I received a forwarded email today with a short article by David L. Rattigan with the above title.

He begins with a bit of humor: So there’s these two churches I heard of down in Texas. Outside the Presbyterian Church is a sign: “There ain’t no hell.” And just down the road is the Baptist Church, with the sign outside: “The hell there ain’t!”

He makes a good case that evangelicals really don’t believe in hell.
Over the years, I’ve had the same thoughts that David has. Below are some quotes from his article:

A journalist, Mike Bryan, immersed himself in the life of a fundamentalist Bible college in the American south for a semester. . . . He makes an interesting observation:

“I had asked several people at the school why, if they believed I was so wrong in my beliefs and I am going to hell, I didn’t feel this condemnation on anything but an intellectual level. Why wouldn’t it interrupt a friendship and, for that matter, the whole flow of living in the wide world in which most of the people encountered were going to hell?

“In other words, these fundamentalists assented mentally to such distinctions, but their actions seemed to be informed by something much deeper. On a much more profound level (an emotional level, perhaps), these fundamentalists did not appear to recognize such a difference. This all begs the question: Did these fundamentalists really believe what they were preaching?”

We need to ask and answer Mike Bryan’s question ourselves: Do we really believe what we are preaching?

Listen to this. Here is David speaking again: If I knew that my neighbour’s house was on fire and that my neighbour was tucked up in bed, oblivious to his pending doom, I would not goose-step around the issue with him, nor sit back and let the poor fellow make up his own mind. I would probably run into the house myself and positively drag him out of bed. But the attitude of so many evangelicals today who claim that a far worse fate awaits their neighbour is nothing short of complacency. Is it too much to ask, in the absence of any evidence that evangelicals are merely sadistic or cruel, whether they actually believe the very doctrine they promote so zealously?

I suppose one could respond to David by saying yes we do believe that hell is a reality–that there is a terrible eternal place of punishment but that God has allowed us to become numbed to its reality in order to keep our sanity. How else could a mother remain sane if a she believed a child had gone to hell? There would have to be some sort of numbing effect.

So the question stands: Do you really believe in hell?

David’s entire article is here.

    13 replies to "Do you really believe in hell?"

    • C Michael Patton

      You said:
      “I suppose one could respond to David by saying yes we do believe that hell is a reality–that there is a terrible eternal place of punishment but that God has allowed us to become numbed to its reality in order to keep our sanity. How else could a mother remain sane if a she believed a child had gone to hell? There would have to be some sort of numbing effect.”

      I have often said the same thing when teaching or alluding to this subject. It is simply too terrible to fathom. I say that we have a certain “defense mechanism” that allows us to “flip the switch” so that what we are saying intellectually does not effect us emotionally. I understand why people attempt to get rid of the doctrine either thought some form of annihilationism or universalism. I would really like for those who believe in either to convince me of the reality. I would most certainly ride that boat. But alas, I cannot. Therefore, I will often turn off the switch.

    • JoanieD

      Ruth and Michael, I have been considering this matter off and on for years. Jesus seems to have made it clear that there was a hell. Whether people ended up there to be “punished” for eternity or whether they are destroyed there is up for interpretation. I am leaning toward the “they are destroyed there” view. BUT…if I am confronted by someone who fears that a loved one will have gone there or will go there, I can’t help but point out that God’s love will not allow that to happen. Do I mean what I say? Am I doing a dis-service to the teachings of Jesus? I don’t know. I am trying to determine what I DO believe about hell. When a person who I knows says to me, “But I don’t believe in God” I say “But God believes in you.” I want to believe that right to our last breath God is reaching out to us with his love and MAYBE it will only be the most hard-hearted of all humans who will be destroyed in hell and never able to live in God’s love for all of eternity. Maybe it will only be the people that most of us agree should be in hell who will be there. But does that minimize the holiness of God? I am still trying to work this out. I want to think that if I want all these people to be in heaven with God, surely God would want them to as well. I can’t be more loving than God. But God is HOLY and that’s why we needed Jesus to die and to send us the Holy Spirit so that we can become children of God.

      Ruth, what do YOU believe?

      Joanie D.

    • ronquiggins

      This discussion gets right next to us in our comfort zone and the need to witness and teach the truth. Ever been to a funeral where the person isn’t going to heaven? Ever feel like asking why people think this person will not go to hell? I venture to say that 93% (loose figure) don’t really believe in hell or we would be telling others about it.

      Comes back to what is being taught in our churches in America today. We have a church on every corner but the proclaiming of the truth of the Word is hard to find. Whatever happened to hell – fire – brimstone preaching?

