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December 20, 2005


Josh Hayden

wow...and i thought the stations in virginia were bad...i laughed so hard at this at first, then realized that some people heard that same radio broadcast and probably took it to heart...

thanks for the great stuff greg...


There was an interesting story related to this topic on This American Life this weekend. It was actually about Bishop Carlton Pearson (of Tulsa!), who stopped believing in "two lists" and was branded a heretic for it. One of the most fascinating things about the story was the reminder of how attached many people are to the notion of eternal damnation, and why that might be.

Also, there was a great interview with a youth pastor about the "Thief in the Night" movie, and how he always thought the rapture had occurred if he couldn't find his mom. That's a universal experience for evangelical youth of a certain age, I think.

To stream the story, just go here.



I heard it on Saturday. I was blown away at how interesting it was. Now, I'm not gonna act all surprised that NPR played nice with a guy that is no longer a fundamentalist, but the show was excellent and pretty honest in terms of questions that were raised. Being a former charismatic from OK, I was very familiar with Carlton and HD. The "defection" was big news around here. And yes, the Thief in the Night thing was perfect. I too was raised in church, and the viewing of that movie as a pre-teen still stands as a watershed event in my spiritual life, along with reading David Wilkerson's "The Vision," and the time I wasn't missing the Rapture when I thought I was.


man, that is why I listen to rock. Greg did you hear about the Pastor of the biggest church in America getting kicked of a plane to Vail CO because his wife threw a hissy fit. Just in case you didn't know who I am talking about (I am sure you do) JOEL OSTEEN. But good news the church stands behind them.


A very interesting link. The hardest question regarding God that I have been asked by my sons, and a question that I still struggle with, is "how could a loving Father send his children to a place of eternal torture"?

Yeah, I know all the standard answers....Hell wasn't meant for us, God doesn't send us to hell, we chose hell ourselves, etc.... But hell was created by God and is represented as a place of eternal torture, a place of torment, and we are told that if we are on the "bad" list, that our loving Father will allow us to enter this place of eternal suffering. Forever. Even though God loves us.

And the question that is always thrown my way is that, as a father, could I do that to my own sons? Could they ever do anything that would cause me to sentence them to torture? And if I could not, if my love for my children would prevent this, how could God do ( or allow ) this very thing?

Its a hard question, one that should make more Christians look beyond trite, knee-jerk answers.

Bruce Prescott


I know which list you are on.



I do too.


I haven't heard the details. Waiting to hear more. Just knew she'd been asked to get off the plane and the plane was delayed for an hour while the Osteens' luggage was retrieved. Praise God.


Glad you got to hear the Pearson story, Greg. I've done some reading on the HD website since and while I definitely don't track with a lot of his theology (evil is explained as a dimension of God's character? and why is your picture on every page of that website, man?), his story was really moving to me.

What cracked me up about the "Thief in the Night" guy was that I totally had the same strategy. Not sure if everybody got raptured? Call the holiest person you know. If they're still around, you're safe, and your mom's probably just at the grocery store. I know tons of other people who did the same thing. It's such a weird subcultural phenomenon!


If Christmas is really about the birth of Jesus, why was he sent? John 1 states he came to bring "light" (ie. real life), "grace" (real love, and "truth" (real wisdom and knowledge. Is it loving to call your neighbor up at night to tell him you see a thief breaking in down below. From your view, it isn't loving because, gosh, your disturbing his sleep with the truth. It's unfortunate that many have not combined the truth of scripture with grace and love. But Jesus, the most loving of all, taught much about heaven and hell, with his mission being to save us from the latter so we can enter eternal relationship with the Father in the former. He warned of a "thief" who wants to steal away God's plan and destroy us(John 10:10). But then, truth isn't loving because it does disturb our sleep.



Thanks for rehashing some tired old justifications for talking about hell. LaHaye uses the same justification for his Left Behind drivel. I've rejected them, in both cases. Try McLaren's third book in the NKOC trilogy for a pretty good deconstruction of hell. And, no, I'm not a universalist.



You make good points about those who profess faith but do it in a nonthinking, hysterical, and unloving manner.

