Jesus Needs New PR

Jesus Needs New PR


Is the doctrine of hell psychologically damaging?

The conversation happens between Bill O’Reilly and Pastoral Counselor Jack McKinney. I’m not familiar with Jack. But he handled himself pretty well, considering he’s on The O’Reilly Factor.

Hell is such a weird topic to discuss, whether it’s being preached from behind pulpits or discussed between two people over coffee. But when it’s engaged on national television for 5 minutes between a host who is Catholic and in New York City and a theologian/counselor whose criticizing an evangelical hell (and he’s in North Carolina), the topic turns almost chaotic.

A few observations:

– It’s impossible to discuss hell (or the absence of hell) fairly when the first question involves Hitler and others like Hitler.
– The hell that Jack McKinney argues against is not the hell that Bill O’Reilly believes exist.
– It’s difficult to believe that O’Reilly is really that unfamiliar with the hell that the average Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, or Reformed thinker believes in.
– The conservative evangelical would probably believe that both of these individuals–Bill and Jack–were going to burn in a literal hell.

But what do you think: Is the preaching of hell psychologically damaging?

Via



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Kim Aliczi

posted May 1, 2011 at 11:23 am


I’ll add an observation. O’Reilly is more interested in hearing himself talk, and thinks everyone else is as well.



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Daniel

posted May 1, 2011 at 11:27 am


Making 4-year-olds have nightmares until the moment they tearfully “convert” (my wife’s story)?

Yes. Yes, it is.



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    cindyc

    posted May 3, 2011 at 6:09 am


    Hi Daniel,
    I am always interested when people say that they were scared in to this as children, as I know that many on this site discuss. My question is, though, isn’t that more of a parenting issue than one with Bill O’Reilly? Where does the parental responsibility fall? Maybe I can’t relate to that because I haven’t experienced it myself, but I would think a 4 year old being exposed to something upsetting is the parent’s fault? C



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Jay

posted May 1, 2011 at 11:34 am


It’s horribly damaging. It’s fucked me up for years. Glad I’m past it now and I’d never teach it to my kids.



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Josh

posted May 1, 2011 at 11:34 am


I know what hell is. An eternity of Bill O’Reillys “no spin zone”



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JB

posted May 1, 2011 at 11:37 am


Absolutely. I had nightmares and sleep disorders as a child due to this unbiblical notion of a place of eternal conscious torment.



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Brandon Kelley

posted May 1, 2011 at 11:39 am


When the doctrine of Hell is preached, it could be psychologically damaging if it weren’t balanced with the preaching of Heaven. It is not up to us to determine who will got to Heaven or Hell, however if there were no such thing as Hell, would Heaven have as much value?



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    John

    posted May 1, 2011 at 1:02 pm


    “If there were no such thing as Hell, would Heaven have as much value?”

    If I’m eating a hamburger, do I enjoy it more to know that many other people are starving to death? If not, chances are the heaven/hell argument is a moot (read: stupid) point.



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      Jonathan

      posted May 1, 2011 at 1:20 pm


      Thank you.



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        John

        posted May 1, 2011 at 3:47 pm


        You’re welcome. I thought about this when I was eating lunch earlier.



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      Brandon Kelley

      posted May 1, 2011 at 1:48 pm


      Matthew 7:13
      “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.”

      The word “hell” is used many times in the Bible. What “hell” really means is not for us to decide. But the fact that a “hell” is real shouldn’t be up for debate. Anyone who has ever picked up their Bible will understand that.



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        Melody

        posted May 1, 2011 at 2:51 pm


        No, that’s not what Jesus meant. He said the road to destruction. This may be in the afterlife, but it makes more sense to apply to this life. And your assumption that anyone who picks up their Bible will understand that means anyone who reads it in English and shares your cultural beliefs surrounding it. It shows you have a lot to learn about cultural and literary context at the time the Bible was written. Check out Greek mythology and you’ll see what I mean. I can tell you, if Jesus were giving us his message today, it wouldn’t be in those words. It would be in a context that is relevant to our modern ears. And I can also tell you that the evangelical doctrine of hell is a pretty selfish one, focusing on the individual just getting saved from hell. Never mind that we continue to create hell on earth through our narrow mindedness and short-sightedness. Maybe you should rethink your biases before assuming everyone should think exactly like you.



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          Brandon Kelley

          posted May 1, 2011 at 6:44 pm


          Melody, maybe we misunderstood each other because all I am saying is that a hell does exist and you can see that if you look at your Bible. My bias is to the Word of God.

          The KJV does say that, forgive me, I quoted a different translation.

