July 23, 2013
This is a very brief summary of the talk given by Peri Forester on the subject of Hel at the Reasonable Faith meeting held on the 18th July 2013. See Hell Transcript for a full transcript of the talk.
In our RF group we talked about Christian understandings of hell. We identified three main streams of understanding about the nature of hell:
1. Unending torment;
People are immortal or are universally given immortality in the resurrection and then those separated from God in the judgment exist without him forever: which is hell.
2. Torment ending in non-existence;
People are mortal, though all are resurrected for the judgment. Those separated from God in that judgment then die the second death (hell) which is painful in proportion to their actions and attitudes, but which comes to an absolute end as nothing can survive without God.
3. Universal salvation.
Hell is a warning or a temporary punishment only and ultimately all people will be saved and live in relationship with God.
More attention was given the debate between position one and two based on the Scriptures and on key words related to hell in the scriptures (hell, sheol, hades, death, perish, destroy). The fact that the notion of hell is not a particularly Christian one was highlighted and ‘hell’ motifs from other ancient and medieval mythologies were considered, especially to examine where they have been ‘canonized’ in the thinking of some Christian traditions even where the Scriptures are not in support of those motifs.
The talk was pretty long and detailed and you can read the whole thing if you are interested.
At the end of the talk those present put a sticker on a three way continuum graph to represent the views of the group. Most in the group tended to agree with the tradition of unending torment though there were quite a few stickers placed along the line towards a conditional immortality opinion and a few in that corner. There was also one sticker off the chart in that direction indicating an atheist view in which absolutely everyone is mortal and there was one sticker in the Universalist corner.
If you were there, where would you have put your sticker? Why? Have you thought about it?