I don't think you a "universalist"
I simply think Jesus' clear teachings about future events eternity take precedence over Lahaye, McLaren, C.S. Lewis, or any other author.

Merry Christmas


One more thought...

Why is Joel Osteen given attention in a posting about heaven and hell when he refers to neither in his broadcasts (ie. Your best life now)?

Happy 2006



I think Joel came up tangentially in the comments. Jesus' "teachings" about hell aren't nearly as clear as evangelicals and fundies believe. For example, do you really believe that heaven or hell is decided based on works? That's what Matt. 25 seems to imply. Why is there no mention of eternal punishment in the OT? Why does hell talk only emerge after exposure to Zoroastrians religion and Persian culture? Seriously, read McLaren's book. He does a great job of sorting through the texts, the history, and the way Jesus talks about hell.

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150 AD Second Clement "But when they see how those who have sinned and who have denied Jesus by their words or by their deeds are punished with terrible torture in unquenchable fire, the righteous, who have done good, and who have endured tortures and have hated the luxuries of life, will give glory to their God saying, 'There shall be hope for him that has served God with all his heart!'" (Second Clement , 17:7).

150 AD Justin Martyr: And hell is a place where those are to be punished who have lived wickedly, and who do not believe that those things which God has taught us by Christ will come to pass. (The First Apology of Justin, Chap. XIX)

155 AD The Martyrdom of Polycarp "Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire" (Martyrdom of Polycarp 2:3).

160 AD Mathetes "When you know what is the true life, that of heaven; when you despise the merely apparent death, which is temporal; when you fear the death which is real, and which is reserved for those who will be condemned to the everlasting fire, the fire which will punish even to the end those who are delivered to it, then you will condemn the deceit and error of the world" (Letter to Diognetus 10:7).

181 AD Theophilus of Antioch "Give studious attention to the prophetic writings [the Bible] and they will lead you on a clearer path to escape the eternal punishments and to obtain the eternal good things of God.. [God] will examine everything and will judge justly, granting recompense to each according to merit. To those who seek immortality by the patient exercise of good works, he will give everlasting life, joy, peace, rest, and all good things.. For the unbelievers and for the contemptuous, and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity, when they have been involved in adulteries, and fornications, and homosexualities, and avarice, and in lawless idolatries, there will be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish; and in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire" (To Autolycus 1:14).

There are so many more. I'm not sure, but I believe these predate Christianity mixing with Persian culture. These are quotes from some of the early church fathers who were martyred for their faith. They apparently believed in eternal punishment.


what? I'm confused


No, Laurie, they don't. Judaism mixed with Persian culture eight centuries before Christianity. Here is a prime example of the dangers of fundamentalist home schooling.


You were talking about Christ's teachings on hell. I believe the early church fathers would have a somewhat clear understanding of what his teachings were. Polycarp was a student of John, Jesus' disciple. I think he would be a reliable source. The church father's seem to agree with a more fundamental teaching on hell.

BTW, a personal attack and a rude email do nothing to endear your message of tolerance and grace.

God bless.


You're quoting as authoritative a text that was written nearly two thousand years ago and appealing to a tradition that is just as old, and that is your argument against a plain logical truth that a god reconcilable to the kind of love we read about in the Sermon on the Mount could not possibly create or tolerate the existence of a such a thing as Hell in any of its traditional formations. Face it, if God is omnipotent and Hell exists (in the mode of unquenchable fire) then God is not only not the loving God that the Jesus of the Gospels and the New Testament writers claim; he's the most evil being imaginable, worse than Hitler, worse than Stalin, worse than anyone else you can name. You can't love your enemies and rejoice in the fact that they will suffer forever. It's time everyone got over the idea of a supremely authoritative text and used their minds to sift the nonsense from the ideas extant in the Gospels with power to bring peace and compassion to a war-torn, greedy world.



Forgive me. I was playing a little, and that probably isn't the best idea in a medium that doesn't convey tone.

Nevertheless, you've skipped the larger point. The Church Fathers also believed many things you'd find repugnant these days, particularly about women. And you did make an awful gaffe about Xianity and Persia. It deserved a dig or two.

That being said, how does belief in eternal conscious torment lend itself to a message of grace?

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