          I’ll stop with the arguing because we are told to avoid foolish controversies, quarrels, etc…



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          Matthew Paul Turner

          posted May 1, 2011 at 7:51 pm


          You know, Brandon, your bias isn’t actually “to the Word of God.” Your bias is to YOUR understand of the Word of God. And there’s a real difference. Stating your opinion is one thing, but using language that implies your taking “sides” with the Word of God is not only unfair, it’s not true. All of us have prejudices, experiences, and beliefs that color and shape our understanding of scripture, so don’t pretend to “embrace” the Bible more than somebody else…



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          Dianna

          posted May 1, 2011 at 8:25 pm


          You got to it before I did, but this is exactly right.

          Unless you were the person who wrote it, there is NO literature that you approach without a frame of reference already intact. This idea that we can have a worldview that we just switch into when convenient (like a pair of glasses or something) is absurd. The person I am is always tied to everything in my past and every person I encounter – and that person does not disappear when I pick up a book, Bible included. Being aware of this bias is one of the best things you can do when you’re approaching a discussion.



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        John

        posted May 1, 2011 at 3:46 pm


        Sometimes I wish the world were simply black and white. It would probably be much easier to live in. But then I read comments like these, where entire matters of eternal and metaphysical significance can be summarized and resolved by simply “picking up a Bible.” Not by knowing the language in which it was written. Not by surveying all possible interpretations and making a reasoned guess. But just by “picking up a Bible.” And then, BOOM! I remember why simple black-and-white interpretations make no sense.



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    Buzz

    posted May 2, 2011 at 12:02 am


    “If there were no such thing as Hell, would Heaven have as much value?”

    For me, yes. I am motivated to tell a better story with my life (essentially to love and serve others as best I can) because that is what Jesus showed us and spoke of as the outworking of our faith. How would that outworking be enhanced by a terror/fear/concern for the negative consequences of me not doing so?



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      John

      posted May 2, 2011 at 12:10 pm


      If the existence of hell is a motivation to “tell a better story” with your life, doesn’t that suggest that there’s something wrong with your motivation itself?

      I tell a good story because it is intrinsically satisfying, because it is worthy on its own. To need a punishment for failing to do so suggests that I am morally and ethically lazy. Why can’t a thing be done for its intrinsic worth?



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        Buzz

        posted May 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm


        John, I agree – somehow my comment for Brandon appeared under your comment.



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Dianna

posted May 1, 2011 at 11:44 am


Gah, I had something, and pressed a button, and it disappeared. Sigh.

1. O’Reilly’s a jackass. There, bias stated.

2. Hell can be damaging, just as your story and many others show. There’s a point when the church needs to look at why so many kids “deconvert” when they grow up and realize that, for a lot of them, the “Great merciful loving God” they’re told about doesn’t line up with the God who will also send them to hell if they step out of line.

3. You’re absolutely right in that conversations about Hell cannot be had in 5 minutes in front of a camera. O’Reilly doesn’t seem to see this as an interview, but rather a chance to air his views, and that’s what he does for the majority of the time. If the person he’s talking to begins to disagree, he cuts them off. It’s a ridiculous power play and it’s why I can’t stand to listen to O’Reilly – he’s not a journalist. He’s a jackass.



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Jonathan

posted May 1, 2011 at 11:50 am


Bill O’Reilly is the personification of everything that I hate. Ignorant. Close-minded. Intolerant. Arrogant. Insensitive.

Does it honestly make anyone feel better that Adolf Hitler is burning in hell? I’ve often used Hitler as an example when discussing this with people, but in the opposite way. I don’t think he deserves to be tortured for eternity with no hope of salvation. I don’t see how anyone does.

That may be because I lean towards determinism, but hey…it’s cool if we throw out “free-will” as if it’s a priori. We’re already proving with every word how dogmatic we are, may as well keep it the hell up.

And yes, I think it is damaging in many different ways, including psychologically. Try to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” when the consequence for making a slight mistake in logic (in certain areas) can lead to your eternal damnation. Although this should be no problem for rationalists like O’Reilly who quite obviously, are very very smart. Catholicism? Gah why didn’t I think of that? Makes complete and total sense all around…

Watching this, all I could think of was what Hitchens said about Falwell. “I think it’s a pity there isn’t a hell for him to go to.” Not that I genuinely think that…as I said before that I don’t think it would be ethically sound for God to allow anyone to spend eternity in hel. Still…yea…you get it.



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Derrick

posted May 1, 2011 at 12:11 pm


Is the preaching of hell psychologically damaging? Maybe. Is it spiritually damaging? Yes.

I want to live a Christianity I’d burn in hell for…not the kind I’d live in fear to escape such torment.



