Allowing the Questions

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For most of us who have come to the firm conclusion that God, like any loving parent, would never destroy or punish most of His own children forever, there is somewhat of a similar “formula” that we have gone through to arrive at this place. I have seen this formula emerge by the literally hundreds of people I have interviewed from around the globe about their journey to a fuller and truer understanding of the character of their loving heavenly Father. It goes something like this (not necessarily in any order)…

There is usually a level dissatisfaction with the Institutional Church. The reasons vary, but they all have common threads. Here are a few: a sense of disconnectedness—even for those in ministry; inability to be real or honest about struggles; hypocrisy of leadership; power struggles for authority (usually not in the best interest of others); irrelevance of message and church atmosphere to the world; lack of love or ability to love unconditionally; the realization that this supposed “all-powerful gospel” is not working in the lives of most individuals.

There is a sudden noticing or realization of inconsistencies and even contradictions in the Bible—especially between popular Bible versions. Like the fact that KJV uses the word hell over 50 times whereas the NAS only uses it 13 times. Like the fact that KJV uses hell over 30 times in the Old Testament, and the NAS doesn’t even feature the word hell in the OT. Like the fact that the Young’s Literal Bible doesn’t have any references to hell in the Old or New Testament.

studylight|http://studylight.org/desk/?l=en&query=hell§ion=0&translation=ylt&oq=matt%25206%3A10&new=1&sr=1&nb=mt&ng=6&ncc=6

Uh wait! Isn’t there a line in every church statement of faith that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God? Which Bible? Why the inconsistencies between them if the Bible is inerrant?

“Oh,” says the pastor or ministry leader when questioned about this and other difficult unreasonable concepts, “God’s ways are above our ways and we just have to take by faith that we won’t understand everything now. There has to be a good explanation for these things and we will just have to wait for heaven to understand.”

After that, the disillusioned or frustrated person usually gets online and begins researching their questions, since they aren’t getting straight answers from their pastor or seminary-trained teachers, and they begin discovering sensical, Scriptural articles, books, and websites that turn their theological world on its head—all with FACTS from both history and Scriptures that they can verify for themselves. Suddenly the questions begin flooding in. I hope you will think about these as you pursue a greater and truer understanding of the character and plan of God for ALL His precious, beloved children.

WHY doesn’t the apostle Paul ever mention hell when he is the one chosen to represent the gospel to the Gentiles—those who did not have a history with God?

WHY does the gospel, though mentioned over one hundred times, never once mention hell or punishment? Why is it not “the good news or else” like presented by modern Christianity?

WHY is the good news announced by the angel at Christ’s birth, “good news for all the people,” if most people will not benefit from it? Why did Jesus Himself say, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, WILL DRAW ALL MEN TO MYSELF” (John 12:32)?

DOES it ever bother you that you may be one of only 2% of people for all time that “makes it out alive,” primarily due to the country and family you were born into?

DOES Satan/evil win and God lose the battle for most of His own creation? (Rom. 8:19-21; Col. 1:15-20; Acts 3:21)

CAN love ultimately fail for anyone? (1 Cor. 13:8)

WHY did Jesus hide truth from the crowds if He cared about their eternity? (Matthew 13:11, 34; Luke 8:10)

WHY would God purposely blind people if it ultimately meant they would be sent to hell for eternity? (Exodus 4:11; John 12:39–40)

CAN death truly be done away with if billions of people are “spiritually dead” forever? (Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:26; Revelation 20:14)

WHO are the “all men” distinguished from “especially believers” in Galatians 6:10 and 1 Timothy 4:10 that God is the Savior of?

CAN you (parents) say that God truly loves His children more than you love your children if He gives up on most of them and tortures them forever? Would (or could) any loving parent do that?

WHY did God say it NEVER ENTERED HIS MIND to command people to throw their babies into fire, like the Israelites were doing to the god, Molech, if He intends to do it to His own children (Jer. 32:35)?

IF you really believe in a literal hell, a place of unending conscious torment, why are you not out winning all your lost friends and relatives to Christ 24/7? Why are you going about life as usual shopping, traveling, entertaining, and enjoying the good life, knowing that people are one step from eternal fire?

DID you realize that God states it is His will that all are saved, and that WHAT GOD WANTS, GOD GETS! (Deut. 32:39; Job 23:13; Job 42:2; Isaiah 14:24, 26-27; Matt. 6:10)

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, “My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure”… I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance” (Is. 46:10; 45:23).

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  • Sam

    WHY does it matter to you what Christians think? Why does it matter what anyone thinks or believes if this is just a dress rehearsal and it's a wash at the end. Evangelical universalism is a bit of an oxymoron, IMO.

