Hell-fire 



Lake of Fire Worm Dieth Not
Lazarus I'm Not Going
The Face of God Dark Fire
Wheat and Chaff Vengeance is Mine
Wheat and Tares Old Testament
God's Will Gandhi in Hell
Hell in the Koran Infinite Loss
Do Unto Others Atheists in Hell


Lake of Fire

"Though there are some now who believe in what is called future retribution, we know of none who pretend to prove it by Divine revelation, or dwell on it in their preaching. We know of no passages of Scripture, which teach the doctrine of a future state, which imply the existence of either sin or punishment in that state." (Hosea Ballou, A Short Essay on Universalism).

The eternal state of the beast and the false prophet will be continuous torment "forever and ever":



  • “And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
  • (Revelation 20:10).




Jesus preached often and with intense immediacy on the topic of hell-fire:

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—where ‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’ And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—where ‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’ And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire—where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’” (Mark 9:43-48).

It is perhaps surprising that this doctrine should be controversial, given that it is a 'red-letter' teaching: "No one is more full or fearsome in describing the horrors or the endlessness of hell than Jesus. This is not a teaching created by the apostles or the early church. It was given to us by the Lord." (John Piper, Jesus, The Only Way to God, Kindle location 447).

"Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire." (Matthew 18:8-9).

Bertrand Russell, an atheist, quite frankly admitted that Jesus believed in hell, which is far the best tack because it is textually undeniable. It's one reason he preferred Socrates:

"There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. . .Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching — an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence. You do not, for instance, find that attitude in Socrates." (Bertrand Russell, Why I am not a Christian, Kindle location 184).

The lake of fire is the home also of others besides the beast and the false prophet: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8). Their lot is not enviable; it is described as torment:

"And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:9-11).

The inhabitants are all those whose names are not written in the Lamb's Book of Life: “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). The fire is not quenched, and it does not go out:



  • “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
  • “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
  • (Matthew 25:41-46).





Worm Dieth Not

Isaiah warned of unquenched fire:

"For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." (Isaiah 66:22-24).

As already seen, Isaiah's worm and fire are taken very literally in the New Testament.

Lazarus

The time-frame in which Hell and Death will be thrown into the Lake of Fire is in the future: "Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:14-15). Yet even at the present time the unrepentent wicked, upon their demise, enter into a condition of torment:




  • “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
  • “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
  • “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”
  • (Luke 16:19-31).





That this is occurring in real time is evident from Dives' request that one be allowed to go back and warn his relations. Just as there is, with the righteous, an intermediate state between death and the second coming of Jesus Christ, so also with the wicked.

If the circumstances described in this story are contrary to fact, why does the Lord tell it? The interpretation of Jesus' story of Lazarus and the rich man offered by Jehovah's Witnesses and other annihilationists launches into the stratosphere, leaving Biblical literalism far behind. If it is taken as a simple story about the way the world is, then the wicked suffer conscious torments upon their death.

I'm Not Going

To Christians, it seems remarkable what God has done to save sinners from Hell. Was Jesus' suffering and dying on the cross a small thing? What more can the sinner ask of Him than taking upon Himself the penalty we owed? To accuse God of harshness or injustice after these astounding interventions sounds ungrateful. Moreover it is futile, as if the clay were to complain to the potter:

“Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, 'He did not make me'? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, 'He has no understanding'?” (Isaiah 29:16).

But the ingratitude and frivolity of these kinds of complaints does not stop people from making them, as in this explosive burst of theophobia from Christopher Hitchens:



