours by the iron age comic book.
Also, empty proxy threats are laughable.
Get off your knees
I believe our friends in Physics research will come to the conclusion that Hell is a suspended state of matter that we will not ever want to exist in. And a physical state that only exists contingent upon certain stipulations on the matter it is imposed upon.
The article does not accurately assess the differing views of hell in contemporary Christianity. Many Evangelicals and the Catholic Church do not share Driscoll's view that hell is a place of eternal conscious torment. Of the over hundred verses in the Bible that speak about hell, all but one are consistent with the concept of Annihilation (proportionate and temporal punishment followed by elimination into non-existence) . The one verse that does not is in Revelation, a book heavy in symbolism and allegory. To me, Annihilation is not only less scary but is also consistent with just and compassionate nature of God. To those who think that the world would be paradise when religion is banished from public life, the Soviets did just that and look what happened to them. In all the atheistic regimes that ever existed, personality cults and political ideologies simply replaced the place of traditional religion.
And also, people who could not accept Christ due to no fault of their own (eg. unevangelized peoples, the mentally disabled ,children) could still be accepted into heaven. There's a verse in Romans that talks about this but can't remember which one exactly.
Wrth reading and considering-As the old Jew once said-Believing in the after life is like paying for advertising-you don't know how much value you get from it-but it is better to have it-if it pays off- than not. Thanks Howard M.
" FEAR OF GOD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM " , proverbs 9:10
the most educated people in the world start there. including one of the wisest men ever . KING SOLOMON !!
Tell me that the most educated people in the world believe in talking serpents and unicorns.
The wisdom of Solomon was pretty good for his day, yet for all his abilities to solve problems, he was limited by the primitive knowledge of that period in history. He was not able to do any magic, was not able to see the future or gain knowledge beyond what his primitive resources could provide. Some people say they respect that sort of wisdom, but when such wisdom shows their religion to be nothing but a scam, they refuse to respect it.
@ observer , if you believe in god then it's not hard to imagine that the god who created the universe and the
animals ( noahs ark , ie. ) , and all that is , ect...; could easily open an animals mouth to speak. and yes
the bible speaks of god opening animals mouths to speak .
balaam the prophet was rebuked by his donkey. Numbers 22:1 – 22:35
if you don't believe in god , theres no proving it to you. only death will tell who's right.
- 1 Kings 11:2-3 “Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines.”
It's not hard for you to "imagine" talking animals and unicorns.
Again, MOST educated people would disagree.
@ oberver , while solomon was one of the wisest men ever, yes he was human. and while in the old testament
more than one wife was permissible, things easily get out of control. that's why in the new testament the
apostle paul said you should be the husband of but one wife, because times are increasingly evil. these people
are as falable as any one else. it doesn't lessen who they were or their abilities. sampson fell with delilah.
yet in the end he was empowered by the holy spirit and took 1,000's of philistines with him in death.
god uses us in all our imperfections to accomplish his work. when we are weak in ourselves then we are
strong in christ as the bible says. but first you have to believe. we live in a fallen world and our fleshly minds
rebel against gods word. but the spiritual man seeks gods wisdom through the holy spirit who guides people
into all truth. only he can open someones eyes. but they have to ask.
The wisest man thought that cutting a baby in half was a suitable solution to a dispute over maternity rights. Luckily today, we have the wisdom of science that provides things like DNA testing and genetic marker analysis. In all that great wisdom that god supposedly dumped on Solomon, why is there nothing in the Bible that actually confirms his great wisdom? In short, why is there nothing that he came up with that wasn't already available in that time, such as algebra?
So Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines, not because he was wise, but because God wanted him to be politically correct. Yep.
@ observer , solomon was permitted to take many wives back then. the prophet samuel warned israel that
when they clamoured for a king , that a king of flesh would take of the spoils of israel for themselves.
this came true. it wasn't gods will that a king of flesh rule initially, it was because the people wanted a
king they could see, not the annointing of the prophets.
as i said , you will never be satisfied in your soul that anything in the bible is true unless you ask
the holy spirit to open your eyes. the scales will fall off then. that's all i can really say to someone
if they don't believe and the bible seems contradictory to them. we can't accept it in our natural mind.
the holy spirit is the one who will guide you into all truth. first you have to believe by faith that
jesus is who he says he was and ask him to show you if it's true. he's faithful to those who
So God didn't want Solomon to display his wisdom by having one man and one woman marry as God supposedly wants. Instead, God wanted him to be politically correct. So wise king Solomon had HUNDREDS.
Need I say more?
Absolute garbage. Let me enlighten you, Pastor Driscoll. There is no empirical support for your worldview, and no reason to think it is any more accurate than the thousands of other mythologies mankind manufactured in seeking an understanding of the universe. To spread this nonsense about everlasting punishment for failure to accept such a cruel metaphysics; it is the lowest of causes I can manage to think of. A god that consigns the majority of humans to hell based on the culture and geo-religious region they are born is a curious god indeed. Stop claiming to be sure of something you cannot possibly be sure of, stop lying to children, and stop peddling your dogma to those who don't care. It speaks volumes of your character doing these things, and I am frankly embarrassed for you.