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Twirrim

posted May 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm


I actually can’t bring myself to watch that video…

But in comment to your first observation, I think someone needs to introduce O’Reilly to Godwin’s law, and it’s implications. The moment Godwin’s law is fulfilled the discussion is over (unless you’re actually discussing the subject of Nazism)

http://xkcd.com/261/



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Kevin

posted May 1, 2011 at 1:40 pm


Lots of the violence in the Bible might be psychologically damaging.
The story of God choosing only one nation as His elect people might be psychologically damaging.
The image of Christ dying on the cross, separated from God, suffering a punishment I deserved might be psychologically damaging.
So, yes, the reality of an eternal Hell might be psychologically damaging. But that doesn’t alter the fact that the Bible teaches it.
If I don’t claim to believe the Bible, I am under no obligation to believe in Hell. But it’s silly play “cafeteria Bible,” and cherry-pick which things I want … and discard the rest.



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    Brandon Kelley

    posted May 1, 2011 at 1:53 pm


    Well said, Kevin. Plenty of things in the Bible can be psychologically damaging. Plenty of things in the Bible can be uplifting and encouraging. It’s all about what you believe.



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    Green Eggs and Ham

    posted May 1, 2011 at 2:08 pm


    Everyone plays “cafeteria Bible”.

    I haven’t heard of any stonings in America for those caught in adultery. Those that condemn homosexuality as a sin don’t think that eating shellfish is also an abomination.

    And when they don’t play “cafeteria Bible” they add so much garnish to the Bible so as to completely change the taste.

    How many theologians deny there is any erotic content to the Song of Solomon?

    Why do Catholics deny that Jesus had any real brothers and sisters?

    Why do fundamentalists deny that Jesus turned the water into wine?

    Why do conservative Christians rail against redistribution of wealth when Jesus clearly says that if a man demands your cloak, you are also to give him your tunic?

    Why do liberal Christians try to make the Bible at least neutral, if not in favour of homosexuality?

    Let the Bible say what it says. (I freely admit that this can be very difficult in no small number of places. Furthermore, reasonable can and will disagree about what it says.) If what it says is offensive, then chuck it out. If what it says makes sense, then keep it.



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      Phil (NZ)

      posted May 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm


      Re: the stoning and shellfish – that is to do with a difference in law. Those come under Mosaic laws which have been covered by Jesus blood and he has fulfilled the criteria so we no longer need to stone adulteries – as for shellfish – many would argue that it was Gods divine wisdom stopping the Israelis from dying from not preparing the shellfish and pork right.



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        Elemenope

        posted May 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm


        …many would argue that it was Gods divine wisdom stopping the Israelis from dying from not preparing the shellfish and pork right.

        Nah. God just wanted to give beef, lamb, and fowl parasites a chance. Trichinosis was having all the fun; move over for salmonella!



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      JamesW

      posted May 1, 2011 at 8:37 pm


      GEAH: I don’t deny that many Christian play cafeteria with their bibles, but most of your statements above are not good examples. The stonings for adultery, and prohibitions against eating certain foods were not for everyone. They were laws, given to a people right after they came out of 400 years of captivity. They didn’t have anyone who knew how to be a legislator, judge, or policeman. Nobody who knew how to make or enforce laws. God, in His mercy, gave them those 600+ laws right after they left Egypt. He didn’t give them to you or me. They do not apply to me, nor did they ever apply to me.

      I cannot speak for Catholics and some groups you mentioned above, but but I am a conservative evangelical, and I know very very few people who (a) deny the wine was really wine; or (b) deny the eroticism in the Song of Solomon (in fact, Driscoll did a whole series of sermons about this very topic; guess you’re a MD fan now

      And your cloak and tunic statement is a flat-out misrepresentation of what that verse says. It specifically is talking about handling abuse handed to you. If someone slaps you, turn the other cheek. If someone steals your shirt, offer them your coat. It has nothing to do with redistribution of wealth.

      Your post contains many of the elements of an argument that I have no respect for: misrepresenting what a group of people says, building strawmen, saying someone sharing their stance is “railing”.

      I urge you to take your own advice and let the bible say what it really says. Present the arguments given by people you disagree with as they are, without slanting them as “railing” or twisting their words. Then argue with those things based on their actual merit, or lack thereof.



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        Elemenope

        posted May 1, 2011 at 9:30 pm


        They were laws, given to a people right after they came out of 400 years of captivity. They didn’t have anyone who knew how to be a legislator, judge, or policeman. Nobody who knew how to make or enforce laws. God, in His mercy, gave them those 600+ laws right after they left Egypt.

        Uh, hm. Governments, and the structures that generally accompany them, arise spontaneously in pretty much any medium size or larger gathering of human beings. It’s an extension of instinctual social/pack behavior augmented with those wonderful language-and-abstract-concept-processing brains of ours. Where on Earth would you get the notion that the Hebrews were somehow ill-equipped at doing what every human society (newly emancipated or otherwise) has done over the entire course of history?

        He didn’t give them to you or me. They do not apply to me, nor did they ever apply to me.

        “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Somehow doesn’t strike me as a throwaway line, if you know what I mean.



