Tag Archives: hell

Wayne Grudem explains why hell is not eternal separation from God

The idea of God’s omnipresence has sometimes troubled people who wonder how God can be present, for example, in hell. In fact, isn’t hell the opposite of God’s presence, or the absence of God? This difficulty can be resolved by realizing that God is present in different ways in different places, or that God acts differently in different places in his creation. Sometimes God is present to punish. A terrifying passage in Amos vividly portrays this presence of God in judgment:

Not one of them shall flee away;
not one of them shall escape.
Though they dig into Sheol,
from there shall my hand take them;
though they climb up to heaven,
from there I will bring them down.
Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,
from there I will search them out and take them;
and though they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea,
there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them.
And though they go into captivity before their enemies,
there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them;
and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.

(Amos 9:1-4)

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 175.

I fail at this daily…

God wants us to do more than intellectually agree with the words of Scripture: He wants us to live in light of them.

Francis Chan, Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We’ve Made Up (Colorado Springs: David Cook, 2011), 124.

Book Review: Erasing Hell

Yesterday I received Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle in the mail. I read it that same evening. I was, to be honest, riveted by their response to Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell. With deep and respectable humility, Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle seek to faithfully and honestly confront both their assumptions about hell and what the Bible says about hell. The result is a book that very carefully examines the historical context of Jesus’ words about hell and what His followers said about this difficult topic in the rest of the New Testament.

What I appreciate most about this book is that the authors are emphatic about the fact that this is not a pedantic, scholarly, hair-splitting debate about a doctrine; hell is something we Christians can’t afford to be wrong about. If we claim there is no hell, and we’re wrong, then we’re sending people to a place we’ve convinced them doesn’t exist! Over and over, perhaps in every chapter, the authors remind the reader that we’re not just splitting doctrinal hairs here, we’re talking about the eternal destiny of people–some of whom we know and love.

Thus, with a profound appreciation for the weight of this topic, Chan and Sprinkle look at the key passages surrounding hell to arrive at a faithful conclusion–regardless of whether or not their initial assumptions are proven right or they win the argument. And, the authors openly admit that they don’t want there to be a hell; a sentiment I believe we can all agree with. But, like the authors say, our disliking of hell doesn’t mean it isn’t a reality.

There are two sections of the book that are perhaps the most valuable. First, in Chapter 5: What Does This Have to Do with Me?, the authors point out that many of the warnings Jesus issued about hell were to religious people. Jesus warned that “many” people would come to Him and say that they had done great things in His name, but He would reply “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matt 7:23). This isn’t a warning to atheists, vegans, Muslim extremists, or _____________ (insert your favorite stereotypical villain here). It’s a warning to people who genuinely think they’re following God!

Second, and what resounded with me the most, is in Chapter 6: “What If God…?” where the authors remind us that God’s ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours that the difference is like the Heavens and the earth! The point being that it’s incredibly arrogant of us to think we can pass judgment on we think how God should run things. Is it possible that God has a more mature and developed sense of justice than we do? Here are some quotes that I found particularly thought-provoking:

  • “We must come to a place where we can let God be God. We need to surrender our perceived right to determine what is just and humbly recognize that God alone gets to decide how He is going to deal with people.” (Pg. 131)
  • “Let’s not think that spending a bit of time meditating on the mysteries of the universe places us on a level that allows us to call God into question.” (Pg. 133-134)
  • “The fact is, Scripture is filled with divine actions that don’t fit our human standards of logic or morality. But they don’t need to, because we are the clay and He is the Potter. We need to stop trying to domesticate God or confine Him to tidy categories and compartments that reflect our human sentiments rather than His inexplicable ways.” (Pg. 135)
  • “It’s incredibly arrogant to pick and choose which incomprehensible truths we embrace. No one wants to ditch God’s plan of redemption [the cross], even though it doesn’t make sense to us. Neither should we erase God’s revealed plan of punishment because it doesn’t sit well with us. As soon as we do this, we are putting God’s actions in submission to our own reasoning, which is a ridiculous thing for clay to do.” (Pg. 136)
Overall, I found this to be a very challenging and humbling book. I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve read Love Wins. You can’t walk away from Erasing Hell without being compelled to share the message of hope and salvation with everyone you meet. Because, like the authors repeatedly state, this is an area where we can’t afford to be wrong!

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Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

Recently, I found out that Francis Chan is working on a book about hell called Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we’ve made up (set to release on July 5th). Suffice it to say, I was very excited to hear him weigh in on this issue that has, very sadly, become very controversial lately. After watching his video, I am very excited to hear his thoughts and humbled by his call in the video for us to remember that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up

He descended into Hell.

(This is part eight of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

This entry examines a line of the Apostles’ Creed that has troubled Christians for years:

“He descended into hell.”

This entry is going to be a little different than all the others before it. Why do I say that this verse has troubled Christians? Well…. it’s not Biblical! In fact, it could easily be considered counter-Biblical. In Luke 23:43, while dying on the cross, Jesus says to one of the thieves next to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus pretty clearly states three things in this statement:

  1. The thief will be in Paradise.
  2. Jesus will be with him.
  3. It’s going to happen that very day!

Also, Jesus says in John 19:30, “It is finished.” Which implies that Jesus did not need to suffer further by going to hell. Finally, when Jesus dies in Luke 23:46, He says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus is very clearly going to join His Father in Heaven at this point.

We quickly see that there is very little allowance for Jesus to go to hell. Some could argue that Jesus became omnipresent and was able to go to Hell and Heaven at the same time. Dr. Wayne Grudem very strongly opposes this line of the creed in an article that originally appeared in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Volume 34, called “He Did Not Descend Into Hell: A Plea For Following Scripture Instead Of The Apostles’ Creed” (if you’d like to read the entire article, it’s available here). I’ll just share a couple quotes that I found particularly helpful concerning the development of this line of the Apostles’ Creed:

  • the Apostles’ Creed was not written or approved by a single Church council at one specific time. Rather, it gradually took shape from about A.D. 200 to 750.
  • until A.D. 650 no version of the Creed included this phrase with the intention of saying that Christ “descended into hell.” The only version to include the phrase before 650 gives it a different meaning. [It meant simply that he went into the grave.]

Dr. Grudem’s article concludes with this: “Unlike every other phrase in the Creed, it represents not some major doctrine on which all Christians agree but rather a statement about which most Christians seem to disagree. It is at best confusing and in most cases misleading for modern Christians. My own judgment is that there would be all gain and no loss if it were dropped from the Creed once for all.”

I know what you’re thinking at this point, “But hey, weren’t we going to be looking at major doctrinal sections that all Christians agree on? Did you say this was all upper-tier stuff in the Creed?” And perhaps more importantly, “What do we do with that? Does it even matter?”

I think this shows us two important things.

First and foremost, this shows us that over a long enough span of time, false teachings can, like a little bit of yeast in a batch of dough, spread and become pervasive. The Apostles’ Creed developed over a long span of time:  about 550 years! That’s longer than the United States of America has even existed! That is a long, long time. Over time, things can creep in to a church that are simply false; then people just cling to false doctrine because, like a loyal pet, it’s always been there as long as they can remember.

Second, this shows us that we must examine everything in light of Scripture; even something that we take for granted like the Apostles’ Creed. We must always listen and look. First you listen to those around you in teaching positions and then compare what they teach you to what the Bible says; do they match up? Listen and look!