No Christian, We Don’t Deserve Hell (And We Probably Needn’t Worry About it)

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So there I was on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the local dog park, gingerly tiptoeing through an eclectic minefield of canine care packages and discussing the eternal destinations of our souls with a complete stranger—as one does.

And I was about to step in it.

I’d only a few moments earlier met this young woman and her husband, and after a  brief smattering of small talk I told her what I did for a living and we began chatting about our shared Christian faith.

Almost immediately into our conversation she smiled widely and said to me, “I’m just so grateful to God because He loved me when I deserved Hell.”

Hearing those words out loud like that caused a reply to launch immediately from my lips without giving me time to edit or soften it:

“You did? You deserved Hell… just for being born?”

“Yes, the Bible says that I was born sinful and separated from God.” she matter-of-factly responded.

I pressed her, “So God lovingly made you and gave you life… but despised you out of the chute?”

“No,” she tried to clarify. “God loved me so He sent Jesus to save me from my sin.”

“But, couldn’t He have just forgiven you (all of us), without needing Jesus and his death, and without you needing to believe this?” I asked. “And Isn’t He just saving you from Himself then anyway?”

Things got awkward. The kind of mess you can’t easily scrape from the bottom of your shoe with a stick.

There are moments when the faith of your past is deconstructed in real-time; when your own heart sends an alarm that something is not right and you realize you have reached a fork in the road and things will never be quite the same.

This was such a moment for me.

It wasn’t a total surprise as it had been a long time coming, and yet it still felt seismic in its scope, jarring loose the bedrock of my religion and bringing with it aftershocks of guilt that I’m still feeling today. (Turns out guilt is a crippling addiction as tough to shake as any ever concocted.)

I’ve been a Christian for most of my four-plus decades on this planet, a pastor for nearly half of those and largely during that time, quite sure that Hell was real and that many people were going there or presently roasting. It was simply something I accepted as part of my Christianity Starter Kit and incorporated into my religious worldview, my default theology, and my working spirituality. It shaped my understanding of me and it guided the agenda I approached others with, often turning me into an oxymoronic self-hating, yet overconfident jerk.

But with each passing day over the past decade or so, I started to feel it eroding little by little; the unwavering certainty of something that had once seemed so critical and non-negotiable to my belief, yet which had grown more and more paradoxical in my mind: eternal damnation at the hands of a supposed Loving God.

At this state of my spiritual journey and in my current understanding of the character of God, I simply no longer can reconcile these two things.

As hard as I have tried to (and believe me I have), I do not have peace with a Creator who would give us life and force us to spend much of that life looking for a spiritual needle in a haystack to avoid torture for eternity. This is not a conscious decision, so I can be argued or proof texted out of it, rather it’s more of a yielding to the involuntary response of my heart as I have walked in faith and lived life seeking Jesus.

I’ve certainly wrestled with these issues before, but meeting this young woman and hearing her confession of faith there in the park, framed it all in a way that finally called out in all caps, bold type what I’d had so much unrest about:

She believes she’s inherently dirty.

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

This is one of the central pillars of our faith story: Our depravity?

There’s something so very sad about that.

Imagine this was also the heart of your parents as they raised you. Imagine growing up with the first seeds sown into your young spirit; that you were afflicted with a vile moral birth defect, unfit to be in their presence and unworthy of intimacy with them unless you confessed your inborn filth.

I’m not sure we would find this anything but horribly abusive, and yet this woman walking her dog and speaking with me that afternoon had lived this very God story quite passionately—one centered around her own sickness. I had lived it too. Millions upon millions of Christians have and are living it right now. I just can no longer be one of them and be honest at the same time.

And yes gallant Christian Soldier, before you cavalierly launch the sacred grenades of favorite Scripture quotes into the comments section, know that I have already read them all, studied them, unpacked them, taught them, lived with them for twenty years—and literally bought the t-shirt.

That the concept of Hell is part of a great many Christian’s orthodoxy and a staple of  recent Church History isn’t revelatory—and it isn’t going to alter my conclusions either. I once heard it said, that there is a truth that you cannot argue us out of once we have experienced it. This is the spot from which I speak and believe now, even though there is unsteadiness.

In the quiet places where I seek and pray and encounter God, the deep that calls to deep says:

“There is no fear in Me. You are beloved. I delight in you.”

You can mount all the violent assaults of systematic theology and doctrine and dogma and they will not be louder than this voice.

All the finger-wagging and threat-throwing and pulpit pounding will likely fail to scare the Hell into me.

You can label me a false prophet and prodigal rebel, and I will rest in the reality that I am simply an honest disciple trying to find the truest truth and live it.

And if my heart is mistaken in all of this, I trust that the One whose voice I so strain to hear will know more than any, the depths to which I have been seeking and the earnestness of my desires, and will give me safe passage to Glory. If Perfect Love is real, this is what it looks like.

Yes friend, you and I are most certainly flawed and fractured and all sorts of jacked-up—but I do not believe we are inherently horrible.

We are not born wretched.

We are not enemies of God upon conception.

We are not filthy from the womb.

And we do not deserve Hell.

 

Read more about this subject on the blog here and here and here.

 

 

503 thoughts on “No Christian, We Don’t Deserve Hell (And We Probably Needn’t Worry About it)

    • thank you. I struggle with this daily. My heart doesn’t buy that God condemns me for who I am but I do feel and see that most Christians do. It is most difficult to navigate on some days
      .

      • I share your experience and sometimes long for the days I was so secure in my born again status. I know now I am headed in a better direction, but the struggle is real and intense

      • Like Jesus, real Christians do not condemn you. We have all fallen short of the glory of God, but He has provided a way of bridging the gap…the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ who loves us. All we have to do is accept it and follow the example set by Jesus. When we are confused, we need to “seek” and “ask” and “knock”.

        • The theology of atonement was largely a creation of Anselm, as a way of trying to deal with this – but it is greatly lacking. In fact, all of the ways in which we try to explain the meaning of the cross as some kind of transaction are similarly lacking – they explain some things, but create more problems than they solve. Atonement theology, though popular among evangelicals, ends up with a God who is pretty nasty – always ready to send these creatures he made right to hell unless they shape up and either do or say the right thing or believe the appropriate thing. It makes God’s grace to be a cruel joke. The reformation idea of the judge “”declaring righteous” with Jesus taking the penalty is similarly flawed – God cannot forgive unless someone is killled? So his grace is limited by his need to put the blame on and punish someone to “”prove”” he is righteous? Seems to me that God doesn”t have to prove anything or answer to anyone – isn”t that his answer to Job? It seems to me that a better answer to all of this is Girard”s reflection on the crucifixion – that it shows, simply, how we all find a need to project our faults on to, a “goat.” In this case, the goat was God himself – and we killed him. That’s what we do. Pretty crappy of us, but that”s what happens when we are controlled by our egos. The grace in it is that that”s not the end of the story – God makes alive that which was dead – including us. It”s not about how we were born to be sent to hell – but abut the way we tend to act in the world, and how God loves us anyway. “”While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Yep – loved us even when we were at our worst. We can be good – sometimes wonderful – and perhaps it”s easy to love us then; but sometimes, I”m sure, God would really like to give us a good slap – which, seeing that he’s all-powerful, and all that – could be a pretty messy thing. But he doesn’t. It”s not about knowing the right words, saying the right prayer, knowing the right things, being good and keeping your nose clean – but about a love greater than we can ever imagine, in which we are held – no matter what.

          • I love that you have cited Rene Girard here, if only more Christians and people in general knew about his theory. Makes so much sense that we are born to imitate each other’s desires, leading to unrest, tension and ultimately violence towards a scapegoat to offload all of this junk onto. Unfortunately much of Christianity just primes the scapegoating pump with racism, sexism and various other persecutions of anyone who isn’t ‘moral’.

      • I found a way to stop worrying about this when I was about ten. I figured, God is all-powerful. He controls everything. God is all-knowing. Nothing is secret from God. God is good. He wishes us well.
        Therefore hell is inconsistent and does not exist.
        It was a lot later that I realized the whole shebang is inconsistent, and rejected it all.

    • For those who completely disagree with John’s “coming out” about this, allow me to share with you part of my own coming out. I was raised as a Baptist’s preacher’s kid, went into ministry fulltime at 18, and left it just over 2 years ago.

      This from a blog post I’m working on (and recently shared with John):

      “It really doesn’t matter what gift wrapping you put on the box, the box is still a box. In this case, Christianity is a religion; it’s a box.

      There are so many different varieties of religion–let alone varieties of Christianity–but what I’ve discovered is that it’s impossible to put God wholly inside a box.

      Fear and manipulation are also found in religion, and I don’t believe God to exist in those places either; therefore, I cannot be a part of it.

      Belief in hell, a place of eternal torment, is fear driven and anti-Love. It’s also a man-made idea that is only found within the confines of religious traditions passed down. I don’t believe it to be an inspirational writing given by God–ever.

      Sure, there are great things we can learn from sacred texts and teachings passed down, but I don’t view them as I used to. I see them now as man’s attempt to explain God.

      Taking the Bible as ‘God’s literal word’ is bibliolatry, and no different than idol worship. Even the authors noted that their writings were inspirational. It’s an attempt to gift wrap God between a front and back cover, and he doesn’t fit.

      …I’m leaving God in a new place I’ve never known before. I’m choosing to leave him in a place of mystery.

      In this place, there’s no need to define heaven, hell, or sin. Honestly, there’s no need to have anything concrete. God is God, I am not, and I cannot possibly begin to define him or his character outside the frame of Love.

      Outside of Love’s frame is wonder and mystery. It’s like exploring areas of space that haven’t been seen. Inside of Love’s frame is the beating heart of God. It’s all the security I will ever need.”

      • I am so glad I do not follow you. Your thinking is flawed and not certainly not scriptural! Shameful to say the least. God’s word us all truth and irrefutable! I will pray for you and your misconception. You need discernment

            • I went to a church when I was younger that seemed to preach more on he’ll and the devil than God and Jesus His sacrifice His love His grace and the fact that being saved meant if you messed up tomorrow you went to hell it was wrong and as a child I knew it was wrong bc that is not what God spoke to my heart….yes I blv in hell and sin I don’t blv innocent babies are just thrown into he’ll bc they were born bad and then had the bad luck to die young I do blv we all sin as it is in the world and from the beginning Satan is set on our corruption and I do blv we have a choice to make we either thank God blv in Him that He came to save us from the sin in this world and delight in Him or we choose to delight in the sins of this world and very much so choose he’ll in doing so…..so no sin doesn’t send you to hell…..the love of it over the love of and belief in our Savior does…..you choose hell or you choose to live for Him and therefore live in His light and love forever but some forget whichever the choice His love never dims for any soul……He died for us all and He will love us all even unto the end….He loves us but cannot love sin and neither can we….we are not meant to love this world at all but love Him more and above all as He has loved us putting us even above the angels…..do you think He would set us above the angels to have angels serve His beloved children if we were considered dirty filthy and deserving of hell….it was that jealousy I blv that drove the devil over the edge His love for us even though we were flawed not through His making but through the devil wanting us to fall wanting us to lose the love of our Lord ……and yet He loved us more….and so sent His Son to correct the terrible thing one of His fallen angels had done to His most precious ones

              • And just to add a little to this that child sitting in church at least 4 times a week more if there was a revival all week…..I thought……I don’t care about hell……I don’t plan on going…..feed my soul! I screamed inside!!!! Tell me of the great love of my savior tell me about God for this is His house is it not…..yet every week we lend credit to His enemies the devil and his angels……then sing the most pitiful mournful songs as praise…..thank God for a father who showed me the wonderment and miracles of God and didn’t just try to scare the he’ll out of me but instead taught me why it was better to follow the rightness of the Lord ….and low and behold if you missed a service you were obviously back slid and in some kind of sin in need of prayer bc how could you survive out in the world like God only existed in their words from their church and it was true that they didn’t preach a thing about how to live for God just that you had to come to church give every sinful dollar to them so as to keep you from your weaknesses …..have mercy…..I was always amazed the place didn’t catch fire!

            • “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

              I’ve always considered myself a believer, not an atheist, although I struggle with God’s salvation and your responses prove my point. Your judgement… it’s something I want no part of. I love my children more than life…although they do plenty I disapprove of…never would I disown or reject them. I imagine I am incapable of loving them more than God loves me or them…but I think humans are incapable of comprehending a love without conditions…which causes all this unnecessary guilt and confusion. God bless you.

        • Sister, with that comment you might want to remove that woman of God title until you start loving people like He does.

      • Woman of God 2017 I certainly think you need a lot of help in comprehending the better part of scripture. You surely don’t speak for those who are knowledgeable.

      • I applaud your exit from the world of Baptist paternalism. When one steps away from long-held beliefs as false one enters the road toward intellectual maturity. That said many jettison all beliefs from a sullied source as false. This is actual the root of the genetic fallacy and equally unhealthy as the paternalism in our church culture today.

        I suggest a close, rather than quick, read of the text in favor of how the original audience would have understood Jesus’ teaching on punishment. Instead of a mystery defense, I might try for, “This is my current best understanding of the scriptural data I have, in the context of what the original author(s) and audiences would have understood.” It’s a mouthful I know, and will get you no point for being esoteric, but it is how objective scholars and an occasional disciple respond. Good luck on your journey.

      • I couldn’t agree with you more and you also have helped me to now see God in a different way that
        I can understand thanks for that. Your words were beautiful and message so enchanting to me.

          • “The Pharisees he chastised took them literally.”

            Hi David,
            This statement is actually in direct contradiction with the words of Jesus Christ himself. — he chastised them for placing their own traditions above the scripture.

            Mark 7:5-9 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with [their] lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, [as] the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

            • I am sorry Bartholomew but I believe those are the words of Mark from his book. He may have heard them from Jesus but how many translations through how many languages have they gone through? What has been changed by man whether by choice or accident. I believe in God but scripture is not fact especially when it contradicts itself sometimes. I pray-read-pray and hope the sweetest spirit gives me inspiration on what is true. If I took everything as fact I would be already lost. Bless you.

              Love Eve ????????????

      • David, Over the last two years I have evolved closer and closer to the position in your March 7th comment. Wonderfully written.

      • Thank you for your post. It is thinking like yours versus the
        “Woman of God” that encourage me to keep searching for this God of only Love. It is so interesting, that you and folks like John are only promoting love, yet you are constantly attacked by so called Christians. Why must they be so angry and so self-righteous. They should support anyone who is looking to know God in a deeper way. Blessings

      • Davidsdietz, you are a poet and your words speak life to my heart and spirit. You articulate my journey ( raised Baptist/Brethern ) The glimpses of spiritual freedom I now enjoy have been hard fought for as guilt and fear are tenacious foes. Your beautifully written words are food and you are family . Thank you !! ????

      • I’m trying to wrap my head around your concept of how there is no hell. In pretty much any place you look, even the church, you can see the works of Satan. If what you are saying is true there would be no need for Satan, otherwise saying he doesn’t exist. If that were true then why are we born to a world full of sin; why aren’t we living with God in heaven right out of the gate. However, if you believe Satan does exist, then there must be a need for hell. Where else would he reside? Certainly not heaven. Jesus did come to bridge the gap between God and man, he is definately not a needle in a spiritual haystack. He is the most widely known figure in all of history. More books and history has been written about him than any other man. This post is pure garbage.

        • Evil needs to exit so that we can truly know God’s love for us. Without evil what would could we compare his love to? Satan lives in death. Jesus came and died on the cross and conquered death. Go back to the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts (many online resources available to you) and you will see no reference to the word/concept of hell. It is a farce made up by the Roman Catholic church in order to gain control over its people. Why don’t you do some research before you so blatantly insult someone’s beliefs.

        • Evil needs to exit so that we can truly know God’s love for us. Without evil what would could we compare his love to? Satan lives in death. Jesus came and died on the cross and conquered death. Go back to the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts (many online resources available to you) and you will see no reference to the word/concept of hell. It is a farce made up by the Roman Catholic church in order to gain control over its people. Why don’t you do some research before you so blatantly insult someone’s beliefs.

        • He didn’t say there was no Hell. He fully accepts when other Christians tell him that that is where is going. This is his response to that.

      • Davis…I don’t understand this viewpoint. I don’t understand John’s viewpoint. In essence, what you’re saying is, “I want to be a Jesus-follower, but I only want to proclaim the teachings that sound good to me.” You’re not worshiping Jesus in this case. You’re worshiping yourself and your desires and your feelings. Jesus spoke many times of hell. If you want to say he was speaking in some type of strange metaphors, then you’re clearly just wanting to justify your feelings and ignoring the truth on the page. He clearly said that nobody will come to the Father except through him in a number of ways on a number of occasions. It just blows my mind that John wants to follow Jesus and yet, if I believe his views, I can assume Jesus was obviously an egomaniac if his death didn’t not provide the saving grace for a world that deserves hell. Why in the world did he give himself up to die if we didn’t need his blood? It’s sad to me that some people like John are gifted with the ability to think deeply and to communicate through written word are clearly deceived and lost and they’re helping to continue to deceive the lost.

        • Brandon: my problem with your line of thought is that your literal interpretations allow only one understanding, and that is the one you state. I see all writing and language as symbolic of the truth it attempts to represent. Words are symbols. What truth would you believe if there was no language?

      • “God is God, I am not, and I cannot possibly begin to define him or his character outside the frame of Love.”

        Hi David, I’m guessing that with your years of fulltime ministry I’m sure you already know that this leads straight back to scriptural living.

        1John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

      • Yes! Commented before reading this but have had to undo the backwards teaching from my childhood as well……and our God is not meant for a box for sure!!!!! 💖

  1. Ok, so Christianity is garbage and unnecessary, is your point. I suggest you need to start looking for a different line of work, because without the possibility of being separated from God forever (and no, God doesn’t hate sinners, God loves sinners, hell is mercy for those who hate God), then there is no reason to have a church, no reason for Christianity, no reason to even believe in God (the atheists do social justice MUCH better than any Christian ever did, after all; the Freedom From Religion Foundation that wants to close every church in the United States runs soup kitchens and homeless shelters).

    I sure wish liberals would take their arguments to the logical conclusion.

    May I suggest that instead of becoming an atheist, you listen first to St. John Paul The Great?

    https://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

    • it’s the age old mistake. Like most Christians you think we have to have a reason to believe and worship God…to be threatened with failure in some way. God only wants our hearts. if we give it to him we are blessed, and if we don’t, then it’s our loss…and that’s hell. Lotsa love though. Wendy xx

    • Theodore, may I suggest you go back and re-read what John posted. If anything, there is an even greater need for churches to help the children of God understand that they are beloved, that God IS love and that they were created by love for love. We learn so much self-hatred that it is a wonder any of us have valid relationships with each other or our Creator.

    • If being saved from hell, is your only use for God, and your only motivation for wanting to be in relationship with Him, you have some very severe issues to deal with in your own faith life. So deal with the sorry excuse for a relationship you call yourself being in with Jesus before you even try to critique someone else’s relationship with Him.

    • Any God who would purposefully create a being and damn them in the same instance is a sadistic prick. People such as you who continues to damn mankind are part of the reason that I left the Church after 45 years of faithful service. Hate motivates the hateful. Look that up in your book of damnation. I don’t have time for your misplaced aggression. I have a beautiful and loving life to lead.

    • How in this whole wide world could one possibly be separated from God? The very definition of unconditional love would involve a love for us that no “condition” could separate. I will always be a part of The One for there is no other.

    • When you say such twisted things such as, “hell is mercy” you’re not gaining any points on the logic scoreboard. Your idea that hell is mercy is nothing more than Orwellian doublethink.

  2. Nice, thoughtful piece! Your honest heartfelt spirit comes through..keep preaching the good news.
    Your writing style is also impressive.

  3. John. Agreed! I’ve been a Christian for four years after getting yapped one day when i was least expecting it. I think God got fed up with me denying him so he zapped me with the holy spirit and suddenly my life became super enriched. I attend a baptist church, and from the word go i have staunchly denied the existence of hell, saying, isn’t our God a just and loving god? Why would he send us to a place of eternal misery just because we are too ignorant to see he’s there? My mother used to say ‘heaven is a place you go when you die and hell is right here on earth’. She was disabled and ill all her life, so I reckon she was justified. To me, hell is a state of mind. It is the polar opposite of heaven, which is what we gain when we take Jesus into our hearts. When we don’t have heaven, we have hell. My church family don’t agree, but I can’t see me changing my mind any time soon. Wendy xx

    • Well done for remaining true to your own senses on this. I am of a similar opinion and found the book Raising Hell by Julie Ferwerda really helpful. She examines all the scripture etc and comes to some great conclusions.

  4. John, this is where I am in my faith journey. Some of the things you write, I have said (yet not so eloquently). In recent years I have become repulsed by the eternal hell idea and the promise of “streets of gold” if you say the magic words. It’s tough… Most of my southern friends do not believe as I do. It’s hard to love those who think I am damned. Thank you for your words!

  5. This struck me to the core. I have spent most of my life feeling unloved, dirty, and unlovable. I was molested as a child and have lived with the quilt and thinking there was something wrong with me for this to happen. My father has never been around so again, it had to be me. Thank you for your words today, “We are not enemies of God upon conception”

  6. I’m at a point where I don’t know about Hell and I don’t know about my inherent goodness (or lack of it), but I’m also at a point where I trust God (as you do) with my today and my forever.

    Here’s my present favorite quote:

    “Would God be diminished if I lived a question, rather than a statement?” — Cynthia Langston Kirk

    • I think your quote best sums up my feelings, too. I believe, in that experiential place in my heart, hell can’t be real. But if I am proved wrong, that wouldn’t affect how I live. I can walk in this uncertainty trusting Jesus like I always do.

  7. Well said, as usual! So wonderful to have found you and Rob Bell and the Religion for Life podcast, and realize that I am not alone, that there are so many other Christians out there who don’t see the world in the black-and-white terms of the Christianity I grew up with. Thanks for all the great work that you do. 🙂

  8. Go John, go! Some of us have been saying and believing what you are now saying for some time. God is far bigger than any of this systematic theological nonsense, most of it dreamed up by men to cow tow the general populace into submission of the church’s authority. Keep preaching the good news, a prophet is never welcome in his own town. Blessings.

  9. Super wording John! I’m glad you “stepped into it” with that young couple otherwise this fine blog of today wouldn’t have existed. Thing is, how to expand your message and repeat it until it is truly “heard”?
    It is so astounding that millions and millions of people buy into the power, control and money message of ‘scaring the Hell out of people’ especially in this day and age of understanding when everyone intrinsically deep down knows all of that is all about money, control and power over others.

