Credo Clips: Theology in Three Minutes

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    42 replies to "Credo Clip: Should a Christian Believe in Hell?"

    • Scott

      Very well put. Concise and to the point. I always enjoy your explanations Mike!

      Along the same lines of your thoughts on the fire not being literal, Timothy Keller did an excellent sermon on Hell in which he said that when people ask he tells them that he believes the “fires of Hell” are a metaphor for something “infinitely worse”. He then describes how the metaphor of fire shows us the disintegration caused by sin and separation from God.

    • Gina Danaher

      Thanks for this. Hell is an unpleasant eternal reality that I would like to philosophize out of existence, but can’t in light of the Scriptural testimony.

    • Val Russo

      Theologian Roman Dumitru Staniloaie saw hell of prism relationship (Orthodox Dogmatic Theology). He said that the hell is no relationship. It’s like putting people back to back.

    • Dr Michael

      I understand we should be careful in how we talk about hell, especially to unbelievers. But I’m not sure the “I wish it wasn’t true” mantra is Biblical. That’s like saying “I wish one of God’s attributes wasn’t justice.” Or “I wish God handled sin a different way”. In a sense, we are judging God by saying He is doing something He shouldn’t do, judging Him according to our standards.

      If God is truly glorified through judgment of the wicked, shouldn’t we praise Him for it, all the while praying for the wicked to be saved in the mean time?

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Should a Christian Believe in Hell?

      Of course.

      To even have to ask that question is indicative of a slide in doctrinal understanding and/or doctrinal teaching.

    • C Michael Patton

      I don’t think God likes the doctrine of hell any more than I do!

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      “I don’t think God likes the doctrine of hell any more than I do!”

      Dear CMP,

      Consider this argument by Professor Jim Hamilton:

      How does Hell Glorify God?

    • C Michael Patton

      Jim is a friend. Wish I had time.

      My point is this: “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.” (Eze 18:32 NAS)

      God takes no pleasure in Hell either for Hell is the eternal death of his creation.

      I don’t think any Christian saying that they don’t like the doctrine of hell is unbiblical. Just the opposite. However, we have no right to say that just because we don’t like it that does not make it true.

      I could say I don’t like the doctrine of sin…which would be true. But this does not mean that it is untrue.

      Lots of truths I don’t like. First and foremost is the eternal rejection of God as people shake their fists at him. Hate it.

    • Dr Michael

      God delights in justice, Jeremiah 9:24.

      Consider your logic.
      1. God does not like the doctrine of hell
      2 the doctrine of hell is the punishment of the wicked
      3. Therefore God does not like the punishment of the wicked

      If hell is true, and if God doesn’t like to punish the wicked then why is He doing it and who’s making Him?

    • C Michael Patton

      Does God delight in death? Is death the just reward of sin? I think you are going to paint yourself into a corner trying to say that God likes hell.

    • Ron

      CMP, if you gave me 30 minutes and an open mind, I would either change your mind or at least get you to seriously consider conditionalism (aka annihilationism*)– not because I’m a great speaker or rhetorician, but because the biblical case for conditionalism is that strong, and the biblical case for eternal torment is that weak.

      If your challenge, “if you could find me a loophole” is in earnest, then seriously consider the offer.

      *not “annihilationalism”

    • consulscipio

      I read a book on the history of the church recently. At the end the author made an interesting point: the biggest church casualty in the 20th century was hell. People today “believe” in it to some degree although most I know take a more nuanced view on it (often arguing for it being simply seperatness from God).

    • Dr Michael

      I agree we should be careful not to paint our theology into a corner, but even more careful not to paint God into one when talking to unbelievers (hypothetically of course, as we can not actually do it.)

      I’m not saying we should say “God likes death”. But we should also not say “God does not like the doctrine of hell.” This kind of talk can lead to universalism, as we begin to ponder why God is doing something He doesn’t really like.

      Check out Grudem p.1153 where he discusses the 24 elders in Rev. 19:4 rejoicing in God’s punishment of the wicked. Should we like the fact Satan will be thrown into hell and punished?

