What is the current concept of "Hell" by sophisticated Christians?

Underground caverns, lakes of fire, Stygian darkness, tormenting demons playing Phillip Glass music? How do the more sophisticated Christians view Hell? What do the more sophisticated and well educated priests and preachers teach that Hell is?

IMHO or GD fodder for sure. You might start by defining what a “sophisticated Christian” is.

Off to Great Debates.

DrMatirx - GQ Moderator

Defind sohpisticated how you will. I am not a complete bible literalist but I define hell as being away from the presence of God. Descriptions by John in Revelations aside I thikn hell is more nothingness than anything.

The most common answer I’ve gotten (and this Heaven/Hell think is not clearly defined in the Bible so the answers tend to be pretty subjective) is that “Hell” is just the absence of God.

Now what the “absence of God” actually means as a tangible physical experience has never clearly been spelled out for me.

But if you ask a hip priest or liberal pastor what Hell is, that’s what he’ll tell you it’s some sort of exclusion from the presence of God.

(which seems to be logically at odds with an omnipresent deity but there you are)

Guess we have this lady’s point of view on the matter…

but does her funky website qualify her as “sophisticated”? I don’t think there is any way to adequately define “sophisticated Christians.” There are educated fundamentalists, educated Unitarian Universalists (some of whom are Christians), educated Catholic priests, etc, etc. There is no reason to assume that they have anything in common.

Not to disparage your question, it’s just that I think it is unanswerable in its current form.

As near as I can tell, I get letters from the Christians, the fundamentals still strongly believe that sinners will go to eternal punishment in fire and torture. Not very pretty. The more sophisticated Christians down play the “devIl” and “hell fire.” But they still believe in punishment of some kind. That hell is separation from God is found in the New Agers, and other liberal groups.

In the negative near death experiences you find hell being defined as separation from God’s love, cold, dark, and very lonely. There can be a monster or two in these accounts, but they are rare. If one asks, screams, for help it is always given in the form of light.

My experience shows that heaven and hell do exist. However, they exist not from the will of God, but through the desire of man. We have created these thought constructs by believing in them. In order to go to either, one must desire to do so, neither are eternal due to counselors present in them to help talk people out of being there. The real spirit world is much like this world, many things to do and learn. No banks. police, lawyers, judges, or a few other similar occupations.

These actually have nothing to do with punishment. The one solid, inescapable law is “you will reap what you sow.” In effect your choices determine your own “punishment”, God is unconditional love.

The justice is perfect, and complete. As you become aware of the rule you grow in the light, and learn to use it to create things for yourself.


I too am wondering WTF a “sophisticated Christian” is.

Do they wear a lot of black and attend poetry readings on the weekends?

Last I checked the current concept of hell is the same as it was when the Bible was written. Call me crazy but I’ve gotta go with what the book says on this one, being that I’ve never had opportunity to visit.

I don’t think there’s a consensus among Christians, or even just among “sophisticated” Christians, as to what Hell is like.

Some deny the existence of a literal Hell altogether.

Some define Hell as eternal separation from God.

Some extrapolate the worst suffering (physical, psychological, and/or spiritual) they know of in this life into eternity.

Some would say that Hell (and Heaven) are beyond our current ability to understand or imagine, and traditional descriptions like fire and darkness are metaphorical (which is the best we can do).

Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland says that Hell entails the absence of God, which entails terrible torment, but not torture. His arguments are elucidated in Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Faith, and are summarized here.

In brief, being absent from God and the accordant blessings amounts to terrible, eternal torment, since the denizens of Hell will be witnessing what they missed out on. It’s a bit like losing because one decided to flush the lottery ticket down the toilet. People will be forced to endure the agony of realizing what they missed out on, had they only considered God’s Word and chosen differently.

So that’s the opinion of J.P. Moreland, who is both a conservative evangelical and a decidedly sophisticated Christian.

That’s an interesting assertion since the Bible actually doesn’t mention Hell. Have you discovered a new passage that no one else knows about?

Are you such a noted theologian, Diogenes, that you can assert this with such authority?

The Bible does mention sheol (the grave) in Hebrew and Hades in Greek. Descriptions of torment, demons, and a lake of fire in each give us our traditional view of hell, and the single word for it in translated texts.

[QUOTE=Mr. Moto]
Are you such a noted theologian, Diogenes, that you can assert this with such authority?[/absolutely]
I’m no theolgian but I am educated enough about the Bible (and Greek, for that matter) to make this assertion with confidence, yes.

It also mentions Gehenna but neither Sheol, nor Hades nor Gehenna is “Hell” in the sense of a place of eternal torment.

The “lake of fire” is only in revelation and is specifically designated as a place for the annihilation of Satan and his demons, not for humans.

“Hell” as we think of it is a product of Christian tradition and poetic literature not the Bible. It does not exist at all in Judaism.

“Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Is this example, from the Bible, of a place of eternal torment, for those who didn’t follow his Word, not an accurate portrayal of our modern concept of hell? Or doesn’t it count because the actual word “hell” isn’t used?

It’s the fire that’s eternal, not the torment. The fire symbolizes annihilation not eternal punishment.

Eternal Hell was not a Jewish concept.

But the question is, is it a Christian concept? Also, Jewish thought is hardly monolithic from the Babylonian Exile to the Maccabees. Nor was Jewish thought monolithic among those Jews living during the 1st century C.E. It’s certainly possible that by the New Testament era at least some Jews had begun to develop ideas like a place of eternal punishment for the wicked after death.

And Revelation 14:9-11 sounds to me like some sort of eternal torment for humans (not just demons):

This confuses me. It explicitly states one must worship the beast and receive its mark. How does that translate to ‘everybody not saved’?

That passage doesn’t explicitly say anything about “everyone not saved”; the point was that it does explicitly talk about at least some people, not just fallen angels or Satan.

Strong argument! Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah isn’t a Jewish concept either. Are Christians supposed to stop believing in him because Jesus isn’t found in the Tanakh?

Hmm, there not being any sign of God being on earth, would that mean we already are in hell right now.
Sure feels like it sometimes…

Sure you can believe in him, just not as the messiah as he was predicted.