  10. Good stuff. Similarly, “I don’t follow Jesus in order to go to heaven when I die — or conversely, to avoid going to hell. That’s a cheap form of faith that is really nothing more than fire insurance. I follow Jesus here and now for the sake of experiencing salvation (which means “wholeness” and “healing”) here and now – and to help others do the same.” See” “To Hell with Hell” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2015/03/to-hell-with-hell/

    Roger Wolsey, author, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity”

  11. Loved this post. The song Amazing Grace was written by John Newton a slaveship owner who repented of the evil he did in the slave trade. It’s interesting that mainstream Christianity have latched on to this song and people think of themselves as wretched when they never shackled people in the dark belly of a ship and made them lie in thier own vomit and piss. Newton saw his wretchedness and when God forgave him He saw the beauty of Gods grace. Like the man who was forgiven many sins he walked out of the dark cave into a brilliant light that burned his eyes. He was overjoyed once freed from his chains of guilt. This is the inspiration of the song. It’s not so much we are born in sin but what we do in this life that makes us sinners Most people possibly like this woman you met (I don’t know what kind of life she led) and many many many good decent people who live normal simple lives are simply not wretched in this way. They are most likely lost, unconcerned, beaten down, cynical, weary, self absorbed, chasing after things, living the good life and don’t see thier need for God or have not encountered God experientially. So the message of grace meets everyone where they are the wretched torturer who pleads for mercy, the blind man who needs healing, the rich man who lives in comfort, the lazy servant who buries his talent. I agree with your post. The most appalling message in Christianity is telling the twisted lie that you are wretched when you are not, that hell is everyone’s destination unless they recognize Christ’s sacrifice It’s dishonest and fake and produces shallow converts who constantly self flagellate over the smallest of sins. It turns most people off. God meets people were they are and shows them a Jesus that loves. Love becomes the standard and then we see how much we fall short. That motivates me more than any threat of punishment.

    • Love is not the standard by which we fall short, righteousness is. Love is the means by which we gain that which we cannot acquire ourselves.

      • Are you saying this according to scripture, according to doctrine, according to denominational teaching, according to reason? Give me something to back that up. I am interested in hearing how you came to that understanding

      • Kathy, short answer; the bible (Romans 3, for starters), no specific denomination, not my reasoning at all.

        Let me ask you something; how much love do you have to show towards others in order for you to get to heaven? Is that a quantifiable amount in any sense or fashion? Someone might give to the poor once and say they have done their bit. Someone else may volunteer their entire adult lives, giving up valuable resources to the needy and or a good cause. Which one deserves heaven? Does just trying get you in the door? Is it even possible to deserve heaven more that someone else? If so, don’t you think heaven will be full of prideful boasters who will undoubtedly make the least of the do-gooders feel bad? God forbid!

        So where is the playing field completely level according to God? The reason people feel burned out is they are chasing a moving goal line, always either doubting themselves or comparing themselves to others. But really, what good will it do you if God rejects what you have set in your heart to do for him because it didn’t satisfy what he needs from us? Have you ever done what you would call a good deed for someone only to have them not accept your efforts? It happens. Doing your own thing your own way may make you feel better about yourself towards your fellow man but what if that is not what God wants from you? What if he wants you to accept him for who he is before he asks us for anything? To really see who God is we must also look at who we are in light of God himself to see the true picture. We need that outside perspective of looking beyond our own reasonings (bible). Enter righteousness.

        Perfection. It’s the standard of heaven. Achievable by no man. A level playing field. This is where God calls everyone to. The 10 commandments are not a list of rules to keep so you can claim heaven. It is a standard by which we need to measure ourselves by to really see just where we stand against God’s holiness (perfection). Here, no one can claim a foothold, but this leaves us on the outs with God. Enter the cross, the perfect sacrifice.

        Love is a sacrifice, period. Love works on needs, not on wants. Our greatest need is righteousness, God’s righteousness. We want it, but have no means to acquire it or achieve it. This is the love of God at work for our sake. The selfless sacrifice of Jesus himself for us to meet God in his requirements. We cannot partake of it, only accept it because it it so pure. Our form of righteousness looks like filthy rags compared to the righteousness of God. Our “love” is a cheap imitation of what the real stuff looks like. It carries no value. The best we can do is exchange it. God paid the ultimate price for it, but doesn’t sell it for a profit, only gives it away to those who see the true value in what they are receiving. No greater gift was ever given. Our hearts yearn to give back what we can’t give. Sin for God’s righteousness, what an exchange. Our gain, His glory.

      • Edward, thank you for responding in a well presented manner. I appreciate it. One thing I long to do when interacting on this blog is to connect with other believers and find out how they came to understand their point of view. This is like a meeting place for me so despite all the bickering that may go on in some of the comments I hope there is also an exchange of knowledge and mutual respect.

        Okay, so for someone like me who has not studied theology and who has not spent very much time in a formal church this passage is extremely challenging and a little over my head. But what stands out in Romans 3 is verse 28 that says, ‘We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ’. But that verse connects me to 1 Corinthians 1:30, “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God (righteous); he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” Oh boy! I thought. That is amazing. But righteousness and faith often go hand in hand don’t they. Abraham was considered righteous because of his faith. So Edward, I agree, righteousness is the standard. But it is not our standard it is God’s standard which is what I think Paul was saying. And being made righteous is what God did for us not what we can do for God. Therefore the standard of purity, holiness and freedom as spoken of in 1 Corinthians 1:30 is of no value to others or even to God because righteousness comes from God given to us. So it is I who benefits from His righteousness. It gives me the ability to encounter someone as a Christian. It’s like having that stamp of approval that no one sees but is between me and God. So the standard is already met by God and I don’t need to live up to it. Except, now I am accountable to a higher standard than a non-christian.

        Edward, I think you’re exactly right! Keeping God’s law is critical to that standard. The Ten Commandments is something I have always kept in high regard even when I wasn’t going to church. It’s interesting because when God got my attention three and half years ago I dusted off my Bible and tried to read it again. As I flipped through I landed on Galatians 5 where it says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” That blew me away. What are you saying Lord, I don’t need to keep the law? I do not understand that idea. I thought keeping the law was what we needed to do? Then I read on in verse 6 which says “ The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” wow, LOVE! This is where I got my idea of love as being the standard. But how Lord? How does expressing love mean keeping your law? I was nervous and shaky. Then I read “ You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Big pause as I contemplated that….

        …and this is how you do it. “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But this is the best part— this is what the labor of love produces, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” Ah, I get it! It’s a new way of thinking. Walk by the Spirit, love your neighbour as yourself, lay down your needs, put away your desires and concentrate on loving others as yourself.

        The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through LOVE. according to Paul. God bless.

      • Kathy, I think you are on a good track. I still see some areas that may need work, but I feel that you are open to hearing the truth, and that is a great thing. I encourage you to keep digging and always question what you read and pray for wisdom.

        I do want to address one thing that you wrote about following the ten commandments. As I stated, the ten commandments are not a list of rules to keep, but rather, they are a measuring device to help us judge ourselves according to God’s righteous standard. We will always fall short and we should feel that we never have a chance of attaining that standard apart from the help of God himself. That is where the hope of the cross comes into play. Always remember that biblical love is always portrayed as an act of sacrifice (not a feeling). Remember, God doesn’t need anything from us for him to be God. The only thing he asks of us is the one thing we own outright, our own free will, our obedience, our sacrifice to of ourselves.

        I leave you with one final thing. Don’t take my word as final authority. Do your own research. The web is full of recourses both good and bad. You mentioned that Romans 3 was a stretch for you and there is no shame in admitting that at all, there is a lot to digest there. Please, please, please use the resources available to you to find the truth. If anyone proclaims truth by their own accord, red flags should be going up left and right. Some good websites are Grace to You, Stand to Reason, Got Questions.org. I would question anyone who does not support the bible as a source of authority. God Bless

  12. Thank you for writing this so eloquently. I’ve been wrestling with the same thoughts, and was concerned I was a heretic!

  13. I have never felt unloved or dirty or inherently bad……I always felt that God’s Love is so big we can’t or don’t even fathom it. It has all been taken care of by the Blood Of Jesus. I feel God all around and in every thing…….I think we are going to see more people in Heaven then we even imagined. I worry more for the self-righteous who really, deeply, believe they have it all figured out and by their actions keep people from Jesus. I know people who can quote scripture at the drop of a hat, know the Bible better then I, and yet their actions to people do not match their Christianity……that speaks volumes. God sees and knows all, I am letting him handle it. We need to bring people to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will work. We need to be doing our work as disciples and Christians and not so much of judge, jury, and executioner….not our job.We should be showing Love, Mercy, and Grace….to ALL people.

  14. So there is no misunderstanding, I am not writing to try and convince John to change his beliefs. I don’t know that I ever respond to him, but instead to his readers, because of the damage that can be done to those who do not know any better. So, here goes.

    I simply don’t understand how someone who is learned of Scripture can come to the conclusion that something referenced so often as existing doesn’t exist. ‘Hell’ is not a concept or principle; it is spoken in terms of being. It is promised with equal reality to that of its avoidance.

    Folks, at some point your blogger – if he ever truly believed in the Scripture – fell as many leaders do. For whatever reason or purpose we don’t need to analyze. Just know that it is so apparent in many of his teachings on this post that John is espousing interpretation of Scripture that runs contrary to what is fundamental to Christianity. I write in response to his posts so that I can sleep at night in the belief that God knows my heart and considers that I am fighting the good fight on behalf of those who might otherwise be led astray.

    I had a junior-high coach that for fun would make us march during recess. I would purposefully be out of step just so I could hear him mock me as, “I suppose everyone else is out of step?” You never want in leadership the guy who is out of step with everyone else this deep into the parade, and when it comes to this point of whether Hell exists, it will serve you well to understand just how out of step John is. There is a reason the Bible tells us that leaders will be judged more harshly. Leadership is important, and John has an opportunity with thi blog to lead in accordance with his blessings, but he is failing you.

    Hell exists. Trust Scripture as your source on this issue.

    • I have very little faith in scripture. I’ve come to understand that the Bible is a collection of writing from authors giving their perspective of who God is. It’s really no different than John or myself writing our perspectives through our blogs.

      This from a blog post I’m working on (and recently shared with John):

      “It really doesn’t matter what gift wrapping you put on the box, the box is still a box. In this case, Christianity is a religion; it’s a box.

      There are so many different varieties of religion–let alone varieties of Christianity–but what I’ve discovered is that it’s impossible to put God wholly inside a box.

      Fear and manipulation are also found in religion, and I don’t believe God to exist in those places either; therefore, I cannot be a part of it.

      Belief in hell, a place of eternal torment, is fear driven and anti-Love. It’s also a man-made idea that is only found within the confines of religious traditions passed down. I don’t believe it to be an inspirational writing given by God–ever.

      Sure, there are great things we can learn from sacred texts and teachings passed down, but I don’t view them as I used to. I see them now as man’s attempt to explain God.

      Taking the Bible as ‘God’s literal word’ is bibliolatry, and no different than idol worship. Even the authors noted that their writings were inspirational. It’s an attempt to gift wrap God between a front and back cover, and he doesn’t fit.

      …I’m leaving God in a new place I’ve never known before. I’m choosing to leave him in a place of mystery.

      In this place, there’s no need to define heaven, hell, or sin. Honestly, there’s no need to have anything concrete. God is God, I am not, and I cannot possibly begin to define him or his character outside the frame of Love.

      Outside of Love’s frame is wonder and mystery. It’s like exploring areas of space that haven’t been seen. Inside of Love’s frame is the beating heart of God. It’s all the security I will ever need.”

      • –the bible in English, is directly translated from original ancient hebrew, ancient greek & ancient aramaic texts. Bible translators, always use copies of the original texts. A copy is not a translation. A copy is verbatim.

        If you take the time to learn Hebrew, Greek & Aramaic, like some scholars do, then you can read the bible as it was originally written.

    • Hi David. I bet the Republican primary process is driving you just plain nuts. Did you read about the Ted Cruz supporting pastor who was shot multiple times over the weekend? You can read about it on my blog at the following link:

      https://faith17983.wordpress.com/

      As for Hell, if a person is a Christian, it does not matter whether Hell does or does not exist.

    • In that case, Hell existing, it means that rabbits are cloven hooved animals, the sun can stop in the sky, snakes can talk and other ridiculous Biblical “truths”. Man destroyed god as soon as he could tally up money and lie for power. Hell is a tool used by the wicked.

    • David, I’m curious as to how much training or experience you have in reading and interpreting Scripture, particularly from the original ancient languages. Those who have studied the history of Scripture know that the narratives we love were originally shared via the oral tradition before being committed to writing. When they were written down, they were subject to translation errors and omissions from the original narratives. God did not sit down and dictate our current canon of Scripture composed of 66 books into a scribes ear somewhere. This is the word of God, not the words of God. Actually, Jesus is the Word according to the Prologue to the Gospel of John. The bottom line in this is that we have received a sacred group of documents that were collected over the centuries from Hebrew tradition and then Christian tradition. Our current Bible was the result of a council of Nicaea where a vote was taken as to which stories/books were to be included and which were not. Really good narratives about our faith didn’t make the cut. And quite frankly there’s some stuff that should never have been included.

      We often view Scripture from an English language perspective, forgetting that many concepts and terms do not have English equivalents. A good example is Jesus conversation with Nicodemus about being born. There is no exact English equivalent to the terms, but the closest is being “born from above” and not being “born again.”

      King James paid to have his version of Scripture translated into English – the English of his day. Others have translated that version, which only perpetuates any errors it might have. It seems the NRSV might be the closest thing we have at the moment, but it too was the work of translation and interpretation. So to use Scripture as a guidebook or a manual for being human or anything of the sort is misuse of that treasure. We tend to worship Scripture rather than the God who is revealed in Scripture.

      The only way I have found to reach the positions many take on the more fundamentalist side is to pick and choose verses and to take them out of the context of the culture when they were written and to take them out of the context of the entire narrative of which they are a part. These are stories, narratives, and they stand as individual bodies but they fall apart when used piece meal and out of context.

      Our brother John (Pavlovitz, not John of the Revelation to John) calls us to live into right relationship with God and each other and spend less time beating each other over the heads with a book many worship rather than read. Am I a sinner? Of course. My sin is anything that places a barrier between me and my relationship to God or anything that places a barrier between me and my relationships to my fellow sojourners on this earth.

      Do I believe in Hell? No I do not unless we are already in it. I see Hell as a mechanism someone concocted to manipulate and control people through fear and it has worked well. But God does not operate out of fear, God is of love and operates accordingly…..His mysteries not all yet revealed.

      So thank you John and I urge those whose knickers are in such a twist to spend more time on loving than condemning. We are not here to save anyone…..Jesus took care of that. We are hear to witness to the saving work Jesus has done in our own lives.

  15. I am so grateful for you John; your writing and your insights are so like my own.
    I would like to thank your readers also; I have learned a great deal from them. I appreciate so much their generous grace in sharing personal stories.
    Where do I go from here? Where are y’all & what are you doing, you readers who live around here?
    I deeply appreciate the thoughts here, thank you.

  16. Nurturing father vs. stern father. Cooperation vs. Subordination. Crimes and punishment vs. mistakes and corrections. Order vs. infinite possibility.

    Classic cognitive framework differences at work in your head, John. You are not from the stern father mold, and do not see the world as Noir. Neither is your conception of God so dark. But so many Churches arise from the need for order built in to their founders and followers. They will never see what you see, and will never stop, and will never listen to your appeals, for their world, and the faith they created out of it, is wildly different, though it looks exactly the same.

    Humility cuts both ways. I prefer your brand.

  17. Thank you for this. I’ve been wrestling lately with whether Hell is even real. I wonder if there’s either eternal life with God, or eternal death (i.e, we cease to exist) if we choose to turn our backs on him.

  18. I like your words of experience. I believe hell is where we place ourselves when we listen to the adversary and hearken. God is a loving God who has laid out every opportunity for us to be happy and have joy in this life. We start this mortal life ‘fallen’ which means not in the presence of God and with physical bodies that will die but we do not start out dirty. We can stay connected to him through prayer, and His Spirit can help us if we so choose. He knew we would make mistakes that is why we need the Savior. We can never be perfect in this life but we are still commanded to be. I know I am rambling a bit but I know I am his daughter and he doesn’t make mustakes☺

  19. Sir, I beg to differ with you and for lack of time may I encourage you to read again the book of John the Revealator. It most certainly gives a different picture as does the book of John. My prayers for you dear pastor is that God will open your eyes and the ones who follow you will not be led into bell.

  20. Some commenters are freaking out at your words, but may I make a suggestion that I believe honors both your concerns and their concerns?

    I suggest that there is a hell (not an endless one, though, and not a torture chamber) we construct on our own when we are consumed by fear, violence, self-righteous contempt, domination, unforgiveness, indifference to God and neighbor. This hell may be set on fire in our gossiping tongues or hateful hearts, and originates as part of the wounded brokenness of human life and relationships: “the sin of the world”. If we die trapped in such internal misery, we may find ourselves in a kind of prison — though Christ is known as One who preaches the Gospel to the dead and releases them from their prisons (1 Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6).

    On the other hand, we are not born “deserving hell”, and Jesus loved the little children, blessed them, and said their angels always behold Abba’s face. Yes all of us do end up snared in some disobedience, but even that is a gift, so God may have mercy on everyone (Romans 11:32). Children, and people in general, are not dirty or shameful, but we are easily caught and need to be released, which Christ is more than happy to do.

    I agree with you that certain dogmas like original sin, penal atonement, and so on, need to be reformed; and others like endless hell fire need to be reformed and/or rejected. But there is the baby of some truth even in filthy bath water. Yes, we are beautiful to God, *and* God is our Savior.

  21. John – Thanks as always for sharing. This is how I’ve felt for awhile, but I’ve been too scared to say it (or admit it?) aloud.

    But since we’re talking about it, I’ll expand and say that I also struggle with the idea of eternity in general – not just eternal hell. I’m more inclined to believe that our “eternity” is just our life, and our heaven or hell is right here in the finite time we have in this life. And whether we experience heaven, hell, or purgatory is dependent on how we live the commandments and Jesus’ word.

    But I’m also reaching the conclusion that God is infinite magnitudes beyond what we can even conceptualize, so rather than trying to figure anything out or guess at what the Truth is, I just want to live right and love, and see where it takes me. After all, if we know we’re never going to figure it out, then it seems like wasted energy to even try to understand things.

  22. For those of you that believe that everyone is a child of God may I suggest that you read 1 John, Chapter 3 and John Chapter 8. From Scripture it is clear that everyone is NOT a child of God. Everyone can claim that they are a part of the creation of God. Remember this, that Satan himself is a created being who freely chose to rebel in pride against God himself and has sentenced himself to his eternal fate due to his own pride. Before this, there was no need for hell. God lets us choose who we want to follow but doesn’t let us chose the consequences of our decision.

    Interesting article on who and who is not a child of God; http://www.gotquestions.org/all-God-children.html

    Satan had everything but God’s glory and he wanted that for himself. That is the one thing reserved for God alone, and rightly so being the sole creator of this world.

    Love is not the sick and twisted version that many portray as “God is love and forgives everything no matter what” because if that definition is true, God should have forgiven Lucifer on the spot, but that didn’t happen because even Jesus speaks of hell as being a real place. If the “God is all love and forgives everything” definition is true, then he is a walked all over god and has no power over anyone. If that’s your definition, you can keep your god. I’ve got no use for someone like that. All love and no justice is a god of no power. All love and no righteousness is a god of no character. All love and no mercy is a god of no authority.

    • I think fundies like you need the concept of Hell. If it had not already existed prior to 1910, they would have been compelled to invent it. Hell is necessary for the fundie because he so desperately needs a place to send all the people who disagree with him.

      • And, dover1952, you have put a finger on what concerns me about discussions regarding Hell – the eagerness, nay, relish with which some people would consign others to burning winds, sulfurous flames and eternal maggots – it’s not my Universe, since I didn’t create it ex nihlo – so it’s nit my purview to say who is and not condemned. Seems a case of lese majeste to assume a prerogative of Deity…..

        Take care of yourself, brother….

        • Thanks. For those who believe in original sin, which is the desire to be God and play God, then to say who is and who is not condemned is to do precisely that thing. This is the position that the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23 had taken, and this is why Jesus blew his top. Ordinary sinners like drunkards or drug addicts were fine to go to dinner with because they were just ordinary people struggling with daily issues in their lives, issues Jesus had maybe seen in his own extended family. But the Scribes and Pharisees had jacked things who several notches higher and were actually challenging the Godhead and his competence to frame law—in other words—to take over his job. Watch this scene from the movie “The Crossing” and see what George Washington does. Every fundie in the United states would do well to watch this because it is precisely what Jesus did in Matthew 23:

      • VGG, no, no, no. Salvation is the gift of God, offered to everyone, only those who see the need will take it. That’s not ego for those who have it, that’s joy. It’s those who don’t take it that have the ego issues. They elevate themselves to a high place that doesn’t see their need for a savior. There is no ego in seeing someone pass up something that they could have had as a gift, the same as you.

    • Edward….thanks for your post. I’m always amazed that people say, ‘We’re all Children of God’…it’s a nice thought I guess..but it’s a lie. Certainly we are all created by God, but that is different. God gave everyone the ‘right to become’ a Child of God. And if you have to ‘become’ something…that means you weren’t it previously. Jesus himself said to the disobedient Jews, ‘You are of the devil, your Father.’ Yikes. Some of us our father is Abraham, others our father is Satan.

  23. So I was having a pretty good morning John, when you decided to reach over and stir my soup.
    I didn’t think my soup needed stirring…….. having a gay kid and leaving our church of 12 years last week which has been heartbreaking in a thousand ways……..still crying buckets of tears.
    But stir you did my friend.

    Thank you.
    Jesus loves me as I am.
    As I was.
    This story, this “middle school experience we call life…. its all about Him……and not about me.

    love you my friend
    jeffrey

  24. My comment is about your post on facebook on death and dying. It was so wonderfully thoughtful and worded. I sent via private msg. to my friends to share this embracing message about about
    when we die. You are so right in your thoughts and reading it helped me regain some strength
    I had been losing in my faith. Many thanks to you.

