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Christianity should rethink “Hell”

January 14, 2010

The following is a passage from Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi’s book, Immortality or Resurrection?, Chapter 4 Hell: Eternal Torment or Annihilation.

It is not surprising that today we seldom hear sermons on hellfire even from fundamentalist preachers, who theoretically are still committed to such a belief. John Walvoord, himself a fundamentalist, suggests that the reluctance to preach on hellfire is due primarily to the fear of proclaiming an unpopular doctrine.2 In my view, the problem is not merely the reluctance of preachers today to tell the truth about hell, but primarily the awareness that the traditional view of hellfire is morally intolerable and Biblically questionable.

Clark Pinnock keenly observes: “Their reticence [to preach on hellfire] is not so much due to a lack of integrity in proclaiming the truth as to not having the stomach for preaching a doctrine that amounts to sadism raised to new levels of finesse. Something inside tells them, perhaps on an instinctual level, that the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not the kind of deity who tortures people (even the worst of sinners) in this way. I take the silence of the fundamentalist preachers to be testimony to their longing for a revised doctrine of the nature of hell.3 It is such a longing, I believe, that is encouraging theologians today to revise the traditional view of hell and to propose alternative interpretations of the scriptural data

Maybe it’s time that a lot of churches start seriously looking at it and reviewing/revising their official doctrines. Christianity would benefit from it, in terms of gaining credibility from the general public, when the correct view on hell becomes the mainstream teaching, instead of the twisted, sadistic view of God that is most prevalent today. Most atheists and non-believers point to the teaching of hell as the foremost reason for unbelief.  It boils down to the contradictory message of a God of “Love” punishing people for eternity.

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