“You REALLY Believe in HELL?! But WHY?” (Ten Reasons) (Reason 7) The Doctrine of CHRIST
Why in the world would someone believe in hell? And what exactly does it mean to “believe” in hell? These are a couple of the questions we want to answer in this ten-part series of posts. We’ve looked at REASON #1 — I got saved out of a fear of hell. We’ve also thought about REASON #2 – Hell makes sense. We’ve also considered REASON #3 — How does the doctrine of hell relate to the doctrine of God? We also touched on REASON #4 – How does the doctrine of eternal lostness relate to the doctrine of Man? We’ve also thought about REASON #5 – How does hell relate to the doctrine of Sin? We’ve also thought about REASON #6 — How does the doctrine of eternal hell relate to the doctrine of SALVATION (Soteriology)?
Let’s think about REASON #7 – How does the doctrine of hell relate to CHRISTOLOGY (the Person and work of the Lord Jesus)?
What does the doctrine of eternal lostness have to do with the Person of the Lord Jesus? The real question here is: What did HE teach? If He was indeed God the Son, then whatever He taught, we had better believe!
Here’s a challenge for you, my reader. Take a Bible you’re not afraid to mark up (preferably one of your own), and read through the Gospel of Matthew. Underline every reference to hell from the Lord Jesus. Here is what I found when I did this study:
The truth is that Jesus either misunderstood the eternal destiny of lost people (which would contradict His divinity) or He purposely warned people of a hell that doesn’t exist (which would compromise His truthfulness. When the Unitarian minister Theodore Parker once remarked: “I believe that Jesus Christ taught eternal punishment — I do not accept it on his authority!”, he was choosing to disagree with the very Son of God. (to be continued)
Tags: Christ, Christology, Gospel of Matthew, hell
February 19, 2020 at 2:24 pm
Stopped by the blog to see how the series is going 🙂
You and I both know that this is a Hermeneutically insensitive and irresponsible way to treat scripture! You can’t just list number of times the English word “hell” comes out of Jesus’ mouth and consider that proof of a particular sort of doctrine, and further, it’s not only a binary option (T-F) as you whether Jesus is giving us a metaphysical dogma or lying/being untruthful. He’s speaking emphatically and in metaphorical terms, which isn’t uncommon in the old or new testaments.
Dr. Larry Dixon
February 23, 2020 at 5:47 am
I want to make sure I’ve understood what you are saying in your comment. Are you saying that a simple reading of the gospel of Matthew, noticing what Jesus says about eternal lostness, is a “hermeneutically insensitive and irresponsible way to treat Scripture”?
As I summarized my understanding of what Jesus says in those six texts, which have I misunderstood?
I’m not sure I understand your comment about whether Jesus is . . . “lying/being untruthful”? Speaking emphatically and using metaphors isn’t lying, is it?
I see the use of metaphors when simple language isn’t sufficient. But metaphors always refer to some reality, right?
What do you make of the six references I cited from Jesus, Jacob? Are Jesus’ words (properly understood) authoritative for you?
August 13, 2020 at 4:46 pm
Jesus’ words are, properly understood, authoritative indeed! They are God’s words!
The post above is doing more than merely “noticing” what Jesus says about “eternal lostness.” To frame your reading that way begs the question of whether Jesus is in fact speaking about eternal lostness!
I don’t have time to respond at length to each verse, unfortunately, but just as an example, Matthew 22:13 occurs in a fictional parable and is hardly straightforwardly teaching any kind of doctrine of hell. Rather, the emphasis falls on becoming worthy to participate in the Kingdom of God, on my reading. In 25:46, as another brief example, there is significant debate on the meaning of aeon, and the way it’s being used there. I am sure you’re aware of that, but it’s relevant.
Metaphors do indeed refer to a reality, and in this case they refer to the painful (I might even say hellish) reality of pitting yourself, whether out of ignorance, delusion, or pride, against the God’s redemptive movement in history and in your own life.
Dr. Larry Dixon
August 16, 2020 at 8:19 am
Good morning, Jacob.
Thank you for reconnecting with me. You’re reminding me to finish reading Hart’s book (I’m almost done!) and to write a post on it.
Let me respond briefly to your comments.
1. Regarding Mt. 22:13 (“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’), you are certainly correct that the context is Jesus’ teaching by parables. Can any significant truth come through the medium of a parable? The “weeping and gnashing of teeth” expression is used elsewhere, as you know.
2. Regarding the debate about aeon in Mt. 25:46 (“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”): I’ve discussed this text with others, so I’m aware of some of the counter-arguments. How do you hermeneutically get around “eternal” meaning the same for both groups, Jacob?
3. Do you accept Hart’s contention that hell is really the painful position we put ourselves in by rejecting God, as opposed to a real place at a real time in the future?
I’m glad to re-engage on this topic, Jacob. But I am wondering what caused you to return to this subject? And, may I ask, are you presently engaged in a good local church? (Just asking).
August 16, 2020 at 3:25 pm
1. Yes, I do believe significant truths are conveyed in parables! I’m just not convinced that the metaphysics of hell is one of them.
2. I think it probably means the same thing for both groups in contexts where the same word is applied in similar fashion.
3. Yes I think that’s mostly right, although I don’t think its anything new or novel. Hart is hardly innovative in his theological positions.
I returned to the subject because I remembered that we had been going back and forth a bit and I’d forgotten to reply a while ago.
Yes I’m part of a good local church. As a matter of fact I just finished a 6-week course (over zoom) with my adult class on prayer, and my wife and I are going to be starting a youth program there in the coming weeks! Exciting times.
August 16, 2020 at 3:26 pm
Sorry, forgot to leave my name so it showed up as “anonymous”!
Dr. Larry Dixon
February 20, 2020 at 6:23 am
I’m going to take a couple of days to think about an appropriate response to your recent comment. Blessings. Larry
February 20, 2020 at 9:08 am
Sounds good 🙂
Gerry T. Neal
February 20, 2020 at 9:09 am
“The truth is that Jesus either misunderstood the eternal destiny of lost people (which would contradict His divinity) or He purposely warned people of a hell that doesn’t exist (which would compromise His truthfulness.”
While this is an excellent argument against absolute universalism, i.e., the assertion as positive truth that all beings will ultimately be reconciled to God, it is not so strong against potential universalism, i.e., the assertion of the universal reconciliation of all beings as a possibility. The reason this is so is because the purpose of Jesus’ warnings about hell needs to be taken into consideration. Did Jesus warn people about hell in order to provide them with the information that this will be some people’s eternal destiny? Or did he warn people about hell in order that they would repent of their sins and turn to Him in faith and so avoid that destiny? If the answer is the second – and all, I think, except the most rigid of Calvinists would assert it so to be, then to say that this allows for the possibility that this purpose shall not fail and that all will, so warned, avoid the fate warned of, is not so easily refuted by the mere fact of Jesus’ having given the warning, for it can then be argued that His warnings were true, but spoke of a reality contingent upon their being ignored and therefore cannot be said to be less true should this condition fail to materialize. Obviously we are speaking of an unlikely possibility going by what is observable of the state of the world. It would require a large majority of people having undergone last-minute, death-bed, conversions. However, it could be argued that Arminian theology virtually requires potential universalism. Calvinists would say that this shows how Arminianism is in error, but it could be countered that it is their position, which makes hell a necessity for some based on God’s will alone, that drives people into absolute universalism.