  25. I was a leader for 15 years in a church much like the one you grew up up in Pastor. A few years ago the lack of love I saw in a church that was suppose to be about loving God and then loving others couldn’t be ignored anymore. I was a teacher that became a student again, which has become a wonderful thing. Your journey has been so much like mine that I have followed you from the beginning and value your insights and perspectives. We may not always agree perfectly about everything but what two people have the same beliefs anyway? and isn’t it really about having questions and then more questions? How else do you continue to grow to be closer to God? Another pastor wrote his thoughts about why Jesus died which I want to share with you and I hope that it brings a new perspective while it is still biblical. So much of what we’ve been taught is from just one perspective (there’s a question in itself… how old is that perspective? 100 years maybe… What was really happening at the time the Bible was written and what did the writers really mean when they wrote it? Perspective doesn’t change what was written but it does change the meaning. Is the perspective we’ve been taught the real truth as some believe?) Anyway, the following may spark new thoughts in your talks with God:

    “For me, the suffering of Jesus is a sacrament of the love of God. The story tells us that God willingly soaks up all of our systemic injustice, personal evil and violence and returns only love.

    So God is no distant deity in some pure heaven far away. God is with us on earth in our horror, our terror, our violence, and our suffering. God refuses to add to the evil and violence, but instead responds with vulnerable, compassionate love. That’s how God wins. The resurrection of Jesus proclaims that love is more powerful than hate, compassion triumphs over oppression, and vulnerability overcomes power. Jesus invites us to put our trust in God, even in the face of horror, oppression, cruelty and death. God is with us. God feels and suffers deeply with us. And, what God does best is bring life out of death.” The Rev. Lowell E Grisham

  26. With every post of yours I read, John, another bolt on the door is pulled back, and I’m closer to flinging open wide the barrier of fear and anger and confusion at the senselessness of my former brand of Christianity that prevents me from being with Jesus. I can’t say you are bringing me back to God, but you are introducing me to the God who makes complete sense. Thank you for this

  27. I am choosing not to follow you any longer. I had liked and agreed from something previously posted, byt this post is heresy. You completely misinterpret scripture and your discernment is lacking.
    The bible is ALL TRUTH and it is not debatable, disputable or negotiable. It clearly states hell is real, and also that there is none good. We all deserve hell, but because of His infinite love and mercy, and His grace we are spared when we “CHOOSE” to follow Him. Revelations says we are all wretched, miserable, blind and naked without Him.
    Your viewpoint, and many of the others here are from a twisted misconception and interpretation of scriptures. Almost an atheistic view. That is so sad because you will lead many astray with this thought process. But just as well, it also explicitly states we all will be held accountable for every idle word we speak and be judged or condemned by such. You will be held responsible for those who believe your false doctrine and fall away because of it….
    I’m certain you will block or remove this comment, but idle curiosity will have you read it….
    Thus saith the Lord. ….it needed to be said!

    • Woman. Let me assure you that the intelligent here will not miss your lack of ability to properly translate, inability to understand cultural and historical perspective and your hate based faith. Bye Felicia.

      • Be very careful what you say…you will be held accountable. The Lord says “touch not mine anointed” I am blessed when others revile me and say all manner of evil against me, so thanks for the blessing. God bless you and have a nice day

      • Woman – I don’t think what you say is hate filled. In fact, because you believe what you say, then surely it must be said.

        On the other hand, I don’t agree with you. What you claim the bible clearly says – is not so clear to me. You are reading a translation and interpretation of text written thousands of years ago for a culture that no longer exists.

        My question is this: why do you think God only speaks through a book from 2000 year ago? Personally I see God in my walks through the woods, and in my moments of prayer. And when he speaks to me this way, there is no talk of Hell and no talk of wretchedness.

      • Woman of God you must not have read my posts. I had 12 years of private christian school education with intense bible study every single day. Church 3 times a week, Bible study at home, missionary bible camp each summer ( where I was twice raped by 2 married missionaries). I have taught Sunday School and was a Church Musician for 22 years. My dearest friend is a UM Bishop and in the past he has educated me on many topics. I do not believe that Jesus was real although his words and story are a beautiful manifesto on how to treat others. The Bible can be made to say absolutely anything if the person using it as a tool is uneducated or unintelligent. Given the opportunity and if I so desired I could shred you like a wood chipper and bark. I no longer derive pleasure from doing this as it is useless to confront the pridefully ignorant and it lost its amusing qualities years and years ago. If someone treats me with love and respect they can believe anything that floats their boat and I could care less. You however go on the attack. You disparage your betters and you are spitefully idiotic. I do not hate you but I despise your pain filled, guilt ridden, judgmental uneducated views. You actually make me nauseous. If you can’t be educated then you really have no purpose here in my humble opinion.

        • Kit9: Enough already. The saying goes that “God works in mysterious ways,” but after reading this last hate-laced harangue that we are to understand is due to your many years of being abused as a Christian leader, perhaps the mystery as to why you are no longer leading in that calling is no mystery at all?

    • @WomanofGod2017 – “Your viewpoint, and many of the others here are from a twisted misconception and interpretation of scriptures.” And we are to believe you have the correct interpretation because…..you say so???

      • Oh and woman of god, quit judging people. Until you can make nebulae and quasars WITH YOUR THOUGHTS, your OPINIONS mean schijt. Why are so many Fundamentalists so fearful and want to spread that fear of god?

      • Shows how little you really know and how ignorant you are….think what you like. Satan has lied to you and deceived you and God will allow you to believe it and be damned. He will not force anyone to believe. You’re free to choose to go to hell

      • I know more about my spirituality and my life than YOU EVER WILL! You didn’t live my life and your threats are meaningless. Lady, I’ve been around sociopaths and abusers, so you dont fecking impress me!

        You’re only proving what I learnt the very hard way: Fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity is based upon fear, extortion, emotional manipulation and injustice. Throw in ignorance and ego-tripping in the mix.

        The Creator of the Universe does NOT need threats; only weakling sheep resort to such tactics. You libel and slander the Creator of Life!

    • “It clearly states hell is real”

      This assertion is simply completely untrue. The way you have been taught and have INTERPRETED scriptures makes it SEEM to be “clearly stating” something about Hell. But I assure you, do some more research into the original languages and the context of all the verses used to support Hell, and you’ll find a much different story.

      Bottom line, the Bible isn’t as clear as you believe it to be on this subject..

    • It’s good to have differing opinions here. [I hope Christians would not stay away.] Although the ‘Christian bashing’ here often reaches fever pitch. There may be some sheep that will come back to Jesus. But the goats go where they will.

    • The post is philosophical. Philosophy and theology are not the same thing. Philosophy is based on human reasoning. Theology is based on the word of God. Theology is plain, simple and based on the word of God. If there is no hell, then why did Jesus die? But if the Son of God has been crucified then why? I understand the love of God through Jesus’ crucifixion. No other being ever demonstrated greater love than He. Therefore, I wouldn’t risk my eternal soul to hell, for satan will be condemned and everyone who believe his dirty prideful lies.

      • Just goes to show how little you know…. You have it backwards dear….
        He says I am blessed when others revile me and say all manner of evil against me for His sake, so thanks for the blessing! “Bless them that persecute you” so God bless you…. Have a nice day

        • Oh my. To disagree with a fundie is to persecute her. You fundies yearn to be persecuted just on the chance that what you perceive as persecution will somehow underline your faith tradition. However, I have noticed that you guys always lower the bar on what constitutes persecution sufficiently low to always ensure that this thing you define as “persecution” is soft and easy to take in the comfort of your living room at home. Just between you and me, I think that blasphemes the Spirit in all of the real Christians throughout the past 2,000 years who endured real physical torture, physical pain, and horrible deaths simply because they followed our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You are right about one thing though, I am reviling you FOR HIS SAKE.

        • Okay. I am sorry. I apologize. I did not know that you had had such a terrible life, that you have only been a Pentecostal Christian for 2 years, and the only thing keeping you out of more trouble with 38 years of drugs is that recently acquired fundie thread you are holding onto for dear life. I would ask only this. If a time comes when you feel your hands slipping back into trouble comes and you have doubts about the fundie version of Christianity, the answer is not more drugs or getting rid of Jesus. Right now you are a new Romans 14 weak Christian, as are most of the people at your current church—people who are still feeding on the mother’s milk of the faith rather than the solid food of the faith. When that dark hour comes to you—and it most certainly will—the answer is not to run away. The answer is to find a better church and go deeper into Jesus. Best of luck to you and God Bless.

  28. I have struggled with this issue for a long, long time. I even have trouble writing down what it is about the whole creation/sin/Jesus thing that gets me so tripped up! Sometimes I feel like I spend so much time trying to figure it all out.

    • I’m with y’all. Sometimes I fear a person who is uncertain in their trust of Jesus will fall in here and then wonder out and off completely. I know for me, I have to be strong to even come in here. At least I know what I’m getting in to. I think the real beauties in here are those who admit they don’t have all the answers. Who wake up in the morning and grab Jesus’hand and say ‘let’s get with it and start loving’. I appreciate your honesty. Hang on. Pick out people in here who lead with love. Tune out the hate. Let the theologians do their tthing. Peace to you.

  29. Thank you once again for sharing your observations! There is hell, but I think it’s someplace you put yourself, and then staunchly defend your right to be there.

    • There is a Hell. It is this thread on John’s blog. Now that we have discovered what Hell really is, would anyone like to join me for Spaghetti and meatballs?

  30. John, I have greatly appreciated your blog even though I don’t agree with you on a lot. I have found it very challenging, and I appreciate how you call out the Church’s hypocrisy and lack of love towards those who we disagree with.

    I do believe that hell is an absolutely essential doctrine, but I respect the fact that you have studied it, come to a different conclusion, so I am not going to throw scripture at you or harass you. I am sorry for the comments that are so cruel in the way they express their disagreement with.

    I am interested in knowing why you feel that Jesus had to come and die for us if there isn’t a hell and if we weren’t born in sin. Again, I am not looking to debate you, it’s a genuine question about your thought process if you have time and feel up to it.

    Thanks.

  31. If we are inherently good, then God’s love is obligatory. He has to love us, because we deserve it. God owes us love.

    If we are inherently wicked, then God’s love for us is unfathomably merciful. He doesn’t have to love us, as we don’t deserve it. He simply chooses to love us out of the riches of His mercy.

    Which is the greater love, one that is obligatory or one that is free and unconditional?

    • JD, I don’t think it’s that simple. First let me say I was an evangelical (still consider myself a Christ-follower) for more than 20 years, so I understand your line of thinking here. Let’s say you go to a restaurant and eat the best meal you’ve ever had. What’s the first thing you’d want to know? Wouldn’t you want to know who the chef was? And conversely, if you just ate the worst meal you ever had, wouldn’t you also want to know who prepared/cooked it? My point here is that your philosophy falls short and leaves out some key details (like why are we inherently wicked) and it is these details that are causing people to rethink things. I know the usual response to this would be “Adam and Eve” and “Can the pot say to the potter why did you make me like this, etc etc”, so I get that. Nevertheless, I don’t find any real depth to those proof-texts and in the absence of direct interaction with the Almighty, I think it’s understandable for us here on earth to question and rethink these things.

      • Machba, do we need direct interaction with the Almighty in order to know anything for certain about Him? Assuming none of us have seen Him with our eyes or heard His direct, audible voice, how can you be certain He is a God of love? God’s love seems to be your basis for rethinking the doctrine of hell, so if you dismiss the Scriptures that speak to this issue, my question is this: What is your basis for to knowing truth about God?

      • @JD – “Machba, do we need direct interaction with the Almighty in order to know anything for certain about Him?” JD interesting that you brought up “certainty”. You might know that Pete Enns is about to release a book on this very topic (and here I am giving him a free plug). http://www.peteenns.com/product/the-sin-of-certainty/

        My best response to you would be that I no longer feel that I “need” to be certain about anything. I’m okay with saying there are things I believe, and if you believe differently, that’s okay, I don’t need to try to “demolish your argument” or call you a heretic. Are there things that I would like to be certain about? Well, certainly ; ) I just don’t think it’s possible to do anything beyond “feeling” certain. But to be absolutely certain without direct interaction? No, I don’t think so. We are left to debate it. In my 20+ years as a believer, I have spent so much time on theology and I could probably get into a good possibly fruitful discussion with you about a whole host of topics. There are topics (like the doctrine of election, ecclesiology, church leadership, spiritual gifts, etc.) that I feel pretty well-read and solid on. The thing is, I’ve been down these roads many many times…and there was a time that it was enlightening and helped my understanding. I’ve come to a point now where I’ve decided to really simplify things, to find out what I believe is really important. I’ve currently narrowed it down to a set of verses: Psalm 23:1; Micah 6:8; James 1:27; Romans 12:1; 1 Thess 4:11. I’m NOT saying these are the most important verses for everyone, but these are the ones I’m focusing on right now. So for me to say “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want” — to me, that is a truth that I choose to hold up as highly important. Now as to your question about my rethinking the doctrine of hell, specifically ECT (eternal conscious torment) — I admit, that emerged out of a sense of fairness. It doesn’t seem right to me for a person to spend eternity in hell for any reason. I’m open to alternate theories about hell (such as annihilation) and I’m also open to John Pavlovitz’s views. But I don’t feel I need to be “certain” about it.

      • @ JD — “so if you dismiss the Scriptures that speak to this issue” — I thought I should also add, I don’t think I’m ever dismissing “the Scriptures”…..if anything, I’m dismissing a particular interpretation on “the Scriptures”.

      • (In response to your longer comment at 2:53), thank you for sharing your perspective. I’m fascinated by this recent postmodern allergy to “certainty,” because on an intellectual level, this position is self-refuting. How can someone state with certainty that nothing can be known with certainty? Ultimately then it comes down to subjective opinions, (as you demonstrate by saying ECT doesn’t seem right to you, or that you choose to uphold certain truths as highly important). So while I don’t think we need to know everything with certainty, I think we have to be able to hold some beliefs with certainty, and those beliefs must have a foundation beyond subjective preference. That’s why I try to form my belief system not on what seems right to me, but on what the infallible Word of God says.

        Ultimately my point was the Pavlovitz’s God, as described in this particular post, is not more loving than the God of orthodox Christianity. Instead, Pavlovitz minimizes the love of God by assuming, based on his subjective feelings and experiences, that man must be good. If man is good, then we’ve earned God’s love by our goodness. Man is thus magnified, and God is diminished in Pavlovitz’s theology.

        Romans 5:7 perfectly summarizes my point:

        “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.…”

      • @JD – Thanks for the reply. I realize dialoging through a blog site is where things can start to get a little vague and important details get left out.

        You said – “How can someone state with certainty that nothing can be known with certainty?” I think this ultimately boils down to philosophy. If I say “nothing”, what I really mean with respect to this discussion is, “nothing” beyond our plane of existence. Certainty at that point is just a “feeling”. I understand your appeal to the Scriptures. I think it is human nature to want that undeniable foundation to rest our opinions on. But even if we turn our attention to the “infallible” or “inerrant” Scriptures, that, as I’m sure you are aware, is a hotly debated topic. First we’d have to define what we mean by “infallible” or “inerrant” (i.e. Chicago Statement?, etc). Then we’d have to look at the many informed and well-reasoned arguments pro/con.

        So when you say this:

        “I think we have to be able to hold some beliefs with certainty, and those beliefs must have a foundation beyond subjective preference. That’s why I try to form my belief system not on what seems right to me, but on what the infallible Word of God says.”

        At the end of the day, what you wrote there is still, ultimately, “what seems right to you”. It “seems right to you” that the Scriptures are infallible/inerrant in the way that you believe and that they represent an objective support to your doctrines.

        As a final thought, I should point out that I feel proof-text without context is unhelpful in these discussions.

      • @ JD — btw, I just read a post up above by Bruce Garner (MARCH 7, 2016 AT 12:26 PM). What he wrote is very close to my current frame of thinking.

        • JD, It doesn’t matter how good because we will never be as good as God and no one will ever be perfect. But that should not stop us from choosing good and resisting evil which many people do outside the church and in other religions. So when we preach this message of absolute depravity and everyone goes to hell who doesn’t know Jesus when they die- it doesn’t hold up with good people and we are to blame for trying to sell the Gospel that way. But if we tell the truth of the Gospel which is: God is trying to have a relationship with us and Jesus is the one who shows us the way so believe what he says and follow him, lay down your life for others, stand up for those being ripped off, give to those in need, help those in trouble and make sure the sick are taken care of. Stop being self centred and dwelling on your miserable sins, stop talking about sin, stop going over your sins all day long, stop looking for sin around every corner in every cup and bowl in every coat pocket, focus on what it is that you can do that would be good instead. And finally because we are human and weak ask God to give you the strength to do good unto others even when your being an idiot and don’t feel like it. Pretty simple and very good eh?

    • JD that doesn’t make sense. We are God’s creation, His children made in His image He has always loved us. It’s not conditional.

      • So, if your child does not love you, the appropriate thing to do is throw several gallons of eternal gasoline on him or her and light him/her up like a torch forever? Thank you for not being my mom.

  32. Yeah… I needed forgiveness but I needed His fullness more. I can’t function anymore without His grace and mercy and unconditional love. Sometimes that’s the only way I manage to get from one hour to the next. It would be “hell” without Him…. His Spirit, giving me hope and purpose. I have and still do, act wretchedly, but He says “I love you anyway”. That’s a relationship I can believe in.

  33. John,
    Do you believe we can choose to accept or reject God? By choosing God, we choose His love, His mercy, His Grace, His Guidance, His Blessings and ultimately a life in His Presence (Heaven) upon our Death.. By rejecting God, we choose to follow our own folly, live by our wits, our whims and ultimately a life separated from God upon our Death?

  34. Thanks for this John, very thought provoking even though I disagree on the central premise. Allow me to illustrate with a question:

    You say you find it hard to reconcile a God of love with the concept of hell. Could you then explain how you reconcile the concept of a just God without it?

    • Ryan. Methodist reader is right. It depends on what you mean by the word “just.” Just has different meanings even in Biblical context. Most fundies i know see the word “just” in one way and one way only. They see it in criminal justice terms. Someone commits a crime. If the legal system kicks them in the ass for it—then that is “just.”

      There is another meaning for “just.” Pretend you have a row of 50 kids and you are passing out a big Christmas candy cane to each kid. As you go down the line, you run out of big candy canes when you get to child No. 48. When you get there, you shrug at the kid and say, “Oops. I ran out of candy canes. Better luck next time.” That is not “just.” The only way you will be just in this situation is to say: “Kids 48, 49, and 50. I apologize. I ran out. Stupid me. Wait right here while I run down to the store and buy three more big candy canes for you guys. That is “just.”

      I would bet my last nickel Mr. Ryan that you are the person who would shrug, apologize for running out of candy canes, and walk away forever leaving the last three kids empty handed.

      Go ponder that and meditate on the word “just.”

      • Yes! The ancient Jewish idea of justice is to “set to rights”. Retribution for crimes committed doesn’t SET anything right, it just gives a false sense of “payment made”.

        For instance, if I slap you, retributive justice says I should be slapped, too and/or locked up so I can’t hurt you or anyone else, but that doesn’t help the pain in your cheek. This is MAN’S idea of justice. It might make the victim feel a bit better, but it doesn’t really heal a relationship or help the victimizer become a better person.

        Restorative justice has me go to you and apologize and bring you an ice pack for the pain. We then move forward together in a reconciled relationship. THIS is God’s idea of justice. It promotes the healing of BOTH the victim and the victimizer and makes the world a better place.

  35. John, I stumbled onto this blog after I read On the day I die. Your writing is superb (a compliment from another writer) and I needed to see what else you’ve done.
    I am not religious. I do not attend any church, read the Bible, or pray. I do, however, believe in God and know HE is all loving and ever present in my life.
    From the time I was a very young child I can recall sitting in the pew next to my parents and listening to the minister go on and on about sin and hell and damnation and I wanted to run to the pulpit and tell him he was wrong. I wanted to tell him that the same God that created this stunningly beautiful world is the same one who created us. We are perfect. The great gift that God gave us the day each of us were born is free will and choice, and what we do with it is up to us.
    God does not “take a child home” or pick sides at the Super Bowl, and I have always thought that if you can describe Him, then you do not know Him.
    I am very quiet about my belief, yet it is the center of my being. I know I radiate love because I am one with God every moment of every day. From this knowledge I never waver, and I have never been let down, even in the darkest of moments.
    Light & Love,
    Linda

  36. Guys (I use the term generically): I do believe we may have reached a new low in the back-and-forth ugliness from both sides of the isle on this one. So much childish name calling and ugly banter that one would think he was reading a GOP debate transcript. When it gets this nasty, does anyone else feel the presence of Satan in this discussion? (At least, those of you who believe the Scripture that says he is alive and well on planet earth.)

  37. Forget stepping in”it,” we are neck-deep in the shit now.

    The single most recalcitrant fact of the Chritian worldview is before us. It is a dragon. It has both enormous emotional distaste, and can put some of the weaker brotheren into an intellectual quagmire of which they may never get out.

    More than a just a close read of Jesus teaching and how his early audience perceive those teaching may be needed here.

    One has to have personal knowledge of God to get past this dragon.

    One must have studied what is wrong with Calvinism and particularly where and why in order to get past this dragon.

    The ostriches in the group are desperately looking for those old familiar holes in which to stick their heads.

    On an unrelated note, tell me about the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. Or the ten virgins who were waiting for the bridegroom. I love stories about the number 10.

  38. Well, my friend, that is intense and provocative. I empathize more than I know how to say. I seek not to condemn, admonish, chastise, or any such unpleasant and vain attempt at discipline. I ask only a question, which I do not mean to sound rhetorical, but as a searching question.

    Why does the voice of one Bible verse (Luke 12:32 or Mark 1:11, perhaps) cry louder to us than another (Ps 51:5 or Rom 6:23, perhaps)?

    That’s the heart of the discussion, is it not? Our biblical understanding of a truly loving God and a truly vengeful God seem at odds with other, so we choose the ones we think seem reasonable, and we re-define the ones we find problematic. We attempt to ease this tension in a variety of ways:

    1. The loving God is more desirable or reasonable than the vengeful God, so we re-purpose the meaning of Rom 6:23 and Ps 51:5 to fit with this view.
    2. God is only loving to those whom He has elected, but vengeful to those who have incurred judgment, forcing us to re-purpose other Scriptures about God loving the world and all.
    3. We soften words/phrases like “depravity” and “sin nature” with phrases like “imperfect” or “work in progress,” which forces us to redefine the concept of hell and eternal torment (God would never eternally torment people who are just a little messed up, right?).

