Has the Christian Doctrine of Hell Become an Awkward Liability?

Hell is a morally reprehensible concept that cannot be reconciled with a belief in a loving God. Here, my friend Valerie Tarico shares her thoughts:

Three years ago, my sister, who had long struggled with mental illness, hit her limit and jumped off a freeway bridge. She lived.

She was rushed to the county trauma center, and by the time I arrived from Seattle she was hooked up to an array of life support technologies and monitors. Brain trauma made it hard to know how much she understood of her situation or our conversations, and to know whether she would survive.

One night, while she was in this state, I said to her, “Katha, I don’t know if you can hear me, but we all want for you whatever you want for yourself. If you want to fight this thing and try again, we want that. If you are sick of fighting and ready to be done, that’s ok too.” While I spoke to her, a nurse was doing record keeping at a computer terminal near the foot of her bed. Some time later when I got up to leave, he approached me and said, “You know, if your sister dies right now she will go to hell.”

I was too flabbergasted to respond—incredulous that he would say this to me in a public taxpayer-funded hospital; even more incredulous that he would say it where she could hear, if she could hear. I thanked him for his concern and left.

The Lake of Fire, Everlasting Punishment, Perdition, Gehenna, the Inferno, the Abyss, Outer Darkness Where There Shall be Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth . . . . Hell has many names and conjures many images—all of them aimed at triggering a sense of horror. Some of these names and descriptions arguably can be found in the Bible—the Christian New Testament at least—and threats of eternal torture used to be a fine way for Christian ministers and missionaries to win converts or keep “the faithful” faithful.

Famed Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards (“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”) waxed eloquent on the topic, elaborating why simple annihilation was insufficient punishment to satisfy the demands of divine justice. Two hundred years later, Billy Graham drove tent revivals across America by pounding pulpits about the threat. Anglican author C.S. Lewis, beloved of modern Evangelicals, said, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next” (Mere Christianity).

Read the article in its entirety here:

http://awaypoint.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/has-the-christian-doctrine-of-hell-become-an-awkward-liability/

Glory!