Walk With Me In Hell
Christianity is known for many things: Jesus, Satan, Paul, plagues, pedophilia, etc. However, every facet and figure of the faith is rendered completely meaningless if one thing isn’t true. That concept is hell. Most Christians aren’t chronically petrified of the possibility of burning in hell, but they definitely don’t want to end up there. Despite that, mainstream Christians are ferociously defensive of the doctrine of hell.
Several prominent Christian pastors have publicly challenged the concept of hell and eternal suffering. The most notable example of this is Rob Bell in his book “Love Wins.” As a result, these pastors were vilified for their heretical views and either lost their jobs or were driven into obscurity. These pastors didn’t just challenge hell and eternal hellfire, they also suggested, or hinted at, another possibility: universalism.
Universalism states that everyone will ultimately go to heaven. Despite support by some early Christian theologians, such as Origen and Athanasius, universalism never gained traction in the West. In the fourth century C.E., St. Augustine’s theology was extremely influential in the formation of the doctrine of hell as we understand it today, particularly his work on the doctrine of original sin. While the Western Roman Empire fell in 476 C.E., the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire lived on for centuries. That empire’s church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, was sympathetic to universalism and that doctrine continued to spread eastward. However, the western concept of hell propagated by the Catholic Church has obviously been much more influential globally.
So, why are Christians so threatened by the pastors’ ideas? Let’s examine a few reasons.
If everyone goes to heaven and there isn’t a hell, Christians believe that:
- Life is meaningless
Hell is the faith’s deterrent and enforcer. It discourages people from committing sinful behavior that is contrary to the church’s teachings. On the other hand, it encourages followers to engage in virtuous behavior that’s in alignment with Christian teachings. Without the threat of hell, there are no consequences for bad behavior and there aren’t rewards for good behavior. Choices don’t matter, which means that free will is worthless. Life has no meaning. There is no concept more terrifying to a Christian than moral relativity. They prefer the world in black and white terms.
- The whole Crucifixion wasn’t necessary.
If hell isn’t real, there’s no ultimate consequences from a Christian perspective. Everyone goes to heaven. There’s no reason for Jesus to have died on the cross if humanity isn’t damned to burn forever. His blood was supposed to be ransom for humanity’s eternity in hell. If there’s no hell, his sacrifice is unnecessary. Christians are not keen on their namesake becoming obsolete. Not keen at all.
- Their biggest recruitment tool is gone.
Fear is the lifeblood of Christianity. Fear is what drives tithes and donations. Fear is what drives pro-life zealots to legislate control over women’s bodies. It is the reason that the church is able to recruit new followers. The message is that a person is defective and will burn forever if they don’t become a Christian. If hell is no more, there is no stick to motivate people to do what church leaders want them to do. Without fear, Christianity cannot continue to function in its current state.
- Sin isn’t relative (no more moral monopoly).
Christians always say that, in God’s eyes, all sins are equal. Murder is the same as adultery. That’s what they say. But what they believe is that there are degrees of sin, just like there are degrees of crimes. People want to believe that they are morally superior to serial killers and pedophiles in God’s eyes. They want to believe that their righteous character and good works elevate them to a higher moral status than the sinful commoners. If everyone goes to heaven and there’s no hell, it makes their self-gratifying snobbery more difficult.
- Their identity is under siege.
Questioning the existence of hell to a Christian is the same thing as questioning the existence of Jesus. One without the other is meaningless. Christians have built their identities based on the Christian worldview and hell is a crucial component of that. Telling a Christian that everyone will go to heaven and that there is no hell is an attack on the core of their being. When that kind of attack is levied on someone, even if it’s in an intellectual framework, they will respond viciously because their identity is under siege. People hate when their identity is attacked. That’s why Christians don’t attack LGBTQ folks. Oh, wait…..
Everyone would love to believe that there isn’t a hell. Snobbery aside, I believe most Christians would want everyone to go to heaven. But the price for Christians is too great to consider these ideas. Christians are winning the war of religions. The system of fear is working and they don’t want anyone messing with the status quo. Christianity is a house of cards. Without hell, the house comes tumbling down. That’s why Christians will fight like hell for hell.