    Another possibility is to simply live with the tension. God really does love all people and He really will condemn some to hell. That is a textbook contradiction, inasmuch as humanity understands contradictions. Since Scripture creates the tension, we might want to simply embrace seemingly contradictory ideas, readily acknowledging that today we only know in part.

    FABULOUS, blog post, bro!

  39. One of the great gifts any community can give each other is a space to grow beyond boundaries. Thank you for sharing your own growth.

  40. Obviously This man does not believe! We are ALL born with the inheritance of Adam’s sin. Just like I inherited being blind and hard of hearing. We are ALL sinners by nature and the wages of sin is death of the soul and the body. God required a procedure in the OLD days to Sacrifice pure blood for atonement of sin, yet it never lasted, because man would sin again the next moment he turned around.

    Jesus Christ (God) became that sin sacrifice for ALL time. His pure blood payed our sin debt that we rightfully owe past, present, and future. To say we don’t deserve hell for the sin we inherited or the personal sin we commit is to say that we have NO remorse and are trying to avoid accountability. God created us so God makes the rules, we can’t change them to suit our OWN desires just because we don’t like it.

    Ye MUST Be Bornagain

    • Vince the idea of original sin is not a matter of inheriting Adam’s sin on our heads. In fact that is what Jesus took care of on the cross. Rather when we are born we come in to a world separated from God. We are born into a world that is against the idea of God, that is apathetic because the world doesn’t know God. But good people still exist despite their involvement with God. So the real Gospel is for every one, every kind of sinner and even the good people who don’t think they need God or don’t recognize who God. You see God is not looking to condemn his creation but to redeem it, to be reconciled with us. Jesus is invitng people to a relationship with Him.

      • I would point out that the concept of “original sin” was never historically a part of the assorted Eastern Orthodox Churches. It is a concept that was formulated in the Roman churches and their evolutionary descendants only. Original sin is the desire to “BE GOD.”

    • No. Here in Tennessee, it is different: “Ye must be bornded uh gihn.” Has you been bornded again? Here is my testimony of being bornded uh gihn:

      “Before I accepted Jesus, I was addicted to crack, heroin, alcohol, ecstasy, and seven other dangerous drugs—and cigarettes. I was schizophrenic, bipolar, and stark raving mad. I was also blind in both eyes—and all my arms and legs had been amputated at the trunk of my body. Everyone in my family died on the same day—even the uncles, aunts, and cousins—leaving me totally alone in the world. I had no friends in the world, and even though I had health insurance, my doctor would not even see me. Then in the twinkling of an eye in the tent revival down at the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) Church, I was shot through with fear, accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior like a bawling baby, and He saved me from Hell. In that very moment, the Spirit of the Lord seized me, and instantly, all of my drug addictions ceased, my mental illnesses went away, the scales fell from my eyes, all four limbs reappeared on my body, and all of my relatives came back to life again—and I got a doctor’s appointment. I grabbed both poles of the battery in God’s Ford Thunderbird, and I felt the power of the Lord surging through my body!!! Praise the Lord!!!! Praise the Lord!!! Praise the Lord!!!”

      Tell me about how you were bornded uh gihn!!!

  41. Thank you for speaking about this. Isn’t it strange how angry it makes people to suggest we don’t deserve hell? I continually feel “homeless” when it comes to not knowing how I fit anywhere anymore when it comes to my faith. You help me remember I’m not alone. I’ve shared my blog with you before; I hope you don’t mind me sharing it again. Maybe it will help someone. http://kellbell-justmythoughts.blogspot.com/2013/06/good-news-or-gospel.html

  42. There was a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode in which a hipster died and awakened in a very boring waiting room, with Muzak, little old ladies, Highlights Magazine…the hipster is told that he has died and been sent to Hell…so he asks where are the flames, demons, etc – the cool stuff? He’s then told that the boring waiting room is Hell for him (I think I’m recalling the episode correctly)

    I’ve said in previous postings that I hope Heaven is a combination of Narnia, Middle Earth and The Federation (and waay better than all of them); Heaven will be that place of Ultimate Rest in Ultimate Love and Ultimate Light, Hell (and I think there has to be such a place, consistent with justice for all the evil in the Universe) is the exact Opposite – No Rest, No Light and No Love.

  43. Is it truly faith when it is so fragile as to preempt discussions and questions about aspects of it?

    The nastiness is appalling when all John has done is raise questions about what so many of us were beaten about the head and shoulders with in the name of God.

    Original sin is a concept that came from St. Augustine…..mind you now after he had done a considerable amount of hell raising in his life before being converted. Some of his notions are reasonable, some just the manifestation of his own guilt.

    Those who pound on the last book of our current canon of Scripture might want to learn its correct name. It is The Revelation to John. It is not and never has been the Book of Revelations. It is also end times teaching. Ask yourself a question: Am I one of the only 144,000 who will be saved? If not, what’s the point? Remember, the narratives of Scripture are posited on some things we know NOT to be true: The earth is not flat. The earth is not the center of the solar system or the universe. Illness and disease are caused by viruses and bacteria, not evil spirits. People are mentally ill, not possessed. I’m not saying that God cannot do anything that God wants to do. I am saying that God has given creation over to human beings and placed our relationship with God in our hands as well. We work out our own salvation in fear and trembling. No one can do it for us, no matter how hard they try. We cannot “repent” the sins of others nor can others “repent” our sins. See below about free will.

    Posters continue to drop half verse bombs into the conversation: Yes, there is a passage that says “the wages of sin is death.” But it is pure fear and manipulation to leave out what follows: “but the gift of God is eternal life.” While it hasn’t been mentioned this time around, I’m surprised no one quotes John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that the world might be saved. Again, the following rarely gets added: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but that through him the world might be saved. Context and continuity are key to understanding. Anything less is manipulative.

    I live by faith, not by sight. God is and always will be a mystery to me. I cannot attribute human characteristics to God because that takes away God’s divinity. We do not have the vocabulary to describe or understand God. Jewish people have it correct when they seek not to either say or write the name of G-d. Us putting God into a box doesn’t mean God has actually ever been in one of our boxes.

    We have free will. We choose how we will act and behave. We choose to make decisions that might not be in our best interest. Yet, regardless of whatever choices I have made or decisions I have made, and whether I am right or wrong, there is one aspect of my relationship with God in which I put my absolute trust and faith: God will forgive and show mercy because such is the nature of God.

    • Thank you Bruce for contributing to this discussion. After many many (did I say many) years I find myself with a very similar perspective as yours. I’m continuing to learn….

    • I might also add that forgiveness may be in the nature of God, but it is not in the nature of Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. I have never met one yet who is not absolutely committed to making sure that any sort of offender “gets what’s coming to him or her.” They, as a people, are heavily into punishment, revenge, and retribution. They might claim: “All we want is justice.” But really, all they want is blood.

      Love, forgiveness, and mercy are three words that they may give false lip service to—but when push comes to shove—they want blood.

    • Hooey is right…I will not use Rev. or pastor with this stack of lies…instead I will refer you to scripture that would be the BIBLE. Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth it is all you will need as the Holy Spirit reminds you of the solid teaching it holds. John try reading 2 Timothy 4:3.

  44. What is amazing to me about this article is the way that you have discovered the truth- by what your feelings told you. If that’s how this works, then let me have a try at it: “Scripture tells me not to covet my neighbor’s goods. Now, for a long time I have felt that God surely would never create me to have desires for my neighbor’s goods and then deny me those very things! Maybe the 10th Commandment is really an out-dated notion that was just needed for a certain place and time, or maybe it was mistranslated. Don’t try to use the Bible to argue me out of taking your goods because I have finally experienced the truth of ‘Finders keepers, losers weepers’” And thus begins the slippery slope that leads to the hell that you don’t feel we deserve. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” OF COURSE you FEEL that we are not deserving of hell! Proverbs said that would happen. You can use twisted logic to defend anything when your heart is set on it. You have made your personal feelings the standard of truth rather than the standard of God’s Word. You have already even questioned the need for the Cross (“…couldn’t He have just forgiven you… without needing Jesus and his death…”). So now you’re left with a John-Pavlovitz-shaped god who can’t save anybody.

    • I was asking a friend about communion the other day because I went to a fundamentalist church about 20 years ago and they didn’t believe in taking communion every week or two, because they felt that practice idolizes the death of Christ. Rather they took communion once a year on the appropriate Passover day according to the Jewish calendar. So, I told my friend I wasn’t relating to her experience with communion because of my background and I was indifferent to it. So she sent me a web link with about 3 or 4 different positions on what taking communion means according to 4 different well known Christian ministers. And these ideas of communion were different. So it looks like some of this is man made to me. People arguing about things people made. After reading some of it I just shook my head and said why do we have to even know this?

      Jesus captured my heart already. I’ve turned to Him. I realize I fall short of God’s perfection. I go to God to ask him to bless others to give me the added strength I need in whatever might come my way. As I go through my day I set my mind to do good to others and to do well by God and ask that his grace covers us ALL when and if we sin. I am realizing more and more how self centred I can be. So I can’t live without this daily conversation I have with Jesus but I can live just fine without ever thinking about hell ever again. I don’t watch horror movies as a rule. I am a sensitive viewer. Just to make it clear when you saying things about hell it does not make me feel fear rather it traumatizes me. The story of hell is upsetting. I can’t stand the thought of suffering people. I am the kind of person if I drive by a car accident I do not want to look at the scene. It was Jesus who said come to me all who are weary and heavy laden for I am humble and gentle of heart and you will find rest for your souls. That is the God I know.

      • Hi Kathy. If Jesus has truly captured your heart, then I think you agree that His words are important. He talked a lot about hell. The good news is that when we turn from our sins and trust Him then we do not have to worry about that place because we rest in the fact that He died and rose again to save us from that fate It should, however, concern us that others are going there, so that should motivate us to share the message of salvation. I can understand not wanting to look at a car accident, but imagine I said to you, “I don’t like to look at car accidents or even think about them, so I don’t warn my children to drive safely or to use a seat belt because that just makes me think about unpleasant thoughts like car accidents!” No, that thought should motivate me to advise them to drive safely. Jesus doesn’t want us to morbidly focus on hell, but he did talk about it, so he wants us to cling to Him and to warn others to do the same.

        • I think the Good News is God’s invitation to know Him. He is knocking on the door. He wants to meet people. He wants to know people. He wants to help people. He wants to give people joy. He wants to be alongside you when you are sitting in that emergency room with your head in your hands. He wants to bless you not curse you. Come all who are thirsty He is saying Come and eat what is good. It is all free ! He has already forgiven us.

          • Hi Kathy. Yes, He does wank to know people and bless people. The problem is, that very same Jesus told us, “Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it. How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it.” (Matt 7:13-14)

            • I don’t find that telling people the Good News is a problem. I see the narrow gate parables much like a race parable. Not everyone can be first or the best but if you finish the race that’s the important thing. Keep running. 🙂

        • Hi Nikki. Jesus talked about hell in these places:

          Matt 10:28 Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

          Matt 23:33 You serpents, you offspring of vipers, how will you escape the judgment of Gehenna?

          Matt 24:48-51 But if that evil servant should say in his heart, ‘My lord is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with the drunkards, the lord of that servant will come in a day when he doesn’t expect it, and in an hour when he doesn’t know it, and will cut him in pieces, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites. That is where the weeping and grinding of teeth will be.

          Matt 25:46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

          Luke 16:22-24 The beggar died, and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom. He cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.’

          John 5:28-29 Don’t marvel at this, for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

          It may also be Jesus speaking in Revelation 21:8, but even if it’s the Father they always agree, so…

          Rev 21:8 But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

          • Mark,

            Gehenna was Jerusalem’s garbage dump. Jesus was warning the disciples not to directly confront Rome and not only get themselves KILLED, but to have their bodies dumped into Gehenna (a fate worse than death to a Jew). The “soul” in this verse is more akin to personal identity or “reputation”. But the passage ENDS with Jesus saying NOT to fear, for God would resurrect them no matter WHAT happened because He cared more for them than anything else in creation.

            The Pharisees did NOT escape the “judgement of Gehenna”. They, too, were cast into the fires after being slaughtered in the rebellion of 70AD.

            “Weeping and grinding of teeth” does not equal “HELL”. It simply means being in a state of extreme frustration or anger and not having any outlet for it. There was a great deal of this in the aftermath of 70AD, but this particular passage is just talking about the emotions caused by the conditions in the parable. BTW, if you believe this is how GOD really acts towards His people, I feel very sorry for you.

            “Eternal punishment” is a misnomer, as is “eternal life”. The Greek word does NOT mean “eternal”. It’s punishment/life “of the ages”. It’s talking about a different KIND of punishment and life, not a specific TIME of punishment or life. We have “life of the ages” right now. We can experience “punishment of the ages” when we choose to live a life apart from Him. That “punishment” is the natural results of our sin.

            The parable of The rich man and Lazarus was Jesus’ take on a Jewish Greek-inspired popular MYTHOLOGY that He USED and turned upside down on them to make His point about the poor and who was “righteous” before God. He was not teaching on the afterlife. If He WERE, then we have some real problems, because NOBODY believes THIS picture is what the afterlife looks like. It doesn’t match ANY current beliefs concerning heaven and hell.

            “Resurrection unto judgement” doesn’t say anything about Hell, either. Judgement means to weigh, expose, evaluate or reveal. It is not merely a legal term like we choose to think of it. God’s judgement is not a legal setting in a courtroom environment. It’s about exposing our false beliefs and showing us the truth.

            Revelation is an allegorical and apocalyptic book that many believed shouldn’t have been included in the canon because of the error reading it literally would likely cause. I think they were right. The term “Lake of Fire” could mean just about anything. We simply don’t know. A “Dante’s Inferno” type hell is simply one POSSIBLE interpretation made popular by artists and playwrights.

            • Wow. You have done a great job of explaining away everything.
              First of all, you made a comment about Gehenna and how Jesus was telling the disciples not to confront Rome… This is nonsense. Jesus said to “fear him who is able to destroy…” You’re telling me that Jesus was telling people to fear man? Go back and read the Bible again. He was telling them to fear God. RIGHT BEFORE the verse I just mentioned He was speaking of what men would do and He actually said, “Therefore don’t be afraid of them…” (verse 26) We are not to fear men, only God.
              The eternal punishment in Matthew 25 is obviously talking about a future punishment after the Judgment- just read the context. You can use all of the Greek and Hebrew tricks you want, but just read what it says- there is a judgment, some will go to eternal life and others to eternal punishment. I just looked up the “eternal punishment” phrase in 21 different versions of the Bible, and they do speak of eternal punishment.
              The rich man and Lazurus account is different from the parables because Jesus used a person’s actual name. Verse 23 of this account says that Lazarus was not in the final “hell” yet, he was in Hades (still is). Revelation 20:14 says, “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” which is why the Lazarus account may not look like descriptions of the afterlife you have seen. But you question Revelation anyway, which is pretty convenient. When we don’t want to deal with a certain doctrine, like hell, it’s easy to find ways to dismiss it.

              • Mark,

                He was telling them to RESPECT Rome, who could destroy not just their body, but their reputation (being thrown into Gehenna was a curse to Jews), thereby doing double damage to the gospel that needed to get out quickly beyond Jerusalem. But, as He said at the end of the passage, ultimately nothing that happened would change their FINAL disposition. This verse is badly translated and totally mistaught. Now that you BELIEVE it says what you have been taught it says, you can’t see it any other way. It was a PRACTICAL warning about not crossing Rome (a subject that Jesus alluded to often). It has NOTHING to do with the afterlife.

                “You can use all of the Greek and Hebrew tricks you want, but just read what it says”

                Second funniest thing I’ve read today. What do you think the BIble was written IN? English? It’s not “tricks”. It’s understanding the language and how it was used at the time – something most Christians are simply unwilling or unable to do these days. We know SO much more about Greek and the Jewish and Greek culture of Jesus’ day than we did even 20 years ago, and more is being discovered all the time. Don’t bury your head in the sand because you don’t want to believe some new information about how Greek is used and what certain phraseologies represented to them. Language is not a flat science. It’s a LIVING science and it changes with the culture it is being used within. OUR language has new words and idioms EVERY year. Imagine how much different Greek back then was to how it is used today. This is important stuff if we want to read the Bible correctly.Just because 21 English versions (most probably published well over 10 years ago) use the word “eternal” doesn’t make it correct.The words don’t SAY eternal. It’s WRONG.

                “The rich man and Lazurus account is different from the parables because Jesus used a person’s actual name.”

                There’s no weight to that “logic” except that’s what some commentator said once. The name used is ACTUALLY Eliazer (translated to Greek as Lazarus) and was an important name to Jewish scholars, as it was the name of Abraham’s SERVANT, whom then became his heir. That’s significant to Jews and is the reason Jesus used the name. Again, when you understand the context, and the culture and the mythology of the times, this story makes MUCH more sense with deeper levels of meaning to His audience than it has for US. Jesus was speaking to JEWS about JEWISH matters, concerning how they were using their religion to cast down and marginalize the poor, which is the OPPOSITE of what Jesus was teaching, and (hey, guys) also the opposite of what Abraham did. These things were not unnoticed by them, which is why they so often wanted to throttle Him. He was mocking them by using their OWN history, laws and customs. This time using a eschatological story that was popular at the time. Afterlife theology was a new thing for Jewish scholars of the day, and their were many competing ideas about what happened after you died. This one, strongly influenced by Greek beliefs (hence the use of the word Hades, the Greek “land of the dead”), was one of them.

                Death and “Hades” is the SAME thing. Hades is merely the Greek name for the holding place of the dead. Jews called it Sheol. “Doubling” (saying the same thing in different ways) is a common practice in Jewish literature. Especially in poetic and prophetic writings. You can go ahead and claim to “know” what Revelations means (many do), but I won’t go there with you. It’s dangerous to pull theology out of such a allegorical book that is full of subversive ideas and images.

                • Sorry, Jesus was not telling His followers to respect Rome. Just read the verse: Mathew 10:28 “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” I do realize the Bible wasn’t written in English. My point is that it says what it says in English because scholars translated it a certain way. 20+ versions (probably representing many different language experts) translate the word as “soul”. I didn’t see one that said, “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the REPUTATION…” Come on! What you said about death and Hades and the account of Lazarus changes nothing. Wherever He supposedly got the story, Jesus gave an account of a rich man who was in conscious torment after death. The fact that, to make His point, He chose to use a story of a person in conscious torment after death, is what it is. You can pull the whole scholarly, deeper meaning stuff if you want. I just don’t buy it.

                  • Mark that is not how translations work.

                    As well you are saying that it only makes sense in your mind to mean what you think it says.

      • Mark the word you are referring to punishment is Kolasin in Greek and some think it could mean corrective punishment not punitive as well the Greek word Aionion translated as eternal dose not seem to have a direct English translation and could mean a period of time or a unit of history or the world or a name of a boy. Five Cent Father was giving a historical background. Some people do think Jesus was referring to Gehenna (the place were garbage was burned) was a warning to his present day accusers such as the Pharisees, so a unit of history might work in that case. So in classic Jesus style he used a comparison type of statement to emphasize his point ie “don’t worry what man, does worry what God does” fill in the blanks. It’s similar to how often Jesus used hyperbole to get the message across. Literalists seem to have a hard time understanding that a lot of what is recored in the Bible about what Jesus said seems to be in parables and metaphors. As well he spoke Greek which is nothing like the English language. Food for thought eh?

        There is debate out there with reference to the fate of people and what was meant by what was said in the Bible about hell. But for sure the Theology of Hell came much later in Church history around 5th century. Some of it influence by the Godpel of Nicodemus and certainly gievn more visual through the imagination of Dante’s Inferno.

        But, I would rather stick to telling the Good News and giving people hope.

        • The “eternal punishment” phrase I referred to in Matthew 25:46 is translated with words like “eternal, everlasting, forever, punishment, torment” in all of these versions of the Bible: ASV, BBE, CEV, Darby, DRB, EMTV, ERV, ESV, GNB, GW, ISV, JUB, KJV, LEB, LITV, Murdock, RV, TLV, WEB, Webster, CJB, NIV, NLT, HCSB, NASB, RSV, & AMP. I would say that probably represents a huge number of Hebrew and Greek scholars using the words above. The “Theology of Hell” did not arise in the 5th Century. It is talked about way back in Daniel 12:2 “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”, and later Jesus, Jude, and Paul all talked about it. I do agree about telling people the good news and giving them hope. That’s exactly why I preach about hell. When you tell a person about the reality of what Jesus wants to save them from it makes the good news truly good news! If there is no hell, then why did Jesus even have to die? Just telling people “Jesus loves you” when they love their sin will make them even more comfortable in their sin. They will comfort themselves with the fact that. “What I’m doing may be wrong, but God loves me anyway, so I’m OK”. But when a person sees the reality of hell and they turn to Jesus, they will have a great love for the One who saved them from such a fate.

          • Mark I am giving you the original word used in the Greek text before it was translated into English versions. Do you understand a little better now?

            To be honest the things you are saying sound like you are parroting what you have heard others say.

            • I do understand. The Greek word translated “eternal” is, more specifically, aiōnios . Strongs says it means “perpetual”. Over and over again it’s translated in Matthew 25:46 as “eternal” and “everlasting”. You can tell me all the nuances of the Greek word, but when it came time for the scholars to choose the best way to put it in English they overwhelmingly seem to choose words like “eternal” and “everlasting”. That carries some weight.

              • Strong’s Greek: 165. αἰών (aión) — a space of time, an age
                biblehub.com/greek/165.htm
                165 aiṓn (see also the cognate adjective, 166 /aiṓnios, “age-long”) – properly, an age (era, “time-span”), characterized by a specific quality (type of existence).

                I don’t think your source is accurate

                • Looks like we’re getting into fruitless word battles now- my Greek source vs. your Geek source. You’re right that love carries the most weight. If I truly believe there is a hell, which I do, would it be loving of me to not warn people? I think it takes a lot of academic gymnastics to make the idea of hell disappear from the Bible. Give a person of average intelligence a copy of the Scriptures and they will conclude that when Jesus says things like, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” that there is a horrible fate to avoid. But they will also see the wonderful thing Jesus did to rescue them. How could I not love the One who did that for me?

                  • I agree Mark nice to see your human side.

                    I think Jesus said that the loving thing to do is to care for people. He said “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” now that takes commitment

          • By the way, all the versions you listed are translated from the KJV no one goes back to the original Greek any more. There should be pages at the beginning of your Bible that talk about how the translation was developed.

          • You sound like an entertainer or a salesman. It’s like you are presenting a product for people to consume, the more terrible your fate the better Jesus is! The more terrible the bad news is the better the good news is!!! wow I get it.