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          James Williams

          posted May 2, 2011 at 7:05 am


          E, regarding that verse: the fact that the Law of Moses was not to be done away with still only applies to those to whom it was given. And it was never given to me.

          Secondly, that verse ends with “till all be fulfilled”. IMO, it was fulfilled on the Cross, after Jesus made the above statement, but in our past.



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          Elemenope

          posted May 2, 2011 at 4:34 pm


          If that’s the appropriate interpretation, then it seems an odd choice for inclusion in the gospels. Think of it this way: unless Jesus was the most laconic preacher of all time, everything he said is not recorded in the Gospels. Instead, what he said was edited by the writers, one hopes, to extract for posterity bits of eternal wisdom and important information, while leaving behind words pertaining to matters of only immediate temporal concern.

          If that’s the case, why include in the Gospels a teaching if that teaching is already moot and permanently inapplicable to anyone who might be reading it (since all the gospels were, at least, written after the crucifixion)? I think this weighs against your interpretation being the intended one.



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          JamesW

          posted May 2, 2011 at 7:57 pm


          I don’t think so. Just because not everything there is for every reader doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value as you read and watch the story unfold.



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          Elemenope

          posted May 2, 2011 at 8:39 pm


          You’re missing it. It’s not that the passage isn’t in there for every reader, it’s that if your interpretation is correct that passage is in there for literally *no* reader. It applies to nobody.



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        Green Eggs and Ham

        posted May 1, 2011 at 11:40 pm


        You missed my point.



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          Green Eggs and Ham

          posted May 1, 2011 at 11:50 pm


          And I am in no way a fan of Mark Driscoll. I know preachers and preacher boys. (I am the son of one and I studied for the ministry a long time ago.) He is offensive and is overcompensating for something.



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          James Williams

          posted May 2, 2011 at 10:08 am


          I did not miss your point. I think you used some bad stuff to make said point, thereby rendering it invalid.



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          Green Eggs and Ham

          posted May 2, 2011 at 11:59 pm


          I apologize for this being very, very long.

          You most certainly did. I was going to let this go, but I have changed my mind.

          Your fundamental charge is that I have created a straw man of an argument and knocked it down, and presto, by knocking down that straw man I also defeated the real argument.

          My comment was in response to the OPs claim that people must take the Bible as a whole, they cannot cherry-pick it. They cannot take the parts they like, and discard the parts they dislike.

          I strongly disagreed with that claim. I insisted and still insist that everyone cherry-picks it.

          I gave examples:

          “How many theologians deny there is any erotic content to the Song of Solomon?”

          None other than St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the Mellifluous Doctor of the Church denies any such content in his commentary. You gave a counter-example: Mark Driscoll.

          Your counter-example misses my point. I am not saying that all or or even many are denying the sexual content of the book. I am saying that when you deny the sexual content of the book, you are not taking the Bible as a whole, you are cherry-picking it.

          That Mark Driscoll or for that matter everyone but St. Bernard doesn’t, doesn’t negate my claim.

          Catholicism denies that Jesus had any blood half-siblings because of the doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. (I am fully aware that not all Catholics are of this opinion and that this, like most doctrines, is not so simple.) It does not matter how many Catholics of for that matter if any have this opinion, it is another example of cherry-picking if you must do hermeneutical gymnastics to fit the plain reading of the Bible with another doctrine.

          I commented that fundamentalists do not believe that the wine at the Wedding in Canaan was really wine. You countered that as a conservative evangelical you found few that believe this way; thus destroying my example.

          First, conservative evangelicals are not fundamentalists. And many fundamentalists do not think it was real wine.

          Second, I can counter your anecdotal evidence with mine which was just the opposite. I found many fellow Christians who thought it was not wine.

          But the statistics of who believes what is not the point. You did not destroy my example by giving counter-examples. My point was and is: if you deny that the water was wine, you are cherry-picking. You are not taking the Bible as a whole.

          My use of the cloak and tunic scripture was a bad one. It wasn’t germane to my point. (Though I do think it does have implications for redistributive justice, but that is not the point here.)

          I could have given the following examples:

          If you deny that St. Peter was a fisher, then you are cherry-picking.

          If you deny that Tiberius Caesar is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, you are cherry-picking.

          If you deny that King David was the father of King Solomon you are a cherry-picker.

          I know of no hermeneutic that denies these. I can think of no reason why a liberal or conservative (or other) interpretation of scripture would do so.

          That no such interpretation exists does not disprove my point. It is a hypothetical syllogism, and it is valid.

          So, even if you did destroy all of my examples, which you did not, the argument still stands, because it is a hypothetical syllogism. If you twist or deny its plain reading, you are cherry-picking.

          I did not commit a straw man, because I was not caricaturing the opinions of others, which you most certainly think I did. It just happens that large groups of people do cherry-pick, because of other parts of their particular variety of faith.

