Don’t Believe in Hell? You’re Fired!

I can’t remember ever believing in the concepts of heaven and hell.  So it is hard to understand the enthusiasm some folks have for the idea that others are going to hell. 

They so love this notion of hell for others that they cannot tolerate suggestions that hell might not exist, or, that those they dislike might not go there.  This is not just theological hair splitting, it’s log splintering.

I’m talking here about the doctrine of the “emerging church” and the competition it presents to the old order.  The enthusiasm for keeping hell on the theological leader board is so great a Methodist pastor was asked to leave his church because he posted on FaceBook an endorcement of Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins.” Bell believes sinners are loved and accepted by Jesus.

Chad Holtz was the Pastor of a rural church in North Carolina.  He had come to question whether there is an “eternity of torment”.  He said of his former congregation, “I can understand why the people in my church aren’t ready to leave that behind.”

I suppose the hell concept is just another of those ideas that separates us.  If you believe in it, it is so logical to you that to think otherwise is beyond the pale.

If you don’t believe in it, the concept of spending eternity in something like a fire pit is so rediculous, it is not worth a second thought. 

I can relate to Pastor Holtz.  To talk about something that seems far fetched is not worth whatever pittance he was being paid.

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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34 Responses to Don’t Believe in Hell? You’re Fired!

  1. Mark Kalbus says:

    One can choose to believe or not to believe in hell that’s not the problem here. Mr. Lindgren you believe what ever you want. Just because one chooses not to believe in something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It has been the dogma of the christian church for 2,000 years that there is a hell and that Jesus died on the cross for our sins so we would not have to suffer torments of hell. It is most basic teaching of the church. But when a pastor, who is supposed to be God’s representative on earth, contradicts or questions the existence of hell that is where the problem is. Chad Holtz, if doesn’t want to believe in hell, can surely start a religion where there is no hell. But he can not call himself a christian pastor and preach that there is no hell, that contradicts scripture and 2,000 years of church teachings.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Mark 2:43 Thank you for commenting. I expressed my own view of hell, and that of Pastor Holtz, because it seems to me, and I may be wrong, that public opinion is moving in the direction of the emerging truth with its drawing back from the concept of hell. I read some 20 years ago that mainline Protestant Seminaries have stopped teaching that it is clear there exists a heaven and a hell. The concepts seem to represent a time now past.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Jon; Your “mainline Protestant Seminaries”. Without qualifiers you are saying , or at least implying all. (1). Is this what you mean? Specifically, ( 2 ). which ones are you referring to? And, (3 ). what denominations do you include in “Mainline”? Please.

        • Avatar of PK PK says:

          Do you believe in an eternal conscious torment?

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            PK; You have brought up this subject before. Why are you so concerned? Are you afraid that you haven’t, or cannot do enough good works in this life to “earn salvation”, (some think that way), OR is your trust in Jesus so weak that you don”t think you are saved by Grace through Faith in Him alone, by his death on the cross FOR you? Either way, what I think or believe, will have no effect on you, so I refuse to tell you my position.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Pk; I almost forgot. There are a couple possibilities that you may be struggling with and they are; In the early Church, there was a man called Pelagius. His understanding and teaching was that “works alone” (by the individual concerned) would earn eternal salvation. He was seen to be a heretic. Later, part of his original concept was adopted, and is part of a large Church group to this very day. It is called Semi-Pelagenianism. In it, the term is “works assists Grace ,and/or faith.” You may be in one of these groups . If you are, I understand your fixation, and concerns. (Grace being understood as an “undeserved favor”.) Think about it. I wish you well.

          • Avatar of PK PK says:

            Why would you assume that i’m afraid for my salvation or that my faith in Christ is “so weak” by my question? I’ve stated my opinion on hell before. It’s an interesting eschatological subject. What arrogance. Would you be that mean to a youth that belongs to your church who asked you what hell is? This question has been discussed for a long time. So does anybody who questions what hell really is, not have a strong faith in Christ? I’ve tried to discuss Bible topics with you a few times now and every time you jump all over me for even asking, so this the last time. Good news for you i’m sure.
            By the way, i believe in salvation by grace alone. But Jesus also said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
            Why are you so afraid to give you opinion on this type of thing?

