Less Hell Christianity.

While I’m not a theologian, the “less hell” branch of the faith seems to be gaining popularity.  Another name for it might be the emerging church and perhaps liberal protestantism in general.

The most successful individuals in ”less hell” are  Rob Bell and Joel Osteen.  Both have, or still, minister in mega churches founded around the idea Christianity is all about the positive, not the negative.  Osteen’s church is said to have 16,000 members.  Bell is a best selling author.

By emphasizing acceptance of people, rather than condemnation, this new Christian brand downplays the importance and existence of hell.  It slips seamlessly into current culture.  Elementary children are taught not to bully.  This means they are to accept differences.

The “less hell” approach says Jesus accepts you and does not condemn you.  There might not even be a hell, this branch of the faith teaches.

I have the impression the “less hell” branches of the mega church compete with liberal denominations of Protestantism Catholicism, both of which are losing members.

On the other end, fundamentalist denominations, like the Southern Baptist Convention, is losing members as well.  This, while pentecostal churches are doing well.

The Southern Baptists and really big on hell, while Pentecostals are into a direct and personal relationship with the god.  Perhaps they compete and the Southern Baptists in what hell means.

I think “less hell” would be more tolerant of homosexuals, women and abortion.  I hope it prevails.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/joel-osteen-describes-his-pastoral-approach-as-less-hellfire-79013/

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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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23 Responses to Less Hell Christianity.

  1. Wanna B Sure says:

    Actually, once the Law, (in the theological sense), has done it’s work, the Gospel steps in, and is the emphasis. Thus within orthodoxy, the emphasis of Hell is greatly diminished. In fact, the Gospel overpowers Hell, and Hell has lost it’s power and significance. In orthodoxy, Hell is not dodged, but met head-on and defeated. Hell is then a side-note, and the Gospel is expanded. Seldom, if ever, does one even hear of “the fires of Hell”, or the like in orthodox sermons. This is the result of “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.”

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Wanna 12:52 Those of us who have read your posts for a long time recognize your view the role of hell is defeated by the cross–I hope I am paraphrasing that correctly. I have seen the same view elaborated on the Missouir Synod site.

      It’s just that opening up conservative Christian sites, listening to the condemnation of gays and abortion, the unequal roles for women and the unending handwringing over the decline in morals leads to but one conclusion: In the mind of the Christian operative (preachers and writers) and the conservative Christian on the street, the faith is about sin and hell and almost nothing else. The academic view that, technically, sin and hell have been taken care of is just that, an academic view.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Jon; Your; “The academic view that, technically, sin and hell have been taken care of is just that, an academic view”. That may be in the circles you hang out with, but in my circles, it is NOT “an academic view”!!! It is a firmly held belief.

        Your sub-topics of gays, abortion womens rights, etc. are entirely different subjects apart from the Hell thingie, Bell, and Osteen, in spite of your desire to conflate them.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        AND; You will see the same beliefs/position/statements, on many other sites in addition to the LCMS.

  2. Avatar of Kay Syvrud Kay Syvrud says:

    For those who believe the Bible is the true, inerrant and inspired by the Almighty God , hell is a reality. There will be the final great white throne judgement as described in final book of Prophecy and of the Bible.(Revelation) Hell is real for those who reject Christ. And that is not my original idea…it is spoken by the Author and Creator of the entire universe. You may not like it but it is going to happen..in the time that is determined by the Creator God. The Gentle Jesus that Liberals have created is not altogether that way..HE is also the Lion of Judah and will judge mankind ultimately.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      I know hell seems like a reality to many readers, here, and to millions of people around the world. We must remember it does not seem a reality to millions of others–those who follow other faiths or follow none.

      Hell was manufactured by those men who wrote the Bible. No one has ever experienced it and reported on it. No one alive today who believes in the literal hell thinks they are going to hell. To a person, everyone thinks they will escape.

      A rational question would be, “Why did the Bible’s authors come up with this concept?” The answer is clear, they wanted behavior to conform to what served their interests.

      To believe in the concept of hell, one has to have great faith in the institution of Chrisitanity and what it teaches. Faith and respect for all institutions is falling away–and with that will come, I think, declining interest and belief in hell.

      When you think about it, it takes some moxy to stand in front of people and preach about a literal hell, and the bizarre notion that you can avoid hell by simply what thoughts are in your head. Probably Rob Bell and Joel Osteen are not regarded as intellectual powerhouses, but, to their credit, they do have enough intellectual integrity not to make their living scaring people out of their wits using the old techniques of burning in hell.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Jon; First we need to get a clarification of terms related to Hell, ie. grave, Gehenna, etc., place vs. location, and the too often mis-guided concepts of Hell presented by Dante in his allegory. (a political statement).
        Bell, Osteen and others of similar pursuasion use the absence or diminution of Hell just as much as a POPULIST “marketing strategy”, as the mis-guided “hellfire preachers”. I don’t believe “scaring hell out of people” (or scaring people OUT of hell is effective. This shallow approach leads to” decision theology”, (what can I do to avoid hell), and what are the rewards if I CHOOSE Christ, (prosperity theology). A better approach is to become aware that the Law, (in the spiritual sense) cannot be fulfilled by self compliance. This realization leads to the understanding that there is only one answer, and that is the Gospel, and all that it contains, is not from self. One must remember that the Law, as embodied in the ten commandments, (in the spiritual sense), contains NO mention of Hell.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Wanna 2:17 I am in no position to argue with you about your thread of orthodoxy. I can only say a large portion of the faith believes hell is real and is perhaps an even more important concept than the gospels.

