Who’s in Hell? Michigan Pastor’s Book Sparks Debate About Eternal Torment

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.
-John 14:6

I don’t know how much more cut and dried it can get. Regrettably, some people still don’t get it. It’s not surprising though. The apostles warned us about…the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

The pastor of a rural United Methodist church in North Carolina wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and critic of the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for billions of damned souls.

Two days later, Holtz was told complaints from church members prompted his dismissal from Marrow’s Chapel in Henderson.

“I think justice comes and judgment will happen, but I don’t think that means an eternity of torment,” Holtz said. “But I can understand why people in my church aren’t ready to leave that behind. It’s something I’m still grappling with myself.”

The debate over Bell’s new book “Love Wins” has quickly spread across the evangelical precincts of the Internet, in part because of an eye-catching promotional video posted on YouTube.

Bell, the pastor of the 10,000-member Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., lays out the premise of his book while the video cuts away to an artist’s hand mixing oil paints and pastels and applying them to a blank canvas.

He describes going to a Christian art show where one of the pieces featured a quote by Mohandas Gandhi. Someone attached a note saying: “Reality check: He’s in hell.”

“Gandhi’s in hell? He is? And someone knows this for sure?” Bell asks in the video.

In the book, Bell criticizes the belief that a select number of Christians will spend eternity in the bliss of heaven while everyone else is tormented forever in hell.

“This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear,” he writes in the book.

For many traditional Christians, though, Bell’s new book sounds a lot like the old theological position of universalism — a heresy for many churches, teaching that everyone, regardless of religious belief, will ultimately be saved by God. And that, they argue, dangerously misleads people about the reality of the Christian faith.

“I just felt like on every page he’s trying to say ‘It’s OK,'” said Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler at a forum last week on Bell’s book held at the Louisville institution. “And there’s a sense in which we desperately want to say that. But the question becomes, on what basis can we say that?”

Bell argues that hell has assumed an outsize importance in Christian teaching, considering the word itself only appears in the New Testament about 12 times, by his count.

“For a 1st-century Jewish rabbi, where you go when you die wasn’t the most pressing question,” Bell told The Associated Press. “The question was how can you enter into the shalom and peace of God right now, this day.”

Bell denies he’s a universalist, and his exact beliefs on what happens to people after death are hard to pin down, but he argues that such speculation distracts people from an urgent point. In his telling, hell is something freely chosen that already exists on earth, in everything from war to abusive relationships.

The near-relish with which some Christians stress the torments of hell, Bell argues, keep many believers needlessly afraid of a loving God, and repel potential Christians who might otherwise be curious about the faith’s teachings.

“The heart of the Christian story is that God is love,” he said. “But when you hear the word ‘Christian,’ you don’t necessarily think ‘Oh, sure, those are the people who don’t stop talking about God’s love.’ Some other things would come to mind.”

About the only thing everyone agrees on is that this is not a new debate in Christianity. It stretches to antiquity, when Christianity was a persecuted sect in the Roman Empire, and the third century theologian Origen developed a theory that contemporary critics charged would mean that everyone, even the devil himself, would ultimately be saved. Church leaders eventually condemned ideas they attributed to Origen, but he has had a lasting influence across the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions.

Those traditions often disagree, even internally, on what awaits souls after death. The Catholic Church, which has a formal process for identifying souls in heaven through canonization, pointedly refrains from saying that anyone is without a doubt in hell. Protestants reject the concept of purgatory, in which sins can be atoned for after death, but disagree on other questions. The lack of consensus is enabled partly by ambiguities in the Bible.

Evangelical opposition to Bell is exemplified in a succinct tweet from prominent evangelical pastor John Piper: “Farewell, Rob Bell.”

Page Brooks, a professor at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, thinks Bell errs in a conception of a loving God that leaves out the divine attributes of justice and holiness.

“It’s love, but it’s a just love,” Brooks said. “God is love, but you have to understand you’re a sinner and the only way to get around that is through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.”

Original Link.
See our article, “Falling Away” of the Church

I had a debate with a gentleman about this very subject. His contention went something like this:
“I will use my late Grandfather as a good example of the type of people you won’t see in heaven.

My ‘pa (as I will call him) was born in the late 1930’s, a recovering time for America as we were just seeing the end of the Depression. He was raised a strict Catholic, but being the intelligent man that he was, later on came to understand that the Bible was very faulted and that God was an evil, human creation.