Nice. Ian, I give you a 9.7 on that round.
ian.....good job. i like it
maybe we all deserve hell.. So. I appreciate that hell seems impossibly cruel. If we think hell is to terrible, we perhaps are failing to consider how terrible we might be in the inperceivable spirit. Since hell is repeatedly stated to be a matching punishment. Incredible almost impossible to comprehend possiblity. But if the spirit world exists, why couldn't it be full of incredible extremes? But I think that's because we don't understand enternity and spirits. But people are three part beings Spirit, Soul, Body. What you and i perceive in each other daily is the Mind/Body. The spirit of a fallen human could be created eternal, but still endlessly vile and disgusting... a collection of only the most dark, evil, and vile. worthy of nothing but to be burned. When we look on each other, we don't see the Spirit. A human with a body on this earth is given a unique free will to change their spiritiual state. The body and time on earth affords a neatrualizing affect where the evil or good spirited appear roughly the same. Neither is forcefully overtaken by the drives of their nature and so can choose what they truly want to be for eternity. If we think hell is to terrible, we perhaps are failing to consider how terrible we might be in the inperceivable spirit. Since hell is repeatedly stated to be a matching punishment. Incredible almost impossible to comprehend possiblity. But if the spirit world exists, why couldn't it be full of incredible extremes?
yea man enlighten someone who, for one, will never see your comment and certainly doesn't give a rat's patoot about you.
Or, more simply, religion is all a fraud. We do understand "spirits" – they are a delusion. There is no proof of nor need to attribute to them anything beyond that.
I'm just saying. Everyone says it can't be true because it is too hard to imagine. I think, in the context, it is NOT very absurd or hard to imagine... in the context.. It doesn't automatically mean hell is unjust. Hell could still be very just.
So what happened to all those people who died before Jesus was born? Are they burning in hell?
Pretty much, yup. Along with all the unbaptized children and infants, and the billions of unborn infants god forces into miscarriage on a regular basis. All burning in eternal torment, forever and ever and ever.
Because he's a loving god.
Not to mention the tens if not hundreds of millions living the Americas before the Europeans came over and 'converted' them. Entire civilizations – their souls done medium well.
no adam to the flood were already judged when the flood came and destroyed them but they were looking for a promise the ones who were looking for the promise from the flood to the ressurection who had already gone on were brought forth when jesus arose. he went into the depths of hell and said here i am i am the promise you waited and hoped for. when he arose they came up with him and they are the 144,000 who are from the 12 tribes of israel who are sealed and under the throne awaiting the bride the church of jesus christ. when they are "raptured" out and jesus has returned to set up his kingdom those who are alive and remain will live in the millenial kingdom after that is the great white throne judgement the bride is not judged she was already made spotless. those who come thru tribulation and the kingdom era and the rest of the dead will then be judged by deeds and if your ame is written i the book of life.
This is a very good question......If u really want to know the answer, first ask it to a bishop or father of a church or check it in a Bible. Secondly, check it in Islam. I know u hate Islam but I can assure, Islam won't frustrate u. U'll meet the truth that u want. It will repel the lies from ur heart.
God Bless America.
"But death is not normal or natural—it’s an enemy and the consequence of sin."
How do you explain babies dying?
I didn't become a Christ follower to avoid hell. Heaven is an eternal benefit, but eternal life starts the minute you give your life over to Christ. People who just think they want to become a Christian to avoid hell aren't really Christians. That's not what Christianity is. It IS having a relationship with Jesus. No religion needed. Christ paid for your sins so we could have a relationship with God through Him. Yes God loves the whole world, but only those who follow Christ are "His children" Anything else out there is religion, people trying to reach God by what they do. Christianity is a relationship, Jesus already did it all, all we have to do is humble ourselves, acknowledge this, give our lives to Him and He will gives us an abundant life, meaningful, and purposeful. Whoever is sincerely searching,wanting to know THE truth, if they ask God, He will show them. He knows their heart. I've been following Jesus now for almost 40n years and it's the most incredible experiencing knowing God and seeing Him change my life and those I'm involved with. Jesus said, " I am the way, the truth, the life,and no none comes to the Father but by me." This is Jesus' claim. I believe it and live for it. All I know is that once I was blind, but now I see. Knowing Jesus and living for Him is the only real living there is. He loves you and wants to know you. He shows those, that sincerely seek Him,the truth. It's great knowing Jesus! Don't miss out!
"My hope and prayer is that you would become a Christian.
Have you confessed your sins to Jesus Christ, seeking forgiveness and salvation?"
Spot on with your scriptural interpretation of hell. Perfect. But lets make sure not to deprive anyone of their needed baptism as well, once they accept and confess Christ: Acts 2:38, Acts 2:41, Acts 8:12, Acts 8:13, Acts 8:38, Acts 9:18, Acts 10:46-48, Acts 16:14-16, etcetera, etcetera.
Y'all quit it and go get a Cokola. You know nothing. Just don't hurt other people. Otherwise, you are stupid arrogant droids.
jb: free people do not need salvation
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. ”For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
SATAN SPEAKING TO EVE :
" surely you will not die " AUTHOR : SATAN
JESUS SPEAKING OF SATAN :
" HE WAS A MURDERER AND A LIAR FROM THE BEGINNING " AUTHOR : JESUS CHRIST
You are certainly free to believe in talking serpents and unicorns, but a huge number of educated people don't.
" FEAR OF GOD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM " , proverbs 9:10
the most educated people in the world start there. including one of the wisest men ever . KING SOLOMON !!
Hell is to live in a world where religious bigots condemn, discriminate against and persecute those who believe differently than they do. Whoops, sorry – that is the world we live in.
"No civilization other than that which is Christian, is worth seeking or possessing." – Otto von Bismarck
"It is necessary for salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff." – Pope Boniface VII
“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” – Adolf Hitler
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.