    • Evangelical universalism being an oxymoron is an excellent point, Sam. Because of the internet, people are now easily able to seek out answers without the middle man (the church, pastors, etc.) in the privacy & safety of their own home (I say 'safety' b/c at home, one is free from condemnation for honest question-asking). They can compare answers to scripture & to what their conscience tells them, and then decide for themselves (with the Spirit's guidance) what is truth. And if one believes that God will eventually draw all men through Christ, it's not so much about evangelizing in the traditional sense (standing on street corners, tallying up filled seat numbers at churches, etc.), as it is about having a place (website, blog, book) where people can gather the information they are seeking.

      • Sam

        Your point is well taken. But there's certainly a community aspect to Christianity that challenges our views and holds us accountable — faith is not and should not be solely individual. We all have limited mental capabilities and are sinful creatures . So it's not necessarily guaranteed that individual study will always lead to absolute truth (Heaven knows that there are passionate atheists as well as passionate evangelicals — both convinced they are 100% right).

    • Damian

      Hey Sam, because knowing God in this life will mean a life without the bondage of sin weighing us down. Because God granting us His Spirit through Christ gives us common sense and a peace that helps all of us know His will from His looking glass. Knowing God through His truth and not mans is entering His rest. When this is acomplished we whole heartly care what people think, and pray that that they come to the understanding of Gods truth. Knowing God in this life is charactor building so we can be one of the first fruits in the 1000 year reign of Christ.

      • Sam

        But if that's the case, why wouldn't God reveal himself to everyone now? If we end up in the same place — why do some experience a miserable life here and others do not? Doesn't seem to make sense to me — "the problem of evil" still seems to apply to universalism.

        • Sam, "the problem of evil" is the hardest thing to wrap one's mind around. But I think the deeper you go into study, the more you will learn about God's overarching plan. I also think that if anyone has ever gone through something which at first seemed evil, but then, upon looking back, could clearly see that it was an experience that refined them for the better, and drew them closer to God, then those are the people who might be better able to grasp the concept of "evil" as being relative.

          • Sam

            I just don't agree I guess. If we don't have free will and this is all basically a dress rehearsal for heaven, why have so much rape, pain, torture, and death? It simply isn't compatible with God's loving character. The only solution is to acknowledge that God is not evil but that humans are.

            I doubt any of the victims of John Wayne Gacy were "refined for the better" before they died in his basement.

          • Is your assumption that death is the end of the story for the Gacy victims?

            We're definitely on two different wavelengths here, though (I don't believe in free will or that tormenting someone forever is "just," no matter what they did in their lifetime on earth), so no wonder we don't agree.

          • Sarah

            The Bible plainly states that God creates evil (Isaiah 45:6-7)

          • jferwerd

            Sarah, I have yet to have ONE person even address that verse (and several others that state the same) when defending their position that God can't possibly create evil. I think in the past I would have at least stopped to consider that, "well, hey, it says it right there. Now what?" To be honest, now that I understand the fuller picture, I can't imagine going through life thinking that God only allows evil but that, in the end, he has to submit to its power because of "free will." What a terrifying thought that a creator would make his own creation fallen, broken, and blind, and then give them that much power over their destiny or the destiny of others!

          • Sam

            Well, let's do some fun Hebrew text analysis! A quick scan of different versions reveals that only some use the word evil, while others use the word disaster or darkness. And some don't use the verb create! So, based on the logic you've laid out, we have no reason to trust that this verse is true — it's probably just a deliberately distorted text ;)

            In all seriousness, I think it's a bit silly to use verbatim quotes from a single Bible version without context when this is exactly what you accuse evangelicals of doing. Seems like you're cherry picking to me.

        • Damian

          Sam, Christ died to reconcil us to His Father, this means we all can have a relationship with Him. If we know that Christ is the Son of God it is because Our Father opened our mind to know that. To find the answers to all our questions we have to bring them to Him. That is what I finally realized after years of struggling. He does open our minds, and he gives all he has to those who are willing to let go and trust His understanding. Christ is our High Priest and he will not let us down.

          • Confused

            Danian, I appreciate that you feel you've discovered something wonderful but your reply does imply that Sam hasn't been bringing his questions to the Father which seems a bit presumptuous to me on your part. From his posts, Sam clearly has faith, has apparently read Julie's book and yet is coming to a different conclusion than you have. I'm glad you were able to stop struggling…and I understand that by faith you believe that what you believe is correct…but you're apparently making an assumption of how serious Sam is in his searching…or so it seems to me. :) I'd agree with your last sentence…I just don't agree with where you ended up. :)

          • Confused

            And rereading my post I realize that I thought your reply implied that Sam wasn't seeking but that may not have been your intent. If you didn't mean to imply that Sam would find truth if he only brought the answers to God rather than not doing so, then I apologize.

