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    December 23rd, 2011 @ 9:53 pm by admin

    Even though hell is largely associated with Christianity, images of hell have a firm grip on the broader public consciousness. A recent study has shown that over 80% of Americans believe in some form of afterlife, and 71% describe hell as either “a state of eternal separation from God’s presence” (39%) or “an actual place of torment and suffering where people’s souls go after death” (32%).

    So that’s what the pollsters think, but what do you think? Let us know by answering the poll below. But before you do, a few definitions are in order:

    Infernalism: The belief that hell is a place of eternal, conscious torment with no hope of escape. Either God sends you there or you choose to go there. You might believe the fires of hell are literal or metaphorical. You may also believe that God actively punishes people in hell or merely withdraws his presence from them.

    Conditional Immortality: The belief that only the redeemed will be granted eternal life. Everyone else will simply pass out of existence as a result of God withdrawing his life-giving presence, typically after the Day of Judgment and possibly after a period of punishment.

    Annihilationism: The belief that God actively destroys the wicked, usually after the Day of Judgment and possibly after a period of punishment.

    Universalism: The belief that all people will eventually be reconciled to God. Universalism comes in many forms. Many universalists believe in a form of hell but see it as temporary and rehabilitative. Christian universalists believe people will only be reconciled to God through Jesus. Other universalists believe all religions lead to God.

    What's your view on hell?

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leave a comment on this post (29 Comments)

  1. Well to be frank, I don’t much like polls like this for a subject like hell because my own beliefs don’t quite fit into the carefully labeled boxes. I went with universalism cause that’s the closest I could see that fits my beliefs. I believe in hell, I believe that there are some people who are in hell right this very second as they still live. I be3lieve that because I was one of those people. I believe that for some that hell state will continue and possibly even magnify for them after we leave here. I don’t think that death is the be all and end all of our destination. As one can travel between riches and poverty, or across geographic location here on earth so can souls traverse the chasm between ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ that is until hell and death are destroyed forever and God restores ALL things to what they were always intended to be. If that makes me a universalist than so be it.

  2. Initially, having a choice between annihilationism and conditional immortality seems odd. Aren’t they basically the same? But I guess there a difference in what God does, his role in annihilationism being “negative” and in conditional immortality “positive”. God’s role of the annihilationist hell is active, while it’s passive in conditional immortality. Something like that?

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  4. You’ve pretty much nailed it, Arni. Here’s a brief article that helps explain the difference: http://conditionalism.net/blog/2011/03/a-brief-word-on-terminology/

  5. Cheers!
    Also, thanks for calling it “infernalism”. Never heard the term before, but I might just start using it. Calling it “the traditional doctrine of Hell” is both clumsy and implicitly yields too much credibility to that position. Not that it doesn’t deserve credibility. Maybe it does. But not necessarily so.

  6. People who don’t believe in Hell should visit Regina Sk, in December.

  7. I agree with Mr. Wise’s comments. Universalism is a very negatively charged word in my conservative evangelical tradition and upbringing. So I cringe a little bit checking that box but I think it lines up the most with my beliefs. “I don’t know” was also tempting because at the end of the day, there isn’t much that’s more scientifically unprovable than what happens after we die. It’s amazing the power and weight that can be carried by such an abstract debate.

  8. I basically agree with Mike. Robert Farrar Capon, who is adamant that he is not a universalist, in that he holds to the possibility of a hell that people may not come out of, convinced me.

  9. I’m def. of the Universalist camp. Though I hold reservations, I’m convinced it makes the best defense of the scriptures as a progressive (revealed) whole. The idea that God, unlike the greek gods, is not a narccisist but rather loves his children as much as himself if not more, rings true. I agree we’re in hell and that hell in the future exists. But I can’t see how we can with certainty say that at some point God no longer reserves the right to have mercy on whom he pleases – Romans 9 seems it’s a declaration for all time and not just in a particular dispensation.