          (As final note, I do not advocate solely a plain-reading hermeneutic. Solely using that kind of hermeneutic makes you think the Earth was created in seven literal days, even though the sun was made on the fourth day.)



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    Elemenope

    posted May 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm


    The image of Christ dying on the cross, separated from God, suffering a punishment I deserved might be psychologically damaging.

    Speaking of this, when I went to see Passion of the Christ in the theater (what can I say, I was curious), my friend and I were shocked to see a group of seven-to-nine year olds in the front row (in fact, pretty much the only people in the theater besides my friend and I).

    Whatever its significance (historical, metaphysical, aesthetic, or religious), that movie was *clearly* inappropriate for that age group. Had the subject been *anything else* but the content remained similar, everyone would easily agree with that. But because it was based on a Biblical story, to some all of a sudden it’s OK to traumatize children with gruesome depictions of torture and murder.

    This brings me to my fascination with, and horror of, the common recourse to the Bible as an ethical trump card. As in, “history, knowledge, moral sense, my experiences and my gut feeling tell me that [xyz] is a bad idea or a poor way of doing things, but the Bible says [xyz] is good, so all those other warning signs must just be a false alarm.” Which leads to such gems as proverbs justifying child abuse, and the gospels advising women to stay in abusive marriages, not to mention the days when people were even less squeamish about taking the Bible at its word and gleefully punished, tortured, and killed people for sins, transgressions, apostasy and error. You know, suffer not a witch to live, and all that.

    What drives a person to ignore everything they have learned, everything they know, everything they feel in favor of a text that, whatever its metaphysical or spiritual value, was written in a social and cultural context of bronze age itinerant goat herders (not that there’s anything wrong with being that) on matters where we do in fact unambiguously know better than they did?



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Ian

posted May 1, 2011 at 2:51 pm


The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, according to Proverbs.

Fear of the Lord/fear of being punished?



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Todd Erickson

posted May 1, 2011 at 2:56 pm


Maybe the issue isn’t, really, whether we preach about hell (or heaven) but what they’re for.

Look at who Jesus is talking to about Hell. It’s the religious elite who have already decided that they’re righteous enough with their own flavor of religion.

Nobody in the bible ever talks to a Gentile (non-Jew) about hell. Additionally, all the words used were either Gehenna (the valley where they used to sacrifice children, which became a waste dump, and the Hebrew model for the bad side of Sheol, as opposed to Paradise) or words like Tartarus, which is where Kronos and the Titans were locked up by Zeus and the other gods (see James).

Who is Jesus talking to about the Narrow way? Pharisees and other religious experts (Bill O’Reilly?)

What do we learn from Hell? This diverges into the sort of thing very quickly that Bell has been talking about and getting yelled at so much. Lazarus is in the bad side of the afterlife for refusing to live out hospitality and love toward other human beings…even after he dies. He wants to be able to believe and do the right things, without being the right person.

He wants to live without love. And that’s Hell.

And really. If Heaven is full of people like O’Reilly exactly as he is now…wouldn’t that be hell too?



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    Joshua Wypij

    posted May 1, 2011 at 9:07 pm


    just wondering.. but could it be possible that Jesus was describing hell when speaking of hades? I know rob bell doesn’t believe that it’s literal. but I just wonder… seems to me that Jesus was practical.. and spiritual.. just wondering.



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Melody

posted May 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm


It was indeed psychologically damaging to me, to be sure. I “asked Jesus into my heart” when I was six years old. My mother had told me about hell, although not enough to truly frighten me, like certain fire and brimstone preachers would do. She basically told me it was the bad place where the devil lived, and that was enough for me not to want to go there. It wasn’t until I was about 10, when my fundy-leaning SBC church gave a Judgment House for Halloween and showed their interpretation of what hell might be like: dark, lightning, people screaming. And of course, at the end, they had Chick tracts. It left a terrible impression on me for the next 2-3 years. I lay in bed at night, terrified at the possibility that I might not have really meant it when I made my decision. I recommitted my life numerous times for peace of mind, which was only temporary. When I was 13, having recently learned about the rapture, I would lay in bed, worried that I might be left behind and all that implied. Now that I’m focused on what Jesus actually taught (not what evangelical leaders told me to think he taught), I have so much more peace of mind now than I did when I believed strictly in a literal hell, knowing that our work is to make heaven on earth, rather than worrying about the afterlife.



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    Joshua Wypij

    posted May 1, 2011 at 9:02 pm


    i like how you’re focus is about heaven here on earth… thats a great focus to have..

    some dude i know gave me a sermon from a southern baptist fundie… and in his sermon. he pretty much said that I (a pastor of a different denomination) is going to hell… made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. ha



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Phil (NZ)

posted May 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm


I think no one can say that Hitler is in Heaven, or Hell – who is to know what his heart attitude towards God was like in those finally moments?!