  • These are good, thought-provoking questions that I think any self-respecting, thinking person would ask and seek answers to. Thanks for sharing, sister.

    • jferwerd

      You are welcome Jimmy! I realize it is a process when you've been thinking one way your whole life. I think a few years ago I might have feared or scoffed if someone suggested some of the things I now believe to be truth.

  • redhotmagma

    Hey Sam, is the only reason to follow Christ so that you won't go to hell?

    • Sam

      Of course not. But my point was that most of Julie's posts seem directed towards *converting* orthodox evangelicals towards universal reconciliation. I guess I don't see why this should be the aim — shouldn't you be focused more on convincing non-Christians? Presumably evangelicals already have a relationship with Christ (whether you believe their views on hell are correct or not).

      From experience, it seems that universalists are the people most obsessed with hell =). As for myself, hell (or the dramatic "red hot magma") isn't a central component of my thoughts. I'm content with acknowledging that humans are sinful and that God is good. And I trust that his judgments will be good.

      • Steve

        Hi Sam, I won't try to answer for Julie or Barb but I'll just add that the reason that universalists are so focused on hell is because of the damage that it does to the character of God. In our eyes it's a complete lie and those who are perpetuating the lie are the mainstream Christians and Evangelicals. So, it's only natural to focus energy on combating that lie. It's great to hear that "hell" is not a central part of your Christianity but unfortunately it's a huge part of mainstream Christianity and is in just about every church statement of faith in one form or another. If you don't think at hell is a big part of mainstream Christianity, then why did Evangelicals come down so hard on Rob Bell for suggesting that God's love was more powerful and inclusive than what the modern church teaches? It's because they hold it very near and dear. The sad thing is that very few hell proponents really know what the evangelical/christian universality view is really about. They make all kinds of assumptions that are not true. Very few people who criticize Julie's book have actually read it or can accurately articulate what her viewpoints are.

        • Sam

          I've read Julie's book. But I still believe in hell. The problem with eliminating hell is precisely because it does 'damage to the character of God.' If there is no hell, then it implies that free will doesn't really exist. And if free will doesn't exist, God is responsible for evil. I'm not willing to associate the Holocaust with God's will in order to avoid the possibility that our choices do in fact have consequences.

          When I state that hell is not central to my thoughts, it's because I'm willing to trust God entirely on this. I think it's a waste of time for us to calculate who and who will not be in hell — only God has the power to judge and only he knows a man's heart. And I think his decisions will be entirely consistent with his character — which as you mention is entirely good.

          • jferwerd

            Sam, I find that rationale full of holes. You believe in free will, yet you don't feel that you have a particular responsibility to keep people from exercising it to go there. You're willing to "trust God" on the matter when you plainly state that ultimately people decide. That is completely contradictory to reason. And then you imply that God sending people to eternal hell is good and that is consistent with His character. I say that is not consistent with God's character and that He truly is powerful and loving, and in the end "love does not fail" for any of His children.

            As to evil…God taking responsibility for causing and creating evil is rife throughout the Old Testament. I think the problem is that we don't fully realize the ultimate purpose of evil, and we give it too much credit in Western Christianity. The Eastern perspective on evil is much more seamless in the way they see evil just being another part of God's plan for ultimate good.

          • Sam

            Julie, you are setting up false dichotomies all over the place.

            My point is that God — and God alone — decides who is saved and who is not saved. We have zero input into the process. We can declare that 'everyone is saved' or 'everyone burns' but that makes 0 difference.

            Given that I care about people, yes I want to share the gospel with them. I never said otherwise. But it may be impossible for everyone to hear the good news — and in that case, I trust that God will judge correctly. Does this mean that there is a possibility that infants or inhabitants of the deepest, darkest Amazon will be saved? Yes. But again, only God is judge — not you are me.

            I don't believe God 'sends people to hell' — I believe he gives people the choice of whether to accept his free gift of salvation or not. And by no means does that impinge on his character. Jus because you love your children does not mean that you force them to do whatever you desire. Part of love is respecting that individuals can make their own decisions.

            You are using a definition of 'evil' that is synonymous with 'punishment.' I think that's wrong. I think God can chastise, and I think God can make good come out of every situation. But I think that anyone that has seriously studied history has to acknowledge how pervasive evil is.