    • The ancient Vedic Scriptures describe 14 different categories of “hellish planets” where souls are punished as in a prison for reform, not for eternity. For those with no concept of time, a very long time beyond the scope of understanding of the ancient people who were basically simple village people without any great understanding of modern concepts of time, space and dimensions. There is a very detailed description of hell and the punishments meted out for specific crimes such as murder, destruction and theft etc. However my personal take on this is that there are options to get out. The Vedic scripture Srimad Bhagavatam 5th canto describes these hells and is available online . It is interesting to note that the Srimad Bhagavatam speaks of an all powerful single God, it also includes the “Greek & and Roman gods” such as Zeus who wield a thunderbolt, in this Vedic scripture his name is Indra wielding the same thunderbolt weapon. What is even more intersting is the story of the flooding of the world and the taking of animals on a boat to regenerate the worlds population, similar to Noah’ s ark. And the information that the final destruction of the world 170,000 years from now will be from fire. Another interesting thing mentioned is that the heavens are not eternal they will also be destroyed even humans can elevate themselves to become “gods.” through immense piety. These gods however are not all powerful like the Supreme God but are like His administrators of the universe, they live under different time factors like our 6 months is there one day and so on…Ultimatley however these are also within the sphere of destruction and recreation. Only the spiritual realm where God lives is eternal full of bliss, no anxiety and knowledge. Anyway it is a vast and interesting subject. Main focus to learn love of God and who He is. I am not sure if I fit into these categories or if the concept of hell being analyzed is only from a particular perspective but I voted “universalism” and I am at complete peace and there is no question of fear.

  10. I thought about voting for Universalism or “I don’t know”. Though I clicked the universalism button, I think that we will not know how it all works until the end. It’s a complicated subject that pushes people apart. I would go with Universalism over any of the other choices simply because it gives purpose to the penalty. In that way, I would say that perhaps people spend a period of time being refined and prepared for Glory. I guess that amount of time differs between people. I know that, even as a believer, I struggle with things (as Paul said “thorn in my flesh”) and I would hope that God would cleanse me of that before entering into Heaven. As for the length of time being eternal or not? I guess, in our human understanding, If I told you that you didn’t need to suffer eternally for your sins but only for 50 million years, would that make you feel better? As far as I’m concerned, the length of punishment is meaningless to our understanding of existing outside of earthly time. We can be as certain that a person suffers in hell for eternity as we can be as certain that, in that very same hell, there are clocks on the walls that tick down the time forever.

  11. It doesn’t really matter what you want to think or fabricate in your mind about hell. Hell is eternal seperation from the Lord God without any hope of reconciliation. Without any hope of somthing good to come that would be torture described by Gods word. I’m a fool for Christ, hell is real and eternal, God says so.

  12. Amen Steve! Ultimately everyone will know the truth about what hell is or isn’t. God is not swayed and dependant on what we believe. We need to be careful because in thinking we are wise, we can very quickly become fools.

  13. Ah, Steve: I don’t like to start into these conversations that much because, usually, there is someone that doesn’t want to converse, but instead, wants to stamp their foot on the topic like it’s going to shut everyone else up.

    If God said that Hell is eternal separation from Him and, at the same time, that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and that his love endures forever, then I think there is plenty of room for a discussion about something that is obviously not the easiest thing to understand.

    As far as I can see, the Bible talks a lot about nothing even existing outside of God. That Christ holds all things together. These few verses alone are worth exploring if you’re going to play the “God says so” card so quickly.

  14. Brett
    Genesis, God said and it was done, you wouldn’t be here if God did not say. After the judgement there’s a chasm that Jesus can’t cross. What’s wrong if there is no right, what’s a lie without truth, if there’s no hell what’s the use of heaven?

  15. You might want to read my comment again. The point I am trying to make is that God said all of the stuff I am talking about, too. I agree that God said stuff, and says stuff.

    We are wrong and Jesus is right, so that’s why he died for us.

    We have been lied too. Jesus is truth. That’s why he died for us.

    Hell is for Satan and his Angels. I don’t believe that he created that place specifically for his people to suffer for eternity. Sure, I would listen to the idea that people go there and maybe don’t want to repent so they stay there, but even then, Jesus still loves them, and therefore, there has to be at least a little hint of a chance of Mercy there in the end.

    I guess a good question would be that, if God’s love endures forever, then what does that love look like for someone who is eternally separated from God? Of course, if you disagree that God’s love endures for all people forever then I guess we see things very differently.

    Another thing I have a hard time wrapping my head around is the combination of Justice and Mercy. It’s a dynamic and mysterious thing, isn’t it?