    • iakobusdoulos

      I believe in hell. I believe that hell is a place of eternal torment, torture, and fire. (Jude v. 7; et.al.) I believe that many of my friends and relatives will end up in hell, against my wishes naturally. I believe that there are those I have “sent to” hell by not opening my mouth at the right time or living as a bad example of a Christian. I believe that if there is a “penalty” for what I have or haven’t done, I will pay it; whether it be in a lesser blessing in heaven or the loss of a crown, I don’t know.
      But I know that Jesus did talk about hell, a lot. I also know that He didn’t go around grabbing people by the arm, jerking on it, saying, “Hey, wake up, you’re going to hell! Don’t you see? You’re going to HELL! Turn around! Repent! Or else you’re gonna FRY! You worthless SINNER! REPENT! ! !
      People are reminded of the existence of hell by our testimony of heaven. I don’t think postmodernism has infiltrated sufficiently to obliterate knowledge of hell. Though that doesn’t excuse silence on the issue, it does promote testifying of God’s deliverence. If we testify of His deliverence, the question will be raised, “Deliverence from WHAT?” Or, our insertion of “from what” is required.

    • Ruth Tucker

      Joanie, You ask what I believe.

      Can’t you mind your own business! Aren’t you being rather forward? You can ask me about my sex life, but DON’T ask about my belief in hell!! 🙂

      Here is what Hannah Whithall Smith said on the subject (from Chapter 3 of my book Walking Away from Faith):

      Her biographer writes: “She was convinced that God would in the end bring all people to himself. She strongly opposed the doctrine of election–that God would chose only certain ones for eternal life. Her focus was on the love of God–more specifically the mother-love of God. She was convinced that all people were God’s creatures—even the most wretched one she met on the streets–and that God would not abandon them in the end.

      “As a mother, I will never cease to love my children, no matter what they do. God, our loving God, has a heart of mother-love infinitely greater than mine. He never withholds his love from any sinner, no matter how black-hearted or unrepentant the person may be. His love is completely unconditional. Oh, it is too much. I cannot bear to hear a preacher of the gospel say such limited and untruthful things about the Love of God. [Cited in Marie Henry, The Secret Life of Hannah Whithall Smith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984),43-44]

      As a woman and a mother, I find her arguments convincing–at least from a more emotional level. And, I must admit it; my faith is more in the heart than it is in the head. (When I was a little girl, I invited Jesus into my heart–not into my head.) I’m ready for all of you who are “reclaiming the mind.” Come on in and beat me up. Throw me off this blog! I’ll start a new one: Reclaiming the Heart!

      Like Micheal, I “flip the swith”–not only when contemplating the reality of hell but also when contemplating whether I believe in hell. Today (since getting the boot from Calvin Seminary), I’m freer to open up the subject. When I was teaching there, I just flipped off the switch. No one during those six years asked me if I would swear on the Bible to my commitment to hell.

      I find the arguments of Stott and Pinnock on annihilationism compelling–actually, more so than Smith’s, though I do believe God has a “mother-heart” infinately greater than mine.

    • mjfreshoil

      Michael and Ruth,

      I sometimes think we do like to numb ourselves to the idea of hell. Its alot easier than preaching the truth to people because there are times we dont want to offend them… and at times its appropriate. I dont know if this offers any help, but my pastor preached at more than one funeral where the deceased was not a christian. He would mention what he knew about the persons life, and then remind those attending that the person was not a christian. And that even though it might have been too late for the deceased to change and and he/she died and went to Hell- you dont have to…. and then at the end of the eulogy, he would extend an alter call. Many people would give their lives to the Lord, many would ask for prayer etc. The funeral became a chuch service, and souls were saved.

      You can draw your own conclusions from this…. I dont know what mine are, to be honest. I dont even know if I would/ could be able to do the same thing.

      Thank you again,


    • C Michael Patton

      Hey, the heart needs to be reclaimed as well. But, as Jonathan Edwards once said, “The heart will not accept what the mind rejects.”

      I do wish that I could join with others in their belief of universalism or some type of ultimate destruction, I really do. I think that God’s word is pretty clear on the matter, yet I hold out hope that in the end, when all is said and done, there is some type of a loop-hole or disclaimer that I did not see. Until then, I will just have to trust that God is God and I am not. I was not asked to give my opinion at the foundation of the world. If I was, I would have said, “Why don’t you just choose them all?”

    • JoanieD

      Ruth said, “And, I must admit it; my faith is more in the heart than it is in the head. (When I was a little girl, I invited Jesus into my heart–not into my head.)”