During his lifetime that spanned over six and a half decades he spent a lot of it working hard, just like most people born of the depression era. He was one of the kindest men alive, a very caring and loving ‘pa. He spent countless years helping people rebuild houses, cars, furniture, all without asking for a single penny.

August 23, 2006: My grandfather suffered a massive stroke while working on a house in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was rushed to the local hospital where he was treated for his stroke. After two long nights, my ‘pa was announced brain dead.

A wonderful man will forever be remembered in the hearts of many for all the things he did. I will never forget the legacy of my grandfather, and I hope you, as a reader, will remember this story and hold it close to your heart.

That man I just described to you is burning in hell for eternity, according to God. How will heaven be for you knowing that a human being; that helped restore the lives of many Americans whom he had never met, is burning in hell? While you, sit back and coast through life, maybe helping a few people out here and there not doing a damn thing to restore the hopeless life of a fellow human being; get access to heaven. You get eternal peace, and this loving man gets to rot in Hell. How do you feel about this?”

To which I made this point:
“I can appreciate your sense of indignation with the appearance of God’s supposed “injustice”. Your 21st century social mores have been violated and you can’t bring yourself to understand how “good” works don’t save us from hell.
Good works are an important part of being a Christian. They are the outward manifestation of a Christian’s commitment to God.
Do only Christians do good things? Of course not. Your Grandfather was a prime example of a man with a kind and caring heart.
The Bible talks about “good works” sixteen times in the New Testament. They are most certainly necessary in a Christian’s life. But good works will not get a person to heaven.
You need to understand that we are incapable of totally understanding the mind of the Creator of the Universe. As such, concepts such as “Holiness” and “Righteousness”, are often lost on us, especially in a society that lives for “moral equivalence”. You may need to ask yourself this question, “how many ‘good works’ are enough?” Who decides this? You feel that your grandfather “deserves” a place in heaven because of his works. But where is the “criterion” for “good works = heaven” written? Would a fair and righteous God use this benchmark for determining salvation, but not tells us what is “enough” to make it? Of course not.
So in your world or equivalence, the Bible would need to say something like “One must do good works to get to heaven. It will necessary to build 100 houses for the poor, or to provide 500 meals for poor people, or to take care of 300 sick people until they are well, or…”
Can you see how absurd this would be? A God of absolutes is going to tell us EXACTLY how to achieve salvation; a place in heaven. And He did.
Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Wow, now that’s simple and it’s something EVERYONE can do.
Let me flip the coin on you. Let’s say God did publish a list of “things” we can do to get to heaven. Suppose I’m born with a disability that makes it impossible for me to do anything listed on the “things to do to get into heaven” list. Under your way of thinking, I’m doomed from the start. I can’t do “good works”. I’m not physically able.
But wait…I am capable of understanding the message of Salvation espoused by Jesus. I can accept Him. Even though I can’t do “good work”, God says He wants me anyway!!
I’m glad you’re not God. You would have condemned me to hell from the start, just because I can’t do any “good works”. You’re mean.
This is pure logic, my friend, and yours is flawed.
So instead of trying to be saved by some extent of “good works”, wouldn’t it just be easier for everyone to Accept Jesus’ Free Gift?? Of course it would.”

You may read the entire exchange here:
The Bible: In the Raw: Who will burn in Hell?

One Response to “Who’s in Hell? Michigan Pastor’s Book Sparks Debate About Eternal Torment”

  1. jeff says:

    ISIAIh 41 BRING forth your IDOLS did they PREACH to you see they can’t speak they can’t DO ANYTHING all they do is cause confusion. Jeremiah 10 they nail thier IDOL down like a scarecrow it can’t move cant speak can’t move must be carired these are nothing but the WORK of CON men. spalms 115 graven images have eyes but cant see have ears but cant hear have noses but cant smell and those that make them shall become like them. john 10 jesus christ sais his sheep hear his voice and another voice thy will not follow and if another person tries to preach to them they WILL FLEE from him. jeremiah 5 the priests bear rule on thier own authority what will you do when your judged my word is not inside them. Now here is the kicker john 5 son of man voice goes back in time mathew 16 jesus christ claims to be the son of man. ‎1 cor2 mind of CHRIST preached internally and john 16 sais the spirit of truth comes in the future. Ezekiel 13 lying prophets of ISRAEL my word is not inside them saying god sais god sais god sais wrote hoping mankind would CONFIRM thier WORDS. all of this is EASILY verifiable.

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