  • “What they can't do is take away your sins. Because that would be to take away your responsibility. I can't say you didn't steal or lose that money that I'm having to pay now. . .I can't relieve you of that. I can't wash you white as snow and make you new again. That's more than can be promised and more than should be promised.
  • “Vicarious redemption is scape-goating. It's throwing your sins onto an animal. It's an old, primitive practice from the Middle East. It doesn't deserve the attention of civilized or thoughtful people. So, anyway. . .Let's admit, it's kindly offered to me. I give all these objections. I think it's highly implausible. I don't really believe the story. I didn't ask for it, and having considered it, I would rather carry on living, trying to lead a decent life without it. Okay? Thanks. But thanks for asking.
  • “'Oh no, sorry, you didn't hear us right the first time. It wasn't an offer, you refuse it on pain of death!'
  • “Excuse me, I won't be talked to in that tone of voice. Something about me. . .I hope something about some of you, too: What was that? I'm not free to refuse this offer? You're making me an offer I can't decline? Was that a threat? Are you saying that if I turn away from this Lamb's blood, from which I'm supposed to be washed, and say I don't think it will clean me, you say, 'Well, that means an eternity of torture you know. You'd better take that into account before you consider our offer of eternal love.'
  • “No, no no! This is North Korea! This is celestial dictatorship. This is a worship only a slave could take part in.”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 109:10, Debate between William Dembski and Christopher Hitchens, Prestonwood Baptist Church).




The Scapegoat, William Holman Hunt


How incredible that anyone, offered the free gift of salvation, a gift which was not obtained without cost but at the cost of Jesus' suffering upon the cross, could reply by saying: "I won't be talked to in that tone of voice"! It is hard to imagine how human arrogance and ingratitude could exceed these bounds.

Certainly rejecting God's costly offer of His own blood on the cross is sinful: "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:29). However the atheists' complaint that this is the one and only sin for which wretched humanity is consigned to hell is not correct. Had humanity been all and one morally innocent as they imagine, there would have been no atonement for them to reject.




The Face of God

The blessed spend eternity basking in the presence of God. They see Him face to face:




But the wicked are threatened with "everlasting" destruction from out of the presence or face of God:

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting. . .since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.”
 (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10).

While it is true that words like 'everlasting' are not always used in their strict and literal sense, it would be perplexing to find these things so often said about eternal punishment, yet never meant. The problem for the Jehovah's Witnesses is similar to their predicament with the Bible verses ascribing deity to Jesus Christ. It is not that any given Bible verse cannot be reconfigured by assigning arbitrary meanings to words. But why are there so very many verses which need to be reconfigured in this way, if the Bible does not really want to make this affirmation?




Dark Fire

There is a paradoxical character to some of the Biblical descriptions of Hell. Hell is at once a fiery place, and also a place of unrelieved darkness:

“Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”  (Matthew 22:13).

The flames of our experience illumine as well as burn; how can there be a dark fire? But the annihilationist's quick response: there can be no dark fire, therefore there is no such place as Hell, and all the Biblical descriptions of such a place are just metaphors,— also seems too hasty. We have no experience of this state of affairs, but that does not mean it is not a reality.

Wheat and Chaff

Before Jesus began to preach, John the Baptist identified the Messiah as a fire-starter:


  • “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
  • (Matthew 3:10-12).


What are all these flames? Why is the chaff burnt up "with unquenchable fire"? What is unquenchable fire? It is God, says Hosea Ballou the universalist, and God is good:

"We cannot conceive of more than one unquenchable fire, and that one is GOD, as it is written, our GOD is a consuming fire; it cannot be supposed that this fire is quenchable, neither can we with propriety suppose another unquenchable fire, as that would be supposing another nature equal to GOD himself.

". . .From these passages it is evident that the fire into which the trees were to be cast, the fire with which the Savior baptizes, and the fire which burns up the chaff, are the same fire. And as this is the fire which accompanies the Holy Ghost, in its quickening and life giving operations, it is perfectly consistent with the text and context to suppose that this unquenchable fire is the fire of divine love, which is God himself, for God is love. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it."
(Hosea Ballou, Notes on the Parables of the New Testament, pp. 15-18)

This leaves the reader wondering why the wheat, gathered carefully into the barn, is bereft of this comforting, surrounding fire of divine love. Does God love only chaff, and not wheat also? The Lord is like a refiner's fire:

"But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness." (Malachi 3:2-3).

Not all substances react to fire the same way. Gold and silver shine, their dross taken away, while chaff burns. The fire which is a blessing for some means ruin for others. Fire does not only purify, it also destroys. The 'unquenchable' variety does not go out once its work is done.

