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Does Hell Exist?

06/27/12

Permalink 11:01:00 pm, by Norgaard Norgaard Email , 843 words   English (US)
Categories: Traditional Religion is Flawed

Does Hell Exist?

Evangelical Christian teaching traditionally holds that one must believe that Jesus Christ is their personal lord and savior in order to achieve salvation and if one does not do this that they will be sent to hell upon their death, where they will suffer for eternity. This dogma comes from a literal reading of the Bible, specifically the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. Jesus does not say this in this stark of terms, but he does use parables to allude to what will happen if one is deemed unworthy of the kingdom of heaven. He strongly emphasizes the rewards of faith and says that those who lack faith will be left in the darkness where there is weeping and grinding of teeth.

I recently heard a story of an evangelical preacher who had a crisis of faith regarding the commonly understood Christian conception of hell and the consequences that result if one lacks faith in Jesus Christ. This man is Carlton Pearson, founder of Higher Dimensions Family Church. He studied under Oral Roberts, one of the founders of the modern evangelical movement. His church was very large, with thousands coming and worshiping every Sunday. As recently as 2002, he was seen as one of the most influential evangelical Christian preachers in the United States and his energetic and intelligent style of preaching gained him interest among Evangelical Christians throughout the world.

Though Pearson had so much, he could not shake the realization he had come to that the traditional Christian conception of hell is just horribly wrong. He saw on television and heard stories about the immense suffering of people in Rwanda during the genocide that occurred in 1994. He understood that many of these people were not Christians and had never even heard of Jesus Christ or of the Bible. He realized that many, many people throughout the world live their lives in constant suffering and die completely unaware of any of the teachings of Christianity.

The traditional Christian view, at least among evangelical Christians, is that any person who does not accept Jesus as their lord and savior will go to hell upon death, even if they never heard of this and had no opportunity to reject this teaching. In fact, this is one of the main motivating factors behind evangelism. Preachers tell the faithful that they must go out and tell everyone about Jesus in order to try to save them from hell. It is quite common for an evangelical preacher to persuade their flock to become preachers themselves and to promote the Gospel wherever they go and to whoever they meet, because this is the best way of saving people from hell.

Pearson was deeply conflicted when he thought that these suffering and dying people are destined to an eternity of torment simply because they never heard the Gospel preached to them. He rejected the idea that it was his duty to convert all of these people because he knew it is impossible for any person to convert the entire world to Christianity. He came to believe that hell is not a place where the nonbelievers go when they die, but hell is instead right here on Earth. He realized that he was witnessing hell on the television set when he saw the images of the destitute in Rwanda. Hell, he reasoned, is what we humans make for ourselves on Earth, not some other world where nonbelievers are burned for eternity.

Carlton Pearson and his family and his church suffered greatly when he started preaching these views since they are not in line with the generally accepted views of evangelical Christians. Most of his congregants left his church and he was branded a heretic by his close preacher friends. Pearson had the courage to speak out against this horrible idea that God would create people just to let them suffer for all eternity simply because they never heard about the Gospels in their lives.

Now, I should also note that I do not believe in the Bible as 100% the word of God. I am not a Catholic nor Evangelical Christian, though I was raised Catholic. I do, however, believe that the universe and all people were created by God. I also think it reasonable that there is an afterlife that might be similar to the Christian conception of heaven. I do not believe in hell, certainly nothing like the common Christian conception of hell, because this would also involve the believe that God allows his creation to be tormented for eternity. The God I believe in is benevolent, not hideously wicked like that.

Perhaps some people are not deserving of any heaven-like afterlife because they are evil people. People who live lives of murder, terrorism, and other treacheries are probably not deserving of heaven, but neither should they be tormented for eternity. I will say that God simply annihilates the souls of those who are so evil that they do not deserve any afterlife. Thus such souls no longer exist. This seems to be the most just punishment.

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