56: Scared to Death (Hell Part 1)

Summary

Many of us are terrified of Hell, but should we be? Is Christianity supposed to ease our anxieties around death or exasperate them? And is Hell really about torture? In this first conversation in a series on Hell, Nate and Tim ditch the Bible and traditional ideas for a bit to try to imagine the theoretical possibilities for some sort of future judgment.

Transcription

[excerpts of audio clips from listeners playing]

Hi Nate and Tim, my name is Diana. I am from the Pacific Northwest.

Hi Nate and Tim, it’s Scott from Cambridge in Ontario.

This is Paige from Springfield.

It’s Maddie from Dayton, Ohio.

Joshua Eilts.

It’s Amber in Cincinnati.

I’m Leigh from western Australia, from Perth.

This is Frankie in Russia.

Hey Nate and Tim, it’s Sarah Beth.

This is Bethany. I’m calling from New Zealand.

It’s Nicole from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Jill from Essex in the UK.

This is Tanner from Denver.

Hi Nate and Tim, this is Quinn from Indianapolis.

So I think on the topic of hell, this idea of “Those who reject Jesus go to hell for eternity, The End,”  is just so ingrained.

It never sat right with me that a person who’s otherwise kind and loving should go to hell for just being the wrong religion.

I was so terrified of not really being saved I would pray the Sinner’s Prayer over and over and over again.

These days I can’t really square that idea of a loving God, an all-knowing God, who’d allow a person to suffer eternally if they know that that person would never turn back. If God is the source of all existence, why would they continue to be the source of that existence of something that’s completely counter to themself?

In a Sunday School class where our teacher had told us to imagine a hummingbird carrying a drop of water across the ocean and dropping it on the Rock of Gibraltar and then flying back and forth to get another drop of water and doing this over and over again. Once the rock started wearing away, this was only the beginning of eternity in hell. And this was after telling us that hell was literally people burning in the fire with no relief or any chance of relief, and so it just really sticks out in my mind as an adult that we were being taught this as children.

When my family would go down south to the Gulf for vacations, we would drive through rural Alabama, and there was always this sign or a billboard on the side of the road that had a cartoon depiction of the devil wielding a scythe, and it said in big letters, “Go to church or the devil will get you!

My views on hell changed when my Jewish father was dying of cancer. I had friends contact me telling me, panicked, that if he wasn’t saved before he died, he’d be tormented forever and it would be all my fault. That led me to question everything I knew about a personal God.

I was saved and I’d experienced the presence of Jesus, but in that particular culture, punishment, withdrawal of love, and I guess the threat of hell was used to control people. And it certainly terrified me. I would be lying if I said that it didn’t still keep me up at night. Sometimes I think I could definitely end up there.

Yes, I was terrified. Specifically that the people I loved would go to hell if they were not converted to Christianity, and also that it was my job to convert them, so if I didn’t I would have failed and their eternal salvation or lack of it would be my fault. I also distinctly remember as a teenager worrying that I would be in heaven and sinning by missing the people who are in hell.

Our church’s youth group put on a production. It was designed to scare people into salvation. They tried to make the production super scary, but at the end of it all the youth had ended up making it much more interesting to be a demon in hell than it was an angel in heaven.

Nate: So why don’t you start the show.

Tim: Alright. Welcome back to Almost Heretical. Let’s just dive right into hell.

Nate: [laughing] I remember one time we were at Disney World and we were going to this, I don’t remember what it was but there was some show, and it was an outdoor amphitheater. It was over water and they had all these different sections, and all the sections were named after Disney characters or things that had to do with the Disney universe. And so my family, we walk in and there’s this person telling you which section to go to, and we probably showed up late, and she was like, doing the whole airport, directing the plane kind of thing. She’s like, “Alright, go all the way down to Hades! Go all the way down to Hades!” for our group. I think that was from Hercules. So it was the Hercules section, but also it was just a really bad name for a section.

Tim: It’s fitting though, seeing as Disneyland and Disney World are my literal hell.

Nate: [laughing] It’s like the first stage of hell. Or maybe more, actually.

Tim: It’s like all of Los Angeles is yeah, the first level of hell, and the closer you get to Disneyland, it’s like the three hour line for the $18 soda is like the deepest, centermost level of hell.

Nate: I remember parking in the Disneyland parking lot one time and you have to be shuttled in. I mean, even that is probably the second level of hell right there, just to get to… I feel by the time you get to the park you’re at somewhere around three or four. [laughing] Okay, so, let’s go down to Hades!

[transitional music, sounds of people on theme park ride]

Nate: Hey, before we jump in, quick announcement. We’re going to start creating some extra content to put out on our Patreon page.

Tim: Yeah, we’re pretty excited. This’ll be all stuff for supporters, so go on Patreon, check it out. We’ll have stuff from online conference calls with Nate and I to talk about various topics we get into on the show, we’ll have a second podcast feed with extra content with Nate and I and our guests as well on the show. We’ll also have some additional studies and mini-rants that we’ll post to the Patreon page, and more ways to connect with us and others, so.

Nate: So yeah, if you want to take part in all of that, you can get on board at patreon.com/almostheretical.

Tim: And for example, with this new series on Hell we’re doing, in a few weeks if you are a Patreon supporter, we will have a conversation on the topic of hell with some of you to discuss together live our own thoughts, feelings around the topic. And we’ll also do some extra podcast content. So if you like this series, if you like the show and you want more of it, Patreon’s the way to go. That’s all. Back to the show.