  16. Steve,
    It seems you have a understanding of scripture that lines up with much of the western church, and that’s fine, but to ask a question like what’s the use of heaven if there is no hell reveals an error in your understanding of the narrative. I am no NT Wright nor could I even begin to hold a candle to his knowledge of New Testament Theology but NT has made the point that heaven and hell are not the be all and end all of the story. When Jesus tells the thief on the cross that today you will join me in paradise he is not speaking of this idea of heaven that prevails in much of today’s theology. Paradise here is speaking of a type of resting place, think of an inn. Eventually that place, which many call heaven and I am fine with that, and hell will pass away. There will be a new heaven and a new earth on which we will dwell. I’m hopeful that all will wish to dwell there but am open to the idea that there are some who would never accept grace. I am agnostic on this front though, as are we all. We simply don’t know and if it were truly so black and white then there would be no discussion.

  17. The literalist approach for me is a dead end. Saying God render mercy to people in the next age are brave assertions. God has mercy on home he wants AND WHEN HE WANTS.

    If God did cross that cavern in the age to come, would someone stand and call him a liar? I assume many would? Based on what info? On the same info that mankind did call him a liar and then we hung him on a cross for his blasphemy. If only we would understand the subtext of scripture.

  18. Sorry I meant “saying God CANNOT render mercy to people in the next age is a brave assertion.” – My editing sucks.

  19. Brett, who are you that I should take seriously your interpretation of what Jesus (God) said?
    Mike, what gives N.T.Wright the authority? Isn’t anybody’s interpretation as good as anybody else? If not, why not?

  20. My vote: “It doesn’t exist”
    At least how we know it today.
    An unending torment doesn’t exist, and the word “hell” is never found in the Bible. The way we have been taught traditionally isn’t found in scripture, there is no where where there is mention of a “forever tormenting fire of hell”…
    But, over 100 or more times, there is found the hope of restoration for all mankind. And if God says that through His prophets, Jesus, the apostles, etc… then hell cant be real, because He will have all to draw unto Him, and He will make ALL things new :) (Rev. 21:3-5, Isaiah 25, 1 Timothy 4:10, 1 Cor. 15:5)

  21. Benoit: Brett, who are you that I should take seriously your interpretation of what Jesus (God) said?

    Well, I am referring to scripture, which is what Steve was doing. I agree that it is very difficult to pin down the “truth” of every verse in the bible (if that’s what you are implying). I also agree that my interpretation should not be considered the right one. Who’s interpretation do you take seriously?

    I guess we could go around in circles and say “Benoit, who are you for me to seriously consider someone worth questioning whether to seriously consider my opinion of what God means when he says the things that he says?”

    My main goal with all of this; my friends, family, people on-line, is to at least agree to talk about the interpretations. The more that I think about it, the more I want to answer this poll with an “I don’t know what Hell looks like and I hope I never do.”

  22. I have come to believe that what I believe about hell- can’t save or condemn me. Scriptural references to hell can be interpreted in so many different ways, that it would be a nasty thing to tell people that their salvation depends on choosing the ‘right’ one.
    I was taught ‘turn or burn forever’ but prior to being exposed to that teaching I had already entered into a relationship with Christ and so I found that view incompatible with what I was experiencing in that relationship. I believe hell exists, (there’s evidence of hell right here and now- and also of heaven)but determining weather its forever,or not, who goes there and why etc… is not my focus. I think that would be unhealthy.
    Also, I’ve met plenty of people who became Christians because they were afraid of hell: Not a very solid reason to make a decision like that, and once they got tired of a fear-based faith, they left it all together.

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  24. For the record, the proponents of “conditional immortality” and “annihilationism” use these terms interchangeably, so splitting these two apart in the poll may tend to skew the results.

    • Thanks for the note. Funny thing is, when I don’t distinguish between them, I get heck from people who hold to conditional immortality. I do think there is a distinction. Edward Fudge probably articulates it best in “The Fire That Consumes.”

  25. There actually is a very good answer to this one. There can only be one solution, and that is that the non believers and false christians will die the second death, and thus cease to exist. If one reads about king Tyrus in Ezechiel 28:12-19, one ends up reading in the last verse:
    “All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.”

    It literally says that he shalt not be (exist) any more. So, there’s the answer, if king Tyrus isn’t destined for hell, then neither are any other sinner, that doesn’t choose God. This passage is also interpreted as talking about Lucifer, and his fall from grace. And if that is correct, and he is destined to oblivion, that makes my case even more strong. Because if the person who started this whole drama with sinning is not going to hell, then it will be very unfair, and unjust of God to send the rest of us to hell, and just kill off Satan, don’t you think??

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