    • C Michael Patton

      Ron, not to undermine your enthusiasm about being able to make me reconsider, but I have studied this as much as is possible. I don’t think my problem is a lack of information or a lack of hearing better arguments.

    • C Michael Patton

      Also, like perspectivalism/perspectivism, it is used both ways.

    • C Michael Patton

      I have never ascribed to the idea that anyone, including God, rejoices in Hell. I find no warrant for this at all.

    • C Michael Patton

      That is an aweful lot to pack into Rev. 19:4. God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, but does delight in their eternal punishment.

      Certainly, there is a satisfaction of God’s justice, but this does not translate into a celebration of their damnation.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Professor Jim Hamilton:

      “In sum, hell glorifies God because

      it shows that he keeps his word;

      it shows his infinite worth, lasting forever;

      it demonstrates his power to subdue all who rebel against him;

      it shows how unspeakably merciful he is to those who trust him;

      it upholds the reality of love by visiting justice against those who reject God, who is love;

      it vindicates all who suffered to hear or proclaim the truth of God’s word;

      and it shows the enormity of what Jesus accomplished when he died to save all who would trust him from the hell they deserved. If there were no hell, there would be no need for the cross.”

      ————

      Professor Jim Hamilton in a nutshell:

      Hell Glorifies God

    • Ron

      “but I have studied this as much as is possible.”

      With all due respect Michael, I don’t believe that you have. If the argument you present here from Matthew 25:46 is any indication, your understanding of the issue is fairly superficial. I don’t say that to be snarky or rude.

      An analogy that you might appreciate would be something like this:

      Me: If you can show me, biblically, that Calvinism is true, I’d love to see it. As it is, when I read the Bible, I see that Calvinism is false- the primary passage is in John 3:16, where Jesus said that God so loved the WORLD!

      You: Give me 30 minutes and I can make you reconsider.

      Me: Not interested, I’ve already studied this as much as possible.

      You’d probably (and rightly) conclude that I haven’t thought or studied deeply about the topic. You’d probably also conclude that my original statement about loving to see another view was not made in earnest.

    • Hodge

      I think we should see hell, not just as punishment of the wicked (as God does not like that people don’t repent so that he must destroy them–although this is said to His people, not just everyone in general, but perhaps it still applies to everyone), but also, and primarily, as salvation of His people. The destruction of chaotic agents means salvation for those they would corrupt and destroy, i.e., the righteous. So does God love to punish the wicked in hell? Yes and no. He loves to save His people from harm and display His justice to them in order that they might know Him and be saved. He does not seem to have pleasure in the fact that the wicked do not repent so that He must destroy a member of His creation. It’s probably not that simple, but we shouldn’t say that there is no aspect of hell that God likes or no aspect that He dislikes.

    • Dr Michael

      CMP, do you rejoice in the damnation of Satan and his demons, knowing there is no chance they will repent?This also brings up the question of how happy will we be in heaven knowing that someone we love is suffering in hell forever? The only good answer is that our love for God’s glory through justice will obliterate any feelings of sadness for them.

      “Now we who know in part also know the horror of sin only in part. But if here already, upon hearing of certain horrors, we consider no punishment severe enough, what then will we think when at the end of time we gain insight into the depths of injustice? And on earth, furthermore, we are always one-sided. Over and over our sense of justice and our compassion clash. We are either too soft or much too severe in our judgment. But in the case of the Lord our God, this is not so and cannot be so.” Bavinck 4:713

    • C Michael Patton

      Ron, all I can say is that I have studied this and I do know the arguments. If you don’t believe me, that is cool. When I refer to the Matt 24 passage in support, it does not mean that I have not heard the alternatives proposed, it just means that I am unpersuaded by them. Calling my understanding superficial is completely unhelpful. That type of assumptive overstatement alone would make it more difficult for me to listen to you.

      Again, not to dismiss what you believe you have to say, but you must understand that I do this for a living and make it my job to stay up to date and trained on such things. If I gave in everytime someone said that I just gave them 30 minutes and they could change my mind, that is all I would do. Normally it would just be stuff I have already heard.

      Hope that makes sense.

