No Hell = No Jesus

As long as I can remember  my mother has said, “As a Christian you have to believe in Hell but you don’t have to believe anyone is  there.”  This is her gracious understanding of an essential Christian doctrine.  Though she didn’t know it,  this understanding is a Christian “heresy” called Universalism, a heresy  that says all of us,  even non-Christians, will go to Heaven. And it was expressly against Catholic, and most Christian doctrine. But wasn’t she right about one thing:  Don’t you have to believe in Hell to be a Christian? This must be the case, if Universalism is a heresy.

Not long ago Rob Bell was  in the hot seat with many Evangelicals (and some Catholics)  because his recent book, “Love Wins”,  suggested that no one goes to Hell.  He set the conservative Christian bogs on fire and most of them essentially condemned Bell to hell for not believing in Hell.

The ensuing progressive  Christian defense of Bell was great.  Many Emerging Church and progressive Christian bloggers  busted the chops of people like the Three Johns ( Piper, MacArthur and Hagee) for accusing Bell of  Universalism . They rightly criticized the conservative Christian tendency to make Hell such a big part of their theology, to the point where this doctrine  obscures a lot of the Gospel message.  But, unfortunately, few of them go far enough.

Because in their defense of Bell they made it quite clear that they also believed in the doctrine of Hell, they just adapted it to make it more palatable.  Most seemed to accept the conventional orthodoxy  of a Final Judgment and the potential prospect of Hell (even with little or no scriptural support for it) coupled with the salvic solution of Jesus dying for our sins on the cross, as God’s blood sacrifice, to free us from eternal damnation.  Which, to me, flies in the face of what Jesus spends a lot of time telling us about God.  As I heard a pastor once say, God is either merciful or God is just, but God cannot be both.

I think one reason why so many Christians are unyielding about Hell, and why the progressives still can’t shake the doctrine off, is that, in reality,  Hell is the cornerstone of the Church, not Jesus.  Because without Hell, what is there for Jesus to do? What does he save us from?

No Hell = no Jesus. Or at least the Jesus that many Christians claim to believe in, have faith in.  Without Hell he loses his job description. He loses his purpose along with the primary meaning he may have for millions of Christians. So the idea that there is no Hell is just too damn frightening to consider.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

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  1. #1 by 1sttime0ffender on March 10, 2011 - 2:33 pm

    Thats a great post, I am putting Love Wins on my book wish list. Thanks!

  2. #2 by logiopath on March 11, 2011 - 7:27 pm

    My first few days at You Know Where were a living hell–really, especially with the glass door in my “classroom” unlocked during the day.

    But seriously, I think that if it all is real, that a loving God would not send his most honored creatures, if humans are indeed in His image, into the eternal flaming toilet.

    On the other hand, the Seventh Day Adventists doctrine of soul sleep and Annihilation seem inadequate (John R. W. Stott also believes in this doctrine).

    Honestly, I think some form of soul recycling makes more sense than hell–not in the sense of a second chance to attone for sins, but maybe for further learning.

    • #3 by Christian Beyer on March 12, 2011 - 8:52 am

      Annihilation is the most logical but reincarnation is appealing.Perhaps universalism, which offend so many, is the answer precisely because it seems so “unjust”. ‘Forgive your enemies should apply to God as well.

      Sent from my iPod

  3. #4 by logiopath on March 11, 2011 - 7:29 pm

    Plato believed in this idea of soul regeneration. I don’t like “reincarnation” per se, but I think we don’t really KNOW the ultimate outcome of our souls. I mean, the historic doctrine heaven in exchange for loyalty to Christ IS a promising and hopeful idea, but we don’t really know.

    • #5 by Christian Beyer on March 12, 2011 - 8:45 am

      Promising to a Christian, but according to the Bible (Matt. 25) they should avoid smugness (alas). They may have gotten it all wrong. Which, I believe they have ( guess I’m not really a Christian, huh?). Fortunately for them, there is no Hell.

      Sent from my iPod

  4. #6 by andy on May 9, 2011 - 2:56 pm

    Whoa, this was a pretty god article but a MAJOR break in the logical thought chain. No Hell=No Jesus? I’m afraid not.

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

    The word “hell” in the bible was translated from the original jewish word ” SHEOL ” which means “GRAVE”. In most of the bible the different translations have “grave” in for “sheol” but in about 14 or 15 spots they chose to use the word “hell” instead.

    Jesus was real for he is in historical census records as is his family, and yes the bible does not describe a “hell” but JESUS DID SAVE YOU IF YOU go to him. He DIED for our sins because the wages for sin is DEATH.

    It says throughout the bible all the way back to when Adam ate the apple and was told he would “surely die” not “surely burn in hell”. There will be a RAPTURE where ALL tHE DEAD will rise from the GRAVE (sheol) and GOD will bring eternal life to those who have gone through Jesus and all the rest will be cast into the lake of fire, including Satan and Death. They will be destroyed not tortured.

    People that go to “sheol” know NOTHING according to the bible “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going”…Ecclesiastes (9:5,10 That’s ALL people. good and bad. They know nothing, not torture, not consciousness. Sheol cannot be hell and grave at the same time. So you see, it is a GIFT because GOD loves you. You can die like an atheist’s wet dream or you can spend eternal life with the GOD who is offering it to you.

    • #7 by Christian Beyer on May 9, 2011 - 3:53 pm

      I think you misunderstood me, Andy. My point is that for the majority of Christians, who (mistakenly) believe in Hell, this is the reason that Jesus ever existed. Take away this (mis) understanding and, in their minds, there is no reason to believe in Jesus or his ministry.

      Though I believe in an an afterlife, I haven’t a clue as to what it might be. I trust in God so I trust it will be “good”. And although in some ways the fate of “annihilation” makes perfect sense for those who continue to turn away from God, there is no reason to believe that God does not, in the end, save everyone. Certainly the Jesus Way is the sure way towards God but I don’t think it is the only way. Nor do I think Jesus died for our sins but rather that he died because of our sin – selfishness and the sacrificing of others for our own gain, comfort, security and fears.

      • #8 by andy on May 10, 2011 - 12:25 am

        Well you can think what you think or you can believe the words in the bible. The bible doesn’t say everyone is saved. The bible says the ONLY way is through Jesus Christ who is the Son of GOD. If you don’t believe Jesus died as PAYMENT for our sin, then you must disregard a whole lot of verses from the bible.

        • #9 by Christian Beyer on May 10, 2011 - 12:42 am

          The Bible says a lot of things. I’ll betcha you don’t believe all of them yourself. As it is, the “words” were not the original words .

          Sent from my iPod

        • #10 by Christian Beyer on May 10, 2011 - 12:44 am

          Or you may believe in things that are not in the Bible. Like the Rapture.

          Sent from my iPod

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