do we need a hell in order to forgive our enemies????

Reading up on the universalism controversy I was kinda shoqued by a blog post by a bloke called Kevin DeYoung, of whom I don’t know anything, but it seems that he’s a rather vocal (neo)calvinist. I have no idea if he’s known or not, and frankly I don’t care at all, the inner kitchen of this kind of aggressive calvinism is as far from my spiritual bed as are the pope and the magisterium…

Now the guy, in a response to Rob Bells alleged ‘universalism’, quotes 8 reasons why we need hell and eternal punishment (or more precisely Gods wrath), which he seems to quote straight out of some book he has written. I don’t think I completely agree with one of those, but I was kinda repulsed by and utterly disagreed with the second one:

we need God’s wrath in order to forgive our enemies. The reason we can forgo repaying evil for evil is because we trust the Lord’s promise to repay the wicked. Paul’s logic is sound. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). The only way to look past our deepest hurts and betrayals is to rest assured that every sin against us has been paid for on the cross and or will be punished in hell. We don’t have to seek vigilante justice, because God will be our just judge.

Maybe I’m outing myself as an anabaptist now, but I find this reasoning to go against the message of Jesus himself, since this goes against the commandment of enemy-love, and against Jesus’ last prayer ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’, which was echoed in the last words of the early church’s first martyr stephen ‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge’. I think those two examples of enemy-love show us that we need Love in order to forgive our enemies. We are to want forgiveness for our torturers at our moment of dying. I suppose that such a thing requires the help of the Holy Spirit, but the whole thing is that we need to have the mind of Christ!

(and I think the Rom 12 passage is exactly about that btw. )

I don’t agree at all that the fear of hell as motivation will ever lead to loving God more. It might scare people into some kind of conversion, but I’m not convinced it will be able to make people love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We should have a positive gospel, not a negative one: Jesus is Lord, death, sin and evil are conquered, and He’ll make all things new. A gospel that says that we are saved from God by Jesus, as some versions of penal-substitution-only does not at all sound like a loving God to me.

The bible says God is love, not God is wrath, and love is more important than faith and hope says Paul, so his wrath will be in function of His love. Surely, if God loves us he will have a lot of whitehot wrath; He will be pretty mad at the things that are going on in this world, and causing destruction in our lives and all of his loved creation. If He’s to make all things new a lot of things are to be erased, in my life, and in the whole of the world. But the good news is that Jesus is doing that, and that in the end the whole of creation will be renewed. At the final judgment all evil will be erased. And probably some creatures will keep on hating God and not be able to live in this renewed world, or even cease to exist if all evil is erased from them. If God will allow them to exist outside of His love or if they will annihilate in His presence I do not know. I do know he wants none to be lost.

So we need some concept of hell, unless we do away with human free will and say that in the end everybody will bow and accept Jesus as Lord. But I’m not calvinist enough to be such a Christian universalist, sorry… And if we ‘accept Jesus’ out of fear and not out of love, we might still be in problem if we have to spend an eternity with God in all His glory… I don’t think we win anything with converts who are more interesting in escaping hell than in following Christ and being reconciled to their savior. What you with then with is what you win them to…



9 responses to “do we need a hell in order to forgive our enemies????

  1. So only people with noble and pure motives will or shoud be saved? Interesting angle. So sinners with a still imperfect motivation are not allowed to drink from the living waters? Or should they first be tested or something? You seem to be judging quite a bit. And in my bible I do not see two versions of the gospel: a negative one in contrast to a positive one. What is more, wrath happens to be clearly a divine element to count with, when it comes to Gods dealings with man. My question is: what exactly is your point?

  2. My point isn’t that only people with noble and pure motives will or should be saved. Maybe I could argue that when people are fully saved they will be sanctified completely, and have noble and pure motives, but that’ll be in the new heavens and earth…. (But that’s another discussion, I see being born again as the start of a process, not an arrival, and salvation as a process: we have been saved, we are being saved, we will be saved)

    I’m not judging, I’m just saying that if we need the idea of hell to forgive our enemies that we are not very Christlike, and not very loving. I just can’t get my head around that concept at all. We are to try to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us, and this kind of doctrines totally undermines cultivating that kind of Christlike love…

    There is only one gospel, the gospel of the Kingdom of God, the gospel of salvation in Christ. It’s all about the positive side: God, through Christ. whatever we are saved from does not matter that much, we all have things we need to be saved from with or without the idea of eternal torment in the afterlife.