            I bet you do street preaching eh?

            • I’m selling nothing nor am I trying to entertain anybody. I admit that preaching can come across that way because, “Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor 5:11) – we are actually trying to persuade people. But no matter how anyone judges my motives I do want people to experience God’s love. Some preachers may talk about hell to condemn people. I talk about it to awaken people to danger so that they run into the arms of Everlasting Love.

              • Actually if you did a survey of people and asked them I am pretty sure they know their body is going to succumb to disease die and that knowledge is enough to make them question life and search for God. Every person dies the good, the bad and the ugly. Our time on earth is like a vapor. Giving people hope not only in this life for a comforter but in the next life, salvation is the Good News anything else is our imagination. God is offering life and peace.

      • You guys should no better than to spin your wheels arguing with a fundie like Mark Annand. That is precisely what Satan wants you to do—get trapped spinning your wheels trying to defeat a tree stump in an argument. How many of you have ever won an argument with a tree stump? The best thing to do is not argue with tree stumps because it is a waste of time and it saps the body and soul. Save your arguments for people who might actually amenable to what you have to say. And always remember this. Fundies never win an argument because they are right. They just feel that if they can outlast you while sticking to their point and not budging, that counts as a win in their book—and they feel that onlookers will count it as a win for them too.

        Quit wasting your time with this bozo.

      • Mark,

        “You can pull the whole scholarly, deeper meaning stuff if you want. I just don’t buy it.”

        I believe this is called “willful ignorance”. Not a good quality for someone who claims to want to know what the Bible actually says. But, then again, you never made that claim. You said you ALREADY know what it says, so you don’t need anyone giving you any NEW information that might change what you’ve always believed about it.

        Therefore I will leave you in peace to believe as you wish.

        Kathy,

        You might be interested in picking up a copy of this translation which I have found VERY helpful to my Bible study. It gives ALL the alternate meanings of Greek words and phrases for EVERY verse, so you can decide for yourself (with the Spirit’s guidance, of course) what is “the truth”.

        http://jonathanmitchellnewtestament.com/

        Blessings on you both.

        • If I seem willfully ignorant please do send me a list of all of the Bible translations that don’t use any phrases like “eternal punishment” and I will be happy to look up the texts in question in those as well. But here’s something else to consider: You may find Bible translations that can explain away hell with alternate translations of certain words. But the fact remains that those words still can and have been translated to favor the doctrine of hell over the years. So, unless you can provide reputable translations that completely and undeniably refute the doctrine of hell as well as Greek dictionaries that show the impossibility of translating the words to actually mean “eternal punishment”, then there is still a chance that hell exists since these texts can still be translated that way. And if there is even a chance that hell exists it is still wise to warn people about that chance. I would want to be warned if there was the slightest chance that the bridge ahead on the road was out.

          • Mark,

            “if there is even a chance that hell exists it is still wise to warn people about that chance.”

            You have just revealed the true “source” of your “faith”… FEAR! Fear that God MIGHT roast you if you don’t “please” Him. Fear that you might be WRONG about your theology, so you better tow the theological line that you’ve been taught…. just in case.

            Fear is a TERRIBLE reason to have “faith”. Sure, it DRIVES people to believe something, but it doesn’t grow any love or real trust and it makes God out to be a monster that if we COULD, we’d rather just AVOID altogether. I refuse to try and have a relationship with a god like that. He’s not worthy of my devotion, love or service. Quite frankly, THAT kind of god is more worthy of “Hell” than ANY of us.

            Thankfully, I’ve come to realize that GOD is not like that, and (GASP!), this idea is QUITE supportable from scriptures, if you CARE to see it. Obviously, you are SO comfortable in your fear-based theological bubble that you run from anyone who might try and pop it and set you free.

            I pray that the Spirit will someday place circumstances in your life that will allow you to see God differently and grow you up in further into LOVE and real faith (trust), rather than fear and uncertainty.

              • Mark,

                I don’t question your faith in CHRIST. I’m sure you love Him with all your heart.

                But the ultimate DRIVING force of that faith is ROOTED in fear. I KNOW. I used to be in the same theological bubble that you are. I considered myself an apologist. A “defender of the faith”. I KNEW the Bible, I KNEW what it said. Nobody was going to “trick” me with any false doctrines.

                But after MANY years of church service in the name of Christ, I became disillusioned and empty. After several years like that, I began to believe there must be MORE than what I had “always known” about God. And that little “crack” in my theological bubble was enough for the Spirit to begin leading me out and away from the fear-based religion I had always believed into something far, far better. The freedom and excitement I feel now, let alone the LOVE, is just mind-blowing. Much better than even all the “mountain top” religious “highs” I had as an Evangelical. I THOUGHT I had everything pretty much figured out (of course we NEVER would admit we think we do, but if we’re honest, we do), but I was SO wrong. It’s taken me nearly three years to get where I am today, and I am STILL learning new things EVERY day about the Bible that I have NEVER seen before. And it has led me into a stronger love relationship with Christ AND with God Himself, than I ever thought or dreamed possible.

                So, no, I don’t question your faith. I question the REASON for your faith. I had to eventually admit, about 18 months ago, that when it came down to it, I only believed what I did because I didn’t want to take the “chance” that I was wrong and get thrown in Hell. That’s EXACTLY what you JUST said. We may talk all about the LOVE of Christ that rescues us from Hell. But if we could just avoid that whole “God sends you to Hell thing” in the first place, we wouldn’t NEED or WANT this “love of Christ” thing at all. We ONLY accept it because we feel we have no choice. At it’s heart the Christian RELIGION is about coercion, plain and simple. Believe or else. You KNOW I’m right. Just admit it.

                But what’s amazing now is I DO need and want His love! More than EVER before. Not because I’m “doomed” without it, but because it feeds my very soul. I AM His love. I am an expression – a living epistle – that tells His love. And there is NO fear, for perfect love CASTS out ALL fear. I no longer think of God as some being “out there” who is constantly judging me and would sooner burn me to crisp if it wasn’t for Jesus holding Him back. God is part of ME, ONE with me. And also one with ALL of us, if we but open our spiritual eyes and SEE Him. That’s what Jesus came to teach us to do. But, for the most part, we traded that message for another gospel of judicial scales and belief-following (a small improvement from Jewish law-fallowing) to get on God’s good side. Jesus came to show us the true nature of God, but we don’t BELIEVE Him. We’d rather believe nearly EXACTLY what the Jews did about Him and therefore remain in self-imposed blindness to His full goodness. We’d rather “serve” a God that both loves us and despises us, and call that “His ways are not our ways” and dismiss it as “Well, God makes the cosmic justice rules. We just have to follow them, even if they don’t make any sense.” God as JUDGE. God as AUTHORITY. God as OTHER. It’s SO sad how blind we prefer to be.

                My desire is not to disparage or BREAK your faith, but to give you a GREATER faith, in a GREATER God than you have EVER dreamed.

                • You can enjoy your New Age Jesus of “love” and feelings if you want to, but you still ignored my last point. You’re ignoring all of those texts that (at least) CAN be translated to say there is a hell. You can try to boil words down to their basic elements to look for ways to explain this doctrine and that doctrine away, but the Bible was written for the common man. Read it as a person of average intelligence would read it. The people who came against Jesus the most were the ones who were the most scholarly.

                  • Yes, the familiar “anti-intellectual” argument.

                    The Bible was written (well, at least the NT) to first-century JEWS. You are not one, therefore, it was NOT written to you. If you WANT to understand it like one, you HAVE to do some study. Otherwise, you are just being dishonest with yourself and disrespecting of the text and the authors.

                    That being said, I am HARDLY an intellectual. I don’t even have a college education. I’m just an average Joe who’s looking to get the most out of the ancient texts that were passed down to us. SOMETIMES a plain English literal interpretation IS sufficient for a basic understanding. But many times it’s not.

                    This is the problem when we substitute a humanly-translated man-compiled book for the living Holy Spirit of God, the one that JESUS said would lead us into all truth. He never told us to wait for the book, but to wait for the Spirit. Yes, the Spirit can USE the book, but we go MUCH further than that. We elevate the book beyond the Spirit (cause we can’t TRUST ourselves to hear Him properly, you know) and trust “our own understanding” (or worse, somebody ELSE’S) for what it says.

                    I’ve just BEGUN to discover what it’s like to have the Spirit LEAD me to scripture and teach me, rather than reading scripture and expecting the Spirit to show up and teach me. It’s an amazing process. Not as pat and structured as “daily quiet time in the word”, but living and dynamic and so eye-opening.

                    You can call it “New Agey” if you want to. We often label and dismiss what we don’t understand. Heck, I would have probably called it that, too a few years ago. 🙂

                    But it’s real. I can’t convince you. I can only testify of it.

            • –I think fear is a wonderful thing! It humbles you. It brings people to repentance & faith in Jesus. That’s what brought me to a saving faith. Total helplessness, the cowering in the corner kind.

              Many people have put their faith in Jesus when they faced a life & death situation. They were scared!! And they called out to Him. And Jesus, who is faithful, answered them.

      • When Jesus hung on the cross there was not one person inthe entire world who was righteous. NO NOT ONE. His preaching of the law was meant to show that the law condemns everybody. But before he went to the cross he told his disciples “now is the time for the judgment of this world and if I am lifted up I will draw ALL men unto me.” All of mankind was in Christ when he died so we all died with him were all judged with him and all raised with on the third day. Because of the disobedience of one man the many (ALL) were made sinners and because of the obedience of one man the many (same ALL) will be made righteous. We had no choice in our becoming sinners and we have no choice in our redemption. God saved us in Jesus before He lost us in Adam.

        • Yeah these are difficult concepts thanks for expounding on predestination? These are disputable things to wonder about but I wonder if they are the deeper mysteries of God or intellectual exercises. What my neighbour needs is my love not more bible study not exegesis don’t you think.?

        • Thomas,

          Whoa, hold on. Jesus said, “now is the time for the judgment of this world and if I am lifted up I will draw ALL men unto me.”?? I thought “the judgement” was some time far in the future after we died or got “raptured”. Somebody better get their story straight on when this “judgement” thing happened. 😀

          (BTW, this isn’t directed at YOU, Thomas.) I just wanted to point out that there are many “judgements” spoken about by Jesus. It simply means to evaluate and reveal the worth of something. The world was judged at the cross. The “world” was judged AGAIN in 70AD when the sacrificial system was torn apart. I’m not denying that there IS a judgement after we die, but that at least SOME of the judgements that Jesus spoke about down here were near-term events.

          • Didn’t God pour all of His wrath and judgement for into Jesus on the cross. He has no wrath left because he used it all up on Jesus. It is finished. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself and He is no longer counting mens sins against them.

            • Tom,

              I don’t see the atonement that way anymore. I don’t believe that God “punished” Jesus in our place, but that WE punished Jesus with our sins. We “sinned our sins” into Him at the cross. Google “Cristus Victor” for a more detailed explanation of my view of atonement.

              Still, I see the point you are making. But why did God NEED Jesus to die to forgive sins? Wasn’t God love BEFORE the cross. And doesn’t love NOT keep a record of wrongs. I don’t believe God EVER held our sins against us. WE did, at the direction of “Satan”. and Jesus came to show us that NOTHING we do will EVER separate us from God’s love or keep Him from forgiving us, even killing God HIMSELF.

      • Taking communion goes back to the earliest days of the church. Jesus gave us only two sacraments. One is baptism. The other is the “Lord’s supper” which Jesus instituted on the night before he was crucified. The Eucharist/mass/communion/Lord’s supper – whatever name you give it – isn’t about us. It is about the act of God in becoming incarnate and then dying and being raised from the dead. We have communion every Sunday. We are not worshiping or idolizing this sacrament. We are observing it for our spiritual nourishment and to remember what was done for us by Jesus. Taking communion is a sacred act and should be treated accordingly. There are likely to be an assortment of explanations out there. It’s important to remember that holy communion is something that is traceable back to the Apostles themselves and the early church when it had to be done in secret, often in the catacombs, for the safety of the congregation.

        The faith communities that are of the “apostolic succession” which includes the various Orthodox branches of Christendom, the Roman Catholic branch of Christendom, the Anglican (Episcopal in the US and Scotland and a few other nations) branch of Christendom and now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have a common history in this sacrament. There have been variations over the centuries from weekly, sometimes daily communion, to once a year, and other variations.
        The traditional pattern to remain in “good standing” is that one took communion on Easter, Christmas and the Feast of Pentecost at a minimum.

        I take communion every Sunday and do not feel that I have been adequately nourished if I do not receive it. In other words, my worship experience is not complete. There is an old saying: “All may, some should, none must.” I think that applies here. It is a choice but one that should be made with all of the information necessary to make an informed choice.

        • Yeah thanks Bruce it was kind of you to comment. Not sure how I feel or think about it. I attribute that to my background. so we call them sacraments I don’t remember Jesus requiring baptism and communion as necessary only suggesting them as symbolic.

    • What utter rubbish. The Bible has been interpreted, rewritten, changed, annotated etc hundreds of times. Each time man used it to his benefit. Anyone who places all of his faith in a dead book is mentally challenged.

    • Very VERY well said. But then this dude already said he can’t and won’t be talked out of this new role he has carved out for himself as The Godhead. Satan has no new tricks and this guy has literally fallen for the oldest one in the book. It’s interesting to see the arrogance that accompanies this guy’s supposed new revelations and absolute truths.

      • Oh Hugh D. Young, you silly little boy. Mark Annandale speaks the truth. Would YOU like to debate me the origins of YOU? I will debate you any day of the week and twice on Sunday, I’m serious. We can do it online. I’ll set it up. Or are you too smart?

    • Mark, if you sincerely want to understand then do this one task. Search out the entire bible for the word hell. there’s not that many so not too onerous. Read the definition of the word in its original language. You will discover that hell as defined by the early Roman church leaders ie; place of eternal punishment or even separation from God — does not exist. I will repeat– it does not exist. So if you use the Bible as your benchmark for truth you can not deny that fact. If you can find that definition in the original language please share. If you cant and you still cling to a false doctrine own up to it.

      • So, I sure do hear a lot of suggestions to not only be wary of all I hear and read about this Jesus that I love, but that the real answers are contained in lots of writings that never made their way into what we call the Bible. The problem I have with all those references to the alleged truth is that they require no faith in what I believe to be His word. Certainly no great reward if I choose to disbelieve the Bible and choose instead to believe you guys. No offense, but I think the wiser path for those that hear would be to believe the word as presented and you will find plenty of warnings about this sort of talk and feel much better about your life and future as it all is part of your growth as a Christian.

  45. You made the statement that you’ll wait for everyone to quote the scriptures in the comments and none of it will affect you? I’m concerned about that. Shouldn’t the Bible, front to back, be where we check everything for truthfulness? We have to have an ontic referent for how to live. Otherwise it’s just opinions. I’d urge you to trust the scriptures before your own opinions.

    Are we fallen beings? The evidence for that fact is found everywhere on Earth my friend. We call this empirical reality. I’ll name a few evidences: sex slavery, genocide, world wars, poverty, violence, drug addiction, abortion, and so on. Our Christian faith is unique in that it willingly describes us just as exactly as we are. It’s not an easy thing to face, but the evidence is everywhere. So much on Earth is broken and fallen, death reigns, it’s not easy to accept. My own opinion tends to want to reject it, but if I’m really honest with myself.. well, I’m a sinner. And that’s the whole reason why Jesus Christ came, to save me, to change me, to make me right in the eyes of God.

    God has changed my base mindset: Instead of trusting my own opinions, I look to God’s will.
    Instead of trusting the wisdom of the world, I trust the holy book, every word of it.

    Ultimately what’s most important is: What is true? And truth is beyond how it makes us feel. It can make us feel bad, and it can still be true.

    That’s how I see it. Keep writing brother.

    • Every word of it? How come The Army doesn’t do communion or Baptism? How come The Army allows women to be Corps Officers? I could go on.

      You see, inspired by God still leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Hard to believe in something that has been altered to suit quasi-social-political means. Something that people worship more than Jesus himself.

      Yes, Jesus is the way, but even He came to set us free from the law not bind us to a whole new set of circumstances.

  46. “There is no fear in Me. You are beloved. I delight in you.” God via John Pavlovitz

    “Praise the LORD! How blessed is the man who fears the LORD…” God via Ps 112:1

    Which one will you believe?

  47. bottom line – jesus never taught a word about hell. he tried to convey a personal and loving spirit father by his words and deeds. he never taught from fear. we are his children and our inheritance of eternal life is ours by grace and belief alone. the whole atonement doctrine was a carryover from hebrew ritual and mythology. he never ever indicated he would be dying to redeem us. love is the sum and substance all that is spirit. it’s all a gift. hell is of our own making, that should be obvious! (ps – i left a church 45 years ago for the same reason. my heavenly father is literally incapapable of inflicting pain as judgement)

  48. Your viewpoint does away with the cross and the age-long need for a/the Messiah.
    Whatever your sentiments, thiscis a false doctrine. You are mistaken.
    Jesus is the centre of history, essential for the world.

  49. I have never been able to fully accept the idea that a little baby is born with sin. I absolutely believe that using words like “filthy wretch” and similar terms to describe ourselves in relationship to God is extremely damaging, especially for those of us who struggle with low self-esteem. I absolutely want to embrace what you say here, but am wondering how you deal with original sin, and Jesus’ death on the cross. If He wasn’t sent to reconcile us with God, what *was* he sent for? Not trying to give you a hard time at all…just really want to hear your thinking. Thanks!

      • If you say so… I might try it. I prefer short story myself. I’m a “slice of life” person. I love candor and moments. And you should be in academics… If not already. There’s clarity and conviction in your voice. You make passionate sense.

        • It’s quiet now. Whew! Stick around for a bit these conversations are like panning for gold. My passion is for the hidden church. I know it’s around here somewhere. Sometimes I wonder if I have time to go back and finish what I started at university. Btw I am grateful for the gift 🙂

    • I’m new to all this really. I kind of like to keep my faith and thoughts simple. I can’t stay in here too long at a time. I do have a mentor and our dynamics are pretty strange but I don’t know what I’d do without her. She took kind of a sharp turn and threw me for a loop. But I realize now, where I thought… If you don’t mind a metaphor… I was looking at a fine watch, now I’m seeing it’s jewels. Her teaching provides me balance. And I am grateful for John’s writings. He makes me want to be put feet to my faith. I kind of tune out the ugly in here. Either side… Its nice to read and hear passion for Christ.

      • if you look for Proverbs 31 ministries I get daily devotionals from them. I need that simple view as well like dew each morning. I have never been let down by anything they write- although it is a traditional view they refresh my heart and have plenty of resources, if you are a woman. I think the truth is woven through all of us and the key is to be grateful for the presence of Christ we see in each person. I am glad we connected in this forum none of us are very far from each other no matter what zig zag turns we take 🙂

      • Yes I am a woman 🙂 Thanks for the info about Proverbs 31; I’ll check it out. And (lol) some folk’s Christ is harder to find than others in here. I like Dover, when he’s eaten his Snickers. And I like FiveCentFather a lot. I think between y’all I can find a good bit of gold. And the internet does afford accessibility… As well as inaccessibility. After doing what I’ve done for the past 23 years I’ve had to be adroit often in communicating … Primarily for survival reasons. I’m pretty certain that hasn’t spilled into here I value most looking others eyes… Eyeball to eyeball as John says. And I don’t think there’s any replacement a touch either. I am grateful for any support I find in here. I’m sure we’ll connect soon. Considered yourself touched. Can’t stay up four the fireworks on the other post… Have to take advantage of this rainy sleeping weather. Goodnight 🙂

        • Well you know its true 🙂
          Good morning.
          Say, when you find your true church, may I become a member. I promise I won’t knock anyone in the head with my vessel… What I call my Bible!
          Have a blessed day. (We just tapped fists)

          • Hey you, good day :D.
            What we see doesn’t matter. What God sees does. We will finally see when God reveals everything unseen, when we are ready. Our membership is in heaven not in any worldy book (not meaning the Bible) The stones of the temple were hewn separately then brought together all at once. The great multitude came from every nook and cranny on the earth. It’s not finding what is true that is important, we cannot achieve that. More importantly is the body that is made up of beautiful necessary parts that make it whole. Love is the remedy for the division in the church we see today, gotta go, have a good one, fist pump 🙂

      • And with great anticipation… Him revealing the unseen. I can’t imagine.
        And poor you… Since you opened the door, I have a question or two for you regarding the church. But l’ll have to ask some other time… I have a stack of paperwork in front of me. BTW you can call me SA (esse); is shorter than ‘star and anchor’… Is sort of derogatory but playfully spoken at work and no harm intended. Have a good evening.

  50. I really, really wish people would study and learn for themselves. A simple lesson on the history of the “church” will show you where the doctrine of eternal damnation came from. It was NOT taught nor even believed for the 1st 600 years of Christianity. Jesus, The Apostles & Paul all believed and taught restoration of all things. Hell is a man made doctrine not a God inspired one.

  51. Thank you! The concept of hell is so bizarre, and so abusive it seems to tell my young children “love God or else, burn for eternity”. I cannot bring myself to present Christianity to them in this light- could it be because I have a moral dilemma on my hands? One of the basic pillars of Christianity, the ultimate punishment to keep order and justice- and I can’t mutter the words “hell” to my children. The thing is, if there is no hell, and we aren’t inherently bad (I think we are born with great capacity for good and bad both), I don’t know that I necessarily think they need to be “saved” either. Honestly, the Christianity of my youth, the one we accept because we learn it as fact as young children, is becoming more and more bizarre. I’ve been born against my will, and am told to love someone who died for me who I can’t see, and I didn’t ask him to, either.

    • Go with your gut on that one, Ellen! The Theology of Hell started around the 5th Century and it changed the original understanding of what Jesus was saying. So you are wise to avoid teaching it to your children.

      • Thanks Kathy. Part of me worries- what if they burn in hell because I did not scare them into being baptized with this concept of hell? But then I think, loving someone just because is far more an expression of true love and admiration, then loving someone because you’re afraid of being punished. I have always taken issue with the popular version of Christianity since I had children because it mirrors the popular parenting techniques of fear, manipulation, reward and punishment. I just can’t imagine telling my kids they should love God or else. What kind of love is that?
        People act like the scripture is most important, and that our conscious can’t be our guide. But God gave us our conscious, and I think it steers me right. Mine feels best when I love and worst when I judge. I have always disagreed that we can’t hold God to the same moral standards we hold ourselves. I don’t know. Torment exists on earth for many people, lives of suffering and hell. Reconciling some peoples plot in life against our silver spoon is another topic altogether. For now, I just can’t bring myself to kindly manipulate my sweet child’s mind into believing he is terrible yet there is hope to not be burned forever. Bizarre!

