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Do you believe in hell?


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4 minutes ago, Terabith said:

But if you believe that God is a God who does evil, how can you justify Him as worthy of worship?  I mean, if I believed God literally commanded some of the stuff that's in the Bible?  That's evil.  And cruel and sadistic and arbitrary and....

I can't worship that.  That God is not differentiable from the devil.  

I agree.  I've really appreciated our church's theology on this.  It advocates Christian pacifism and a non-violent understanding of God.  Our main teaching pastor -- Greg Boyd -- recently wrote a book on the non-violent God perspective, called Cross Vision.   (That's the layperson's version.  He also wrote a longer, textbook-type version called The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.  I haven't read that one yet!)

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Posted (edited)
1 minute ago, J-rap said:

I agree.  I've really appreciated our church's theology on this.  It advocates Christian pacifism and a non-violent understanding of God.  Our main teaching pastor -- Greg Boyd -- recently wrote a book on the non-violent God perspective, called Cross Vision.   (That's the layperson's version.  He also wrote a longer, textbook-type version called The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.  I haven't read that one yet!)

I JUST realized I've seen a video that if I'm remembering right he was a big part of and I really really found him inspiring. 

Actually, you may be the person that shared the video with me, thinking back. 

Edited by ktgrok
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4 hours ago, prairiewindmomma said:

 Actually, Paul is kind of a jerk.

Agreed. In spite of the 1960s nuns there were some good things about the Catholic church I didn't realize until I left it for another Christian denomination (and then another one before leaving belief behind completely). The Catholic churches my family chose, nuns notwithstanding, were more about James than Paul in terms of Jesus' teachings. "Faith without works is dead". These were Franciscan order churches. Eventually I found a UMC church that followed a similar path. It's not the Catholic or Methodist church's fault I left, and if I still believed I'd seek out a church that doesn't choose Paul as the type of Christian to emulate.

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2 minutes ago, ktgrok said:

I JUST realized I've seen a video that if I'm remembering right he was a big part of and I really really found him inspiring. 

Actually, you may be the person that shared the video with me, thinking back. 

Ha, it's very possible it was me!  My church's theology has had such a profound impact on my faith and my life, and I do tend to mention him here from time to time!  🙂  

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2 minutes ago, Lady Florida. said:

Agreed. In spite of the 1960s nuns there were some good things about the Catholic church I didn't realize until I left it for another Christian denomination (and then another one before leaving belief behind completely). The Catholic churches my family chose, nuns notwithstanding, were more about James than Paul in terms of Jesus' teachings. "Faith without works is dead". These were Franciscan order churches. Eventually I found a UMC church that followed a similar path. It's not the Catholic or Methodist church's fault I left, and if I still believed I'd seek out a church that doesn't choose Paul as the type of Christian to emulate.

The social justice nuns are pretty badass.  Mad respect for some of them.  

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21 minutes ago, Faith-manor said:

"All people everywhere" kind of seems like all people. It doesn't say all adults or all humans over a certain age or all folks of a certain developmental level. I just think it is comforting to Christians to hope god is merciful or nice enough to let children off the hook. But, after an exhaustive study of the bible in the desperate attempt to hold on to what belief I had left, I can say I do not see any support for such a belief.

I am sorry for that, Faith-manor. 😞

FWIW, many translations say "all men." 

I can only repeat what I said before--I don't see Jesus calling children to repent. I see Him blessing them. I see David's infant child waiting for David in Abraham's bosom, before Jesus ever came. 

The Anabaptists have published some material on the innocence of children and the age of accountability. I don't have time to search for it tonight, but it is out there if anyone is interested. Christian Light Education would be able to point you (general you) in the right direction.

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4 hours ago, prairiewindmomma said:

Love one another. Use that which you've been given to bless and take care of others. I'm not sure if I'm at Christianity stripped most bare or if I'm solely humanist

Your deconstruction journey sounds pretty typical of those who go through shedding a belief system. For some it depends on what their belief system was and how restrictive it was. I went through something similar to what you described in your post, including the parts I didn't quote. I even looked at other belief systems with the idea that maybe one of them was right for me, before deciding that they can't all be true but they can all be false. I'd call myself a strong atheist and a humanist now and am completely comfortable with both of those labels.