Nate: I just brought up the topic of hell on Facebook and Twitter with our audience, and the response that you all gave showed me that there’s something here. It’s like struck a chord. Everyone has, it seems, some story or some experience or some line they heard in a sermon, or just something on this topic. We all have thoughts about it and it’s either something we’ve just boxed up and tossed away because we don’t think that anymore or still kind of creeps into our minds sometimes. So just a little bit about my story, I don’t know that I was really, I didn’t really hear a whole ton about hell growing up. I mean, I knew it was ‘real’ and I didn’t want to go there, but it wasn’t like it was talked about that much. It was mainly just talking about heaven and what we need to do to get right with God so we can go there until I would say probably college age. I started listening to a prominent Christian celebrity preacher, his podcast, and he talked a considerable amount about hell and avoiding that, and our whole ministry kind of being centered around getting people saved from hell so that we can go to heaven and needing to be sold out for Jesus in order to do that. And that kind of led me, that’s sort of my launching pad for full-time ministry for a number of years. Led me to be a pastor. I actually planted a church with that pastor, and Tim, you and I were part of a ministry with that pastor and kind of under that same… I remember, Tim and I were roommates after college, we were pastors and we were roommates in this… [laughing] bed bugs just came back to my head. No, anyways, we were roommates, and there’s a lot of stories there we’ll get to sometime. But every morning we would come down with all the pastors. We would have this meeting in the mornings before we went out to low income housing onto the streets to tell people about Jesus and do Bible studies and all this kind of stuff. We would meet, and I remember pretty much every morning we would say, you know, “This could be our last day on earth, or it could be the last day for someone that we’re going to go talk to, and we don’t want them to go to hell. Let’s go preach the gospel,” and that would kind of fire us up. And that was sort of doing a nonprofit ministry that you and I were a part of, and then later I was a part of planting churches with that same pastor, and we were in the inner city at that point in kind of a dangerous area of San Francisco, and we would go up onto this hill where there were projects and gun violence and all these gangs and that kind of stuff, and when we would go up every morning we would fire ourselves up to go do this kind of crazy and a little bit insane thing of to a small degree putting our life on the line by talking about how we gotta go save people from hell. You know, “People are dropping into hell every minute because people are dying, let’s go, let’s go!” We would fire ourselves up and go up on the hill. And it worked! It actually worked, it actually fired me up to do this thing. Anyways, I don’t know. I don’t have some horror stories of hell, but it was this process of thinking and rethinking about, “What am I actually saying? What am I teaching here? Because it seems like it’s motivating a lot of what we do, I want to make sure that I know what I’m talking about here,” and that sort of caused me, or it was one of the things that caused me to step back from teaching and it kind of spun me into rethinking a lot of my theology and all that kind of stuff. And so that’s what we want to talk about. This is a huge topic. Huge in the sense that it seems like it’s been really important for recent future of the church, and a lot of people have stories and thoughts around it. Tim, what’s your experience been?

Tim: Yeah, I mean mine, I didn’t grow up in a fundamentalist, kind of fear-mongering world. The thing is, even in your story, all the stories that we’ve heard and will continue to play in these episodes, fear of this kind of caricature world of hell, it’s ingrained everywhere in western culture. And for people who are Christians, for people who aren’t Christians, we kind of all have a shared caricature of the good place, the bad place, sort of like the little white angel on one shoulder and the little red devil on the other. And the funny thing is we get—I have gotten a lot of critical pushback when I have critiqued evangelicalism of saying, “You’re just caricaturing the church or caricaturing theology.” But the reality is so much of what people on the ground actually believe and teach is a juvenile caricature, and especially I think that’s true with hell, where the amount of people in church world who have a sophisticated, nuanced understanding of hell is such a small percentage. And I think that that caricature, the violent, retributive God who’s going to punish forever for lying to your parents when you were five, is such an atrocious image, and the fact that that hasn’t been called out as a false caricature of Christian theology is one of the primary reasons people laugh off Christianity. So I look back and I laugh at myself, because similarly I didn’t grow up with a lot of ingrained fear, but then Nate, when you and I were in the same world of this kind of evangelism based on saving souls from hell, I actually remember, it must have been like eight years ago, I actually wrote a paper trying to justify—

Nate: Oh dear.

Tim: Actually, it was probably more like ten years—trying to justify why fear of hell was a biblical motivation for evangelism. I wrote that paper. I wasn’t in school, no one read it, it was just for like six people. I think I put it on Facebook. It might still be there, honestly, if you go to my Facebook. But it was that because we were in that world, where even if you didn’t talk about hell much, that was the assumption. The assumption was that that was the main threat looming over humanity. Not people’s suffering, not economic disparity, not injustice, it was this threat of a future soul going to hell. And so because that was how we were, as you say Nate, pumping ourselves up to go do evangelism or ministry, I tried to write a biblical justification for why that is a good rationale. Now I look back and I go, “That’s crazy.” You don’t see anyone in the New Testament doing what we were doing, which is pumping yourself up because souls are going to go to hell. We’ll get into it, there are different senses in which early church and New Testament writers did think people should have an element of fear of judgment, which again, we’ll get into. But yeah, it was more for me of going, that whole world, it wasn’t the fear-mongering you see from the super fundamentalist world, where people literally tell little kids, “If you wear that skirt, you’re going to go to hell.” I was never around that; I never did that. But I feel like what we did was just a few degrees of decency away from that. You know what I mean? It was just a more polite [laughing] a more polite version. We shared the same assumption, which is that the main problem is that people are going to go to hell to be tortured by God, and that’s what we gotta save them from.

Nate: I think for a lot of people that have come into their own as far as theology goes, rethought things, moved past some ideas—this is all me getting past the word ‘deconstruction,’ because I really hate that word, and it’s become this kind of cliche thing—but really what it is is you’re just continuing to mature in your theology, you’re continuing and expanding and moving past ideas and letting go of things that don’t work or aren’t good or aren’t good news. And so for a lot of us who have done that and are on that journey, there’s still sometimes this fear of like, “Yeah, but what if I don’t believe the right things, enough of the right things, in order to not go to hell.” Even though we’ve moved past so many things, there’s still this like, I’ve heard from some people shared, there’s still this creeps into my head sometimes of, “What if I’m believing the wrong thing.” And then also, maybe some family members or friends that haven’t gone on this same journey, sometimes the fear they have about you being on this journey is that they don’t want you to go to hell, and so that justifies them saying some of the things they say to you and being concerned about you in a certain way. And I think some people on this journey have felt that from people that aren’t on this journey. And so hell still, even in the people that are rethinking theology and their doctrine and what they believe and how they live based on what they believe, hell still kind of creeps in, this topic still creeps in. Even from outside forces, but still sometimes even in the back of our heads, like, “Am I believing enough of the right things? Am I letting go of the essential doctrines I need to hold onto to not go to hell and go to heaven?” You know, like it’s still so prevalent that it’s really hard to move past that. I don’t know if you’ve experienced that at all, Tim, or heard people that have experienced that.