        • Ellen it sounds like you are going through cognitive dissonance. It does sound ridiculous when you think about it. Is the threat of punishment more motivating than a pledge of love? Would you marry someone who threatened to destroy you if you didn’t choose them? I like your comment about our conscience. Why do we have one if God didn’t want us to use it? It’s probably your conscience telling you to not teach your kids about hell. I never told my daughter but she found out eventually when she was a teenager through friend. Then we looked up the historical background of why the church teaches about a hell. We found there were different perspectives and the idea of hell has changed over time. Now she sees all sides of it and so do I. 🙂

    • I was such a devout believer much earlier in my life. But some time ago I came to believe more as John discusses here. And your last line–YES! I have often thought that. As I think of it now, it seems absurd. How can one man’s (although I know he is described as ‘the son of God’) death save the entire world, WHY would that matter! and what about all the millions who died before Christ’s time. And yes, like John says, I understand Christian catechism very thoroughly, so I already know all the answers Christians would come back with, but in my heart-of-hearts, it just sounds crazy now. But you know, Christians are dead sure you’re wrong, and I guess that is just something those of us who don’t believe strict Christian doctrine have to live with. Mostly, I simply won’t discuss religion with ‘religious’ people. It’s an utterly pointless conversation.

    • ellen…i can understand your point of view, especially with young children. But do you understand the concept of sin? That God cannot be in its presence, ever? That nothing sinful can approach him? God is so Holy that we in the 21st Century, have no way of understanding his Holiness. The ancient Jews understood his holiness…and they understood that one mis step could lead to their annihilation. Shocking truth. There is only one sin that is unacceptable to God…and that is the sin of unbelief. Pray for your children that their pride and arrogance would not get in the way of their Faith in Him. It’s their decision. Just like it was your decision.

      • I wish there were a “flag” option on this blog. Comments like this one make me sick. Look who’s calling who arrogant.

      • It’s a good thing God was wearing His Jesus “protective suit”, so that He could come down and mingle with all those SINNERS that Jesus ate with, and touched and healed. You know? Because He can’t be in the presence of sin.

        I wonder what protected Him in the garden after Adam and Eve sinned and He not only came to walk with them, but SOUGHT them out and CLOTHED them while they were “sinful”.

        The idea that God can’t be in the presence of sin just doesn’t hold up to scripture.

        Yes, man BELIEVES that God is like that, but God has never agreed with that idea. He has done EVERYTHING possible at EVERY turn to make man comfortable in HIS presence, in spite of their “sin”.

      • Jesus lived among us and the veil is torn so we have access to God as His children so that we call out Abba ! Father in our prayers

      • You said: “The ancient Jews understood his holiness…and they understood that one misstep could lead to their annihilation.”

        That’s quite a god you got there. I bet gazillions of people are going to trample on each other in one huge scramble to spend eternity with that kind of personality. Perhaps he will only beat you on Thursdays in heaven and reserve the cigarette burn sessions for Saturdays. That gives you five days each week to practice loving him—but will you really love him—I doubt it. Your so-called faith is based on fear of a monster. But remember what the scripture says in the New Testament. Those who come to him “fearful” will never get into Heaven. Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism are fear-based forms of religion. I would like to use the “B” word here, but John will not let me.

      • There is truth in what you are saying Dover, the fear based churches make people fearful so that most don’t come to God but stay away. There is always an appeal to a small group of converts just enough to keep the budget balanced but they justify it by using scripture such as narrow is the gate. At least, that is another way to see what is going on.

  52. It seems to me that we create our own “hell” in the here and now. It really is it useful to read this poetic littérateur literally. The meaning is much deeper then the words.

  53. To summarize this article:

    “I don’t care what the Bible says! My feelings are more important.”

    You are not a Christian. Your feelings are your god. Repent and believe in the Gospel. Kill your idol of self and worship the true God.

    • To summarize your comment:

      “I don’t care what the Bible says! My feelings are more important.”

      The Bible also says not to pass judgment lest you also be judged, and to work out your OWN salvation.

      Hypocrite.

  54. Again, thank you John for articulating so well, where I am at on this subject – have grappled with this for over 2 years now and it’s so reassuring to see others wrestle with it too because it bugs, bugs me a whole lot. I can’t imagine that we deserve Hell any more than we “don’t deserve God’s love”, His love just is – its a take it or leave it kind of scenario and from our end – His love doesn’t ever cease – it is a constant – I choose to take it and rest peacefully in knowing that I am and will never be eternally separated from HIm – his love is too great and too vast and all sustaining, even when we mess up – his ultimate mandate is to see us made fully whole and truly connected – this is in essence why we exist – to discover and learn this fact: that we are loved and have always been. Perfect love casts out fear. ” BINGO” is the word that comes to mind for this latest post.

  55. Yes, I used to believe and preach a hardline Fundamentalist doctrine on eternal damnation. Then when my (saintly but “unsaved”) mother-in-law took her own life after many years of awful suffering the thought of God allowing her to be in even worse suffering for eternity was just unbearable. I think that was when I started to wake up from my evangelical nightmare. How are we to imagine a heaven based on these terrifying principles? Are we to join the heavenly choirs in praise and worship, singing songs of God’s great victory, when the vast majority of his creation are screaming down in hell? Are we to believe that Jesus would be present in such a heaven, taking the adulation, rather than visiting the lost souls, sitting with them in their pain, trying to ease their suffering, along with all his true followers? Who would remain in such a heaven? So, actually what we used to call the Good News is really bad news not just for the “lost” but also for the “saved”. The heavenly choirs are muted, if not shamed into silence by the eternal suffering of a single soul, let alone of the many.
    Thanks John for your wise words!

    • This is wonderful and compassionate! Jesus went into ‘Hell’ to preach to the unsaved at Easter, why shouldn’t he be able to do that each and every day? Thanks for this Richard X

    • You don’t get it, Richard. People are not in hell because God sent them there. People are in hell because, given the choice of “God” or “no God”, they chose “no God”. God allows every person to choose and He honors the choice that they make. He loves everyone but He does not force Himself on to anyone. His grace is free to anyone who chooses it. And so is His judgment.

      • Why do we resist so strongly when the doctrine of hell is threatened by reason? Wouldn’t it be great news if there were no hell? I can’t imagine anything better. Yet I remember defending it very strongly myself when challenged, because it was such a strong element in my conversion. It was one of the main props in the little Jenga pile of my faith and I knew that if I even jiggled it the whole edifice would come tumbling down. When I eventually let it be removed things did fall apart for a while, but I think it has allowed me to build a much kinder and stronger faith with the remaining bricks.
        I agree with Carmen, Kathy, Jackie, Steve and others on this. And Lutey I think that if it were a matter of “God” or “No God” on your terms then Jesus would be in the “No God” camp, in the sense of saying “No God, you’ve got this all wrong!”

    • Richard my thoughts as well. I could never reconcile this eternal punishment of hell ‘idea’ because I couldn’t live with myself if I went to a good place and even one human being was suffering. It’s impossible for me, even horrible to contemplate. I think when people set their minds on believing there is a hell with eternal punishment it does something to their heart. It makes it easy to say comments like a good person deserves hell because they are an atheist. Much harder to wrestle with the idea of how do I hold on to my atheist friend and show them compassion and faithfulness despite our differences?

      • One of the things for me is that I can’t see how I could be happy in a heaven knowing that there are tens of billions of people being tormented in hell for the sole reason of not accepting a blood sacrifice even though most of them live just as moral, if not greater, life here on Earth than many of those that made it into heaven.

        That to me would be a great injustice, and the only recourse is to join those that God has forsaken to hell. There would be billions of forsaken souls who still had love inside them It might take a very long time to overcome all that suffering, but eventually they will be able to find one another and with that amount of love break free from the confines of hell, and create a much better place. Since God has forsaken us, he really has no more claim over us.

    • Truthfully, I think what many of us need to do is abandon Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism for “what they are.” They are uniquely American spin doctor twists on the Christian faith, as if their arising in the United States (as opposed to other times and places in human history) somehow gives them some sort of special Holy credence. It most certainly does not. For myself, I am increasingly convinced that the only way to find the original Christian faith that the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have worked so hard to destroy in this country is to go back to the ancient Holy Land and study in-depth what Christians believed in the first five centuries after the resurrection of Jesus, particularly the faith perspectives that developed in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. However, right now, if I were to pick a western brand of the Christian faith that I would want to follow as far as going to church on Sundays, it would probably be the Anglican communion understanding of the gospel and the Bible prevalent at Oxford University. just sayin’.

  56. I was thinking (on Sunday, strangely enough!) about Jesus’ saying ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’. I’m beginning to see that the bible was made for man, not man for the bible. All my experience with and knowledge of my God encourages me to believe that ALL will, in some way or other that I don’t understand, be saved, because God loves the world. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

    I DO believe in inherent sinfulness, no parent couldn’t, but it’s not a dirty thing, because it’s involuntary until it’s revealed to us. I can’t blame someone who sins without understanding it IS a sin. Part of the joy of being a Christian is the thankfulness that God has shown this to me, forgives me completely and forgives me continually.

  57. Good luck John P and keep up the good work. I am convinced that God is love, it’s just us that can’t comprehend that. I read a couple sections of the comments and was just about ready to barf. I am SO over a Calvinistic interpretation of scripture that I could just about scream when I read that stuff. If I have to believe that to be a christian I’m agnostic. FiveCentFather is a refreshing breath in all that load of violent God damnation stuff that followed an excellent post.

  58. I spent 30 years in a charismatic type church. I led small groups, led worship, preached/taught, attended services and seminars. When my 2 sons were able, they left the church as soon as they could. This was devastating to me. They are fine young men. My close friend said they were going to hell as they show no sign of being believers. I could not accept them going to hell as I love them dearly, I would rather go in their place! This and a lot of other fundamentalist type teachings and church leadership power abuses caused me to start thinking for myself. I was always told not to question the Bible and church teachings, just give my concerns to God. So I have gone off and actually used my brain instead of leaving it in the parking lot when I enter the church building. It is incredibly freeing to think for yourself. To research. To question. God is big and ok with this. I too found that the teaching of Hell was inserted into Christianity hundreds of years after the early church started. Why? To control people through fear. I don’t have all the answers and never will, but I am ok with that. Fundamentalists have all the answers, and will tell you what to think. I’m all done with that!

    • He is not Satan. I have to confess folks. I am an ancient Middle Eastern demon named Reezoractor. Some of you have probably figured that out already All of us demons know Satan—and this Lutey guy ain’t him. Satan is actually one of the most beautiful creatures in the universe. He is surrounded by intense light, and he shimmers like a diamond cut with a millions facets.

  59. Pingback: At The Altar Of Deconstruction | femegesis

  60. You all know how I feel as set forth on my blog:

    https://faith17983.wordpress.com/

    Up with Jesus!!!

    Down with Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism!!!

    But here is the truth folks. A fiery, sulfur, and brimstone Hell is precisely what Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism need more than anything else. If the concepts had not existed earlier in Christian history, it would have been necessary for the fundies to invent Hell for their own personal use in the 20th century.

    Now repeat after me—and say this through the two holes in your nose—not through your mouth:

    “Hell is one of the greatest evangelistic tools ever invented. We could not survive without it.”

    Then do your best Joe Piscopo:

    Are you from Alabama? I’m from Alabama.

    Are you evangelistic? I’m evangelistic.

    Are you evangelistic? I’m evangelistic.

    Are you evangelistic? I’m evangelistic.

  61. I am amazed….and somewhat amused……at what I am hearing on this blog. People who profess to be Christian are acting like Jews living under the Law of Moses. They are not acting like people who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and anointed with the Holy Spirit.

    Look at the Hebrew Scriptures carefully. They are a narrative of God’s relationship with the people of Israel (formerly known as Jacob). It’s a rather rocky relationship at times, mostly because Israel continues to get called on the carpet by the prophets for neglecting the needs of the poor, the widowed and the marginalized. If you read the narratives attributed to prophets, every one addresses Israel’s failure to commend the faith that is in them toward the least among them.

    Look at the Ten Commandments. Five of them concern them selves with our relationship to God. The other five concern themselves with our relationships with each other and how we should treat each other. There is nothing there about hellfire and damnation just like there is nothing there about human sexuality or marriage. (Adultery was a contract violation. Refer to Jesus speaking about committing adultery in the heart if you think it has to be physical.) The other hundreds of “rules” related mostly to health and safety issues because there was no refrigeration and food spoiled and could kill you. The nation didn’t need to be losing people to death from such causes.

    What did Jesus say when asked what the greatest commandment was? “Hear o Israel, you shall love the lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. This is the first and great commandment and the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

    Jesus focus in ministry was right relationships, sometimes referred to as righteousness. Jesus was concerned with how we treated each other. Anything that was exploitive, abusive or coercive was not a right relationship, regardless of the circumstances. If you look at writings attributed to Paul you see the same emphasis once you get past the fact that these letters were to individual congregations about issues they were individually facing. I’ve often mused at the number of people who seem to think it was Paul who got nailed to a cross for them…..they seem to ignore or skip over the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus.

    If we follow Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we have been redeemed by water and the Holy Spirit. We have been freed from the Law of Moses. Why is it so difficult to act like we have been redeemed? Is it too simple? Why does something have to be difficult for us to believe it or accept it. Love is simple. God is love. We have been commanded to love one another as we have been loved. Note that it says love….it doesn’t say we have to like each other.

    isn’t it time to start living as the redeemed and stop quibbling over every thing we can think of to create barriers, what if’s, and anything we can conjure up to complicate the issues?

      • When the apostle Paul said “there are those out there thet are preaching another that really isn’t a gosple at all” He was talking about Peter, James and John who by going back under the law had created a Jesus-ized Judiasm. Which is pretty much what Christianity is today.

      • Only partially Tom. Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism are without question a “Jesus-ized Judaism.” This is why they are working hard to ensure that they will both end up in the ash heap of human history and Christian history. And they will.

  62. You are rejecting Christ’s work on the cross then? you really don’t need it. In fact, there was no reason for him to die on that cross. I wonder, then, why did he do it? It was a horrible death, even worse assuming that he drank the cup of God’s wrath for our sin. If he was who he said he was, he certainly had the power to stop it. He didn’t even try. So why did he die?

    I know what is in my heart. I know what my inclinations are and without the saving work of God, I would be a selfish, egotistical murderer. I know that. I live in the joy that my God is making me into the image of his son and that he paid an enormous price to reconcile forgiveness with his holiness.

    You see, it is really about God, not us. The universe does not revolve around me. It is God’s universe. He made it, set the rules, and made me and continues to make me – he is faithful. But he didn’t chose everyone and that is a difficult truth to accept. If he chose you, you will react with thankfulness; if he didn’t, you will prove that you deserve judgment. The cost of free will is that some choose poorly – but all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. It ends up being our choice and we will suffer judgment for refusing that wonderful offer of salvation.

    • Tom,

      I think if you read the book of Acts you will note that it was actually Peter who called for an end to certain Jewish laws, circumcision in particular. This meant that Gentiles did not have to become Jews before becoming Christian. Peter’s dreams are also important in that it allowed for doing away with dietary laws and declared all foods “clean.” Peter caught a lot of flak for his stance but held is ground and basically told the others “who am I to argue with God?”

      Acts has many interesting tidbits about the history and practice of the early church….most of which have fallen out of practice, particularly the concept that no one owned anything individually but all was owned in common. Everyone sold what they had to benefit the entire community and each received according to their needs.

      Bruce

    • I have to disagree – if it’s all about God then what was the point of creating us? Let God bask in His own Glory then. We talk about having a relationship with God – are relationships not a 2 way street? With the way you have this framed, the relationship seems very one sided to me. In essence, it’s not a relationship at all. Nice that you have met His conditions for being saved and that you have been chosen. Sucks for the rest of us who may not qualify.

    • Kristi said: “I know what is in my heart. I know what my inclinations are and without the saving work of God, I would be a selfish, egotistical murderer.”

      You sound like my kind of woman Kristi. Could we meet and get to know each other better?

  63. There was a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode where a hipster dies and awakens in an extremely boring waiting room, complete with Muzak, boring magazines, and elderly people. The hipster is told that he has died; he asks where he’s been sent, and is told, Helll. He then asks where the demons, flames, Satan…all the ‘cool stuff are? The hipster is informed that the boring waiting room is Hell for him.

    If Heaven is Ultimate Rest in Ultimate Light and Ultimate Love, then Hell is the opposite – no rest, no light, no love.

    I believe the purpose of such a place is to deal with all the injustice in Creation; I’ve always been afraid, always had nightmares until several years ago when I was helped to deal with all the trauma from being abused as a child —- the nightmares about Hell stopped around then, when I realize that my existence was more than being about abuse.

  64. It seems to me that a great percentage of people actually need to live in fear and guilt. Others embrace Gods grace and take it at face value. Whatever works for you I guess.

  65. I read all the comments above. The lense I see through is one of recovery. I have found that through service and helping others that I am able to free myself from me. It is when I am into me that I would find ways to “feel” my way out of uncomfortable scriptures. To recreate a version that fits my desire. An interpretation that excuses my sin.
    If you are asking “what’s in it for me then”, well until you give yourself over it is not possible to understand.
    Greg

  66. Pingback: Another Women’s Day | femegesis

  67. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE Everyone here. I beg you to read this book “Hope Beyond Hell.” It will enlighten most questions everyone is debating over. It is not a book of opinion, but a bible study on all the scriptures concerning hell, destruction, eternity, punishment, etc. It looks at the history of the church, talks of the type and shadows of old testament, line upon line and precept upon precept. If you want to understand scripture, you have to understand the language that first received God’s communication (Hebrew), as everything was interpreted from that foundation. Hebrew is a concrete language, Greek is abstract. There is no way you can just read the words in the bible (most translated from the abstract Greek) and have complete understanding as things are lost in translation. Proverbs states: It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. You need to consider the SUM of Gods Word and not look at just a few scriptures or context.

    This book is easy to understand and written with much love as the author states at the end, “If after considering the evidence in these pages you do not share my hope, please do not be too quick to judge or condemn those who do.

    Best of all it is free at the link below. He is not trying to make money off of it as most Christianity is doing today. AGAIN, PLEASE CHECK IT OUT.

    http://www.hopebeyondhell.net/pdf/Hope_Beyond_Hell_Unabridged.pdf

  68. On a similar journey myself. Just trying to shed religious dogma and listen as closely as I can to Jesus. And so much of what you write here rings true to me as well. Why is it that those that disagree get so upset and angry? Is it that they fear you might be right? 😉 Thanks for writing. Let’s all keep seeking truth and build each other up, not tear each other down. Even if we think we our own unique vantage point is best.

    • It is not that they fear he might be right. They are scared to death that they might be wrong—and when you work for an Old Testament God that you unconsciously believe has more in common with Hannibal Lechter than He does Jesus of Nazareth—a hard-nosed, no-nonsense, cut-your-ass-quick God who goes berserk with anger at the slightest human frailty or failure—then you are unable to tolerate the cognitive dissonance that gets set up when you see another human being free, unburdened, and happy in Jesus.

      or—as another person I once knew put it…

      “Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals worry a lot that their might be something lovely, happy, and joyful in the Christian world—and feel compelled to run to it as fast as possible and stomp it to death before it can grow—thus insuring that everyone else in this life will be just as guilt-ridden, fearful, and gloomy as they are.

  69. OMG, did you just stir the pot! YES and YAY, 300+ comments, had to really work to get down Herr and leave you my love. Thank you so much for this, I really needed to “feel” you walkin the walk. Much love!

  70. You don’t understand why Christ had to be nailed to that tree. You say that His death, His sacrifice was meaningless with this article, and that He still owes you love. The arrogance of such a claim, the unbalanced mishandling of God’s word… And from a man who’s held the preaching office!

    Your heart has never been convicted by a standard you cannot uphold, you pretend that your heart isn’t bent towards wickedness. To assert that you are somehow worthy of God’s condescending grace is a level of arrogance I have never seen before. I feel deep remorse for those whose ears have been tainted and minds have been darkened by your hollow words at the pulpit.

    I’ll pray for you as the unregenerate man you are.

    • @Van Robert Bryant –

      “I feel deep remorse for those whose ears have been tainted and minds have been darkened by your hollow words at the pulpit.”

      And yet God in his foreknowledge preordained it, no? Why the remorse then? It’s all part of God’s sovereign plan is it not? Why pray for John when the chosen are already frozen?

    • That is just the kind of response I would expect from a person who lives in the Nashville suburbs. I grew up in Gallatin, and every cell in my body yearned for 18 years to escape that Godforsaken Hell Hole.

    • Strange how we interpret the same words so differently. How you see light as dark and vice versa. Does it ever make you wonder a little more deeply about your own perception? Or are you, and only you always right?

  71. I must note that much of this feels like a Republican debate. What God wants is our hearts. Spewing rhetoric comes from the brain , love is from the heart. God is love. How does it help to scream you are wrong? Focus on your own walk not where you judge others to be on theirs. Love God, love your neighbor as yourself. Why must our human errant judgment always have to be heard?

    • Because certain corners of the Christian faith are hurting and destroying other people in the name of Jesus—and trying to take over the government so they can use it to force people to believe and behave exactly as they command under penalty of death.

  72. Hey, thanks for sharing your heart/thoughts. I can’t honestly say I concur with everything you’re saying, but I agree wholeheartedly that we are conceived in the brilliant Love (Adoration) of GOD Our FATHER. As with anything in life, there are consequences of choices, good or bad. There are even consequences of our mistakes (not eternal damnation-separation) from OUR FATHER. That is the last thing on HIS mind as HE gazes upon us. There are however, those that have become so self-absorbed that they purposefully choose an existence of themselves, regardless of all the subtle and not-so-subtle teachings in creation. We are made to give and receive in creation, but withdrawing of yourself, even to the detriment of others can’t be eternally tolerated. We are put here to learn, share and graduate to the next life closer to THE ONENESS of GOD. Every life that does not know the fullness of CHRIST here will not automatically perish (Romans 2). JESUS Is The Way doesn’t mean that if you were raised in a different religion, that you are destroyed. Christians and all who seek Truth, will continue learning in the world to come. We don’t know everything. There are numerous Near Death Experiences (NDEs) of people of all faith, some who had no faith. We can’t ignore these experiences. We also can’t choose only the good ones, while saying the negative ones don’t exist. We seek only the truth. One NDE in particular is Howard Storm’s account. He was a hardcore atheist that was positive we (believers) were delusional. His account of meeting JESUS, Angels and shown beings throughout existence is not traditional. It is scriptural though. I encourage you to check it out. Exciting. It will agree with your spirit. I see GOD as this Adoring Parent, dressed in splendor. Until we are mature enough, HE must continually, bath, clean, change and teach us. Our poopy clothes are sin. HE doesn’t give up changing us then embracing us. HIS WORD (JESUS) & PRESENCE (HOLY SPIRIT) are HIS Arms and Hands, forever keeping, cleaning, holding us. That doesn’t mean we are nasty or despicable in HIS eyes. We just aren’t mature enough yet to just sit (hang out) with HIM yet on our own.

