Justice is important, am I right? If you’re like me you’ve got some convictions about it. Disregarding for now where we should find our foundation for justice, I think it is time that I revisit the problem of hell. The hell I am speaking of is the hell that most Christians believe that the Bible teaches about. There are a few interesting takes on hell that can be found across the spectrum of Christianity. I’m going to briefly mention two primary views that are taught by many conservative Evangelicals.
1) The traditional view of hell. This is commonly viewed as the place of eternal conscious torment for the wicked.
2) The Annihilationist view of hell. In this view hell is not understood as an eternal holding place but nonetheless will involve torment and punishment until such a time that God decides to annihilate or erase the wicked forever.
Who is going to go to hell in the minds of those who hold to Biblical Inerrancy? In short, most unflinchingly (okay, sometimes flinchingly,) teach that anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior will be condemned. There is a ton of support for this found within the Gospels, especially the book of John. Much more is provided within the writings of Paul, 1,2, and 3 John, and the book of Revelation.
I don’t intend to get too specific here because what I first want to appeal to is not what these Christians think and believe about hell, I want to appeal to their personal sense of certainty about whether or not this God even exists? That’s right, I’m going straight for the gold here. I’m doing this because I want to hear honest answers from these people about whether they can speak about God from a position of viable certainty?
What this means is that we are wiping out ambiguity. Forget about how deeply connected these folks may feel toward the concept of God and Jesus. What do they really know right now with regard to the verifiable existence of God? Do they know what or who they neither see or hear from in any tangible way? If these men and women are predominantly approaching these claims on pure faith, and faith alone, then in my opinion they’ve got a pretty vast knowledge crisis on their hands.
You see, a failure to intersect claims about hell, God, souls, etc.., into our present reality is a failure to speak from a legitimate position of concern. Now, we all know that Christians are concerned about hell, but what I am highlighting here is that their concerns are presently unjustified and they exist only as conceptual ideas within the world. The problem with that is a vast amount of religious competition that intends to teach about different gods, different hells, different, well, everything! In terms of what many Christians honestly and admittedly do not know firsthand about their own beliefs, in a roundabout logical way, there is no reason to give any more credence to Christianity than any other faith-based religious claim.
The reason I make this case is because I want these Christians to understand their human standpoint. That is, what side their alleged knowledge about God actually stems from? If they have neither seen or heard from this God firsthand and they are ONLY trusting in the authority of others within their tradition, their predicament is such that knowledge and evidence is not on their side! They would do well to consider whether it is time to suspend judgement about whether there is actually a God on the other side of this equation?
It’s a lot to ask, but nonetheless relevant if this group of Christians is serious about upholding their set of truth claims? Faith truly is not enough to drill down upon the veracity and truth of a claim. Especially claims that are no longer testable or falsifiable in nature.
This is problem number one when talking about the existence of God and hell. Problem number two in my next post will involve an Atheistic criticism of whether the teaching of hell actually conveys a meaningful form of justice? Is it possible that this teaching is so flawed that this sense of cosmic justice is actually quite problematic in terms of reconciling human knowledge and human suffering within this paradigm? Stay tuned, as I have a few more important criticisms to wage against the Christian conception of ultimate justice.