Vengeance is Mine

God's people are forbidden to seek vengeance on the grounds that they trespass on God's prerogatives by so doing. God, however, is not forbidden to seek vengeance:

"For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. . . To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left. . . See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy. Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.
(Deuteronomy 32:22-43).

Human beings are strictly forbidden to seek vengeance, a right which belongs only to God:

"Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." (Roman 12:19).

Some people generalize from God's prohibition against humanity trespassing upon His prerogatives, to a general rule, applicable equally to God as to His people, that justice must never be done, that God can only love, even those who count the blood of Jesus as a worthless thing. This is faulty generalization, because God is not man. He showed His boundless love by providing a means of salvation, at terrible cost; He is not obliged to defer justice forever, against those who contemptuously kick His gift away.

It is a given to many of those who will not tolerate the idea of hell, that all human beings deserve happiness:

"If it were true that one human soul was immortal and yet was to be eternally damned, getting only more clotted with crime and deeper bit by agony as the ages went slowly by, then immortality were a curse, not to that man only, but to all mankind— for no amount of happiness, merited or undeserved, could ever atone or make up for the horrid wrong done to that one most miserable man."

(Parker, Theodore (2013-01-28). Works of Theodore Parker (Kindle Locations 5710-5713). The Perfect Library.)

Why is is obvious that any wrong has been done to this man? What if we are talking about Genghis Khan, whose men stacked up the skulls into pyramids of the men, women and children they butchered in front of their devastated and depopulated towns? There is an entire system of ethics premised on the assumption that all human beings deserve happiness; it is a sort of inalienable entitlement:




The guiding idea for this system of ethics is that that course of action which produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number is the ethical course. Each individual gets the same one vote; Peter's happiness is equal in value to Camille's. Seem fair? Though the system does not 'approve' of Genghis Khan's behavior, at no time is Genghis Khan's one vote diminished or taken away. His happiness is not now pro-rated at a lower value than the blameless Camille; the system is one man, one vote. Retributive justice says that, once he has stacked up the pyramids of skulls and done terrible things like that, he deserves to be unhappy, not happy; but his happiness retains its initial value in the theoretical math behind the utilitarian system. People never fall off or are scrubbed from the voting rolls. I'm not sure whether Unitarian preacher Theodore Parker subscribed to some version of this system, but it's not any system known to the Bible, which takes it for granted that, if some people get misery, they're getting only what they deserve.

Let's say Genghis Khan is left alone on earth, because he has killed everybody else (he did, in fact, depopulate entire districts). Can we punish him? His punishment will have no deterrent effect, there being none to deter, nor will it rehabilitate him, things having deteriorated past that point. People like Theodore Parker think that he deserves to be happy, just as much as anybody else. It's hard to see why. God's word operates under the paradigm that bad things happen to bad people, or at least they darn well should.

Wheat and Tares

Jesus told a parable about the wheat of God's plantation and the unwanted tares:



  • “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.  But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
    He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.


  • “Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.


  • “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
  • (Matthew 13:24-42).




Why is there weeping and gnashing of teeth if the burning of the tares is a benign experience, an immersion in Holy Ghost fire?

Universalist Hosea Ballou protests that tares can be transformed into wheat. Since even the most abject sinner can be born again and made into a righteous man, what a waste it would be to burn the stuff:

"Who did Christ come to save? The righteous? No, he came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. If tares can be converted into wheat, which must be supposable according to common opinion, then it would be a waste to cast away or burn the tares. He that said, 'Gather up the fragments that nothing be lost,' will never burn tares, if he can convert them into wheat, as easily as he could feed the multitudes which he did with so small a quantity of provision." (Hosea Ballou, Notes on the Parables of the New Testament, pp. 70-71).

Tares can become wheat, the most hardened sinner can repent and be born again, but there is a time limit on the process. There is appointed a day of salvation: "Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:. . ." (Hebrews 3:7-8). If it doesn't happen when it can happen, then it didn't happen: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:. . ." (Hebrews 9:27).

Old Testament

Eternal damnation is not only a New Testament doctrine:

"Oh, that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways! I would soon subdue their enemies, And turn My hand against their adversaries. The haters of the LORD would pretend submission to Him, But their fate would endure forever." (Psalm 81:13-15).
“The sinners in Zion are afraid; Fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: 'Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?'” (Isaiah 33:14).
"And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt." (Daniel 12:2).