  73. John and David, I’m trying to reconcile your thoughts with everything I’ve been taught about Christianity. Your words bring me curiosity because of all the doubt I’ve experienced. I have a million questions for you, but mostly want to know your thoughts about Jesus, the son of God. Do you believe he existed, and what are your beliefs about his purpose? Do you believe in his brutal death and resurrection and what were the purposes of those events? Do you believe scripture offers us anything?

  74. dover1952: ___Loved___ the clip from ‘The Crossing’ – George Washington: Seriously badass!!!
    I can definitely see what you mean in terms of Jesus………………..

  75. Externalising God: is it the only perspective?

    When I think of God I don’t experience a man sitting on a throne looking down from heaven and ocassionally intervening to ensure that the great master plan for the universe continues. This externalised, sexist and separatist view of God, and indeed of all spirituality, is not where my Christian faith has navigated me to. I experience God everywhere. I experience spirituality everywhere. For me the veil that separates human experience from spiritual experience is virtually non-existent. What if God were not separate from us but instead US, EVERYTHING, ONENESS, SINGULARITY? What if when Jesus spoke the words “I and the Father are One” there was a much deeper resonance implied? Could Jesus have meant everything and everyone is ONE with God? God is EVERYTHING?

    We are so conditioned to set God apart from us as if to make God deliberately unreachable; what if God was as recheable as the person next to you? What if God were in every beautiful moment and experience? Would we fight for God’s attention then? Would there be any need to set conditions and caveats for a relationship with God? It appears to be the case, at least in my opinion, that human endeavours to ‘religionise’ faith has only served to continue separating Oneness from the human experience. I’m not suggesting for one minute that God doesn’t exist. What I’m saying is that we are highly conditioned (by religion) to have an extremely narrow, tunnel-vision perspective on God and this doesn’t have to be the case.

    My Christian faith has navigated me (through a very painful journey I hasten to add) to a place of calmness and serenity; of continuous endless spiritual growth, of compassion and love. I experience God in everything and everyone. My faith resonates with the experience of ONENESS. My faith resonates with the Divine spark that is present in all of us and, in turn, connects us with God and Oneness. There are many spiritual sign-posts in the stories narrated by those who witnessed and/or had a personal relationship with Christ; these signs are often deliberately obscured by religion and organisers therein. It all depends on how you read the Bible; you can read it with conditioned eyes and brain or, you can choose to experience it spiritually through your Divine spark.

    There is an awakening that has already started. An awakening that is raising our spiritual awareness and causing us to ask deeper questions about our faith. All religions, past and present, have desperately attempted to counter this effect. Religion has fought tirelessly to contain power and knowledge, and control it by insisting that only a few selected privelidged people can access it. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, continues to believe it is the one and only true Christian church, and that it holds all power and knowledge which is centralised in the Vatican City from where God’s plan is promulgated. By the way, did you know that the Catholic church believes TWO people were born without original sin; Jesus Christ AND the Virgin Mary. There is absolutely no scriptural justification whatsoever to insist on Mary’s purity in this way; it is completely made up but continues to be sold as truth. Off the subject a little more…we all know there must have been many more Gospels written than the ones present in the Bible. Most of these were destroyed out of fear because they may have aroused too much questioning and critical thinking and ultimately may have put religious authority in doubt. What we read in the New Testament is only a snapshot of four people’s perceptions. Let’s face it, thousands of people witnessed Christ’s love at first hand. Thousands of people would have continued to narrate their personal experiences about Christ, but we know absolutely nothing about their stories. We only talk about just FOUR Gospels and there are inconsistencies between these. Religion has not served us well at all! It’s not that long ago that mass was conducted in a language no one understood – ask yourself why! Look around and just examine briefly where ‘religionised’ faith has got us. Polarised societies, ‘them and us’, I’m right you’re wrong, I hold the truth you don’t, etc, etc.

    Jesus Christ decentralised power and freely distributed his love to everyone without exception; in a nutshell he said – ANYONE, with a faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains. He associated himself with all those people the Jewish faith would have discouraged. Jesus Christ did not bind himself to religious doctrine, he totally rebelled from it! Christianity is NOT about doctrine, it’s about awakening to a Divine connection we all have with God. My belief (take it or leave it) is that Jesus Christ spiritually (and cosmically) woke us up; this indeed had to happen. The proverbial ‘calling’ is, in effect, a spiritual awakening to the love of Christ placed within us through His Divine spark. This is REAL not intellectualised doctrinal love, but Christ’s actual love placed inside you and me at your conception. We walk around with Christ’s essence within us! Think about why and what he said to the little girl who was ‘dead’ – Talitha Kum! Just another spiritual sing-post which can be applied to you and me.

    At the risk of being hung, drawn and quartered – religion has failed us miserably. In effect it has and continues to lie to us. FAITH does not! But, if we simply adhere to religious doctrine we close the door to faith and exchange it with human belief. Belief and faith are not the same; one is borne out of human intellect the other created out of nothing – say the word as ‘no’ ‘thing’. Faith is so much more than a ‘thing’ it is infinite and cannot be defined or contained in doctrine.

    Have a good day everyone.

    • Hi Sean, I don’t think you will be able to convince many Christians at this point in time of your nondualist perception of the divine, but I agree wholeheartedly. And I think as people wake up to this realization, the world becomes a less destructive, divisive place. But it is clear many are not ready; their minds are still locked up behind the shackles of external human constructs. I do think, at least I am optimistic, that the things you say are the direction our faith is moving. If not we will self destruct. We must open our eyes to the divine permeating through everything and everyone. With this kind of awareness, we can do nothing but love and care for our neighbors and the world that sustains us. When people are able to experience love this way, fear of “other” dissolves.

  76. In your view of Christianity then, there is no need for baptism? Or, if there is, then, why?

    Since you’ve clearly confirmed your invincible ignorance in this post, I am a bit reticent to reply and ‘cast pearls.’ I’m sure you’ve heard it said that, ‘the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist,’ and it appears you’ve taken that bait. You should Google and read, “Three Secret Strategies of Satan to Destroy our Children, our Families, our Culture, and our Church,” by Bro. Ignatius Mary, OLSM (a Hermit of St. Michael). I would also recommend you get a copy of the CD, “The Fourth Cup,” by Scott Hahn, a former Protestant who once labored under the same ignorance.

    I hope you will join me in praying for the day when we are all of one mind. May God Bless you.

    • @tomastorquemada

      Hi tomastorquemada. Thanks for your post which I carefully digested. Please forgive me if this wasn’t meant for me; it’s difficult to follow the thread sometimes.

      That said if it was, at no point in my post have I suggested that God doesn’t exist or that I don’t believe in God – quite the opposite my freind. Just out of curiosity, what led you to believe that I was ‘invincibly ignorant’?

      Sean

      • Sean,
        My post was directed to the author of the article. The bolded paragraph ending with “bought the t-shirt,” is why I made the reference to invincible ignorance. BTW, the quote I paraphrased means that Satan tricks people into believing that Satan does not exist (not God, although Satan does that too).

        One other point worth noting about the author’s article is that it would also seem to imply that nobody ever goes through their judgment day, since there is no need for it in that “Christian” world view. I used the quotes because the whole notion of this article is completely contrary to the words of Christ.

    • I would argue that the greatest lie ever told was the one man spoke about the Devil in order to gain power and control over others. You give so much credit to this imaginary force you’ve made him equal to God. Even pure goodness is threatening to you because you can’t discern between actions inspired by love and those fueled by fear.

      • You can argue whatever you like, but your short post is replete with logical fallacies. The premise of my arguments are based on the teachings of Christ and the One True Church He founded. Are yours based on anything more than just feelings? Do you dare argue that Jesus lied to gain control over others when He spoke of “weeping and gnashing of teeth?”

        I do no such thing as making “him equal to God.” That’s what he did to get himself cast out of Heaven…again, just basing that on scripture. And as far as fear is concerned, “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” again, based on scripture. God is merciful, but He is also just.

      • @tomastorquemada, we are all full of logical fallacies from time to time, even you – that should be no surprise as we are human:) The premise of my argument is based simply on love and love alone. It doesn’t need anything to back it up because there is nothing greater – a biblical concept you probably recognize. Love comes from God, I would hope there is no debate about that. And I never said Jesus lied, I don’t believe that at all. I was just indicating how people believe all kinds of things which are based on fear. That is my whole point. You can take anything from the bible to support any argument you want to make, but so can I. In fact I would choose these: 1)love your neighbor as yourself
        2)the kingdom of God is within us.
        Too much else is divisive, fear-based, or unclear and therefore in my mind, cannot be purely from God, but through the filters of man’s imperfect (though sincerely seeking) nature.

        You say the devil makes himself equal to God, but since you believe that, you are essentially saying the same thing. I don’t believe it, just as I choose not to believe a number of other weird and horrible things the bible says. That doesn’t make me disobedient, just discerning. But take it how you will. Surely there are things you can’t bring yourself to believe?

        I believe wisdom comes from God but I don’t understand how fear is the beginning of wisdom. It seems to me fear just gets in the way of loving people as God loves us.

        While I am very much inspired and live by the teachings of Christ, I don’t necessarily base my arguments on the bible, as it has caused me so much confusion and stifled my own authentic God-given wisdom. It’s ok if you don’t get that, but at some point, don’t you think you should be able to trust yourself? We were given the gifts of intellect, instinct and common sense, and I don’t think those were meant to be ignored.

        Of course we are capable of making wrong choices. But thankfully, and most of all, we are instilled with a capacity to love. Whatever gets in the way of that, I’d argue is the thing we shouldn’t trust. At least, that’s how I have come to be secure in my faith. I don’t feel the need to give it a name or justify it to anyone.

        Thank you for engaging in this discussion with me. I hope it brings more clarity to us both.

        • I’ll attempt to break up your post to respond point by point and hope it comes out clearly. I am bracketing your comments and putting my response in between:

          [@tomastorquemada, we are all full of logical fallacies from time to time, even you – that should be no surprise as we are human:) The premise of my argument is based simply on love and love alone. It doesn’t need anything to back it up because there is nothing greater – a biblical concept you probably recognize. Love comes from God, I would hope there is no debate about that.]

          Yes, love comes from God, but only He loves perfectly. You make the mistake of equating your love (i.e., feelings) with that of God’s. There is a big difference between God’s love and man’s. Just look at the divorce rate and tell me that man’s love is perfect. So really then, the premise of your argument is on a very shaky foundation, at best. It also sounds very narcissistic to say your argument does not need anything to back it up since there is nothing greater than your love. Really!?

          [And I never said Jesus lied, I don’t believe that at all. I was just indicating how people believe all kinds of things which are based on fear. That is my whole point.]

          I never accused you of such; merely asked a question about your comment, “I would argue that the greatest lie ever told was the one man spoke about the Devil in order to gain power and control over others.” Although probably unwittingly, due to your ignorance of scripture, you impugn Jesus’ words with that argument. Again, if you fear offending God, there you will find the beginning of wisdom.

          [You can take anything from the bible to support any argument you want to make, but so can I.]

          That’s a bit of a stretch, don’t you think? Sure, lot’s of people attempt to do that all the time, but it’s usually a pretty thinly veiled attempt to justify their own sinful behaviors.

          [In fact I would choose these: 1)love your neighbor as yourself
2)the kingdom of God is within us.
Too much else is divisive, fear-based, or unclear and therefore in my mind, cannot be purely from God, but through the filters of man’s imperfect (though sincerely seeking) nature.]

          That’s why The Church has always warned against private interpretations. Individual interpretations of the bible have helped spawn over 30,000 distinct Protestant denominations in more than 200 countries. Can they all possibly be correct? Obviously not. I do not think Christ had this in mind when he established His Church.

          [You say the devil makes himself equal to God, but since you believe that, you are essentially saying the same thing.]

          I never said I believe that and it is very disingenuous of you to make that assertion. Google, “Catechism on the Fall of the Angels (CCC 391-395),” for further clarification. Also refer to John 8:44, Revelation 12:9, 2 Peter 2:4, and 1 John 3:8

          [I don’t believe it, just as I choose not to believe a number of other weird and horrible things the bible says. That doesn’t make me disobedient, just discerning. But take it how you will. Surely there are things you can’t bring yourself to believe?]

          Sure. I can’t believe that people, who call themselves Christians (not that you have called yourself such), deny the existence of Hell. I can’t believe there are “Christians” who believe in gay “marriage.” I can’t believe people deny the existence of God. Actually, it’s not accurate to say I can’t bring myself to believe these thing, since I know they are true; I just don’t understand it. I know what you mean though and, yes, at times I struggle to comprehend certain passages, but that is where faith and humility come into play. Faith that God’s word is true and will be made clear to me in His time and humility to accept that, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (That is to say, what appears foolish to the world in the ways of God, is indeed most wise; and what appears weak is indeed above all the strength and comprehension of man).” 1 Corinthians 1:25

          [I believe wisdom comes from God but I don’t understand how fear is the beginning of wisdom. It seems to me fear just gets in the way of loving people as God loves us.]

          Would you agree that there are many unwise people in this world? Ones who freely choose to abuse alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc.? Did God refuse to give them the love and wisdom that He gave to you? Or did they reject those gifts and exercise the other gift of free will? Did Hitler, Mao, Lenin, Hussein fear offending God? If there is no such place as Hell, why would they?
          Maybe you should consider how the world will be, or how people act, when there is no fear of offending God in any way. Fear can be, and often is, a good thing. I have a healthy fear of electricity, fire and people who text while driving, but I don’t let that stop me from flipping a light switch, grilling out or driving to work.

          On the other hand, scripture repeatedly admonishes us to “Fear not.” Fear can be a bad thing and deserving of punishment as in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25).

          [While I am very much inspired and live by the teachings of Christ, I don’t necessarily base my arguments on the bible, as it has caused me so much confusion and stifled my own authentic God-given wisdom. It’s ok if you don’t get that, but at some point, don’t you think you should be able to trust yourself? We were given the gifts of intellect, instinct and common sense, and I don’t think those were meant to be ignored.]

          Reread that and listen to what you are saying. This is the crux of your impediment, IMHO. These words are oozing hubris; you reject Holy Scripture over your own AUTHENTIC wisdom. Wow!

          Consider the following:

          “If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” St. Augustine.

          “DISTRUST OF SELF is so absolutely requisite in the spiritual combat, that without this virtue we cannot expect to defeat our weakest passions, much less gain a complete victory.  This important truth should be deeply imbedded in our hearts; for, although in ourselves we are nothing, we are too apt to overestimate our own abilities and to conclude falsely that we are of some importance. This vice springs from the corruption of our nature. But the more natural a thing is, the more difficult it is to be discovered.
          But God, to Whom nothing is secret, looks upon this with horror, because it is His Will that we should be convinced we possess only that virtue and grace which comes from Him alone, and that without Him we are incapable of one meritorious thought. This distrust of our own strength is a gift from Heaven, bestowed by God on those He loves. It is granted sometimes through His holy inspiration, sometimes through severe afflictions, or almost insurmountable temptations and other ways which are unknown to us. Yet He expects that we will do everything within our power to obtain it. And we certainly will obtain it if, with the grace of God, we seriously employ the following four means.” Dom Lorenzo Scupoli, “The Spiritual Combat” Chapter 2 (available online)

          [Of course we are capable of making wrong choices. But thankfully, and most of all, we are instilled with a capacity to love. Whatever gets in the way of that, I’d argue is the thing we shouldn’t trust. At least, that’s how I have come to be secure in my faith. I don’t feel the need to give it a name or justify it to anyone.]

          By “we” do you include yourself as capable of making wrong choices or just everyone else who doesn’t have “authentic God-give wisdom?” At least you are not dishonest in calling this nameless faith of yours Christianity. According to what you’ve said, it seems to be some strange form of Gnosticism, inspired by Christ and based on the pleasant feelings of your notion of what love is, which has no need of justification. Earlier you mentioned a biblical concept that I probably recognize in referring to “love.” I think I rightfully assumed you were referring to the passage from 1 Corinthians 13, since that is the popular passage read at weddings that gives you that ‘feel-goodiness,’ which I believe gives you the false sense of security that you are in the right place. However, there is another reference that immediately came to my mind, “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) I have to wonder if you have ever considered what it’s like for God to love us…from His perspective; the pain, suffering, rejection he endured in taking on human flesh. Why did He do that? I think that notion of love stands in stark contrast to the one that makes you secure in your faith. Like I said in the before, there is a big difference between the way God loves and the way man loves.

          [Thank you for engaging in this discussion with me. I hope it brings more clarity to us both.]

          Likewise. It’s been a good exercise in helping me to further my understanding and confidence in why I believe and what I believe. Dominus tecum!

          • @tomastorquemada, I’m just doing to respond to a few points directly for the sake of time.

            1) I don’t fear offending God, just as I don’t fear offending anyone I love. It’s pretty easy to Not Offend. If I ever do offend, it is not intentional and I hope someone tells me so I can apologize profusely.

            2) The massive # of Christian denominations is one reason why I don’t associate with any one of them. Clearly it’s not so clear who’s “right” so I’m trusting my gut (it’s never led me wrong) and carving my own trail to God.

            3) Yes, there are many unwise people in the world. Just as there are many unkind, unintelligent, unfortunate and unloved. But no one chooses to be a jerk any more or less than someone chooses abuse or poverty. Circumstances, genetics, lack of human connection & support, proper resources – there are many layers of entanglement that contribute to why people to do what they do. Saying it all boils down to a single “choice” between whether to go down the path of hell, or not, reduces humanity to a very shallow rendition of an otherwise beautifully complex creation. IMHO

            4) I don’t reject everything about the bible, just the offensive parts. I consider actual Life to be more sacred and more worthy of devotion than scripture.

            5) I cannot comprehend a way of thinking that promotes Distrust of Self is a virtue. It is contrary to everything I have experienced.

            6) I’m not sure why you ascribe me to have such a frivolous and shallow notion of love. Maybe you are not a parent, or you don’t realize that I am a parent. Because as a parent, it is easy to fathom God’s love. As well, it would be nothing for me to lay down my life for my children, my loved ones, even strangers if necessary. I value my life wholeheartedly, but the love I have inside would compel me to give it all up for another human in a second. That’s what the vastness of God’s love can do; it speaks on a level beyond words & rules, and obliterates all fear & ego.

            • As before, I have placed my comments between you numbered points:

              [1) I don’t fear offending God, just as I don’t fear offending anyone I love. It’s pretty easy to Not Offend. If I ever do offend, it is not intentional and I hope someone tells me so I can apologize profusely.]

              You don’t fear offending God because you don’t truly love Him, but yourself. You are fooling yourself to think otherwise.

              [2) The massive # of Christian denominations is one reason why I don’t associate with any one of them. Clearly it’s not so clear who’s “right” so I’m trusting my gut (it’s never led me wrong) and carving my own trail to God.]

              “Clearly it’s not so clear”….huh? Clearly, somewhere along the way, you have attained knowledge of the existence of Jesus Christ. Clearly, you have previously stated that, “I am very much inspired and live by the teachings of Christ.” Clearly, you have rejected Jesus and His gospel, at least in part, and supplanted it with the gospel according to Carmen, because you have NEVER been wrong…says you. It sounds a lot like the gospel according to Oprah Winfrey, i.e., there are many paths to god(sic). Clearly, you do not believe that Jesus Christ is who He said He is, the Son of God. Clearly, you don’t believe that He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through Him. Clearly, you are wrong, lost and confused.

              [3) Yes, there are many unwise people in the world. Just as there are many unkind, unintelligent, unfortunate and unloved. But no one chooses to be a jerk any more or less than someone chooses abuse or poverty. Circumstances, genetics, lack of human connection & support, proper resources – there are many layers of entanglement that contribute to why people to do what they do. Saying it all boils down to a single “choice” between whether to go down the path of hell, or not, reduces humanity to a very shallow rendition of an otherwise beautifully complex creation. IMHO]

              How can there be any unfortunate or unloved people in your system of theology if God loves everyone and we all get to go to heaven, because there really is no place called hell?

              Actually, history is replete with examples of people who have voluntarily chosen poverty and still to this day men and women take vows of poverty to enter into religious orders to live a life of prayer and service to God.

              Who said it boils down to a single choice? More often than not, i think people make a series of bad decisions. Many times because they are prideful and stubborn in wanting to acknowledge their faults. Think of the story of the prodigal son or one of the other gospel stories where Jesus said, ‘go and sin no more.’ God calls us all to repentance, but not all accept the invitation (Matthew 22:1-15). God calls us all to come to Him and sends us His grace, but we often don’t recognize it or refuse to cooperate with it or flat out reject it in favor of what makes us FEEL good (i.e., fame, fortune, human respect, power, sex, drugs, alcohol, food, etc.). He calls to us repeatedly throughout our lives and some answer sooner than others (Matthew 20:1-15). The only thing shallow here are the depths of human understanding.

              [4) I don’t reject everything about the bible, just the offensive parts. I consider actual Life to be more sacred and more worthy of devotion than scripture.]

              God doesn’t reject everyone, just those that are offensive to Him. Since you “don’t fear offending God,”….??? Do you see any flaws in the gospel of Carmen?

              [5) I cannot comprehend a way of thinking that promotes Distrust of Self is a virtue. It is contrary to everything I have experienced.]

              Of course, it must be one of those offensive parts of the gospel you reject: “…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

              The following is something I read on another blog that I though was worth your consideration:

              There is a certain good that is in ‘distrust in self’ because it acknowledges something that is very important: the distinction between us and God, between creature and God. One of my favorite quotes is from St. Catherine of Sienna, when she asked who God is and He replied to her, “I am He who Is, and you are she who is not.” ‘Distrust in self’ is also good in that it highlights our inability to bring ourselves to God, to perfect ourselves, to do any meritorious good. We can’t do it by ourselves. If we trust solely on our own powers, we are sure to fail.