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28 minutes ago, Terabith said:

But if you believe that God is a God who does evil, how can you justify Him as worthy of worship?  I mean, if I believed God literally commanded some of the stuff that's in the Bible?  That's evil.  And cruel and sadistic and arbitrary and....

I can't worship that.  That God is not differentiable from the devil.  

And you have the free will to choose.

I don't believe God does evil. I believe He directed His people to do things that I find incomprehensible and hard and ugly. I don't think His actions were arbitrary at all; He had His chosen people in mind. Nor were they sadistic--the Bible tells us God "takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked." 

It's a hard thing. But God is Who He is, not Who we might make Him.

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9 minutes ago, MercyA said:

I am sorry for that, Faith-manor. 😞

FWIW, many translations say "all men." 

I can only repeat what I said before--I don't see Jesus calling children to repent. I see Him blessing them. I see David's infant child waiting for David in Abraham's bosom, before Jesus ever came. 

The Anabaptists have published some material on the innocence of children and the age of accountability. I don't have time to search for it tonight, but it is out there if anyone is interested. Christian Light Education would be able to point you (general you) in the right direction.

Thank you Mercy, as always, you are a very kind, gracious soul!

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Love to all, but I have to bow out for tonight. It's late and I have a ton to do to get ready for tomorrow.

Thanks as always for the interesting discussion. There is no place like the Hive.

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I do not believe Hell is a burning place of torment. I believe scripture supports that when we die we cease to exist except in God’s memory and that he has the power and will resurrect people. 

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54 minutes ago, ktgrok said:

I suppose...I just can't imagine worshipping a God that damns infants to hell. 

 

47 minutes ago, MercyA said:

 

However, while I see Jesus calling adults to repent many times in Scripture, I don't see Him calling children to do the same thing. I don't see Him rebuking children for sin. 

 

This makes me think of limbo. Any Catholics here remember limbo? I think the teachings about it stopped sometime in the 1980s but the belief persisted. Despite the RCC's official word some people think the whole reason for limbo was so people wouldn't imagine unbaptized babies burning in hell. And I do remember as a child and young teen being told that if we knew a baby was dying we could "emergency baptize" it with any available water, despite the fact that 1. We weren't priests. and 2. We didn't have actual holy water. In another part of my weird Catholic kid imagination I pictured coming upon a terrible auto accident and heroically baptizing a baby with melting snow (we still lived in NJ and in my scenario it was always winter) just in time for it to go to heaven. I swear, the things nuns put in my and other Catholic kids' heads is just so out there. Although, avoiding hell seems to be a pattern here.

Weirdly, most lay Catholics didn't learn that limbo wasn't even real Catholic doctrine until after it was officially-unofficially abolished in 2007. Limbo was just a bizarre teaching that never really made sense. 

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I think the universalist explanation is that universal salvation is available because of the Resurrection. Before the Resurrection, no one could go to heaven but the Resurrection opened heaven to all humans because all humans share their humanity with Jesus. 

 

I am not asking you directly @Ordinary Shoes, but using your quote to my response as a jumping off point, as it applies to the other answers to my post as well: 

Does it follow then that people like Genghis Khan, Hitler, Pol Pot, Ted Bundy, war mongers of all stripes and nations, terrorists, fill in the blank (you get the drift) will equally achieve salvation under this theology, even without repentance, belief or any conscious act? It seems rather all or nothing, and I am trying to follow the train of thought...... So everyone goes to heaven because of Jesus, no matter how reprehensible the life? 

Then does this also mean that Christians of this mindset do not believe in Satan and fallen angels? Or are they also redeemed post-Christ and there are no other "principalities" as referred to in the good book? 

I am struggling to follow, because if one believes all of the above, then what really is the purpose of professing or purporting to that faith, much less religious practice of it? It simply takes care of itself, no? And as @ktgrok alluded to earlier, Jesus merely becomes someone to aspire to much like Tony Robbins as a motivational speaker or some other great American philanthropist?  

I apologize for coming across as dense, it's rather that American (which I think the majority of you are posting here are American and/or adopted Americans except for a few Aussies) profession and devotion of faith varies rather markedly to that of South American, Asian or African professing Christian faiths and I am trying to reconcile the two. American Christianity as represented here seems rather.... I am not sure of the correct word to be honest. Flexible, perhaps is the most apt term? 

 

ETA: I am also living now in the USA and am trying to wrap my head around some of these things as professed here, as they are quite different to my IRL exposure here in the states. 