    • zhansman

      How I “feel” about hell depends upon who I think may be there. I tend to be glad that unrepentant-nonbeliever-serial-killer-child-molesters may be there. But when I think about the Jewish professor at Va. Tech who gave his life holding the classroom door closed against the shooter while his students escaped through the window, well that’s when the doctrine of hell becomes difficult for me. But the real problem is other than hearing a verse here or a verse there on the subject of hell, I have never studied the doctrine in depth. So the doctrine of hell could actually be a folk theology for me!

    • C Michael Patton

      That is a good honest statement there. I do think the doctrine of hell is folk theology for most Christians. In fact, I think it is the same with the Trinity, the Resurrection of Christ, and the canon of Scripture. Folk theology is simply unexamined theology. It is holding to something without a critical eye. However, folk theology is not always wrong theology. Just theology we have yet to put to the test.

      I hope that all will do this with the doctrine of hell and any other Christian belief they have.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      CMP: “I don’t think God likes the doctrine of hell any more than I do!”

      compare and contrast with

      Dr. Jim Hamilton (in a nutshell): “Hell Glorifies God.”

      Let’s assume that CMP does not like the doctrine of Hell. So it looks like CMP is saying that God does not like the Doctrine of Hell either.

      But Professor Jim Hamilton says that Hell glorifies God. So reconciling CMP and Hamilton, that means that God does not like something (in this case, Hell) that actually glorifies Him.

      This looks, unfortunately, like nonsense.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      Are you giving us these as you make them or are they already all made, and is there a single place I can go to in order to listen to them all? I’d like to use it as a resource to send people (especially the ADD-oriented, who can’t sit for an entire lecture).

    • C Michael Patton

      Truth,

      All things glorify God in some way or another, even disobedience. But this does not mean he likes all things.

      There is a difference in saying “Hell glorifies God” (though I still think we need to be careful with this) and saying “God takes pleasure in the eternal punishment of his creation.” Would you agree?

    • C Michael Patton

      Hodge,

      We are making them one at a time. We have six so far, three done and rendered. You can see them all here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2Fi8NdVhbIw. Eventually, we will have a new place on our site where these will exist and be categorized. We are doing two types:

      Credo Clips – Basics: Discipleship issues for all people covering the basic issues of Christianity (like hell).
      Credo Clips – Fringe: Devoted to more fringe questions that many Christians will be interested in, but not necessarily for the average person. For example, “Did Peter use a secretary” and “Does bad grammar effect inerrancy?”

      Later we are going to do some fun ones that we hope will bring a laugh to those “in the know.”

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      CMP,

      I could no better than what Hodge has already written above:

      “So does God love to punish the wicked in hell?

      Yes and no.

      He loves to save His people from harm and display His justice to them in order that they might know Him and be saved. He does not seem to have pleasure in the fact that the wicked do not repent so that He must destroy a member of His creation.

      It’s probably not that simple, but we shouldn’t say that there is no aspect of hell that God likes or no aspect that He dislikes.”

    • Hodge

      Thanks Michael. Looks like it’s going to be a great resource. We need more of these concisely stated, yet hitting the right point(s), theologically orthodox sessions. It helps people get a clear understanding of what the doctrine states so they can get interested and then pursue the topic further. Thanks again for that. I have a lot of people who will be interested and I’ll send them over.

    • Craig Bennett

      Michael. A couple of thoughts about what you have said and what you haven’t engaged with.

      1.) Jewish people had the idea that death was God’s punishment and that death is eternal.

      2.) From the beginning of creation the punishment for sin was death..and indeed Paul clearly states in Romans that the wages of sin is death; yet the gift of God is eternal life.

      3.) You have failed to differentiate between the essential differences between the nature of humanity and the nature of the devil / demons etc. The devil and his henchmen are eternal beings; though they are created… whereas Humanity is not eternal… therefore its very plausible and within the Bible scope of Scripture that the devil and his demons will be in eternal torment in the eternal lake of fire; whereas humans not being eternal are extinguished.