            I do not want to worship a God that willed people to be experimented on by Nazis in order to aid their spiritual growth. I believe in evil — and I believe that God is not evil. If you believe God is capable of evil, it's not the same God — period.

          • Confused

            "The Eastern perspective on evil is much more seamless in the way they see evil just being another part of God's plan for ultimate good." That is interesting to hear. Are you speaking of Eastern christians, or Buddhists, or Taoists? My impression was that some Eastern folks basically believe that neither evil nor good are real, one is to abstract oneself from them.

            It does feel to me that you are dismissing evil as real in order to make your sums come out correct in the end. I agree with your compassion and understand your desire to be able to definitively know what God will do (although I'm with Sam who appears to be willing to trust that a good God will do the right thing), but throwing out evil and free will does not seem to square with what I read in the Bible. I agree with Sam that although God can redeem evil circumstances (Christ's death for example), that the world is broken because of Adam's sin and we are all broken and need rescue. I believe I'm responsible for the sin I commit, not God. I do think there are other reasonable alternatives to concluding that evil isn't real or that it is somehow good or that we don't have free will.

            I was just thinking of Jesus castigating the Pharisees. Why would he do that if they had no responsibility for how they responded to him because he forced them to respond that way? Seems awfully cruel to castigate someone when they're only responding the way God wants them to respond. Or do you feel that humans have responsibility for their actions even though they don't have any choice in those actions? That seems completely contradictory to reason to me…to use your phrase. :)

            Just out of curiosity, I haven't studied it but I don't think the OT mentions heaven…in fact I believe Sheol gets a lot more mentions in the OT. Do you feel that "heaven" is a pernicious lie that has been foisted on people by orthodox Christianity as well?

            I'm in the middle of reading your book so you may address some of my questions above but I haven't yet got to that part yet if it is there.

          • jferwerd

            Confused,
            Eastern vs. Western thinking is not merely religious, although a great deal of it is. It is basically an ancient set of lenses on the world that you inherit from the society you grow up in. THe origins are that Eastern came first–Babylonian, Hebrew, Egyptian, and Western came later with the Middle Ages and Western Europe, Roman primarily. These two cultures see God/religion, life, and history through very different lenses. In fact, when interpreting the Bible, we even read into it our Western view of life, when in fact, the Hebrews/Eastern viewpoint reads it quite differently. You would have to do some research yourself to understand what I mean, but in Raising Hell I do bring out some Eastern vs. Western thinking on Scriptures because it is critical to understanding intent of the Scriptural writers.

            Good and bad/evil are seen quite differently. Here is a link to one site, the Ancient Hebrew Research Center: http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/12_goodbad.html. Western thinking, heavily influenced by Rome and the Western Church, gave evil/bad much more credit/power than it was due. I think you misunderstand me in that I do not diminish that evil exists or that it occurs, I fully agree! But I see it as encompassed more purposefully and subordinately under God's plan and ultimate intent for good for His creation. This is why Paul can remind us that "all things work together for good," or why throughout Scriptures we are told that darkness will become light, the blind will see, the fortunes (spiritual) of the people will be restored. Once the purpose of evil is accomplished in what it was sent for, it will be done away with.

            Another difference in Eastern vs. Western thought we can see with the word "eternal" or "eternity." I address this at length in the book, but here is a short thought on that: http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/27_eternity.html.

            Where I differ from most Christians and probably Sam is that I do not believe in FREE will. FREE will suggests that we have the ability to make unlimited choices, which is completely counter to Scripture in matters of God's sovereign control over His creation. I believe, as I explain in the book, in "dominion." Dominion, as given to Adam and mankind following, is the power that God gives to each person, in unequal measures, to enact change on their area of influence either positively or negatively. So in that, there are certainly choices we make to be faithful and just, or to be unfaithful and corrupt. But our choices are very limited in scope because we are unable to step outside the power and influence that God gives us. This is why Jesus said that one servant was given 10 talents, one 5, and the last one talent. The Greek says, "each was given to his according to his power." The modern translations usually render the word "ability," but the Greek word, dunamis, means "power." I believe this was a direct reference to the Dominion Mandate in Genesis. You can read a little more on the Dominion Mandate here: http://www.gods-kingdom-ministries.org/BOOKS/birt…. Or you can also learn from googling it.

            There are thousands of verses in Scriptures that completely hamstring the notion of free will! On practically every page, God is intervening in the choices of men. Consider a few verses just out of Proverbs 16:

            1. The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
            4. The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil.
            9. The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.
            33. The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.

            By the way, the concept and teaching of "free will" is very WESTERN.