Tim: Yeah, totally. And we’ll get into, there’s a weird conundrum in modern Christianity, and that is that so much of the ethos of Christianity, so much of the ethos of the New Testament is that Jesus is trying to liberate us from fear. You know, Hebrews 2 talks about one of the main problems plaguing humanity was that we were enslaved to the fear of death, and that part of Christ’s victory was to liberate us from that fear. 1 John, you’ve got him talking about God is love and then immediately goes onto say, “And love casts out all fear.” In other words, if we believe God loves us and God is loving, then we shouldn’t be afraid. So you have that, and then you have the flipside of it, which is what modern western Christianity is, especially in evangelicalism, to many people is the greatest source of fear in their lives. So how we reconcile these things, how we move forward through this, is part of the conversation we’re going to have. But the reality is what Christianity is, because of hell in large part, vast majority of it, Christianity does not liberate people from fear. It instills fear in them. And that fear can be either for ourselves, that fear can be for others as we hear all the time, that it wasn’t we were scared of going to hell ourselves. We felt saved, but we were terrified that our brother was going to go to hell or our parents would go to hell, or our grandparents were going to go to hell. And we were, some of us, taught to deal with that fear by various forms of masking or minimizing the tragedy that that actually would be, and then others got to a breaking point where we just said, “I can’t handle that idea, and I don’t want a heaven if my grandfather is in hell.” And it’s how, I think how we deal with the fear of hell has pushed people in large part into various wings of Christianity. But I just think it’s worth standing back and noticing that the author of Hebrews, the author of the Johannine epistles, they wanted us to be liberated from being afraid, and most of the predominant voices who have perpetuated the traditional view of hell as a place of torment that we need to be scared of have raised generation after generation of terrified human beings for whom Christianity isn’t helping them be less afraid. It’s creating anxiety and this deep existential terror.

Nate: Yeah, and like children who are—we heard this from a number of you, and you’re going to hear these stories mixed throughout these episodes—children who are praying the sinner’s prayer many, many times as a kid so that they are sure that they’re not going to hell. I mean, this is trauma, this is real stuff that you have to work through in therapy later in life, and we just need to stop. We need to stop this. And so this is why we care about this topic. Okay, so one other thing I want to say, too. When you start to rethink or challenge or push back on ideas of hell, you are going to be, I’ll just call it ‘farewelled’. You will be exiled from mainstream Christianity, and we have evidence of this. So Rob Bell wrote a book about hell raising questions and thinking through some of these topics. What was this, like ten years ago now maybe? And what we saw happen from that book—I mean, this broke even outside of Christian world into kind of just pop culture even—this guy writes this book about hell and the church tosses him out of the church. So what you saw happen was the leaders of the evangelical world, probably foremost John Piper, literally write a tweet that said, “Farewell Rob Bell,” after that book came out because what John Piper in his mind is thinking is that once you cross this line to no longer believing in these views on hell, these specific views on hell, which John Piper believes the Bible is clearly teaching, then you have no business calling yourself a Christian anymore. This is what happens, I guess, as you walk down this journey, and you just have to know that. You just have to know that as you start to rethink these things, it does change how people view you and where they kind of classify and categorize you in their heads. So welcome! Welcome to the journey to hell.

Tim: Right. And that’s the other part of our story, right Nate? So Piper’s the one who notoriously tweeted, “Farewell Rob Bell,” and essentially led an army to make sure that this many would never feel allowed back inside of the evangelical bubble. But then you and I, Nate, worked for the guy who wrote an entire book challenging Love Wins, and you even helped market that book. But here’s what I’m realizing we did retrospectively, and I think the whole evangelical culture has done this. We’ve talked about how any time there’s a new progressive idea or critique of some part of tradition or traditional ideology, that the conservative reaction basically is to double down on that conservative idea and become even more conservative and more entrenched. And I think what you and I did when we were sharing how we used hell as this primary motivator, is we felt so threatened by Rob Bell and we so aligned ourselves with the army of people who would stand up against the Rob Bells of the world that we actually doubled down on hell. I think Rob Bell’s book trying to get people to rethink hell and ask good questions about it made us think even less and ask even fewer questions, and then made the fear of hell an even more important idea as a reaction. Like the pendulum for us swung even farther and we just rode that pendulum. So now, I’m going to try when we get into thinking critically about stuff, I’m going to try to not redo the wheel or beat the dead horse. There’s a whole wave, even within conservative evangelicalism, of people rethinking hell. I mean there are whole conferences called Rethinking Hell. Especially rethinking the idea of eternal conscious torment to kind of moving towards an annihilationist view. That stuff’s been out there, it’s pretty popular, so we’re not going to cover all of that. But then what’s happening on the other side is this doubling down. Doubling down on the traditional caricature of God as the tormentor.

Nate: Do you think the reason is because if you remove hell from that world view, everything kind of collapses? Is that why it’s so, why you see so much doubling down and why it’s such an important topic.

Tim: Well, I think it’s part of it. Why are people doubling down on white supremacy right now? Why are people doubling down on patriarchal gender roles? It’s the same thing. Any, any criticism to an essential idea to your camp, most people will not listen to the criticism. They will double down on the tradition. And so I think this is one other example. It is essential. A view of hell as God punishing you is essential to the view of penal substitutionary atonement as the gospel. So to question either of those is to question the entire Christianity of most of evangelicalism. So it is an essential view. It’s one that people are particularly dogmatic about. But I think it’s just like anything. The reason why Rob Bell was farewelled was people thought that to ask the questions he was even asking—which some of them are just basic Bible study questions—was to declare himself not a faithful Christian. Views on hell are just like views on homosexuality, views on women in ministry. To many people in conservative camps, these are gospel issues. So these are issues that people want to get together and write statements about. They’re those kinds of ideas, so there’s not a lot of wiggle room. I think that is growing, because enough conservatives have said, “Hey, there’s even two conservative positions, and we should be able to have a dialogue between these two conservative ways of thinking about hell.” But of course we’ll remember that what everybody said about Rob Bell was that he was a closet universalist. And so that u-word, it’s kind of like the socialist word, right? If you cross somebody’s ideological line then you can easily get labelled something, and in this conversation that label is a universalist. And so what that word means, just like being called heretical or being called, you know, being called a feminist, whatever, it means you’re outside the camp. And so part of what I laugh at looking back on is even the idea that would have felt scary back in those years when I was writing that paper and all that, I now think if that’s as far as we could go, for instance moving to an annihilationist position and that’s all we’re willing to consider, we’re still swimming in a complete conservative and limited mindset in terms of what hell could actually be.

[transitional music, audio excerpts of stories from listeners]

“I was baptized as an infant. Around the age of 13, I had a dream that demons were coming out of hell and grabbing me and pulling me down into hell because I wasn’t baptized.”

“I was raised a pastor’s kid. The concept of hell has always been there looming, that was kind of the reason for salvation. That’s why I trust Jesus, so I don’t have to go to this horrible, dark, miserable, flame-y place.”