I think O’Reilly has it right – no one can say ‘You’re going to burn in Hell!’ with any sort of definitive conviction, but I DO think that from the pulpit we should warn other believers of the reality of Hell. Sin can not coexist with God, so something MUST happen to those who die with sin in their heart.



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    Joshua Wypij

    posted May 1, 2011 at 9:00 pm


    you’re right. we can’t really, possibly know if hitler repented.. but based on history and reports of hitler being mentally insane… my bet is he didn’t… which leads to another question… if he was insane… would God have mercy on him? yikes. i don’t even want to know.



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Noelle

posted May 1, 2011 at 3:41 pm


So, in Bill’s world, Hell is reserved as the ultimate corporal punishment for super evil people. Pretty much everyone else is in heaven. Except chosen atheists, of course. Because what’s the point if the atheists aren’t punished too? If you don’t believe that, the entire belief systems of all Jews and Christians must fall apart.

Bill is an idiot.



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Marty

posted May 1, 2011 at 3:42 pm


It’s amazing to me how much this conversation revolves around behavior modification and what Dallas Willard calls “sin management.” All I hear O’Reilly talk about is being nice and good–as long as you’re not a murderous dictator, you’re get in heaven! Is the doctrine of end times solely about getting into Heaven (a reward for being “good” in this life? What of grace?) or is it, as N.T. Wright says, about God making things right?

And I think my head is about to explode because O’Reilly sounds a lot like Rob Bell: “Holocaust victims, Gandhi, and unbaptized babies are in hell? That’s crazy talk!” I agree with MPT: is O’Reilly really that unaware of where his evangelical Protestant audience falls on the issue? I wonder if O’Reilly even knows how much he sounds like Bell?



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    Rob

    posted May 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm


    I’m not following your comparison of O’Reilly and Rob Bell. O’Reilly sounds like a 13 year old kid in his reasoning.



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      Marty

      posted May 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm


      Both are questioning the traditional evangelical doctrine of who is populating hell (i.e., anyone who didn’t ask Jesus in their heart.) That’s what prompted Bell to write “Love Wins,” and what prompted O’Reilly to say it’s crazy (or extreme) to think Holocaust victims, Gandhi, and unbaptized babies are in hell. That was the only similarity I was suggesting between the two.



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Brett Wilkes

posted May 1, 2011 at 6:30 pm


2 things-

1. This comment discussion has been inspiring. Fantastically civil. Props, everyone.

2. @Dianna- Agreed. I think any discussion is dead on arrival when you’re having it in a venue like a TV talkshow. In my opinion, for instance, the Martin Bashir interview of Rob Bell a couple of months ago gave no space for hashing out a well developed response like such a topic deserves. It’s important to boil down what you’re saying to its core, I suppose, but sometimes I feel like a short interview can’t effect anything outside of polarization or sensationalism. I’m sure that’s a generalization that’s not always true, but regardless, I think there are some problems with this kind of venue when you’re having important conversations.



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    Dianna

    posted May 1, 2011 at 7:38 pm


    Right, and there are some TV hosts who are better than others at actually delving to the bottom of a story (Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow come to mind) but for the most part, TV is not a good way to get news or to get a good clear grasp on an issue. The amount of times I’ve had to correct misinformation from my parents (avid Fox viewers) speaks to that. That’s why I tend to advocate reading about issues as much as you can and as widely as you can. Reading allows you to pause and process and think about things in a way that TV doesn’t. (I’d add that Maddow always posts on her blog after her show links to further articles about the stuff covered on the show).

    The soundbite culture really has destroyed honest thoughtful discussion, as well as, I would argue, basic reading comprehension, which I think is even more sad.



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Pastormike

posted May 1, 2011 at 8:33 pm


Bill starts by saying that the BASIS for Christianity is the reward of good and the punishment of bad? That has never been the basis of Christianity. The basis of Christianity is that although we (collectively) are bad, we are saved by He who is good. It also sounds like Bill thinks he is an awesome person, who deserves heaven, again, anti-Christian belief.



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    Elemenope

    posted May 1, 2011 at 9:32 pm


    To be fair to Bill, it’s by no means an uncommon belief among Christians (or, really, among people in general).



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      cindyc

      posted May 2, 2011 at 7:59 am


      El, you’re right– unfortunately many people believe that just “being a good person” (or their definition of good, anyway), is enough to get them in to Heaven. Despite that, it’s not the basis of Christianity! @Pastormike–that was the first thought I had as well! If our news media is spreading ignorant info like that, does anyone have to wonder why the public is so confused about matters such as this?



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        Elemenope

        posted May 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm


        Well, my point was more that nearly nobody casts themselves as the villain in their own story. If it truly is the case that there is a hell and being good is not enough to escape it, the necessary consequence is that there will be many fine and decent people in hell. Kind of a demented doctrine if you ask me, but then again I’m not a Christian, so what do I know?