    I never denied that wrath is an element in the story of God, but the bible nowhere says ‘God is wrath’, it does say ‘God is love’, so his wrath flows out of His love. And the worst anger one can have is when someone touches your loved ones, or the art you’ve made as an artist.

  3. Pingback: Love Wins? « The Online Discernmentalist Mafia

  4. As much as I like the idea of there not being a hell, I think to hold such a view as being un-Christlike overlooks the things Jesus himself is recorded as saying about hell in the four gospels. What he says about hell is very harsh.

    I’m not nit-picking but how do you reconcile it?

  5. I didn’t say anything about there not being a hell. I reacted to the idea of needing hell to be able to forgive our enemies, since it goes against the teachings and example of Jesus who prayed for forgiveness for the people who crucified him.

    I don’t claim to have absolute knowledge about the afterlife, and I am affraid we are not even able to know all the details. sure, there are warnings of death, second death, perishing, outer darkness, going lost, but I’m not convinced they need to refer to a hell of ‘eternal conscious torment’. Isn’t eternal destruction in the form of total annihilation bad enough?

    When Jesus talks about Gehenna, I’m not sure if our idea of hell is the right translation of that, it literally refers to a garbage dump where dead bodies were burned, and a strong methaphor for destruction, probably even eternal complete destruction. But it is sometimes clearly methaphor, as in Mat 5:22, where people who insult another aren’t going to a real court or come before the real Sanhedrin either…

    And no-where in the gospels does Jesus say that hell is the place for all unbelievers. Nowhere in the NT is ‘judgment’ equated with eternal conscious torment. Paul doesn’t even use any word for hell.

    The more you study the different views, the clearer it is that it isn’t clear at all, and that the bible seems to balance somewhere in between conditional mortality, universal reconciliation, annihilationism, and eternal destruction, sometimes even in the same bible book (I noticed that while reading Romans)

  6. Thanks for clarifying your position Bram. As I said, I have trouble with the idea of hell. I see what you are saying is a reaction about forgiveness being dependant on the existence of hell. I agree, but there are passages in the NT that I find disquieting (I can only assume that this the intention of the writers) When I think of eternal conscious torment, i am thinking about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

    I know there are no easy answers, I just thought it might be worth considering. I can see what you don’t believe about hell, but what DO you believe about the purpose of Hell.

    It’s not meant as an attack.

  7. The purpose of hell? Very simple: If there is a final judgment, and God wants to start again with the new heavens and the new earth, He will have to erase all evil and everyone that would not be able to live in a world where no evil can exist.

    So those who are not able to live an eternity with God need to be taken care of (unless there will be irresistible grace in the end, but I’m not calvinist enough for assuming that) or they cease to exist in some way, or they can have ‘their kingdom come’ as C.S. Lewis said (or ‘have all the hell they want’ as a leaked Rob Bell quote from the infamous book says) and have their place away from God, the source of all life. NT Wright even suggests that those who are cut away will cease to be human, cease to be the image of God, and will be only an empty shell of what they used to be as humans…

    But hell indeed is also a warning, that death and destruction awaits us unless we are reconciled with God, and our fellow man (see matthew 5:22). (which happens through Christ) which does not mean that hell an sich is ever a good motivation for conversion. We need to love God with all our mind, soul, heart and strength, not to confess Christ with our tongue because we don’t want to end up in hell.

  8. “If there is a final judgment, and God wants to start again with the new heavens and the new earth, He will have to erase all evil and everyone that would not be able to live in a world where no evil can exist. ”

    Cheers Bram. That’s pretty much my feeling about hell too.

    I’ve been debating a Christian-Zionist recently, which has probably made me somewhat tetchy.

  9. Pingback: The problem of those unable to Love, or the question of hell as a reality. | Brambonius' blog in english

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