“To even consider an alternative to that, even if seems the Bible is clear that there is an alternative, is a frightening thing.”

Nate: Where did this idea come from, that there’s this place that you go if you’re a bad person? That’s what the world thinks, or in the church it’s where you go if you reject God, you reject His love, you reject Jesus.

Tim: Yeah. Or where you go if you don’t believe the right doctrines, right?

Nate: Or, yeah, that’s the other group that would say, the more extreme group that would say where you go if you don’t believe the right things. If you don’t hold to a certain biblical interpretation. [laughing] If you don’t hold to a certain biblical interpretation about hell, then you’re going there.

Tim: [laughing] Right, so here’s how we’re going to organize these conversations. We’re going to have one conversation now basically having a philosophical discussion about how this idea came about, how to even think about hell. What could hell possibly be if we just think theoretically. And then secondly we’ll have a scriptural kind of biblical study conversation in terms of what are the words, phrases, ideas within the Bible where the idea of a hell came from, and how should we be interpreting those passages. But the first one is just to say, this idea has been around forever. We, western Christians, get our idea from Christianity, which got its idea from Judaism, but Judaism got its idea from the variety of ancient Near Eastern religions, which all had views of a cosmos and this plethora of divine, nonhuman beings, and then also had views of some sort of underworld. And there, with most religious ideas there’s similarities and differences between what Israel came to believe and what its neighbors came to believe. And then Christianity has… I’ll just say, the New Testament did some stuff with those ideas. But then the history of Christianity has done things with those ideas that the New Testament never had in mind. So for instance, just the singular human being of Dante has done probably as much to shape how you and I today think about hell and imagine hell, long after the Bible was completed and closed, and those ideas have kind of formed in our imagination. But the basic idea of there being some sort of place of imprisonment or judgment, or where we go after we die and how to construe that has been around forever. But here’s what I think, so much of the conversation has to do with a limitation of our imagination, and then you have differently basically postures or attitudes across the board of like, “No, we absolutely know what we can believe and we have to believe these things,” to the other extreme of people just saying, “How in the world would we ever know what is actually on the other side of death. It can’t be reported. Let’s just be open-handed with those things.” And you’ve got within even just modern Christian history, various stops along that spectrum. But here’s the most important piece, I think, when we jump into the philosophical thing, is to start with.. It’s that there is a crux, a conundrum, that is built into any conversation about this, which we’ll get into when we kind of look at different views. And that is that most of us, deep down, actually do want some form of judgment. Like we do want to believe that there is an ultimate and divine power that has the ability to hold evil people accountable. Most of us, especially those who are not rich and powerful people, do not want to believe in a world where everybody is going to get away with whatever they’re doing to us right now. We don’t want to believe in a world where Hitler will deal with zero accountability. So just look at the actual psychology on the ground when people are made victims. You know, if something is done to you, if you’re a victim of sexual assault, or if someone you loved was murdered, what real victims long for. First you want things to be made right, but say in the case of someone being murdered, that’s not possible, you can’t get that loved one back. What people long for is justice. Now some people are going to long for revenge, right, and actually seek to destroy that other person, whether themselves or through the courts.

Nate: Like every good Hollywood movie out there.

Tim: Yeah, it’s the Liam Neeson, ultimate vengeance.

Nate: [doing Liam Neeson impression] “I have a specific set of skills.”

Tim: And I think what Christianity and Jesus calls us to is to seek something higher than that and better than that. But so much, and this is where I’ve just really railed against views of atonement, views of Christianity as easy forgiveness that are typically tied to penal substitutionary atonement, that say that what the good news is is God is just not going to deal with our sin. He’s just not going to deal with evil. Like that has nothing to do with the New Testament witness of what Christianity is—

Nate: Wait, who says He’s just not going to deal with our sin?

Tim: The idea is if you believe the right things and you believe in Jesus, you can be as evil as all get out, but you will be forgiven for it. And regardless of how many people believe that—

Nate: Because Jesus already dealt with it, is what they would say. They wouldn’t say He’s not going to deal with it.

Tim: But the reality is, in that belief system, Jesus hasn’t dealt with it, Jesus has just supposedly paid your penalty. So it hasn’t been dealt with.

Nate: Yeah, that’s true. Okay.

Tim: The reality is if I kill someone you love, Nate, and then I pray the sinner’s prayer, and I receive forgiveness for that, but nothing is ever done for you to actually get justice for what I did to you, then in the end, to me what that is is a religion of the oppressor. It is a religion that rids oppressors and abusers and evildoers of their guilt and their requirement of some sort of justice. So that’s where I’ve pushed back on that, because I go, no! Only the rich and powerful want that kind of religion. What Judaism was for thousands of years was poor and oppressed and victimized people believing throughout the generations that there was a God who would bring about justice and would vindicate the victims, would raise up the victims. So whatever Christianity is, it can’t be the opposite of that. Christianity cannot be the declaration to the world that there will never be justice for victimized people, that there will never be judgment. So that’s the thing, we’ll get into how to think about this, and it’s all complicated to think about, and we have to get nuanced to avoid having some pretty ugly caricatures. But one of the cruxes is I think deep down, most of us do really want there to be a higher power than Donald Trump, a higher power than our abusive father, a higher power than our abusive spouse, someone above and beyond who we can look to to rescue us and restore justice. And again, hopefully that doesn’t mean we just want vengeance. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want any accountability. So at the center of Jewish and Christian ideology, literally at the very center of it, is the belief in a judgment where God will come make things right by finally exerting God’s higher power. But here’s something we need to keep in mind. When we talk about hell, we’re talking about two very different questions, and this will especially play out when we get into the New Testament language around Hades and Gehenna and Sheol and all that. One question is, how will God do that? How will God bring about judgment? When will God do it? What will it look like when God does it? What will that require? But the question is oriented around the desire for judgment, and when we’re talking about Christianity and Judaism, it’s a desire for the oppressed and marginalized that are not in power now to be given justice. But then there’s a very separate question, which is—and the shorthand to the answer to that question in Jewish and Christian thinking is there will be a final day of judgment where this age ends, God deals with what needs to be dealt with, purges evil, creates a new world, and then we go on to live in this new created world. But then you have a secondary question, which has to be separated otherwise I think we get really confused, which is, well what happens if I die before that event? What happens when I die? And that question is wrapped up with what does it mean to be human? Are we a soul, are we a body that has a soul? Do we go on in existence? What happens when a human body stops breathing and a heart stops beating?