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          cindyc

          posted May 3, 2011 at 6:01 am


          I guess then there’s the question “what is good”, and who determines that–I truly think that we can’t know it about one another, or even ourselves at times, and only God knows our true heart.



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Joshua Wypij

posted May 1, 2011 at 8:56 pm


if hell is only on earth when we’re apart from God and living in sin.. wouldn’t that same thing be available after life?

I can’t help but wonder why demons and satan fell from Gods presence… I mean… Even the angels have free will… And when they decided to pursue rebellion from God. They couldn’t be with God… So realistically… there must be some other place that isn’t heaven… (Isn’t in God’s presence)

to my understanding of the bible…satan (lucifer, morning star) is a created being who left God’s presence..

so… wouldn’t we.. humans… created beings.. who have free will.. also have the same outcome if we reject God?
I’m not saying that Hell is a place with burning in fire… i’m just wondering if it’s the opposite of paradise..

if we look at scripture. it sure looks like heaven is a REAL place.. we’ll have jobs.. lives.. family.. ect.. so is hell similar but just out of God’s presence? and a place where sin reigns?
and if it’s true that people like hitler and stalin are in hell… will they also have the same tendencies as they did on earth? are they tormenting people? and apart from a God of judgment.. who will protect those who’ve rejected God?

rob bell uses the man on the cross who asks “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”…and Jesus replied to HIM “truly i tell you, today you will be with me in paradise”..
— bell uses this to say that we don’t really need to ask Jesus into our heart.. ya know. the “prayer”… and he continues with the assumption that everyone will be in heaven….
—i want to bring up the other man on the cross. what about him? Jesus didn’t address him.. Jesus didn’t say “oh yeah.. you too dude”… he didn’t say “brothers, you will be with me in paradise”…
he… only.. addresses the one man who DIDN’T mock him.. the one man who recognized his sin.. and knew Jesus was lord.

so what about the other thief on the cross? where did he go?



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Mack

posted May 1, 2011 at 10:33 pm


I too was amazed at Bill’s naivety concerning fundamentalist beliefs. I have friends from high school that still firmly believe that Ghandi is in hell and Charles Manson still has a shot at heaven if he would only truly repent and “accept” Christ.



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    Elemenope

    posted May 1, 2011 at 10:38 pm


    Forgive me, but, one hardly has to be a fundamentalist to believe that, no? I mean, it’s a pretty standard, mainstream interpretation of the doctrine that Christ is *the* way into Heaven, and without his grace you burn in the sauce forever. Maybe many Christians haven’t paused to think of the particular consequences of that belief (specific names and faces really help with that), but they endorse it in the abstract case, do they not?



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dan mcm

posted May 1, 2011 at 11:09 pm


a couple other things:

1) if hell is real, it’s going to damage a lot more than the psyche.

2) the fact that the hell issue (is it real or not) is so pivotal in the current arguments/debates, to me indicates that there is something about hell that we (collectively) haven’t figured out yet. In other words, there should be a singular truth about hell that makes sense and reconciles with our view of who God is.

3) I have a theory that I think works — the Hell of the Bible may be literal, and God can still be merciful to whom he wishes to show mercy. The key is in Revelation 20 and the passage that describes the lake of fire judgment: read it and see if you notice a difference between the judgment for men and the judgment for angels. (Hint/question: is “the 2nd death” the same thing as “tormented day and night forever and ever”?)

Eventually I’ll fully lay out my theory in my blog or a book (if I can find the time to write it). I think this whole debate is very important: if people are turning their back on the gospel because hell doesn’t make sense, there ought to be an interpretation of scripture that does make sense that will adequately address people’s concerns.



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    Brett Wilkes

    posted May 1, 2011 at 11:18 pm


    Thanks for your contribution, man. Good thoughts. :)



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    John

    posted May 2, 2011 at 12:05 pm


    Cognitive dissonance about a topic doesn’t intrinsically suggest that a central truth is waiting to be discovered amidst all the controversy. The two may be coincidental, but it can’t be proven that one is because of another.



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      dan mcm

      posted May 3, 2011 at 12:42 am


      No, it can’t be proven, but I think it makes sense. Logically speaking, there is only one central truth about hell. We aren’t sure what that central truth is (well, some think they are sure), but I think if we reexamine some of our underlying assumptions, we can come up with a model that makes more sense. (Can you tell I’m a mathematician?)

      I’m not taking about a proof. I’m talking about a theory that makes sense to people and is still based on the scriptures. (It might buck against traditional interpretations,but the argument against those traditions are based on scripture.) Sort of “Occam’s Razor” put to the question of hell — the solution that makes the most sense is probably the right one.