Edited by Holmesschooler
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3 minutes ago, Lady Florida. said:

 

This makes me think of limbo. Any Catholics here remember limbo? I think the teachings about it stopped sometime in the 1980s but the belief persisted. Despite the RCC's official word some people think the whole reason for limbo was so people wouldn't imagine unbaptized babies burning in hell. And I do remember as a child and young teen being told that if we knew a baby was dying we could "emergency baptize" it with any available water, despite the fact that 1. We weren't priests. and 2. We didn't have actual holy water. In another part of my weird Catholic kid imagination I pictured coming upon a terrible auto accident and heroically baptizing a baby with melting snow (we still lived in NJ and in my scenario it was always winter) just in time for it to go to heaven. I swear, the things nuns put in my and other Catholic kids' heads is just so out there. Although, avoiding hell seems to be a pattern here.

Weirdly, most lay Catholics didn't learn that limbo wasn't even real Catholic doctrine until after it was officially-unofficially abolished in 2007. Limbo was just a bizarre teaching that never really made sense. 

Yeah, I remember this. I was a bit obsessed with limbo for a while. Finding out it wasn't a thing was wild. I kinda still half believe in it anyway. Limbo really stuck!

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1 minute ago, Melissa Louise said:

Yeah, I remember this. I was a bit obsessed with limbo for a while. Finding out it wasn't a thing was wild. I kinda still half believe in it anyway. Limbo really stuck!

Maybe it's the mental picture of happy babies frolicking in (on?) the clouds. 😄 

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3 minutes ago, Holmesschooler said:

 

Does it follow then that people like Genghis Khan, Hitler, Pol Pot, Ted Bundy, war mongers of all stripes and nations, terrorists, fill in the blank (you get the drift) will equally achieve salvation under this theology, even without repentance, belief or any conscious act? It seems rather all or nothing, and I am trying to follow the train of thought...... So everyone goes to heaven because of Jesus, no matter how reprehensible the life? 

 

As I understand it, most universalists (or most Christian universalists, anyway) believe that repentance, belief, etc.--that conscious act--WILL happen for everyone, but not necessarily before death. So many universalists believe in some form of punishment in the afterlife, but punishment that ultimately leads to redemption. 

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2 minutes ago, Lady Florida. said:

Maybe it's the mental picture of happy babies frolicking in (on?) the clouds. 😄 

Lol, maybe! Pretty sure I baptised a cousin at one point too. I just always thought it was nice that there was a half way house near heaven for the babies. Like, very considerate of God. 

 

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We were not and never have been Catholic, and I had strong mental images of Limbo.  

My oldest baptized the cat, in correct Trinitarian formula.  And set up an altar on the back of a toilet.  And pretended to turn the bath water into wine but then decided that since wine was gross, they were going to turn it into lemonade.  

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Posted (edited)
50 minutes ago, Lady Florida. said:

 

This makes me think of limbo. Any Catholics here remember limbo? I think the teachings about it stopped sometime in the 1980s but the belief persisted. Despite the RCC's official word some people think the whole reason for limbo was so people wouldn't imagine unbaptized babies burning in hell. And I do remember as a child and young teen being told that if we knew a baby was dying we could "emergency baptize" it with any available water, despite the fact that 1. We weren't priests. and 2. We didn't have actual holy water. In another part of my weird Catholic kid imagination I pictured coming upon a terrible auto accident and heroically baptizing a baby with melting snow (we still lived in NJ and in my scenario it was always winter) just in time for it to go to heaven. I swear, the things nuns put in my and other Catholic kids' heads is just so out there. Although, avoiding hell seems to be a pattern here.

Weirdly, most lay Catholics didn't learn that limbo wasn't even real Catholic doctrine until after it was officially-unofficially abolished in 2007. Limbo was just a bizarre teaching that never really made sense. 

I was never taught about limbo. 

I worked with a woman who studied to be a nurse at a Catholic hospital during the 1960s. She was a Protestant but the nuns taught all of them to baptize the patients in secret...just in case. 

ETA - are you familiar with the story from the mid 19th century of a Catholic nanny who baptized a Jewish boy when he was very sick? I can't remember his name. Years later, the church learned that he had been baptized and took custody of him because he was officially a Catholic. 