              A healthy ‘distrust of self’ should also lead to a healthy, even saintly or heroic, trust in God. Realizing our weakness, we come on our knees to Him who is our strength. “When I am weak, I am made strong” as St. Paul says. We ask God for His help, we abandon everything at His feet, giving all of ourselves over to Him. We realize that without God’s goodness and grace, we are absolutely nothing. So instead we trust Him completely.

              I know for myself, I’ve often gotten to the point where it’s like, “Yes God, I trust in You… but I don’t trust myself. I don’t trust myself to know that I’m actually doing Your will right now. What if I’m missing something? etc”

              I think it’s at those points that an even greater trust in God is called for– a trust that He works in our human weaknesses, a trust that is deeper than our distrust of self. It almost makes the trust in God more meaningful, when there’s a lack of self-trust, but you go with what you think is God’s will anyway.

              Of course, with all of this, I think it’s very important to have a spiritual director with whom you can speak to about these things. Part of being able to overcome an unhealthy distrust of self is obedience. But from my own personal musings, I think that ‘distrust of self’ is only truly healthy in the spiritual life when it leads to a greater trust in God.

              [6) I’m not sure why you ascribe me to have such a frivolous and shallow notion of love. Maybe you are not a parent, or you don’t realize that I am a parent. Because as a parent, it is easy to fathom God’s love. As well, it would be nothing for me to lay down my life for my children, my loved ones, even strangers if necessary. I value my life wholeheartedly, but the love I have inside would compel me to give it all up for another human in a second. That’s what the vastness of God’s love can do; it speaks on a level beyond words & rules, and obliterates all fear & ego.]

              God’s love has certainly not obliterated your ego, has it? You trust only in yourself and reject every form of Christianity on the face of the earth in favor of what your gut tells you. Now you state that your role as a parent is essentially your credential as an expert on the love of God? Again, the only thing shallow here is the depth of human understanding.

              Do you let your child/children govern themselves or do you set rules for them? If there are rules and they disobey them, are there consequences? Do you give them everything they want or are there times when you deprive them of something they want because you know better, that it is not good for them, even though it will hurt their FEELINGS? Have you ever heard a child say, ‘you’re not the boss of me?’ Isn’t that essentially what you’re saying to God?

              You’ve woven this sophistry of heady, pie-in-the-sky, over-the-rainbow notions of God’s love, which have totally blinded you to your hypocrisy and prideful rejection of obedience to God in favor of total trust in only yourself….and you’ve NEVER been wrong. Really?!

              “He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.” (Matthew 12:30). You have willfully chosen to go against Christ (i.e., anti-Christ). You have clearly stated that you will not serve, “Non serviam.” You should Google that Latin phrase to find out who coined it. That’s who’s side you are on and who has misled you. From some of the other comments, it seems you’ve gained a few followers on here too. Sadly, you’re probably passing on this false religion (that’s what it is, sorry) to your children too. “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)

              Please overlook and forgive any lack of cordiality in my comments. Prior to posting, I am sincerely praying for you…and Sean too.

              Pax vobiscum.

              • At this point, this horse is quite dead. Isn’t it time to stop beating it? All I am hearing is closed minds, closed hearts and people talking past each other as they try to put God in their own neat little box. God doesn’t fit anyone’s box……regardless of religious stripes. Yet, we continue to push and shove and stuff in order to satisfy something beyond our limited comprehension: the holy mysteries of God.

                  • I find it interesting that the fake name behind which you hide is that of the “Grand Inquisitor” of the Spanish Inquisition. It was at his hands that thousands were tortured and died as he tried to force them to accept his religious beliefs. You seem to be taking the same tact in what you post here.

                    I would simply note that you are far from the way Jesus taught and acted. Jesus did not force, coerce, or intimidate people into faith. Jesus issued an invitation and it was up to the invitee to respond.

                    You must not have enough strength of conviction to use your real name. It’s very telling that you hide behind the names of one of the worst examples of Christianity in history.

                    I may or may not read the distortions you post, but I will not hesitate to call you out about the tact you take. It is not Christian.

                    • You again? I thought you didn’t want to beat a dead horse. It’s unfortunate that you feel forced, coerced and intimidated. I’m not sure how that happened.

                      Have you ever read this part of the gospel?

                      “You serpents, generation of vipers, how will you flee from the judgment of hell? Therefore behold I send to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them you will put to death and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: That upon you may come all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just, even unto the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar. Amen I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not? Behold, your house shall be left to you, desolate.” (Matthew 23:33-38)

                      Do you feel better now? No? Here, then. How about this:

                      “O generation of vipers, how can you speak good things, whereas you are evil? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of a good treasure bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of an evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matthew 12:34-37)

                      Or this:

                      “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you make clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but within you are full of rapine and uncleanness. Thou blind Pharisee, first make clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, that the outside may become clean. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you are like to whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men’ s bones, and of all filthiness. So you also outwardly indeed appear to men just; but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matthew 23:25-28)

                      Or this:

                      “But if that evil servant shall say in his heart: My lord is long a coming: And shall begin to strike his fellow servants, and shall eat and drink with drunkards: The lord of that servant shall come in a day that he hopeth not, and at an hour that he knoweth not:
                      And shall separate him, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “(Matthew 24:48-51)

                      I could go on, but your attitude tells me I’m just casting pearls here. Forgive me if I’m not convinced that you have any knowledge about the way Jesus taught and acted. Get behind me, Bruce Garner.

                    • Do you know to whom Jesus is directing his comments? (Actually the first might be John the Baptist.)

                      Jesus is speaking directly to the religious elite of His day: the Pharisees and the scribes.

                      These were those religious “leaders” who knew well the letter of the law but had no clue what the spirit of the law meant.

                      Jesus reserved his harshest criticism for the religious leaders who eventually played a major role in having him crucified. Jesus upset the status quo. He challenged organized religion.

                      When you consider the Gospels in whole rather than piece meal and out of context, you get a very different picture of Jesus. That’s the Jesus with whom I have a personal relationship.

                      You are an excellent Pharisee……is that how you wish to be known?

                      I would rather be one who may not always be so certain about anything except the mercy and grace of God.

                      Changing your name didn’t change much else….sorry dude!

                    • Just can’t get enough of me, can you?

                      ”When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.” — SocratesI

                    • Slander? You beat others over the head with Scripture as you see it and you have no problem with such a methodology. I make an observation and you call it slander? Dude, I’m not sure what to make of you. That being said, it’s not a matter of not being able to get enough of you. It is a matter of having spent years and years undoing the damage folks like you have done to the children of God. Your certainty does not make you correct. I may be wrong. You may be wrong. When I stand before God I will be depending on God’s grace and mercy and I hope the same for you.

                    • Why are you so angry with me? You’re way out of line. The initial comments I posted on this page were directed to the author of this article that denies the existence of hell. You’re now the fourth or fifth person to pile on and go on the offensive against my defense of the Christian Faith.

                      You started off rather mildly by characterizing me as closed-minded and closed-hearted, but quickly escalated to accusations of force, coercion and intimidation, following that up with a taunt about my strength of conviction, then call me a Pharisee. According to you though, those are just observations you are making and how dare I classify it as slander?! You’re an idiot. Oh yeah, I forgot one more – I beat others over the head with Scripture. Yeah, right. Please, cease and desist your douchebaggery at once!

                      You can depend on God’s grace and mercy all you want and I hope we all get plenty of it. One thing we will all get for sure is His Justice. Be assured of that.

                    • Angry with you? Where did you get that idea? I am not angry with you. I thought I was engaging in an adult and reasonably spiritually mature discourse with you. Your postings always tend toward brow beating people into seeing things as you see them or as perhaps your particular faith community has taught them. If that works for you, if that is the way you can best engage with God, fine. But you are so insistent that you have all the correct answers and you do not. Mostly what you have is your interpretation influenced by your particular faith community.

                      My faith is not one built upon fear and guilt and threats of hell. That would not be faith to me. If we have to scare someone into faith, we have missed the boat entirely. Yet, the way I read your postings, that is the tact you have chosen to use. But fear is not faith.

                      My faith is built upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and his constant urging that we love one another as we have been loved, that we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.

                      Yes Jesus referenced hell in his teachings and narratives but those references were minimal in number. What he strove to impart was that we should be in right relationship with each other. Jesus taught in parables. His world understood parables. They understood allegories as well. A story was the best way to communicate some things to people. At the same time we do not really know exactly what words Jesus used. Language differences, translations and retranslations over time have changed what we now have……human error is not absent. But the basics Jesus taught have come through and that is where our salvation is found.

                      This thread has probably worn out the fires of hell by now!

                      So no, I am not angry with you. On the other hand what will bring out my anger is if such tactics are used to scare children, teens and youth and even vulnerable adults into fear rather than helping them build a sound faith. That will bring out my ire…..for such is not the nature of God through Jesus Christ.

              • Ok tomastorquemada, I thought we were engaging in sincere efforts to understand some of our different perspectives, but it seems you would rather distort my words than hear their true meaning.

                Now you’re telling me I’m aligned with Satan? Coming from someone associating with the notorious priest, Tomas de Torquemada – known for inflicting tortuous deaths and mutilations – I am feeling severely regretful of our dialogue.

                So, goodbye!

                • Carmen,

                  I’m amazed you hung on THIS long. TT has made it clear he’s only here to bolster his OWN faith in his OWN beliefs. He has no interest in learning anything from anyone else unless they interpret scripture the EXACT SAME WAY he does.

                  There has to be a willingness to learn in order for any learning to ever take place. It is when I finally admitted I MIGHT not know everything about this God guy, and ask the Spirit to reveal more to me, that I got EXACTLY that. But it has to start with an open heart.

                • Carmen,
                  It was/is my intention to engage in sincere dialogue with you. I think I have a very good understanding of your egocentric system of belief and I’m sincerely trying to shine the light of truth on the errors you and others fail to recognize. It’s ironic that during our exchanges, i have corrected you on the several occasions that you have made false accusations about me; that I made the Devil equal to God, that i accused you of saying Jesus lied, that I said heaven or hell boils down to a single choice. I said none of that, but now you accuse me of distorting your words. I have done nothing but take what you say at face value. If there is some other meaning to the words you’ve posted, which you meant to convey, by all means, feel free to clarify.

                  Yes, the screen name selection was an unfortunate oversight, which I did not realize until my first post had already been sent. Once you replied, I didn’t want to create confusion by changing it in the middle of the thread.

                  I don’t know if it is possible now, but don’t let that muddy the waters. In all honesty, I just went into the account settings; it was something I put in the blank when the account was created in 2012. I have rarely used it since then, if ever, and I’m really not that familiar with WordPress. I have now changed it to the screen name I normally use with Disqus, which I had thought was auto populating when I originally replied to the author’s article.

              • tomastorquemada aka QuisUtDeus

                You have been told a story about Christ from the point of view of your church and much of what you say is authoritative which reflects the kind of church you go to. Yet even within your own church there are many different factions, some more extreme than others, some more compassionate than others.

                The ‘Satan story’ reveals our attitude towards God and towards others. Are we enemies of God and each other? I am going to focus on our attitude towards others.

                Do we desire good for others or do we want to see them punished. Do we use God as our sledge hammer against people we see as our enemies or do we ask God to help people up? In other words when we pray do we pray in such a way that we want our enemies to be blessed or do we ask God to punish them so we can see ourselves avenged and our petty arguments won?

                Think about it our ‘percieved’ enemies will fall on bad times or will get sick and die but do we then stupidly think ‘we’ have had a hand in that when we pray ill-will towards them? What is justly deserved towards our enemy is only justice when they are actually doing harm. Only God knows the heart.

                Do we judge others or give them the benefit of the doubt? Do we look to find fault in others or do we try to see the good? Jesus says bless those who curse, bless them don’t curse them. Why does he say that? Because the position of the adversary is to seek revenge rather than consider the position someone else is in. Your enemy may not be an enemy at all but a stranger to you. Are they doing any real harm? OR are they simply in a different place from you at this time in their life.

                Carmen, made a good point earlier when she wrote “Yes, there are many unwise people in the world. Just as there are many unkind, unintelligent, unfortunate and unloved. But no one chooses to be a jerk any more or less than someone chooses abuse or poverty. Circumstances, genetics, lack of human connection & support, proper resources – there are many layers of entanglement that contribute to why people to do what they do. Saying it all boils down to a single “choice” between whether to go down the path of hell, or not, reduces humanity to a very shallow rendition of an otherwise beautifully complex creation. IMHO”

                I think this is what Jesus was trying to tell us about Satan/ the adversary/ the enemy.

                WE are the enemy when we do not do good unto another people as we would have good done unto us.

          • tomastorquemada newly named QuisUtDeus (just to be clear on who this comment is for)

            if we can’t trust ourselves we can’t trust anything and why should we.

            Religion is a system of indoctrination which encourages people to believe nonsense like that. The benefits to any religious organisation is to build their power base upon blind obedience- not towards God but towards the church leadership. This is why the church has done terrible things in the past and why many did not question or do anything about it. This is exactly how the Sanhedrin got away with killing Jesus.

            • If you choose to reject Jesus Christ too, that is unfortunate but still your free choice. I have no idea what you believe, but will assume for now, like Carmen, you have an egocentric sort of theology/spiritual but not religious/everyone has their own path kind of thing.

              I understand that many terrible things have been done in the name of God and/or of His Church; however, an important distinction needs to be made. The Church is an entity that is made up of members, but not represented by them. What represents The Church are it’s teachings and the applications of such teachings. Sadly, in this age of representative government, people think the contrary.

              Man has a fallen nature, which has evil inclinations (aka concupiscence) and it is for that very reason that we should distrust ourselves. You talk of obedience as if it is a bad thing, but i pose to you the same questions I did to Carmen regarding the rearing of children: Do you let them govern themselves or, as a parent, establish rules they must follow out of love and concern for them? Is that indoctrination? Our relationship with God is much the same way and we have free will to reject His guidance. If you children become disobedient, do you rebuke them and guide them to an understanding of why there are rules in place?

              Do you think everyone should be marching to the beat of their own drum? I don’t see how that couldn’t result in utter chaos…a new Tower of Babel.

              • tomastorquemada aka QuisUtDeus you said- “The Church is an entity that is made up of members, but not represented by them. What represents The Church are its teachings and the applications of such teachings. ”

                This may well describe the ‘church’ you attend but this is not the church as represented by Paul. Your very own words are a cogent argument for indoctrination because you believe your church’s teachings make you a part of the true church but Paul said in scripture, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

                The church is a body made up of people. It is spiritual and human in nature, not doctrines or buildings.

                The command to love others as yourself reveals a responsibility to the well being of others and of the self. When we are loving others we are loving ourselves. It is so simple even Atheist and unbelievers can do it and that pleases God.

            • for clarification ” Religion is a system of indoctrination which encourages people to believe they shouldn’t trust themselves, which is nonsense. The benefits to any religious organisation is to build their power base upon blind obedience- not towards God but towards the church leadership. This is why the church has done terrible things in the past and why many did not question or do anything about it.”

      • @carmenmelton

        Hi Carmen! Your 8:31pm post is so incredibly insightful (I think you may have flummoxed tomastorquemada!) and straight from Love. I often feel out on a limb with my Christian experience, evolution and understanding. But, every time I read your posts they fill me with such peace. Thank you Carmen. X

    • @tomastorquemada

      Hi Tomastorquemada. I’ve been reading through your posts and responses to Carmenmelton. Thank you for an interesting read and more importantly, for getting me to think. I read and re-read your posts; there was just something that I couldn’t put my finger on. Then it came to me!

      Just like Carmenmelton, It’s a love thing for me too!

      If I’ve understood correctly – please forgive me if I’ve totally missed your point. Your premise is that human love is not Devine love. That God’s love is perfect and that human love cannot ever be perfect. Here’s the thing for me… If human love has no element of Devine in it whatsoever, and, furthermore, categorically can never contain God-Love, what is it? If human-love is solely created by the human ego and not through a Devine connection with God, then its source is from where? If we were created from and through Devine love then where is that Devine essence contained that glued me together?

      You may think this is a long shot…I don’t! If God made us from God essence then we must contain God essence. Now, I’m not suggesting in any way that human love is perfect. What I’m saying is that human love can and does have essence of God-Love in it and that bit is perfect. There is an intrinsic link, a real bond between us and God. I don’t mean through reading the Bible, praying, doctrines etc etc. I mean an absolute constant link and real bond through the Devine essence within us which communicates directly with God. It has been there from the day we were created but, let’s just say it was temporarily inaccessible from our side, until Jesus Christ woke us up.

      I Absolutely believe that I became a Christian the day I accepted that within me rests Devine essence which glues me together, and, that Jesus Christ made it possible for me and all of us to experience this essence. This does not make me or anyone else Devine but it does enable all of us to experience God’s love in a real sense and not in an intellectual human way. What happened to me when I accepted that God made me out of God stuff and that within me is that stuff, was that I suddenly became aware of how totally loved I was. I became aware of how wonderful the gift of life is and just how much I really loved Jesus Christ for this gift. In a sense I totally let go and allowed myself to be loved through the Devine essence within me, made possible through Jesus the Christ. I stood on the edge of the cliff and let go straight into God’s infinite love, and what I found was the most amazing sense of clarity, humility and yes love, love beyond your wildest dreams – God love!

      Tomastorquemada, God’s love is real, it’s so very real, and you can experience it as a human, through the Devine essence that has created you and rests inside you. But, humans put false humility in the way and repeat to themselves that they are not worthy, that they are wretched, that they are this and that, that they must understand the Bible first. They put doctrine before God’s gift of love to us all. It’s all false humility, in my opinion, and ego stopping us from simply letting go and opening our arms to what is actually already there and always has been – God’s infinite love which you can experience as a human. Tomastorquemada, no matter how much we try to intellectualise our faith and no matter how much we try to understand God’s will for us by attempting to decode the Bible, none of this comes anywhere near close to simply giving yourself permission to experience God’s love as a human being by letting go of intellect and ultimately fear of not being worthy. We are ALL worthy of God’s love, and, we can experience this love and use it in our day-to-day life as a human through our Devine essence.

      • Sean,

        “God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from? “I sought whence evil comes and there was no solution”, said St. Augustine, and his own painful quest would only be resolved by his conversion to the living God. For “the mystery of lawlessness” is clarified only in the light of the “mystery of our religion”. The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace. We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.

        Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.

        Only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind’s origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another.” (link to source – http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p7.htm)

        Sean, the problem that I see with the “theology” that you and Carmen have your faith in is that it is solely based on feelings that are very one-sided. Have you ever read the Book of Job? It is very clear in the first chapter that Job feared God and that God loved Job. However, the love of God that Job experienced for the next 37 chapters of the Book of Job was quite different, probably the exact opposite, from the love that you and Carmen seem to describe. The love God had for us caused him to suffer death on the cross; again, likely the exact opposite of the love you describe. Right? Remember, “Gods ways are not our ways” (Isaiah 55:8-9) and that we should “count it all joy” when tempted (James 1:2-5).

        It might be helpful to consider the following points of Catholic doctrine take from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (same page link as provided above):

        416By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all human beings.

        417Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called “original sin”.

        418 As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called “concupiscence”).

        419 “We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature, “by propagation, not by imitation” and that it is. . . ‘proper to each'” (Paul VI, CPG § 16).

        420 The victory that Christ won over sin has given us greater blessings than those which sin had taken from us: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20).

        421 Christians believe that “the world has been established and kept in being by the Creator’s love; has fallen into slavery to sin but has been set free by Christ, crucified and risen to break the power of the evil one. . .” (GS 2 § 2)

        Hope this helps.

        Dominus tecum.

    • Hi Tomastorquemada! Thank you for your post which I read several times to try and absorb and understand as fully as I could; I really do appreciate your words and the time you may have spent compiling your post. I don’t claim to be a scholar in matters of religion. I do have a Bachelors degree and two Masters degrees but, alas, none of them have anything to do with religion.

      Unfortunately, very little of what you have presented resonates with me. Please don’t interpret this as a judgment against you or that I’m presenting a right/wrong type scenario. My view is that we’re all on a journey and everyone’s journey is different. Along the way God may provide us with revelations which in due course change the trajectory of our faith’s journey, helping us to understand better what it means to love God. I guess I’m on a different journey to yours; perhaps our paths will converge one day, perhaps not, who knows?

      My faith has ushered me to a spiritual awakening place where the New Covenent left by Jesus means I can experience God as a human. I don’t experience being bound by words, doctrines, etc. The Bible to me has become a totally spiritual book; its food for my spirit but not a ‘paint-by-numbers’ account of how I should proceed in life. For me, Jesus’ resurrection created an unfathomable infinite cosmic faith shift. Jesus the Light of the world! Pure spiritual Light that permeates and penetrates everything; it’s everywhere Tomastorquemada, everywhere. I bathe in the Light of the New Covenent in the knowledge that God through Jesus who is God, the Alpha the Omega, the Word made flesh, has forever undone a rift that previously existed between God and us. The shackles of spiritual oppression have been broken forever! The risen Christ to me is like a vast limitless ocean of infinite spiritual love that I can throw myself into whenever I want and experience without being bound by ANY doctrinal preconceptions. It’s hard for me to explain Tomastorquemada. I know that I’m not perfect, I know I make mistakes and that I fall short of the grace of God. But all that, notwithstanding, Jesus has made it possible for me, as an imperfect human being to bathe in the perfect living waters of spiritual love. Sorry, I get a little carried away.

      Anyway, once again, thank you you for your post; I know it was written with love.

      All the best!

      Sean

  77. One question to the Roman Catholics on here – and I would like the courtesy of s reply: Is it more important to BE CATHOLIC or FOLLOW JESUS? And NO, the two are NOT NECESSARILY the same thing – I am extremely frustrated with the Church where the laity is discounted, especially the sensus fidelium, the clergy feel that any questions, any challenges are not to be tolerated lest one be cast as a gasp, horror, evil heretical Protestant…nothing is ever supposed to change (I suppose you Catholics feel that people like me should still be picking cotton and being beaten with bullwhips because SLAVERY was once part of AUTHORITY) Of course Vatican II should be cancelled, the Novus Ordo Mass should be replaced by the Tridentine Latin Mass, etc, etc…..

    By the way….I notice that _____Limbo___ (speaking of Hell) , regarding unbaptized infants has been rethought and that God’s mercy is large enough to admit babies who die without being baptized to Heaven instead of consigning them to a place between Heaven and Hell, i.e., Limbo…..