            I think you are partly right about heaven. I no longer believe we go off to heaven, but Scriptures teach we stay here. In fact, in Revelation, though symbolic, we see the picture toward the end of the Story as God coming to dwell with men on earth. I think He already does that to some extent, but I think this is in a more full sense where He is fully manifested in all of His creation and there is no longer any evil or self will in opposition to God's will. Having said that, I am sure that our resurrected, immortal form will also be so glorious that we, just like Jesus, will have access to other realms and dimensions. But yes, our idea of "heaven," is also western and does not line up with Hebrew thought or Scriptures.

          • Sarah

            Free will doesn't exist! We do have the ability to make choices, but we don't have free (free means without any constraints) will. The definition of free will: Freedom of self determination and action independent of external causes.

          • Sam

            This is a nice assertive statement but I respectfully disagree.

          • Sarah

            Sam, since you believe in "free" will, do you believe that we are our own "gods" and that we "save ourselves" by believing the right thing, without ANY external influence whatsoever? If that's the case, why do we need a Savior?

          • Sarah

            Questions for you, Sam. Since you believe that we have "free" will, do you also believe that we "save" ourselves by believing in the right things, without ANY outside influence whatseover? Wouldn't that mean we are our own "god" and that we save ourselves by simply 'believing"? If that is the case, why do we need a Savior?

          • Sam

            I'm not sure what you mean Sarah. Free will means that God has given us the ability whether to sin or to not sin, and whether to accept his free gift of salvation (through his son) or to reject it.

            I believe that:
            1) God is perfect
            2) God created man with the ability to choose whether to obey God or disobey (we are not automatons)
            3) Man chose to sin
            4) As a result, man was separated from God and the punishment was death
            5) God sent his perfect son as a sacrifice for man's sin
            6) Those who profess their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord will be saved.

            Not sure where being our own "gods" comes into this picture. Jesus does all the saving, all we need to do is acknowledge it.

          • Sarah

            So you believe that we save ourselves by "acknowledging" that Jesus saves?

          • Sam

            Not at all, Jesus saves us. But it says directly in the Bible that he wants us to acknowledge him as Lord.

          • Sarah

            What God wants God gets.

          • Sam

            Of course. But this doesn't mean that universalism is true =) God may want people to have the ability to choose Him (implying free will). He says so over and over again in the Bible.

          • Sarah

            Sam wrote: Free will means that God has given us the ability whether to sin or to not sin…
            Then why does it say in the Bible that we are all sinners? Are you without sin?

          • Sarah

            So we save ourselves by "acknowledging" that Jesus is our savior?

          • Irene

            Sarah, I think if we are living entirely through our minds (carnal), we live by free will. After we accept Christ, we have the holy spirit (God's way of thinking). The rest of our lives we will be fighting the free will (carnal mind) versus listening to the spirit speaking. So if you don't believe Christ is living in you – you are living by the carnal mind and everything is free will. If you have Christ's spirit, it is no longer free will – you are doing God's will! Again, though this a process – I do not think while living in this life, we will ever be perfect in our thinking – but, we should always try to live through the spirit realm not through the carnal (man's way) thinking.

          • Sarah

            Irene, do you believe that Adam and Eve were created perfect?

      • jferwerd

        I beg to differ from Steve on one point. He says, "It's great to hear that "hell" is not a central part of your Christianity…" I completely disagree. If you really think people are going to hell, then why isn't it a huge part of your Christianity?? And the reason we are so focused on hell is because so much damage has been done to the world in the name of an angry, punishing God who would give up. Since I have learned the truth about God's character and plan for mankind, it has widened my heart immensely for others, as well as taken away my fear in life that God is not ultimately control for the good of all.

        • Sam

          Because thankfully Julie I don't have to decide who goes to hell and who doesn't. This doesn't mean that I don't share my faith — indeed, it's a commandment. But ultimately salvation is between individuals and God. Jesus saved the world — not us.

          And I reject the assertion that God allowing free will implies 'giving up.' To the contrary. I don't want to worship a God who in effect forces people to love him.

          • Sarah

            Doesn't God in effect "force" people to love him by threatening them with "eternal torment/torture"??

          • Sarah

            I notice you never did respond to this question: Doesn't God in effect "force" people to love him by threatening them with "eternal torment/torture"??

          • Sam

            Does a trail guide "force" you to stay on the trail by pointing out there is an abyss next to you?

          • Sarah

            Very bad analogy(comparing a trail guide to God?!) Why can't you answer the question directly? Because you don't have a good answer to the question?

          • Sam

            Why are you being so antagonistic? I'm a bit confused.