          When I read Albert Mohler, perhaps the leading spokeman for the largest Protestant denomination, what I take from him is the importance of the sovereign God. The sovereign God is, among other things, a punishing God. Without hell, there is no sovereign God. In my opinion, this view is more popular and important to fundamentalist people than your softer version that the gospels take care of hell.

          While certainly, you have a right to interpret the faith in the way your thread of Christianity does, it does not, as far as I can tell, follow that of the Southern Baptist Convention, the growing Pentacostal movement, the Mormons, the Catholics or the Bells and Osteens. Now, we can recycle the argument that all these have a lot in common, or, admit they have a lot that is not in common. Deciding which of the two is most correct is as arbitrary as flipping a coin to decide.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Jon; It might do you some good to be a little more selective of your reading material, instead of looking only at things SEEM to justify your anti-Christian position.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wanna “instead of looking only at things SEEM to jusfify your anti-Christian position.”

            Let’s see, I read your posts. Those of BuffaloGal, Albert Mohler and a host of others on sites like ChristianPost.com. What am I missing?

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Jon; The opposite end of the spectrum regarding the importance of the Gospel, , is to totally ignore the Law, and it’s consequences. The “Gospel only” crowd makes Jesus a “best buddies”, and a role model as an example to follow, (works). Nothing more than a life coach. A prime example of this is the “What would Jesus do” bumper stickers. Totally ignoring what Jesus has done. Another example is the commonly heard statement; “I just love Jesus”, making Him nothing more than a warm fuzzy bed-time bear. The result of such thinking is that when bad things happen, you didn’t love him enough, and now he is punishing you for neglecting Him, or I didn’t have enough faith. These are all hazards of not having “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Jon; Missing objectivity and discernment. You are dripping with bias. Garbage in-garbage out.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wanna 9:35 “You are dripping with bias.”

            Hmmm. I’m trying to figure this one out. I’m dripping with bias becasue I have not seen evidence of a creator, anything super natural or any kind of life after death? If this is bias, well, yes I am biased.

          • Doubtful says:

            @Jon “The sovereign God is, among other things, a punishing God. Without hell, there is no sovereign God. ” I have never heard anything like that before. I just googled sovereign god and IN the links I followed did not find one mention of hell or punishment.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Doubtful 10:29 I can’t imagine any part of orthodox conservative Protestant Christianity saying God is not sovereign or saying God does not punish.
            The link comes up when conservative demoninations, like the Sourthen Baptist Convention, discusses the “less hell” parts of the faith.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        AND………To assuage your concerns Jon, I do believe that putting the 10 C’s in front of the public as a political statement cheapens the purpose of those laws, and makes a controversy where one shouldn’t exist. The same goes for shows of religiosity/prayer, etc. when/where innapropriate.

      • Stan says:

        “No one alive today who believes in the literal hell thinks they are going to hell.” Beg to differ on the “no one”. For years I figured I was going to a literal hell. Just because YOU never believed it doesn’t mean others don’t. Never use absolutes while debating.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Stan 12:00 “For years I figured I was going to a literal hell.”

          Thanks for sharing that. I should qualify my statement to read, “I now know someone who once figured he was going to hell but no longer thinks that.”

          I’d still like to hear from someone who thinks they are now going to a literal hell. None of the cadidates for U. S. President thinks he/she is. No one in Congress. Just can’t find that person.

  3. Long John says:

    Kay; If you believe I will go to hell, where I’ll burn forever, for simply not believing in your God, you ar a sick woman. Shame on you for being so gullible.

  4. Michael Ross says:

    “The ?less hell? approach says Jesus accepts you and does not condemn you.” Yes Jesus accepts us just as we are but we come to Him on God’s terms, That is in repentance. He does not condemn the homosexual anymore than he condemned the woman taken in adultry. He didn’t have to condemn her, she was already concemned just as the unrependant homosexual is, just as we all are. He came to offer another way.

    “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved,” (John 3:17)

  5. Who said anything personal to anyone about Hell? Some of you really are convicted.
    And I am NOT a sick woman!!!! If I am—- so are the Atheists who have their own firm beliefs! Faith or Faithlessness…is not a sickness…it is a spiritual condition.
    Long John you are sick, too, by your own statement.

  6. entech says:

    Hell is where the italians make the cars and the germans make the food

  7. Gary Larson once did a cartoon that showed people entering the gates of Hell: The caption said “Welcome to hell; here is your accordion”
    It could have said “Here is your bagpipe”

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