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            PK; You seem to be overly sensitive to a subject you claim to understand. Time to get over it, and move on.

          • Avatar of PK PK says:

            I believe in respect. I think you need to get over yourself and realize other people’s thoughts matter too.

          • Avatar of PK PK says:

            PS. I think you read way to far into things just to make you feel as though you are superior in faith and belief structure than your subject. If that’s what you need to do, good for you.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            PK; other peoples thoughts do matter. I can and do respect that. By your past performance, you are trying to set up an argument, and I won’t play that game with you.

          • Avatar of PK PK says:

            I’ve never set up any argument. I’ve always just stated my opinions and the argument always comes to me for some reason. I don’t do it on purpose. I’ve been sincere in the questions i’ve asked you because i like hearing other people’s opinions. A discussion about them, i think, is a good thing. It’s how we learn. God shows us things through other people. I’m not playing games with you or anyone else. My past performance has been: I state my opinion on a particular topic, then i get attacked by you, Tyler or whoever else. Then i defend my position. It would be great if you would give your opinion on the subject, rather than attacking my faith, intellect or character without anything backing it up. Then we could have a conversation about the subject and perhaps i or you could see something that we haven’t before. Maybe you should go back and look at how hard you’ve been on me for just having an opinion. It was actually stupid of me to even ask you that question thinking you might actually give me an answer and be respectful at the same time. I can’t be mad at you.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            PK ; Res ipsa loquitur ( the thing speaks for itself).

          • Avatar of PK PK says:

            You’re equally responsible for the arguments as me, so your fancy term does not apply. I’m guilty of expressing my opinions. Who goes on a blog and doesn’t do that? What’s the point? Ridiculous. Your faith may be strong, but your ego rivals it. Die dulci freure.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            You are free to your opinion. There, do you feel better now?

          • Avatar of Grandma Grandma says:

            Sometimes, when I read some of what the folks on areavoices (not you) have to say. :)

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Wanna 3:14 I concede this was a careless comment. I recall clearly that statement from a Wall Street Journal article several years ago. It was a faculty member or administrator from, as I recall Garrett Seminary, making this observation. He might have been incorrect, he might have meant it is covered in classes on the Bible but not in an advocacy sense, or, was just making a guess.

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          PK; Res ipsa loquitur. (the thing speaks for itself).

    • Avatar of Michael Page Michael Page says:

      Mark 2:43 – It is common in discussions like this to refer to what people “choose to believe.” I’ve always been puzzled by this concept, and I’m curious what others think.

      I have the power to control my body in many ways. I have the power to control what I say. I have partially the power to control what I spend time thinking about. But I can’t think of any way that I have to power to control what I believe.

      Let’s say I really really really wanted to believe that Joseph Smith was given fundamental knowledge about the nature of our existence on gold tablets. Would I be able to do it? No, not even close. I have no control at all over what I believe.

      How about others. Do you see yourselves as having control over what you believe? If you don’t believe in Hell, do you think you have the ability to decide to believe? If you do believe in Hell, do you think you have the ability to decide to not believe?

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Michael; Thanks. Your comments kind of fall in line with the work of the Holy Spirit. Without that, no one can “choose” to come to faith. “You did not choose me, I chose you”. We can however deny the work of the Holy Spirit, and by doing that reject Him.

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        Michael 5:53 I really like your comment because it gets at the nature of us all in the belief system. I agree that forces outside of us seem to push us toward belief patterns in a somewhat involuntary way. But, doesn’t it seem like events and our open mindedness, or, closedmindedness also attracts us one way or another? For example, if a religious nutcase predicts the date of the end times and it doesn’t happen, our belief in the end times may diminish or not depending on our willingness to look at that person through new eyes. For me, one of the delights of being older has been the chance to observe the reaction to religion of the same circle of people I’ve known for many decades. Some of them have become more committed to faith. We would sort of expect it to be the case that as people get closer to death they would grab onto the eternal life idea–like “there are not atheists in the foxholes (except there are)”. Others, like myself, were drawn or pushed away from these ideas by our life’s experiences and what we learned in other ways. You are correct that none of us here seems to have any interest in changing. But, perhaps exposure to other ideas may come back to influence us when, at some point later on, we open up to change.