            My answer to your question is no. I don't believe that God forces people to love him. And I don't believe God threatens people with torture. He simply provides people with a choice to A) acknowledge their sin and B) accept Christ's salvation or the option to reject this salvation. Going their own path (and rejecting God) implies the absence of God, which is hell.

            If God was 'forcing' people to believe in him, you'd see a lot more Christians than you do.

            And I still like the trail guide analogy =)

          • Sarah

            In my opinion, eternal hell turns people away from God (I used to be one of those people, so I speak from experience). I would definitely call it force, it's like "love me and worship me or burn in terrifying- agony forever!". I also never asked to be born (if I had my way about it I wouldn't have been, especially knowing that I had a fate of possibly being tortured and burned alive forever…., so where is the "free" will or choice in that?

          • Confused

            Hmm…lots of things turn people away from God. Being confronted with Christ's commands turned people away from God…see Jesus and the young ruler. It seems wrong to me to use the argument that something needs to be done away with because it turns people away from God, although I can understand your feeling that way. It is the wrong place to start in my view. I believe God is good and He will do the right thing. The concept of "hell" to me is more an incentive to make sure I'm ready and willing to "go" if God wants me to share the good news of his rescue with folks rather than a threat. I don't feel I have the right to say to God, "if you don't get rid of doctrine 'x' then I won't believe in you". I guess I believe that love wins…God will love whom he wants and how he wants and that is right because he is God. He has made available a way of redemption/rescue through his son. He is trustworthy and all I really need to do is to make sure I'm in relationship with him and obeying him. Hypothetical questions about other folks are between them and God. If God wants me to tell people about his love and rescue then I need to be ready to respond. Perhaps I'm just more comfortable with it being a mystery. I do care about those who haven't heard the good news but i trust them to God because he says he is good.

            If you were turned away by people harping on hell then that is sad…but I think it speaks more to the lack of love exhibited by those folks than it does on the doctrine of hell. It is no surprise that many Christians turn others away by being judgmental or arrogant or exhibiting a lack of love.

            Bottom-line, from where I sit, it seems as though you've said: If hell exists God is a torturer. I refuse to worship a God who is a torturer, I want to worship God, therefore hell cannot exist.

            Just my 2 cents.

          • Sarah

            I never said that lots of things don't turn people away from God.. I do believe however that the belief that God tortures people for eternity for simply not "believing" the right way is a major turn off and a stumbling block to faith….it sure is for me!

          • Sarah

            Okay, since you seem to believe that there would be alot more Christians if God were "forcing" us to love him, a better phrase would be, does God TRY to "force" us to love him by threats of "eternal" torture? I personally don't care for threats of torture forever in exchange for "loving" someone because in my view that is not true love. If it seems to you that I'm being antagonistc, it seems to me that you come across as very condescending, a bit self-righteous and arrogant. And that is your opinion of your trail guide analogy….

      • Sarah

        Sam, could it be the reason that universalists are so obsessed with "hell" is that the meaning of the word "hell" has been changed so many different times in the bible to mean "eternal torture"….the most evil doctrine in the history of the universe!

        • Sam

          I thought you said God created evil? So an evil doctrine can't be bad. And if there is no free will, apparently God wanted man to distort it.

          • Sarah

            I didn't say that God created evil, the BIBLE says so! As far as there being no free will, maybe God wants man to distort things for the moment/age…..

          • Sam

            No need to get angry at me. I guess God just decided that I shouldn't believe in universalism (since I don't have free will).

            As for God creating evil, you are using a literal translation of a single verse taken out of context — exactly what Julie says we should avoid (considering that many Bible verses seem to mention hell….)

          • Sarah

            First of all you assume that I "got angry" at you, I was making a point that the Bible says that God created evil, which it does. Good that you admit you don't have free will. You also accuse me of taking the verse Isaiah 45:7 out of context.

            Isaiah 45:7:orm the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. KJV
            Please explain to me how I took it out of context?

          • Sam

            I guess I'm just responding to your exclamation marks and capitalization — and your multiple responses to single posts.

            I was being facetious when I said I don't have free will.

            You are taking it out of context because you are providing one verse without any of the verses around it, the tone of the chapter, etc.

            Frankly, this is devolving into tit-for-tat, so I'm going to stop discussing. God bless.

          • Sarah

            No, I'm not taking anything out of context, The Lord Himself plainly says that He makes peace and creates evil/calamity or whatever you want to call it, same difference. If you want to accuse people of taking things out of context, the Bible has been translated and retranslated many times of hundreds of years. The word has been taken from and had things added to it. Hell and eternity are mistranslations. If you're being facetious about us not having free will, the Bible has several scriptures stating that God is sovereign and in control. We are the clay, He is the Potter. He directs our steps.