Nate: Sounds like a nice R&B song or something.

Tim: [laughing] So those are two separate questions, and we’ll come to see there’s a ton of overlap, but those are two different questions. How will God bring about judgment and what will God’s judgment be like? And what happens to us after we die? And your question, Nate, of where these ideas come from: throughout human history, as far back as we know, people have asked both of those questions, and our current idea of hell has to do with two different answers to those two questions. But part of the confusion, part of why we have such an ugly caricature in our culture, is we’ve lumped those questions and those two answers into one thing and called it hell. Okay, so! If we just start with a basic building block. Again, we’ll get into the biblical theology next time. Start with the basic building block that for the world to be restored to a paradise, a garden like Eden—

Nate: You can’t have bad people there.

Tim: You can’t have Hitlers, right?

Nate: Right, right.

Tim: You can’t even have the abusive fathers. Like, there’s a scale of evil. But evil cannot exist.

Nate: What about the guy who stole to feed his family? Can you have that guy?

Tim: [laughing] Okay, so there you begin to get into the blur of it, right? So you get into all these questions, theoretical, philosophical questions of like, what all needs to be purged? And how will that purging happen? And how long can it take? And who’s choice will it be? So use Hitler, because he’s such an easy example. So Hitler cannot want to murder all of the Jews and people of color and be allowed to be in my heaven, because that wouldn’t be heaven for me. Okay, so let’s just think: what are the options? What are the options? If I’m worthy of being in a place called heaven because I won’t destroy it—I’m not saying that’s true, but suppose that’s true.

Nate: Up for debate!

Tim: Yeah, up for debate! [laughing] It’s all debatable. If I’m okay, and God’s trying to make a heaven for me and you and however many others—another big question: how many? How many are in, how many are out?—if that’s the goal, to try to create this new world rid of evil, then what will God do with Hitler? And that’s where the answers to that question end up forming different views of hell. So Nate, I’ve got a list here, but why don’t you kind of just run through the hypothetical. In your own imagination, your own philosophizing, what are the options, theoretically, for God to do?

Nate: Um, well we can go right to the fiery place. And so there’s like this lake of fire, and Hitler’s burning in that lake for all of eternity, but he doesn’t burn up. He just, you’re just completely tortured and you’re conscious for the whole thing forever. So there’s that. That’s kind of like, maybe the far end of the spectrum, right? Then I’d say on the other end of the spectrum is what’s called the annihilationist view, where he just ceases to exist and he’s gone, he doesn’t get to live on. And just, he is no more. And there’s probably like a ton of views in between there that have been proposed throughout time for what could happen. But I don’t know, I feel like those are sort of the—if he’s not getting into heaven, if he’s not getting into whatever that is.

Tim: It’s funny that you put those two views, so one is essentially, you didn’t say this, but essentially the idea is Hitler’s never getting in. And this typically is what is called eternal conscious torment, most people that have done the hell studies will called it ECT for shorthand. It is the traditional view, especially since about five hundred years into church history. But that is that Hitler’s never getting in, hell is permanent, and it’s a place God has created, an existence God has created specifically for eternally punishing the Hitlers of the world.

Nate: Oh, I thought of another one! You could do the like, He’s going to restore Hitler. Which is a project. That is a project! I get it. But you could try to rehabilitate so that he could come to heaven and be in heaven, whatever that is. It’s not punishment, it’s kind of back to the Mako Nagasawa episode of restorative justice, right? So that’s another one.

Tim: Yeah. Or you could call it punishment, but it’s the idea that the punishment is restorative. It’s meant to bring about transformation so that Hitler would no longer be the leader of the Nazis, mass-murderer, full of hate human being; he would be a kind, decent human being. So that’s another view, or another possibility. We’ll get into the views in a sec. One is that basically God just parses people out. You’re in, you’re out, and there’s no plan of moving from one place to the other. And whatever happens to those people who are deemed out happens to them for a lifetime.

Nate: Oh, that makes me think of the sheep and the goats! Separating the sheep from the goats, and it all came down to, which I heard this preached a lot, it all came down to what you did for the poor. So if you didn’t take care of the poor then you went to hell, and if you did then you went to paradise.

Tim: I mean, I like that view way better than the idea that what it all comes down to whether you prayed the right prayer or believed the right protestant doctrine.

Nate: Believed the right things. Yeah, I mean, it’s a little better.

Tim: But okay, so again, try to think. I think part of this, Nate, is revealing how conservative your imagination has actually been shaped, even though—

Nate: Okay, hold on, let me try to think of some radical stuff here. Um, other options?

Tim: Yeah. What can God do with Hitler to create heaven for you?

Nate: I guess, I mean I really like the one of trying to restore him to an extent. I feel like the ultimate would be Hitler apologizing and trying to make right what he did that was wrong. Like that, when I just think about what the truest, deepest longing I would want to see, that’s what it would be I guess. I don’t know, I guess that’s not really—

Tim: The most compelling.

Nate: Yeah, the most compelling would be to see, to wake up one morning and Donald Trump is going to hold a press conference and he’s like, “I’m stepping down because I don’t want to continue to do these things, I’m turning”—or not even stepping down! “I’m going to change and I’m going to help all the people that I’ve been hurting, and I’m going to—” You know what I’m saying? Something like that, “I’m giving away all the money.” He probably only has like ten bucks, but “I’m giving away all the money I have.” You know what I mean? Something like that. That’s what I feel like I, at my deepest core want to see, even if part of me wants to see someone—yes, I’ll admit, part of me wants to see Donald Trump taken away in handcuffs. I do. But I think that at my core, what I would actually want is to see someone make amends, make right for what they did.

Tim: Right. Yeah, and I think that reveals, if this is true, that you’re a pretty decent human being, Nate, and have a decent sensibility. But I don’t even think you need to contradict wanting in an ideal world for the Trumps and the Hitlers and whoever else to come to their sense and change and to make things right, I don’t think you need to contradict that with wanting Donald Trump to go off in handcuffs. Part of the idea inherent in any sort of restorative justice, and inherent to any decent conversation about hell is what kind of accountability would be required to bring the Donald Trumps and the Hitlers of the world to that actual change.

Nate: [laughing] We’re going get…!

