Dear Tim @Challies, You Don’t Have to Deny Hell—or Anything Else

Dear Tim,

You may or may not know who I am, but you and I have actually appeared in print together. An article you wrote on hell was placed right next to an article I co-wrote on technology in the July–September 2012 issue of Answers magazine. A few months after that issue was published, I was asked to resign from my position at Answers in Genesis due to my belief in hell as annihilation.

A sampling of church history’s finest “hell deniers”

But that’s enough about me. I’d like to respond to your recent blog post, “What I Would Have To Deny To Deny Hell.” In your post, you assert that a denial of hell would also necessitate a denial of the following:

  • What Jesus taught
  • The plain sense of Scripture
  • The testimony of the church
  • The gospel

The unKingdom of God by Mark Van Steenwyk (Book Review)

The unKingdom of God

Mark Van Steenwyk’s The unKingdom of God is one of those books that makes me feel like I’m reading my own story. Of course Mark’s background is pretty different from my own, but the struggles he’s had with mainstream Christianity and the changes he’s gone through in his theology completely resonate with my own experience.

As an example, let me just share a short excerpt from Mark’s introduction:

An interesting challenge quickly emerged. … I assumed that the Bible was full of metaphors and poetry and prose and illustration. I didn’t read it literally. Except for the parts where it was, you know, obvious. I treated the life and sermons of Jesus in a much more straightforward manner than, say, the book of Revelation or Jesus’ parables.

The Invisible Man and His Shadow (An Allegory)

Shadow

There once was an invisible man. Though no one could see this man, they could see his shadow. Over the years, people tried to learn about the man by observing his shadow. They recorded their findings, carefully documenting every detail they saw in the shadow.

But they ran into some problems.

For one thing, the shadow didn’t always look the same to everyone. It would acquire the color and texture of whatever it happened to be resting on. And it seemed to change shape depending on the time of day and the angle from which people observed it. Some saw the shadow as extraordinarily tall and skinny, while others saw it as short and squat.

The Nature of Hell—a Skeleton in God’s Closet?

The Skeletons in God’s Closet

Joshua Ryan Butler’s The Skeletons in God’s Closet goes a long way toward correcting many of the harmful caricatures of God. As I stated in my review, I really appreciate Butler’s perspectives, even though I don’t agree with all of his conclusions.

As promised, I will now examine his view of hell in greater detail and respond with some thoughts from my own view.

Butler starts by examining the caricature of hell as an underground torture chamber (pages 4–5). He and I both disagree with this picture. Hell is not underground, its purpose is not torture, and it isn’t constructed as a chamber.

That said, while an underground chamber may be the pop-culture view of hell, I don’t personally know of many Christians who view it that way. The caricature I hear from most Christians is that hell exists as an alternate spiritual dimension. Some view this place as a literal lake of fire, and others view it as simply a place of separation from God.

The Importance of Giving up Our Rights

Gavel

Yesterday morning, I made an offhand comment on Facebook:

I’m always amazed to hear Christians talking about “defending our rights.” One of the most fundamental aspects of Jesus’ message is that we must give up our rights.

I should have known better.

I thought this was one of those things all Christians agree about in theory and just have a hard time remembering and practicing. I get that. I have a hard time letting go of my rights. It’s one of my biggest struggles on a day-to-day basis. In that comment, I was preaching to myself as much as to anyone else.

Yet I wasn’t expecting to return and find a barrage of comments from Christians actually arguing against the principle of self-denial.