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Sam

posted May 2, 2011 at 9:42 am


Using psychology to ‘rightly divide the word of truth’ is damaging. Please study the roots of psychology.



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    Noelle

    posted May 2, 2011 at 8:29 pm


    Which roots? Freudian psychoanalysis? Pharmacology and psych? Cognitive? Behavioral? Developmental? Neuropsych? Research psych? Clinical psych? Pop psych? The history of psychology according to Tom Cruise?



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Cand86

posted May 2, 2011 at 4:02 pm


I can’t tell if it’s my atheism and secular worldview or what, but there’s something strange and surreal (for me) to watch these two guys debating hell on a nightly news program. It’s not a discussion about how McKinney’s theory will impact theology, or a report on outrage in evangelical circles, or piece on trends in religious thought. They’re literally debating the religious concept itself.

That’s something I’m used to and enjoy reading or watching in religious (or atheist) discussion, but on a news program . . . it feels so very weird.



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    Noelle

    posted May 2, 2011 at 7:56 pm


    It does seem strange for a theology debate to reach popular culture.

    That could also be why these debates seem somehow off. You may be more used to seeing highly educated people puffing out their chests, spouting statistics from various studies, flinging around quotes from famous people (the deader the better), crying straw man, reminding everyone what their credentials are, etc.

    What you see with O’Reilly is the uneducated I believe it because it’s what I’ve always been told and everyone who thinks otherwise is wrong argument. People use this arguing method for a lot of things, like politics, or sports, or when to merge in traffic. And that we’re used to. But seeing it applied to serious religious theology seems off. I find it encouraging that so many people want to tackle such an idea as the absence of Hell in Christianity. Some aren’t speaking the same language as the people usually asking the questions. Hopefully this is a good opportunity to expose more people to critical thinking and challenging old ideas



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      Elemenope

      posted May 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm


      But seeing it applied to serious religious theology seems off.

      And this is what bothers me. O’Reilly’s standard puffery aside, he’s making what is essentially an intuitive argument about the incompatibility of two premises (Gandhi in hell/Hilter not in hell, and a Just and Loving God), and it’s a reasonable one at that. The problem really is that religion, if it is to make any sense at all as a pragmatic tool (i.e. actually makes people better, soteriologically or ethically) needs to function at the level that most people have the capacity to interface with it. It is flatly unreasonable to expect everyone to earn advanced theology degrees, and yet without such learning (and the arguments that come with them) the doctrines of pretty much every religion seem facially absurd.

      What good is a religion if only doctorates understand it? Could we say, provisionally, that any religion that doesn’t make sense without convoluted and learned arguments is somewhat intuitively suspect?



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        dan mcm

        posted May 3, 2011 at 2:24 am


        I agree with you in part. Religion at its core should be simple enough for everyday joe’s to get it. I don’t I agree when you say that “without such learning… the arguments of pretty much every religion seem facially absurd.” (Well, maybe I agree if you’re talking about the arguments regarding tangential issues.)

        I think, in it’s simplest form, Christianity is very easy to understand and not all that complex:
        1) God exists and created stuff
        2) We (people) aren’t perfect. We make mistakes and hurt people.
        3) God sent his Son to earth to help us know God better
        4) If we admit when we’re wrong, say we’re sorry and ask God to help us be better people, life will be better.

        Jesus summarized and condensed it even more: Love God and love others. Do that and you’ll automatically be following all the other “rules”.

        It doesn’t take a rocket theologian to understand that. It’s simple. 5 year olds get it.

        The problems occur when people add to the simple gospel and try to get too esoteric with their arguments.

        I also think that the reality underlying what goes on within a person’s soul will be way more revealing than the words we use to argue this out. When the soul of a person comes in contact with God, do they let the “light” of that contact change them for the better? Or do they turn away? Do people choose darkness or light with their lives?

        The underlying reality is simple. The words that people use to describe what’s going on, to argue, to debate, not so much.



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        Noelle

        posted May 3, 2011 at 7:15 am


        taking into account both of your observations, I have to say that O’Reilly’s argument is telling not in spite of, but rather because of, its childlike and rigid form.

        A simple concept, if real and true, should hold to complex scrutiny.

        A complicated suject, if true, should hold when stripped down to a more understandable concept.

        It’s not so much the argument of Hell vs. no Hell, but rather does the system collapse if you remove that idea. O’Reilly says yes, in very simple, rigid, a 5 year-old could understand it terms. Others have argued the same with complicated methods. Bill makes a point that he probably doesn’t intend, but is still quite valid all the same.



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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted May 3, 2011 at 1:23 am


is it psychologically damaging? duh! it messes with your head. It’s the kind of idea that when you question it you are so ingrained you wonder if this the beginning of your descent into it. “this is exactly the kind of question Satan wants me to ask so I will end up in hell!”



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