Tim: Okay, for a caveat, I can’t stand Donald Trump. I don’t think he’s Hitler. If you needed to hear that, you’re probably listening to the wrong show, but… [laughing] Here’s actually how this example is helpful. I don’t see any possibility—I could be wrong, I hope I’m wrong—but I don’t have any hope for Donald Trump in this life repenting. I don’t have any hope that he has the human capacity to do that. Just like I don’t think many people had any hope that Hitler would of his own volition change his ways and lay down his evil life in order to make things right again. And so why did so many people, who were probably pretty nonviolent human beings, become willing to go to war? And I’m not advocating for just war or saying that World War II was unjust. I’m simply saying, why did so many people do that? Because they came to the idea that to wait around for this guy to come to his own sense, to change on his own volition, was a fool’s hope. That that wouldn’t happen. So I just want to highlight that because to point to that psychology helps frame this philosophical conversation of, what is hell? Part of the answer is hell is the necessary experience or just say theoretical idea that is connected to the hope for a perfectly peaceful and non-evil place that we have dubbed heaven. Some form of accountability for the Hitlers of the world is required for their to be a heaven. So the question we’re asking now is, how would that actually happen? So one is, the first two that you said which you said are ends of a spectrum I actually think are right next to each other. The spectrum goes way out toward the other side. One is eternal cons—

Nate: Wait, which direction does it go?

Tim: Towards universalism. So—

Nate: Oh, well yeah, but I said, I said… Okay, okay, time out! You said, if he can’t go to heaven!

Tim: No—Okay, I might have said that.

Nate: Which would be universalism, so I threw that out of my head! Like, “Okay, he’s not going, so then what are my options?”

Tim: Okay, we’ll listen back to the tape. I could have misspoken. The question I want you to ask is not—don’t start with the assumption that Hitler can’t be in your heaven. Start with the assumption that Hitler can’t be Hitler and be in your heaven. So then what does God need to do with Hitler as we have known him? So one option is, like you said, you give up any hope of Hitler ever changing, or at least he runs out of time. Which I think is kind of popular in the mindset. It has to happen before that final breath, which is why all the stories of people racing to someone’s deathbed to try to convert them on their deathbed, and all the stories that still get published supposedly of atheists having conversions on their deathbed, and why conservative Christians love those stories so much is it’s about running out of time. So if Hitler runs out of time then he’s never getting into heaven. So then we can ask, what happens to him? So one version is God tortures him forever. Which to many of us has become a gross version, we’ll talk about that. Another version is there’s no need to just punish this person and just be cruel for cruelty’s sake, so God would just destroy this person. So Hitler would just die. And that’s the annihilationist view, which is at least far better than, or far more appetizing morally to us than the idea of God sitting around torturing Hitler for fun. And so here’s something I was kind of reflecting on is like, if I think… there are some people in my life who I have known, or in the world, who I want judgment for, I want to be brought to justice. And when I picture those people, I can go, if I’m actually watching God put them through the ringer, I think that would maybe be fun for like a day. Like if I’m really in the heat of the anger, I could watch that person—and even saying this, I’m like, not even a day. Maybe five minutes.

Nate: I was going to say, that’s a long time. I mean, twenty-four hours? That’s a long time! I can’t even watch some bad television programming for a whole day.

Tim: [laughing] Yeah. Right. So then you think of the Hitlers of the world, and I’m like, maybe a week? But in just this theoretical world where I’m supposed to imagine myself rejoicing alongside the idea of watching God, or maybe even not watching but knowing that God is torturing somebody, even Hitler, day after day after day. Within a month, I think God is a monster. Within a year, that heaven is no longer heaven. For me. And I think for billions of humans who have lived on this planet. Even if it’s Hitler, even if it’s the person who killed your son. Living in a world where you’re supposed to be worshipping a deity and knowing that what that deity is doing is for His own glory bringing about the perpetual torture of another being. I’m no longer loving this existence.

Nate: Okay, but this all, this is why I think it’s all so tied to your view of atonement and what Jesus did to save us from sin and from death. Because if you think that He did that to Jesus, He sent Him to hell, He tortured Him. I know it didn’t go on for eternity, but if it’s like, I don’t know if I was taught this or it’s what I always thought, was it’s the pinnacle of suffering that Jesus went through, and God did that under that view, then it’s not that hard to believe that He would do that to people. Right?

Tim: Totally. And actually, I just want to read. Some of these are direct quotes, some of them are paraphrases of what some people throughout history have said in terms of this emotional idea. If I’m going to be in heaven and someone else is going to be in hell. And I think we’ll see kind of the spectrum of not just thinking but feeling, different psychologies around hell. And some of them I clearly circle and I go, I would never want to have another conversation with that human being. So Thomas Aquinas, one of the most famous and most read of the church doctors, said that the saved, those who are in heaven, “Will have no pity on the damned,” and the knowledge of the torments of the damned—that thing I just said, it would no longer be heaven for me—he said that actually while you’re in heaven having knowledge that God is torturing the Hitlers of the world or even just the people who didn’t believe in Christianity of the world will, “Increase the felicity of the blessed in heaven.” That’s a direct quote. What that means is it’ll actually make us happier knowing that we’re not in hell. So knowing that that’s what could have been our existence, that we could be still be being tortured a million years in will just make us enjoy the fact that we’re in heaven all the more.

Nate: Yikes.

Tim: Tertullian, another of the kind of famous church fathers, said that the saved will relish the destruction of those in hell. Martin Luther said the saved will rejoice seeing even their loved ones roasted in hell. Pascal, you know Pascal’s Wager? Blaise Pascal, French guy, said that the damnation of unbaptized babies is just part of the great mystery of the cosmos, and we just can’t understand it and we shouldn’t try. But then John Calvin actually said that hell is full, chocked full, of unbaptized babies. And then very similar to some of these is you get the modern day reiterations of people like John Piper who say that the damnation of those who, in Piper’s mind, have been predestined from eternity past to be little babies perhaps, or ten year olds, or fifteen year olds, or whatever, to be punished eternally suffering for millions and millions and millions of years, that that brings glory to God, that torture, and is something that should lead us to praise, and that it is morally correct, that it’s morally correct for the saved to feel no pity for the damned like someone turning their eyes from a bad accident on the side of the road. The logic here being, “You can’t fix it, it’s already out of your control,” and then the additional logic being that for such a great vast being as God, even the smallest sin like lying to your parents, is equal in weight to that smallest little sin being punished with such a massive punishment of billions of years of fiery torment.

Nate: And then along with that is original sin, right? Like we’re all, even before we’re born, we’re born with this sin nature, and so it doesn’t actually matter what you do. It doesn’t matter if you’re Hitler, it doesn’t matter if you just stole that ten cent bubble gum from the store when you were eight years old, you were already a sinner and in need of being saved. Right? So it kind of does away with your deeds, even.