Why is the contempt "everlasting" if the damned are either annihilated and forgotten, or if God intends to save them also, by some undisclosed post-mortem salvation plan not revealed in scripture? Annihilationists and universalists point out that the scripture words translated 'forever,' such as the Hebrew olam and the Greek aionios, need not always mean 'forever' but can sometimes mean 'ancient' or 'for a lengthy but finite stretch of time.' This is a valid point but leaves the reader puzzled when the annihilationist or universalist consistently understands these words to mean 'forever' when applied to 'life,' but 'for a lengthy but finite period of time' when applied, in the same passage, to damnation. Certainly the age over which the Messiah reigns is without terminus: "And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever [aion]; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1:33). As a rule these people do believe that the joy of the redeemed with their Savior knows no end. They do not believe the blessed enjoy only a temporary respite between aeons of non-existence. Without these Bible words to lean upon, how do they know this?

Psalm 11 denounces doom to the unrighteous:

"The Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright." (Psalm 11:5-7).

The statement is general, but when has "fire and brimstone" been the portion of the wicked, other than in isolated spots like Sodom? Many of the wicked die peacefully in bed, without ever fleeing a volcano and feeling the "burning wind" upon their back. For this statement to be true in general, as stated, there must be fire and brimstone in store, not yet delivered.

God's Will

God wills that all men be saved:

"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

According to universalist Hosea Ballou, the plain Bible fact that God wills all to be saved requires, as a necessary consequence, that God also wills for all men to be born again. Because God's will cannot be frustrated, therefore all men will without fail be born again:

"As it is impossible  for any one to enter into the kingdom of God except he be born of the water and of the spirit, if it were the will of God that all men should be saved, it must then be his will that all men should be born again.

"As has been shown, this being born again is of the will of God, and not of the will of man. Therefore there can be no more uncertainty, as to the event, than there is of the accomplishment of the will of God, which St. Paul says, is, that all men should be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth."
(Hosea Ballou, Notes on the Parables of the New Testament, pp. 60-61).

God's will cannot be frustrated by any force acting against Him. However God does not force the chickens to gather beneath His wings, much as He desires them:

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matthew 23:37).



Gandhi in Hell

In his promotional video for the book 'Love Wins,' Rob Bell tells the story of an art show at his church. The art show featured a work incorporating a quote from Gandhi, to which someone had attached a note: "Reality Check: he's in Hell." Rob Bell's response was incredulity: Really? "Gandhi's in Hell? He is?" He expects others to share his inability to accept this notion. This is a man everyone knows to have advocated non-violence, a man known to have influenced Martin Luther King, so how could he be in Hell?

Mohandas Gandhi's religious affiliation is often misconstrued. This man, by his own admission, would have been content to touch the hem of Annie Besant's garment: "I was a mere boy practically unknown to anybody. I would have been more than satisfied if I could have touched the hem of the garments of Madame Blavatsky and her distinguished disciple." (Mohandas Gandhi, quoted in Sir C. P. Ramaswami's biography of Annie Besant, quoted by Arun Shourie at the Voice of Dharma site). Gandhi was a Theosophist. Did he ever get beyond this? He certainly dressed to look the part of a Hindu holy man, but then the Theosophists always did like to play dress-up.

Watching the cook toss onions into the stew, who would not then expect to taste onions on sampling the stew. It would be silly to respond with wonderment: 'Onions! In the stew! How can this be? All foods must really, at some higher level of reality, boil down to onions.' But if you saw the cook toss them in, how could they not be in there? The Theosophists made one big pot of stew out of all the world's religions. They tossed them all in there, or at any rate their favorite parts, like the Sermon on the Mount. You can find the Sermon on the Mount in Theosophy, because it's one of the ingredients of this syncretistic world religious stew. To be sure the Theosophists expected the stew would come out the same whichever set of ingredients one starts with; but so thinking involved them ultimately in forgery, and always in unconvincing exegesis. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered by Jesus, not by any other.


