I happened upon a short blog post written by Benjamin L. Corey on Patheos this morning. Why ISIS Should Make Christians Rethink the Doctrine of Hell. It “puts a face with a name” concerning the fiery doctrine of hell...eternal conscious torment.
We’ve all seen the pictures. They’ve been plastered all over Facebook, in the news, on “start pages” like AOL (yes, AOL still exists) and Yahoo. The single, lone pilot, caged, in anguish, as the flames advance toward him. I don’t know if the whole video is available anywhere online but if it is, I could never watch it. I can’t even watch fake torture on shows like 24 and The Blacklist. And now there are sources saying ISIS is threatening to burn 17 Kurdish fighters….and even some claims about burning children alive. Hideous...horrible….soul sucking….heartbreaking evil.
As the article points out, ISIS is not the first to use fire as an instrument of death and torture. Christians were quite fond of using it against their enemies. Even just their theological enemies. Let’s not forget that atrocities were committed by followers of Jesus all down through Christian history. The Inquisition, the Witch Hunts, the Crusades.
For a long list of these atrocities…..“events that solely occurred on command of church authorities or were committed in the name of Christianity,” check out THIS ARTICLE. If you are skeptical, think of the list as a starting point for further research. I don’t want to see Christianity blackballed NOR whitewashed, it’s sins hidden. As followers of Jesus, we are obligated to learn from the mistakes of our Christian predecessors. There are many variations of the oft repeated quote, “Learn from history or repeat it.” We are obligated to expose and denounce (and learn from) any and all atrocities committed in the name of Jesus.
I’ve written about topics like this beforeon this blog. Extremism is the problem and, all too often, the extremism is based on religious theology/ideology. Christians are not exempt and, in fact, are some of the worst offenders.
But I digress….
Back to the topic of ISIS, hell and our Heavenly Father.
Corey says this:
But here’s the irony of it all: while we find burning people alive morally repulsive when ISIS does it, most Christians seem to have no moral qualms about believing in a God they think will do precisely that.
And not only does he burn people alive, he uses his “special powers” to keep them conscious and burning (but not consumed) for all eternity. The traditional concept of a hell….eternal conscious torment... orchestrated by God…..is a heinous doctrine that besmirches the character and nature of the God Jesus spoke of and represented. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”
For many of us, hell is the bitterest pill to swallow when embracing traditional Christianity. I didn’t….couldn’t….swallow the pill. I researched and prayed and studied until, like William Barclay, I was a “convinced universalist.” Sadly, there are some Christians who seem to revel in the concept of God burning his enemies (enemies who, coincidentally, look just like their own personal enemies) in hell forEVER. Try to take their hell away and they are pissed. I’ve witnessed it.
One of my favorite stories in the Gospels
51 When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; 52 and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.54 When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them 55 But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village. Luke 9:51-56
Jesus rebuked them...and even though some early manuscripts skip the “spirit you are of” part, I think this passage highlights a question we should all answer. If we derive any kind of satisfaction from the doctrine of hell it is time to take a good long look at what is in our heart to see if it lines up with what Jesus had to say here.
A newer translation, The Voice, sums it up...
Jesus (turning toward them and shaking His head): You just don’t get it.