Tim: Right. And that’s how you end up with babies in hell.

Nate: Yeah, exactly.

[transitional music]

Tim: So okay, I say all that to paint—and those are real. Those people really said those things—to paint one side of the spectrum of how people think that we as Christians should be feeling of this idea of hell. But let me paint another side. Gregory of Nyssa, who you could make an argument for being the greatest of all the church fathers, who has been well-listened to in the Eastern church and completely ignored in the western church, and who’s the oldest voice on this list said that not only will God’s love be able to save everyone, that one day God will be able to transform Hitler because God is that good and loving and never gives up on people, but also that God would even be able to save Satan.

Nate: Farewell Gregory.

Tim: [laughs] This is one of the great doctors of the church, never deemed a heretic, written some of the most important works in the patristic world, a flat out universalist that even Satan would at some point in some way come to be in heaven. So fast forward, you know, fourteen hundred years or something, and you have George MacDonald say that it’s better to go to hell to be with your brother than to leave him there to be in heaven. And not just better, but better and more Christian. And he was drawing from his Christianity, his Christian faith, to say what did Jesus do? Jesus left, this is Philippians 2, He left His power, left His place on the throne, left His place in heaven to come and be with suffering human beings. And his argument was that it will not be heaven. The point of heaven is that we’ve all been made so loving and so Christlike, so empathetic, that we do no harm to one another. If that were the case, what we would all do is leave that place and go be with those who are suffering in hell. And his argument is basically that there would be no heaven if we all knew that our brothers and sisters were being tortured in hell.

Nate: This makes me think of a blogpost that Rachel Held Evans wrote a number of years back talking about the moral climax of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. And essentially there’s this slave that Huck Finn has been helping to kind of hide, and he realizes in his Sunday School teaching that helping to hide a slave and doing what he’s been doing, the quote is he’d go to everlasting fire for doing that. And then there’s this line where he’s trying to decide, “Should I tell the slave’s owner where they are, or what should I do here?” And there’s this line that Mark Twain writes of Huck getting to this point of realizing like, “Alright then, I’ll go to hell.” That’s the line. He’s deciding, “I’ll go to hell in order to save Jim the slave.” And I just have always loved that line, and it made me think about what you were talking about there. Isn’t everything we’re taught about what Christianity is, isn’t it we would leave then and go and try to help and save these people? Not, we’ll do that for the duration of the time we’re breathing but then after that, “Peace,” we’re done. Wouldn’t we want to see that and wouldn’t we want to be a part of that work?

