Friday, November 21, 2008

Hellish Questions

Just because I am posting a new blog does not mean you, dear readers - whoever you may be, do not have an obligation or invitation (the latter is nicer I guess) to comment on the story I posted directly prior. I really want interaction, suggestions, critiques, reactions, complements, and insults. So suffice to say, if you haven't read it or commented please do if you have the time. Thanks Brenda for your reaction. I am awaiting the thoughts you are chewing on.

But let's move from creative writing to dull writing (or fiction to nonfiction if you prefer those terms). What all do we really know about hell and the eternal state of the wicked? I'm going to pull an Austin Surls here and just ask some questions instead of offering answers. But I'm going to be Austin Surls on steroids because I have more than one question to ask. Unlike Surls however, I'm going to give some of my own thoughts after I ask these questions, just not today. I do want to learn from yall (forgive my 4 years in Virginia). Let us begin a dialogue then my friends. Here are some questions (JUST QUESTIONS don't burn me for heresy... yet!) for us to discuss:

1) Is Hellfire literal or a metaphor?

1a) If the latter, does hell involve physical punishment? Or just separation from God?

2) If those entering hell are judged by their works (seen clearly in Rev. 20 and elsewhere) can we assume that there are different levels of hell?

2b) If we do assume that there are different levels of hell, how extreme are the differences between the worst person in hell and the 'best' person in hell? Or do these questions even make sense?

2c) If we are assuming different levels of hell, what are the factors that determine how bad your hell is? Works would seem obvious... Does how much 'light' you had on this earth factor in? Does much suffering experienced on the old earth lighten your suffering in hell at all? Or does the person who lived a life of luxury and the person who starved to death receive the same level of punishment?

3) Is God being hypocritical to tell us to love our enemies when he tortures His? Why or why not?

4) Is there any room in Scripture for Annihilationism (notice I am not asking you if you believe in Annihilationsism....)?

5) As I tried to remind yall about earlier, we are not looking forward to eternity in heaven but upon a new earth. That being remembered, how similar to the earth is Hell actually? We may not be able to say anything here really- just speculate.

6) For those with a very 'nice' view of God, here's a question for you, does God love those in Hell? If so, tell me what that even means. For those who say that God only loves the elect (or for some, perhaps, the Elect), does God only love some of His enemies whereas we are to love all of our enemies? Or are we only to love our e/Elect enemies?

7) (new 11/23/08) What about babies who have not yet received the gospel?... harder than you think....

8) Or does Scripture really not give us very many answers about Hell and we really just have to say we don't know. In other words, my questions are pointless and I'm wasting your precious time.

You may assume many things about me because of the questions I am asking. Don't. I'm just asking questions about a difficult issue. Unfortunately I think it is too often treated as a clearly defined cut and dry issue.

(If 8 questions are too many for you to handle just tackle 1 or 2)

The lake of fire, methinks, is murkier than we think....


theone withabeard said...

I was a little surprised when I did my doctrinal statement last Winter quarter for anthropology: I came to the section on individual eschatology and realized that our texts about non-believers going to hell are in parables, not propositional statements or epistles. While the lake of fire at the end has clear textual support, I can understand why there are evangelical murmurings in favor of "soul sleep" because of the higher interpretive uncertainty in parables. Before you label me as someone to "mark and avoid," let me say that this did not change my stated view on hell as punishment that comes after death. But I can see where others are coming from when they espouse this view...

Anonymous said...

I will only attempt 2c since these questions are daunting to me. The only thought I have is in relation to Matthew 16:27. Since the verse seems to indicate a system of rewards based on how we lived our lives, it may work in a similar fashion for hell so that people are faced with varying levels of whatever hell is.

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Tacoma, Washington, United States
"It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt." Fyodor Dostoevsky. I'm a Northwest Baptist Seminary graduate (MDiv) and current student (ThM). I plan on someday going to Africa and teach Bible and Theology at a Bible College or Seminary level. I hope to continue my studies and earn a PhD, either after I go to overseas for a few years or before. I'm a theological conservative, but I like to think outside of the box and challenge conventional thinking and consider myself a free thinker. I am currently serving in my fourth year as a Youth Pastor at Prairie Baptist Fellowship in Yelm Washington. My blogs will reflect my thoughts on both seminary and ministry life, though not (of course) exclusively. I enjoy literature and occasionally try my hand at writing stories and poems. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..." Paul