          • Confused

            Uh, why can't it be both? Why can't God be sovereign and we have free-will? To me holding both equally is the only way I make sense of a verse like:

            Phil 2:13-14

            12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

            Down through history you've had folks who stress God's sovereignty and others who stress man's responsibility and free-will. To me the only thing that makes sense in reading the Bible, without throwing away passages, is to affirm both and say that there is a mystery there. We're held responsible for our actions which only makes sense if we have some say in them. God directs and can work through the brokenness of this world, redeeming certain situations while creation groans waiting for the day when everything will be set right.

            To me, if I start with no assumptions and then start reading, the conclusion that there is a mystery there is the only one that makes sense unless I'm willing to jettison things that don't fit in one view or another.

            From a practical daily standpoint I think the question is irrelevant: I'm to act as through I'm fully responsible when I'm being obedient and I'm to rely on God's grace to cover my brokenness. I'm to obey when Jesus asks how will they hear if no one goes which sounds a lot like Jesus is asking people to respond, to obey, rather than just forcing them to.

            Whew, a bit longer than I wanted. Sorry.

          • Sarah

            @ Confused: "For it is God who who works in you"…Key phrase that we can't do it on our own, we need God.

          • Sam

            He/she's saying we do need God. But this doesn't mean that free doesn't exist. There is clear support for both arguments in the Bible.

          • Confused

            Actually the key phrase is the entire verse. If you ignore the "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" you're ignoring a portion of God's word to focus on the part that you like…or so it seems to me. I was just pointing out that the Bible assumes that we have choices and responsibilities and it assumes that God is sovereign…some folks apparently prefer to stress one over the other…I'm arguing for both.

      • Sarah

        Sam, you deny that the only reason you follow Christ is so that you won't go to hell, let me pose this question to you: What if you weren't promised "eternal" Heaven for following Christ, would you still do it? Somehow I doubt that you, or anyone else could honestly answer this.

  • Julie, I love the screen-capture from studylight! A picture is worth a thousand words. :)

    • jferwerd

      Yes, lends a lot of punch to the truth that has been so distorted! Even though I was "well versed" in Scriptures, until 2.5 years ago, I didn't even know that different versions had different amounts of the word hell! And if I did subconsciously know it (I knew that KJV was more severe than other versions), I didn't stop to think, "hey, WHY?" As soon as you let your first question out of the dark closet, it's all over. But you know this. :D

  • Julie,
    I see what you mean about the word hell not appearing the same in all versions. I took the first example of Deut 32:22. KJV says "lowest hell", NIV says "realm of the dead below", and Young's says "Sheol–the lowest". To me, those seem to be saying the same thing even though they didn't use the word hell. From your much more extensive research, have you found that this is the exception? In other words, are there more cases where the translation gave entirely different meanings?

    Jim

    • jferwerd

      Jim, sheol is death or the grave. Good and bad people die and go there in sleep in the OT, but the KJV twists it so that you think bad people go to hell and good people go to the grave.

  • Nelson

    Julie, this is a great post. Sheol is death and hell is a scare tactic. All things come from our Creator – the good and the bad. Hell and Satan are both creations of man to scare people into their way of thinking. I believe that there is a moral code that was inspired by the Divine that is found in the Torah and that everything written since is commentary on that code. Jesus was, to me, a reformer of that code. He came at a time when only the outward actions were what mattered and he taught of internalizing the laws of the Torah – inscribing them in the heart and on the mind. He was killed for what he taught and his followers converted his message of reform to a completely new religion that even he would not recognize if he were to return.

    Nelson Rose http://quest4light.net

  • JeremyJK

    "The decisive question for Christianity is not rather it is palatable but rather it is true." -Thomas Oden
    God does not shy away from our questions but he has gone to great extent to reveal himself and his will. He has gone to great extent to reveal the truth to us. If part of that truth is that there is a hell and he in his loving mercy reveals how to be saved from it and to not go there, but we still chose to reject that truth, whose fault is it? God's? We don't get to tell God who he is and what we expect of him. Its the other way around. If there is a place of eternal wrath then that is reality if we like it or not. I don't get this attitude anymore that we are going to only believe in what feels good and throw out the parts we don't like.

    • Sarah

      No where in the bible does it say that we have to believe in an "eternal firehole" or we'll end up there!

      • JeremyJK

        How about Matthew 25 for starters? Or the Judgment in Revelation?