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          Jon; That was probably the most objective observation you have written. Well done ! “Not a cough in a carload”.

        • Avatar of Michael Page Michael Page says:

          Jon – 8:18 –Absolutely our beliefs are subject to change as new evidence/experiences comes our way. I’m not talking here about whether people are or are not open minded or whether they do or don’t embrace new evidence and reexamine their beliefs in light of it.

          I’m talking about something different. Suppose you were standing in front of an elevator door in the Fargo Black Building, and on a whim I challenged you to BELIEVE that when the door opened Charlie Sheen would walk out. My guess is you would not be able to do it. If all your experiences and reasoning and reflection tell you the chance Charlie Sheen is in that elevator is remote, you do not have the ability to BELIEVE the event is likely. Similarly while Pastor Holtz could choose to preach about hell, he is powerless to choose to do it sincerely. He cannot WILL himself to believe it.

          This has always been my objection to the “no atheists is a foxhole” idea and is one of my objections to the Pascal’s wager idea. These notions suggest that a person can change what he or she thinks is true or likely or unlikely based on what he or she WANTS to be true or FEARS is true.

    • Avatar of Grandma Grandma says:

      What happens to unbaptized babies who die? Remember, they’re still covered all over by “original sin.” And what happens to all those millions of people who grew up before 2K ago, or in places where nobody ever heard of Christianity?

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Grandma; Go talk to your minister, pastor, or priest. He/she should be able to help you. Also every denomination should have printed material available, mabey your church library, or Pastors library. Each denomination should also have a web-site with the answers. There are some variabilities and takes to this subject depending on the denomination.

  2. Avatar of S. L. S. L. says:

    Jon, I have told you before, IF you are right and I am wrong, you gain and you lose, nothing … and neither do I – gain nor lose anything. BUT if I am right and YOU are wrong, then I gain enternal life and you lose — everything.

    You must be a gambling man ………

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      S.L. 3:47 Thanks for the comment. Perhaps I have given you the same answer before as well. (But, that’s OK, we can enjoy exchanging our views.) If a person spends much of his/her life spending money, time and emotional investment in something that does not exist, that person, IMO, has lost much. If I, for example, sent money, spent my Sunday mornings and devotional time each evening in a belief in a ferry that would be a big loss. In addition, if I were religious, but chose the wrong religion it that also would be a waste. Thus, I see the gambler as the one who worships.

      • Avatar of PK PK says:

        Wouldn’t the communion with your fellow man and the money given, which you could make sure goes to a good cause, be worth anything? I don’t know what you do in the evening, but i imagine you watch some TV since most people do. I watch very little so you could be in the same boat as me, but everyone has some enjoyable time wasting activities that they do. Is taking some time out of these pointless activities to devote to God such a loss?

  3. Avatar of seaofstories seaofstories says:

    These are the sorts of robed masters that Presidential candidate Bachmann prefers over judges.

  4. You state that: “They so love this notion of hell for others that they cannot tolerate suggestions that hell might not exist, or, that those they dislike might not go there.” I would argue that, at least in many cases, this is an unfair characterization of many who hold to a belief in hell. One may well believe in something and, in fact, not even like its the fact that it is true. For example, I believe that child abuse exists though I wish that it were not so. In fact, Christians have spent millions of dollars and even sacrificed their lives to try and save people from hell. This certainly lies outside your characterization of these individuals as vindictively hoping for the destruction of those they dislike.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Shane 2:30 Thanks for commenting. I can see that you do not receive satisfaction from the belief that others might be hell bound. I don’t see, however, in the larger context how one can see hell as not being used as a threat with some frequency. I have sat in meetings where it has been used in exactly this manner–that I, the Mayor or exMayor, should change my views on such and such or I will be sent to hell. It appears here in the comment section from time to time. Also, I cannot believe that the threat to the existance of hell is not worrying planners in the larger fundamentalist organizations. They are spending extrodinary amounts of effort to debunk the emerging church leaders.

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