      While you have done a good job of describing what Mathew says; I think you have really only looked at it on a superficial level…using your same tactics, one can easily gain a understanding of the doctrine of salvation by works and not faith from that same passage. …After all Jesus says your reward / punishment will be based on what you have done… not on what I have done.

    • Ron

      “When I refer to the Matt 24 passage in support . . it just means that I am unpersuaded by them.”

      But what you said with regards to Matt 25 in no way militates against the conditionalist position. That’s what led me to believe that you hadn’t studied this in depth (again, refer to my analogy). You said that you’ve studied this “as much as possible”. I see strong evidence to the contrary. I’m sorry if you think that my saying so is unhelpful.

      “If I gave in everytime someone said . . they could change my mind, that is all I would do.”

      My offer was for your benefit, not mine. I took your statements about being open to alternative views seriously. That was a mistake, it seems.

      “Normally it would just be stuff I have already heard.”

      Normally you’d probably be correct. In this case you’d be mistaken. One incredibly frustrating thing about the internet is that it’s nearly impossible to put someone on the spot.

      Oh well, I’ve lost interest. Carry on.

    • C Michael Patton

      Thx hodge.

    • C Michael Patton

      Others,

      This is merely Credo Clips. It is the orthodox position in three min. Shallow at engaging all the alternatives? Yes! But rich in stating clearly what Christians believe? I hope. It is a humble endevot. I don’t expect everyone to think that this is an exhaustive study of the issue at hand.

      Hope that helps.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Should a Christian Believe in Hell?

      Can CMP’s question also be stated this way:

      Should all Christians believe in Hell?

    • Kim

      Can I double like comment # 27?

    • Ounbbl

      Contra infernalism

      Hell is not needed for believers. 😉

      Hell is not understood or accepted by non-believers – any more ;-< (remember we live in 21st c. and internet age where no hell-fire preacher can find a place).

      Traditional 'Doctrine of hell' is, in most part, derived from concoction and syncretism, though it can be viable expression if re-stated/re-phrased sans pick and proof verses very nicely. No scare tactic will work.

      By the way, what Greek or Hebrew word you use to call 'hell'?

    • Paige-Patric Samuels

      Mick’s succinct argument on Hell, is well put and fit well in the mantra of evangelical theology, who gleefully engage with the God of Christendom who enjoys endless punishment of the wicked.
      If an indigenous person who lived somewhere very remote on this plant earth, never heard of Jesus much less Christianity, live an average life, had on point two children, and dies from less a terminal illness, will God joyfully torment him or his family i an endless hell because they never herd of Him and make obeisance to Him.
      Where is the God of Love and justice in that, or is not the Gospel of our Salvation concerns the love of god, or is it about how many will He cram into hell

    • Ron

      Paige, I think it’s a blatant misrepresentation to say that the traditional view of Hell is one where God joyfully torments and crams in an many people as he can.

      The question you need to ask is, “what do the relevant biblical passages teach about final punishment?” NOT “how does a certain view of final punishment jive with inferences I make about God’s love and justice?” or “how do sad stories about the lost heathen make me feel?”

      And who is Mick?

    • Mike Gantt

      @Michael Patton,

      You said that you would welcome someone showing you that the doctrine of hell is not true. I’m going to take you at your word. Here is a biblical case for everyone going to heaven: http://wp.me/PNthc-i6

    • Ounbbl

      To Mike #40

      ‘Going to heaven’ is a very typical un-biblical concept and as such it may be used by anyone other than Christ-believers. Unfortunately lots of so-called Christians think they will ‘go to heaven’ someday somehow if they ‘faithfully’ do somethings.

      Of course, it’s nice to know WHAT THE HELL anyone means by ‘hell’ and what the heaven anyone meas by ‘heaven’ ;-<

    • ROBERT MALIE

      if u replace the word hell with grave in any verse
      it fits better

      how about the ACT OF CONTRITION I THINK SAYS
      “died and went to hell. on thethird day He arose

      Jeshuaj arose from the tomb (grave
      the wird eternal can also mean burny up and gone for eternity
      Hades, gehena etc pertained to burning pits
      where garbage was burned outaide of Jerusalem

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