      Me too, Ruth. Jesus said things that indicated that if we forgave people, God forgave the person as well. Wow, that puts a lot of power in the hands of us who need to do the forgiving, doesn’t it? And it helps us to realize our God IS a loving, forgiving God. We can even forgive people who are not repentant, who continue to be horrible to us. How do we do that? I suggest we do that because we know that for the person to be so horrible, they have to be very unhappy and very removed from an awareness of God’s love. So we may have pity for them instead of hate, knowing that they are acting out of a sense of hurt. Jesus asked God the Father to forgive the people who were crucifying him because they didn’t know what they were doing. They weren’t ASKING for forgiveness, but Jesus wanted them forgiven anyway. He knew they didn’t know what they were doing and we see people all around us (including ourselves) who don’t know what we are doing. I believe Jesus wants us ALL to be forgiven and sometimes I do have the universalist attitude that in the end, everything and everyone will be with God. There ARE some scriptures that SEEM to say that is what will happen, though you have other scriptures that indicate that God will separate people into two groups and one group will NOT be with God. So I just don’t really know. And I don’t know how we can know when there are scriptures that seem oppositional to each other sometimes. I feel it is best to focus on the love of God, but if confronted by someone who asks, “Do you believe there is a hell” I GUESS I have to say that Jesus indicated there was a hell, but I don’t know how it is decided who will be there. I would say that only God knows the heart of a man or a woman and only God knows what will happen to that person at the time of death and at the end of time. And that if we commit ourselves to be under the loving guidance of Jesus we should be “safe.”

      Joanie D.

    • JoanieD

      Funny post there about proving that hell is hot.

      Joanie D.

    • †Sicksters†

      All of us,still dosent know if there is truly a place called “hell” where you are bound for eternity of no escape while being tortured in volcanic flames.

      The realy question in that topic is why?-why does god have angels?why does god have holy signs in all of that there is an equal

      Therefore, If they are Angels-there should be -Devils ,if there is holy signs-some are unholy ,meaning you can call Holy if there is no unholy?if iam right in my conclusions there is a place called ” Hell ” .

      but,somethings in life are not meant to be mentioned talked about or be seen ,maybe when we die we will remember this conversation,

      An even if God tells that there is a so called place like “HELL” where you suffer for eternity ,we just can change it

    • Clint

      Michael and Ruth,

      There is NO Hell! Even if the Bible says there is, one has to consider a few things. One, if Hell is so hot, the nerve endings would be destroyed leaving no pain for the person almost immediately. That is, of course, if Hell is for people with a body. Two, if the body is not physical, then who cares?! You would have nothing capable to feel pain. Three, if, like so many Christians claim, Hell is just an absence from Jesus. Well, for me then nothing changes. I just get to hang with the coolest people that ever lived! 😉


    • Stefan


      I would like to make two points that came to mind as I read the above posts. First, Jesus did not speak about the Hell that most people have in their mind. It is an old protestant hermeneutical principle to believe that “when common sense makes good sense, use no other sense”. Jesus spoke about both earthly things and heavenly things. This he confessed to Nicodemus. Gehenna was not metaphorical for our conception of hell. That is eisegetical interpretation. Rather, it was clear earthly teaching that if you commited certain crimes, you would be judged, executed, and thrown into the landfill where fires were kept burning and worms had a constant supply of food. No Christian I know believes that if you are missing a limb when you die, you enter into heaven without that limb, yet the life that Christ said was entered into by cutting off a hand was entered into without that hand. Therefore, he was using hyperbole to encourage people from committing sins that would endanger their lives. Hades is the grave and the Greek translation of the Hebrew Sheol. We know this because there is a verse in our New Testament which is a direct quote from the old about Christ’s soul not being left in Hades (New Testament) Sheol (Old Testament). It is interesting to note that most Christians define Hades by appealing to common usage of the term in Pagan Greek society when they should do what they claim and compare spiritual with spiritual. If the Old Testament gives us a way to define a term, let us appeal to that for our understanding and not pagan Greek mythology. Lastly, Tarturus was not used by Christ, and did not ever get applied to people, but was used only once and this in reference to angels, and was temporary in their case. Thus, Christ never did speak of Hell as most people think of it which put Paul in good company who claimed to have divulged the whole counsel of God but never spoke concerning Anything like modern hell.

    • brother Stumblefoot

      Wow! This one is an eye opener! Stefan, you have hit it right on the head, I think. And Michael, (the transparent Michael), I was pleased to read your feelings on this subject. If you could just `get free from church tradition that has been handed down, and put more confidence in the true history of the church, you could just probably conclude that aion/aionios do not actually mean eternal, as we use the word.
      Consider G. Campbell Morgan’s statement (memory problem, do I have the right guy?)
      “I want to say to Bible students that we need to be very careful how we use the word eternity. We have fallen into great error by our use of the term. There is no word in the whole Book of God with the meaning of unending, everlasting, as we think of it today.” (quoted from memory)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.