Mountain Top Baal
Engulf and Devour Circle of Equals
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach A Plague on Your House
Universal Longing Pearl of Great Price



Sometimes adherents of non-violence 'cheat' just a little bit; Gandhi did, as did Martin Luther King: 'I'm non-violent, but see that mob gathering? Oh, I hope and pray they will be non-violent, too!' There's an implied threat. States with the self-confidence to mow down columns of non-violent protestors beneath the tank treads need not always fear non-violence. However, those states which claim an implied consent of the governed, can find their pretensions exploded when enough of the governed gather in the streets to say, 'No.' Non-violence can work, and Christians can rejoice when it does, because it is a better way than violence.

Mohandas Gandhi often said things which make Christian hearts beat in unison, because these are familiar things, not unfamiliar ones. If Gandhi had dug out these familiar things from unfamiliar mines, that would be striking. But if he found them where every Christian knows where to dig for them, in the pages of the New Testament, that is less striking. With a little luck you can 'find' things even where they are not, provided the New Testament has supplied you with the exact pattern and template of what to look for.

The New Testament proclaims that God is love. Suppose you wanted to find that God is love in Greek paganism. This is not any harder than to find the same theme in Hinduism. The two are similar: both are sprawling pagan pantheons which tend toward philosophical monism at the high end, and toward unreconstructed idolatry at the low end. Can it be done? Sure; at the end of his long, suffering life, Oedipus the unlucky king discovered comfort in love:

"Children, this day your father is gone from you.
All that was mine is gone.  You shall no longer
Bear the burden of taking care of me—
I know it was hard, my children.— And yet one word
Frees us of all the weight and pain of life:
That word is love." (Oedipus at Colonus, 1612-1618).

Or consider, "And perhaps looking to this Perecydes said that Jupiter when he was about to fabricate, was changed into Love." (Proclus, Commentary on the Timaeus of Plato, All Five Books, translated by Thomas Taylor, Book III, p. 430). But this 'discovery' that Greek paganism only wants to teach that God is love is hollow. In fact the Greeks profoundly distrusted their gods, who by their low character had richly earned this distrust. Greek paganism is not about love. Certainly, though, any man-made religion is what you make it, and the Greek pagans would have done better to follow the advice of Julian the Apostate and begin caring for the sick and the poor the way the Christians did. Had they done so, it wouldn't have been a remarkable coincidence, it would have been borrowing, though it would have been an improvement. So would it have been an improvement if the Roman Governor Maximus had followed Pliny the Younger's advice and cast off brutality and oppression:

"To put affronts upon others is an ill way of testing the force of your authority; ill-gotten the homage inspired by terror; and love will help you to gain your ends far more effectually than fear. For while fear departs the moment you withdraw your presence, love abides! and as fear turns to hatred, so does love to respect." (Pliny the Younger, Letters, Book Eight, Letter 24, To Maximus).

But the Roman Empire was not an empire of love, any more than Hinduism is a religion of love. The Hinduism of the Theosophists was a sub-set of the real thing, purged of those elements which offend, like the caste system, or widows immolating themselves. Is it not the most subtle form of imperialism, for the conquerors to make over the religion of the conquered into some noble, and familiar, form which they, too, can admire?

Some might say stew is the ideal food because all the different food-stuffs combine within it, and so thus it incorporates the excellences of all. Others might point out: but that's just the problem. Stew-meat is 'read' by the tongue as a solidified portion of the stew-matrix rather than as meat. By being thrown in promiscuously with other ingredients, the meat has lost its texture and flavor. Perhaps Christianity did not really benefit by being purged of its prudish personal morality, which encumbered and inconvenienced the Theosophists in the pursuit of their personal lives.

Perhaps Hinduism has not benefited by being purged of its dark side. Perhaps this happy-face, smiley Hinduism which only wants to tell people that God loves them is not the real thing, not the true self of this life-hating religion. Perhaps after all the ingredients are best left separate, free to be themselves. Did the chefs expect whatever saving virtue each faith might have would snow-ball together into one explosive combined salvation bomb? What a disappointment to see instead the disparate pieces, forced together, cancel each other out. Christianity is a religion with two eternal destinations: heaven and hell. Gandhi would have done better to embrace the preacher along with the sermon, and follow Him to a certain destination. The church must not neglect to remind the world who still holds the copyright on the Sermon on the Mount; when Gandhi sounds the theme of turning the other cheek, he found that tune at first where everyone else finds it, in the New Testament.