Tim: Right. Yeah, it’s like the quip. Someone asks, “Who goes to hell?” And the response is, “Jesus does.” And it’s kind of trying to put this thing sort of back in its face, but it is that, yeah. The idea of heaven, the Christian idea of heaven, is not just the get-out-of-hell free, but it’s that we’re all made perfectly Christlike, to be the perfect full humans who only love and do no harm. So if Jesus is the model, then how could we possibly believe that what that existence would be would be relishing in the suffering, especially the over the top, monstrously over the top, million-years-long, artificially induced suffering of human beings? So that’s part of the grotesqueness of the eternal conscious torment view to so many people. The idea is that this is all happening post-resurrection for most people. So people have died, then God is going to raise them up and create an existence that God artificially sustains to keep them alive so that they can suffer. So in one view you’ve got, “That’s what hell is and we’re going to love it.” Then you’ve got a whole other end of the spectrum that says, “If that’s what hell is, I don’t want any part of heaven. I want nothing to do with it.” Now a lot of those people have simply said, “And therefore that’s why I’m not a Christian, because this is crazy. Get me out of here.” What I just pointed out is some famous Christians, including one of the most influential in the history of the church, Gregory of Nyssa, saying, “And therefore that isn’t what hell is.” So then there are others in between. So Karl Barth, who’s been one of the heroes of protestant Christianity, was kind of in a middle ground that sort of represents this whole camp to itself. He’s kind of famous for saying, “Anyone who doesn’t believe in universalism is an ox, but anyone who teaches it is an ass.” And we’ll kind of get into this on the next episode, it’s coming from he’s trying to hold the tension that there seems to be a testimony in both directions in the New Testament supporting both universalism, that every single human being that has ever lived will one day be transformed and saved, and the opposite, the threat that some people will for some reason, whether it’s their own desire or God’s will, will not be saved. So he’s kind of sitting in this middle camp. It’s kind of what I’ve said a lot of times. If you don’t at least want universalism to be true, you’re an ass. And I don’t think you are thinking or feeling like a Christian if you actually have convinced yourself that the suffering of anyone, let alone, and this is where people like Rachel Held Evans have said they just broke, is picturing the majority of humans who have ever lived to be enduring that suffering. So for many of us, it’s the idea of our close family member, a close friend, and that’s kind of a cracking point. And this is I think what, this statement characterizes a posture towards this idea of hell that I think is the most Christian one. Which is to say, “Heaven would not be heaven without so-and-so. If I knew that my mother or my spouse or my daughter was not here, I could not experience bliss. I would be in grief for the rest of my life.” Now that still is a hypothetical, right? Who knows what we will actually experience or what we would actually feel in the face of that experience? But I think what that is is a projection of a very Christian attitude, which is kind of that we are so focused away from ourselves, that we are so focused on loving others, and that love is so real that we don’t think we could actually enjoy a selfish happiness while people that we love are suffering. And I think a lot of people would say that is the definition of love, is the inability to experience yourself in heaven while someone you love is experiencing hell. So one of the philosophers and modern day theologians who I think has done some of the best work in just thinking through hell, of course is not a protestant, he’s Eastern Orthodox, is David Bentley Hart. And we’ll get into some of his thinking. But in some of his stuff, he’ll just say that for some people, and I think he’s thinking evangelicals here, hell is actually the best part of the story. And he had a line that I don’t know if I’ll ever forget, it was that what some people really deep down want is to be in a gated community forever and ever. The feeling of being on the inside group and knowing that others can’t get what you have, that that is what Christianity at the end of the day, that’s the part of Christianity at the end of the day that gives them the most value. And I would just say, if that’s what heaven is full of, I don’t want to be there. So here’s kind of just to lay the framework, and then we can chat through it. So you’ve got a few views that essentially assume God decides at some point in time, and usually it’s at the point of death, that some people are in and some people are out. He’s either going to torture those people forever, eternal conscious torment; He’s going to destroy them now and that just means that their life will be done forever, their punishment will last forever because they will be dead. But then you’ve got C.S. Lewis’s view, which is kind of a twist on the traditional view. It’s still very close to the traditional, but his idea is the people in hell are just given a place. So in The Great Divorce he pictures this as just this never ending city landscape. They’re given a place to do as they will, and it’s kept separate so that it doesn’t invade and ruin heaven, but they basically get to do what they want. God isn’t killing or torturing them, but what they do with that place is they turn it into a hell themselves. So it’s the famous line of, “Hell is a place that’s locked from the inside out.” One of the quotes is, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in hell choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.” So C.S. Lewis is saying there’s still this eternal lasting separation in his mind, but he is unwilling to believe that God is going to be punishing humans forever. And so he says what Hell is is the place where humans are essentially punishing themselves by refusing to choose the good life, the peace, the non-evil, whatever. But then you’ve got views of Hell that are essentially—those are all assuming that Hell is permanent. Then you’ve got a whole lineup of views that say that Hell is temporary, and it’s all assuming a restorative idea of God, a restorative idea of justice, a restorative idea of salvation. So interestingly, I didn’t know until I was doing some research that there’s all these reflections in some of the older rabbinic writings. Post-Christianity, but a long time ago. Pretty much the most popular view is that Hell is essentially purgatorial, that its function is to get people to the point where they would repent of their evil, and as soon as they repent they can come into heaven. And there’s some hilarious stuff in there, like one guy said, they were discussing why would some people get to hell, and one guy goes, if anybody talks crap on rabbinic scholars like himself, then that person goes to hell. It’s this hilarious little note. But literally they guess at the amount of time. So for one it was three months, for some it was twelve months, but somewhere in that range, a little less than a year, is how long they assume it will take time for those people to, through the experience of Hell, be transformed into choosing, opting into Heaven. So Hitler maybe takes twelve months. Others maybe more like three months, something like that. But then you have a totally different view, right, because then Hell is not something that God is doing you know, to prop up His own glory, but it’s this temporary transformative piece. So then you have others who’ll say, “We have no idea how long it will take, but who am I to say that God is incapable of doing what God is clearly and Jesus taught God wants to do, which is to save everyone?” Right, it’s the John 3:16 poster? God was willing to risk His own life to try to save the whole world. “Who are we to say that God will fail at that? We just don’t know how long it’s going to take. So maybe it’ll feel like it’ll take an eternity for Hitler to finally come around.” This view, it’s Christian universalism. So the Pipers of the world will say these people are heretics and they aren’t Christians. Many of the best, most-loving and smartest Christians throughout humanity have said, I think, the most Christian idea is to believe everyone will be in heaven. Or most. And then you can have spectrums, maybe most everyone, and then maybe some opt out. And then you can theorize what’s going to happen to those people. But one thing I think is important, and this is… we’re eventually going to get to doing our conversation on sexuality, homosexuality, the whole affirming LGBTQ conversation. But here’s what I think is worth pointing out. In that conversation, there’s basically two predominant sides. One side is non-affirming, predominantly on the basis of what they perceive to be orthodoxy, doctrine. They’re standing by what they perceive to be the doctrine of the church to say that homosexuality is a sin. And all of the thousands and thousands and thousands of Christians who are not themselves gay or queer or transsexual or bi, but have friends or loved ones who are, who have moved to an affirming position, which is thousands and thousands and thousands of people, have predominantly done that out of empathy. Empathy to not see those people suffer. And essentially have been in this war that’s pairing empathy at the expense, in some people’s heads, of doctrine, to doctrine at the expense of empathy. And I think it’s exactly parallel to this conversation of Hell. Those who are on the side of this double-predestination and, “We’re going to relish in the suffering of others. We’re going to relish that some are in Hell while we’re in Heaven,” are leaning into what they perceive to be doctrinal orthodoxy so hard that they have utterly lost the sense of Christian empathy and love. I actually think some people have lost the capacity for Christian empathy and love, if you actually right now are currently relishing in the idea that other people will be in Hell. And those that lean towards the universalism angle are leaning predominantly into empathy and Christian brotherly love to say that, “I could not stand you, friend, or you, brother or sister, being in Hell, and still want to be in this Heaven.” And they’re willing to risk whatever sense of doctrinal, traditional orthodoxy, or even just like you said, Nate, popularity in the church, because of that empathy. And that is why I say I think if you don’t at least want to be a universalist, and we’ll get into some of the theology next time, I think you’re missing some of the very heart of Christianity. It’s not because people want to—Christian universalists. There’s a whole other spectrum of people that just say, “There will be no judgment, everyone gets in.” I personally find that really uncompelling for the reasons we started talking at the beginning of the show, because then the Hitlers of the world are never held accountable. I don’t believe that’s good news for the world. So that’s kind of a more typical, liberal universalism, which is basically just there is no Hell and there’s no judgment. Christian universalism is to say that I will hope, while I still have hope, that if there is such a thing as Hell that no one will be there, and if there is such a thing as Heaven that everyone will be there. And I will refuse to conceptualize of myself rejoicing in a thing called Heaven while one of my kin is kept out.

Nate: Yeah, that’s where people would go, “And then because of that, I will go to the ends of the earth to tell people so that they don’t go to Hell. I will preach the gospel to them.” So I think, and this is what I want to talk about more. We have to break this episode, but that’s where I want to talk about this more is like, I think it’s the same motivation. So as long as you remove the rejoicing at the people that are in Hell group, just the fact that… I think some of the motivation is the same, it’s this, “We don’t want to see anyone there,” like you just said. I think that is motivating a lot of people to go out and try to save people from Hell, from that place. So let’s talk about this more, we’ve got to break this one, but we want to do a number of more episodes on Hell, and we’re going to be mixing in your thoughts and your experiences and your stories into these episodes. So thank you so much for sending those in. If you have any questions or if you want to just talk and share your story, you can do that all at almostheretical.com. We’ll see you next time.

Tim: Peace!

[transitional music, audio of a listener’s story]

And I really vividly hearing about hell as a child, that if you didn’t pray and accept Christ as your Savior that’s where you would go. So I often remember my mom having The 700 Club on, and anytime they would ask if you wanted to pray to accept Christ, I would pray with them. I probably did it 50-70 times. I was always afraid, “What if I hadn’t prayed it right?” And if was really just that prayer and saying it correctly that kept you out of hell, I wanted to do it again and again.