1-Obsessed with Hell

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All people possess a belief about Hell. A denial of Hell’s existence is as much a formative belief as one who believes it literally exists beneath our feet. Our world’s beliefs and assumptions about Hell are old and can be traced back to Greek mythology, folklore, religions, fictional writings and most recently Hollywood movies. This will be my second series on Hell because it needs a fresh consideration and because our confusion over it sets up a domino effect which further distorts people’s grasp of reality. Beliefs about Hell are behind every awkward funeral service. These beliefs give rise not only to fundamentalism, but to hedonism, addiction, self-destruction, and a world of spiritualism. Finally, these beliefs shape cultural religion (particularly Christianity) and are the impetus for evangelism, missionary work, and countless distortions of the Gospel.

That last point is my primary motivation for this series. The modern evangelical gospel has mutated into a fire insurance policy of which most modern people in our world are increasingly rejecting. The focus of my work has been to unearth and liberate the Good News from two-thousand years of church history. This means I’m continually bumping up against people’s beliefs about Hell, and until these beliefs are deconstructed and returned to their biblical framework, it’s nearly impossible to free ourselves from our bondage to the institutional powers which religiously control our lives. This is true for all religions as well as for Atheists. We can’t get enough of it.

Hell is a universal influence.

Hell is the unconscious obsession of the masses. Since we all live in a world where injustice abounds, the idea of an eternal torture for the oppressors, brings the oppressed some measure of relief. Whether we believe Hell is literal, figurative, or metaphorical, Hell most certainly exists within each of our worldviews. We clutch to religion and ritual, and form ideas about God and heaven based more on our belief about Hell than any revelation about God. When we follow apathy and unbelief about Hell upstream to its psychological terminus, there is a lack of consequences which shapes one’s behavior and this has brought about the most hellish humanity any of us have know. The same hellish humans emerge from religions that are consumed with who is and isn’t going to Hell.

We are literally dammed if we believe, and dammed if we don’t. So where do we turn? How can get the truth?

My work has been to help people to rediscover the Bible. If the scripture is what it claims to be, the Word of God, and Jesus is who he claims to be, the Son of God, then the New Testament on those claims alone should be the first source we consider for guidance. The problem is that those who wield the book, who derive power and a living from religion, have architected entire theologies with which they use to modify behavior of their parishioners. This means, getting a fresh perspective will be challenging until we extract ourselves from the light-pollution of religious and dogmatic training. I am uniquely qualified to do so because I am a doctoral level scholar in biblical studies, but I am also unaffiliated with any mainline denomination. I am a believer and Christ follower, but I don’t subscribe to any religion. This nuanced way of seeing came not from abandoning the Bible, but by understanding it. This series is my way of helping those influenced by the forces of Hell, both believers trapped in their religion, and nonbelievers trapped in their irreligion.

Clink…and you thought religion freed you from Hell.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)

Let me begin this series by first dispelling some assumptions. Whether you deny Hell’s existence or vehemently believe in it, my work in deconstructing Hell will ultimately be additive to what you already possess. Our first form of captivity in the prison of Hell is to view it from a binary position. How we view Hell is as important as what we think it is. The first state of Hell for our world is our continual assumption is that Hell is, or isn’t what we think it is. Hell is both/and more than it is either/or. The moment someone says “Hell is…”, we narrow our focus to see if we already agree. If we disagree, then despite whatever belief we possess, we remain a non-believer in that person’s version of Hell. The Atheist is then the person who goes one version further in disbelief than anyone else. It is the varied unbelief that allows Hell to take its foothold in our life. The person wrapped in certainty that they know, is projecting Hell’s dominion already.

I will show that Hell is not confined to the underworld, nor is it merely a state of consciousness, nor any hybridization of both. Hell is. Hell, just as salvation, is ontological or proximate to our sense of being and is a force which shapes our identity. Hell is a genuine state of existence which produces its version of existing, an imitation of being. The conclusions I bring in this series stem from scripture and will compliment, not undermine the work of theology, science, psychology, sociology, or politics, but will illuminate all strata of human existence. Liberation from the trap of a binary Hell will be one step in our deliverance from it.

I would caution that we must not overestimate nor underestimate the power of Hell. Deception, illusion, delusion and confusion are the hallmarks that Hell has some claim upon us. Hell is powerful, and there are both figurative and literal principalities and powers throughout it. Yet, Hell is not all powerful, and it is not permanent according to the scripture (Revelation 20:14). Wisdom will not diminish its ability to ensnare and influence, and its presence opens us up to new envoys and experiences in faith. Once our eyes are open, we can see just how obsessed and possessed with Hell our world truly is.

Yet there is profound hope. The ancient story of good triumphing over evil is vital to all humanity, but this is more than myth. Remember it isn’t that myths are untrue, it is that they are true in another way. There is Good News, there is rescue, there is deliverance, there is restoration, and experiencing Hell allows us to not only know and love the good, but the persona’s beyond them both. With a better definition, Hell can be overcome whether its a personal, living Hell, or the isolation of a dark eternity, both realities exist within each and every moment, and are pressing in on us to participate in bringing it about or not.

I hope you will open your mind, and give some time to reflect on what this series illuminates. The end result may just be a completely renewed life on its way to a restored world.