Up



Hell in the Koran

One 'holy book' that lingers lovingly in cataloging the torments of Hell is the Koran. The Bible is more reticent, because animated by a different spirit:

Return to answering the Watchtower...



Infinite Loss

Not following Jesus endangers the soul with loss:



  • “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
  • (Mark 8:34-37).




The more modern, progressive theories about hell do not make it clear what the man has lost who has lost his own soul. It seems perhaps that he has lost nothing, if he keeps getting second chances. But it is clear in the Bible that he has lost everything.

Up

Do Unto Others

The case the atheists make against God hinges on measuring His conduct by the commands He issues to His creatures:



  • “Can there be such a thing as mercy in eternal punishment? And yet this same Deity says to me, 'resist not evil; pray for those that despitefully use you; love your enemies, but I will eternally damn mine.' It seems to me that even gods should practice what they preach.”
  • (Robert Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, edited by Roger E. Greeley, p. 87).




Jesus loved His enemies to the point of dying on the cross for them. Can they seriously question His devotion? Is there a greater love than to die for those who despise you? But the beneficiaries of this sacrifice must say 'yes,' and this is evidently asking too much; why should our arrogant atheists have to do or say anything at all? Next you will be expecting them to say, 'Thank you!' No, God must save them even while they are shaking their fist and shouting curses in His face, otherwise He is unloving.

Though there are undoubtedly many spheres in which it is imprudent or presumptuous for the creature to rival his Creator, loving is not one of them; we are commanded to love our enemies, precisely because this is what God does:

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48).

The atheist argument runs: God must obey the same rules as He gives to us because otherwise it would be unfair. But, they say, no one would ever want to go to Hell, so in consigning people to that dark realm, God falls short of the Golden Rule. Oh, really? Why is God obliged to surrender His justice and His holiness in order to achieve fellowship with those among His creatures who refuse His offer of reconciliation, given at so great a cost?




Atheists in Hell

". . .To you they plead their case,
to all you refuse to show your face,
in the eyes of the believers, the congregation,

"Because I choose to think freely, because I do not listen to the cries of the holy man.

"I am condemned to hell, deserved damnation."
(Poet Michael  Pain, found on internet).

It is difficult to fathom the querulous note of self-pity in the author’s words, because if he does not believe in God, then presumably he does not believe in hell either. The “holy man” he will not heed is Jesus, who commanded, “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:28-30). This first of all commandments the poet tosses behind his back, and seems mightily proud of himself for having done so.

They have defined themselves as heroic for having become atheists, even though it may have been the path of least resistance in the environment in which they found themselves, as it is in academia. They then bitterly resent the implication that they deserve punishment for an act for which they cannot stop congratulating themselves. Why do atheists deserve hell? First of all, because we all do; none but Jesus ever lived upon this earth righteously altogether. Secondly, because they have deliberately kicked away the rescue ladder God graciously threw down to them, underscoring their unwillingness to accept God's free gift of salvation with a flurry of curses and disparagement. Thirdly, because their entire self-definition centers around disobedience to Jesus' "first of all" commandment. Fourthly, because,— and this may be the only criterion of 'good vs. evil' of which these people can be made aware,— their personal comportment is generally somewhat lower than that of theists. However, if by perchance it were higher, which by common observation is rarely the case,— even if these are not the kind of atheists who show up at the 'Reason Rally' to listen to Tim Minchin,— still that would not matter.

They have defined themselves as being better than other people,— braver, more heroic, fearless truth-seekers,— and along comes the living Truth, Jesus, telling them they are not better, but worse. This collision results in the angry tantrum of a two-year-old. Narcissists expect others to share their self-evaluation. When they complain that, as morally superior to others, they deserve a better outcome, it is worth reminding them that they do not believe in hell, although perhaps their own conscience testifies otherwise.




Some atheists, it's hard to imagine the case for their residence anywhere else:

Up

Angel