        • Sarah

          That's a parable about the sheep and the goats, it mentions nothing about having to believe in 'eternal" torture.What verse are you referring to?

          • JeremyJK

            Matt. 25:30 "throw the worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matt. 25:46 "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Seems pretty bad to me. These are negative either way and implied punishment and bad state of affairs. We don't question "eternal life" but we dismiss "eternal punishment"? Doesn't make sense to do so. It is obvious that the sheep are the righteous and the goats are the wicked. Rev. 20:15 "and anyone who was not found in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire."

          • Sarah

            Only God is "eternal" since the word itself means without beginning or end. And since we had a beginning we are not "eternal'. The correct word would be from the greek word aion (eon, which menas an age) As far as us having "eternal" life, that is incorrect, we will be made immortal, there's a big difference. Matt. 25:46 "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." The Bible also says that there is none righteous.

          • JeremyJK

            Okay Sarah, Let's go with what you are saying. Instead of using "eternal" let's translate the adjective aionios as "age" as in "the age to come." So that "zoe aionios" is "life of the age to come" and "kolasis aionios" is "punishment of the age to come." It is still clear from scripture that there will be a separation of the righteous from the wicked and that the "punishment of the age to come" is still REALLY nasty. Maybe it isn't going to last for the rest of infinite time…but at some point it is still a punishment that is described in very unpleasant terms.

          • "Maybe it isn't going to last for the rest of infinite time…"

            Bingo!

          • JeremyJK

            So Barb what do you think hell is like? Is it a torture as some here have put it? Will there be suffering and of what sort?

      • Sam

        Who are you quoting with "eternal firehole"?

  • Gem

    While Paul doesn't use the word "hell", 2 Thes 1:6-10, 2:5-12 speak of :

    "when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,"; "unrighteous deception among those who perish"; "that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

    Speaking of questions, what do you make of that?

    • Sarah

      Ummm…maybe because the word "everlasting" is a mistranslation???

      • Sam

        The argument that this or that verse is a mistranslation is very weak. If this is the case, I don't trust any Bible quote you can provide in support of universalism, because:

        1) It's not in the original Greek/Hebrew
        2) If the Bible contains inaccuracies, who is to say that the verses you are quoting are not distorted?
        3) Even if you go back to the original texts (which are lost), who is to say they were not distorted by men?

        Claiming that the Bible contains a mistranslated 'lie' of hell opens up a larger can of worms than you realize. It means you can't use the Bible to support universalism either =) Anything else is just cherry picking

        • Sarah

          All bibles contain inaccuracies of one kind or another. I find it rather funny that you don't trust any bible quote to support the savlation of all mankind ( which there are tons that do support it), but you trust it to support the eternal torture of most?! Not a very "Christ-like attitude. Jesus tells us to forgive one another no matter what the cirumstances, yet people who don't "believe" deserve to be tortured for all eternity? That is warped to say the very least.

          • Confused

            Sarah:

            Christ had many attitudes…see how he dealt with the Pharisees for example. As far as forgiveness, I'm not sure that forgiveness implies the absence of consequences, i.e. one can forgive someone for murdering a relative but that doesn't mean that justice has no warrant in that instance, i.e. forgiveness doesn't mean that they go scott free.

          • Sarah

            I don't believe that anyone gets off scott free for wrongdoings in this life, I do, however, believe that the punishment should fit the crime.

  • Sarah

    The Goodness of God leads one to repent, not some idiotic "eternal" torture chamber!

    • Sam

      You are mixing up a consequence with a cause. We repent because God is good, sin is destructive, and God sent his son to die for us. Hell is the natural result of the absence of God — whether we choose to repent or not does not affect its existence.

      I certainly am not motivated by an idiotic eternal torture chamber, I'm sorry to hear that you think most Christians are.

      • Sarah

        Sam says:I certainly am not motivated by an idiotic eternal torture chamber….

        Denying it doesn't make it any less true.

  • Sarah

    "Eternal hell" has been the biggest stumbling block for me to put my complete trust and faith in God. How is it that God can command us to love our neighbors as ourselves, bless them that curse you, do good to those that spitefully use you….and yet he can roast his enemies (and non-belivers) in fire without mercy and without end? Is this a case of "do as I say but not as I do"? Also, when Christ was being crucified on the cross with nails driven in his hands, made to drink vinegar while he was extremely thirsty, had a crown of thorns on his head after he was severely beaten, He said "Father forgive them, they know not what they do." If Jesus can forgive his tormenters, how can he do any less for someone who doesn't "believe" in him or "acknowledge him as Lord?