Edited by Ordinary Shoes
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23 minutes ago, Terabith said:

We were not and never have been Catholic, and I had strong mental images of Limbo.  

My oldest baptized the cat, in correct Trinitarian formula.  And set up an altar on the back of a toilet.  And pretended to turn the bath water into wine but then decided that since wine was gross, they were going to turn it into lemonade.  

So apparently non-Catholic kids play church too? My cousin and I used to play communion with our grandmother's Necco wafers (the only thing those awful tasting candies were good for) and we used to take turns being the priest. Never mind that as girls we could never do any of those things we played at doing. It was fun pretending.

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My sister and I played at being Saints. 

I was very taken with a link in my brain between St Catherine, Catherine wheels, and cartwheels. I thought perfecting my cartwheels was a step on the path to holiness. 

I also went through a stage of putting pebbles in my shoes to be saintly. 

My favourite part of Mass was afterwards when a little bookshop opened at the back of the church and we could get a new My Little Book of Saints book. 

Plenty to keep us Catholic kids busy. 

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16 minutes ago, Lady Florida. said:

So apparently non-Catholic kids play church too? My cousin and I used to play communion with our grandmother's Necco wafers (the only thing those awful tasting candies were good for) and we used to take turns being the priest. Never mind that as girls we could never do any of those things we played at doing. It was fun pretending.

At least Episcopal kids do.  Oldest would hold up the doll cup and say, "This is the chalice. It holds the wine that becomes the Blood of Jesus."  And hold up the little doll plate and say, "This is the paten.  It holds the bread that becomes the Body of Jesus."  

We actually made them a dress up set with stoles in the liturgical colors for Christmas one year.  

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Posted (edited)
31 minutes ago, Lady Florida. said:

So apparently non-Catholic kids play church too? My cousin and I used to play communion with our grandmother's Necco wafers (the only thing those awful tasting candies were good for) and we used to take turns being the priest. Never mind that as girls we could never do any of those things we played at doing. It was fun pretending.

My daughter's make-believe church had a huge emphasis on doughnut time. 🍩

When my DD's friends played Barbies, one friend always wanted to have Barbie church services with female pastors (those Wesleyans, I tell you). 🙂 

ETA: And I have an Orthodox friend whose little girl would make her stuffed kitty pray before their icons, "Pray for me, Saint Kitty, because my name is Kitty." 

Edited by MercyA
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Thinking more about the theme of hell as justice:  Would it be just for Hitler to suffer the agonies that all of his victims of the war and tyranny?  What if he suffered each of those victims' suffering a trillion times?  Or a trillion times a trillion?  

At what point does God become more sadistic than Hitler? 

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4 hours ago, Lady Florida. said:

For the teen or the parent? 😂

right?

My son just finished his Jr year, and whoo Nelly, we have dealt with things that never came up with our older two boys.

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6 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

 

ETA - are you familiar with the story from the mid 19th century of a Catholic nanny who baptized a Jewish boy when he was very sick? I can't remember his name. Years later, the church learned that he had been baptized and took custody of him because he was officially a Catholic. 

Edgardo Mortara.

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6 hours ago, Terabith said:

Thinking more about the theme of hell as justice:  Would it be just for Hitler to suffer the agonies that all of his victims of the war and tyranny?  What if he suffered each of those victims' suffering a trillion times?  Or a trillion times a trillion?  

At what point does God become more sadistic than Hitler? 

And that is another point to be considered. I think most Christians believe that when god does it, it isn't sadistic but deserved. When anyone else does it, it is sadistic. I think this is how the atrocities of the old testament are explained away.

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I'm no theologian, but the way I think of it is that man's ideas of morality and right/wrong are but a flawed imitation of God's perfect morality. I believe we can get a glimpse of God's perfect morality in the OT, but it was a bloody and violent time and the justice it described was what the culture of the time could understand and relate to. I believe when Jesus came we got a better glimpse of God's perfect morality and that we as a culture still cannot fully grasp the concept of justice that Jesus and the rest of the NT describe. I believe that I am supposed to look at what the entirety of what the Word says, not just a few specific verses. That means that Paul complements James and vice versa, but neither are complete by themselves.

I believe that many people (me included!) are very predisposed towards the sin of pride and thinking that God should confirm to my thoughts and ideas of morality.

I am Anabaptist and I know what we think about the age of accountability is founded in Scripture, but I'd have to look up the references and I don't have time before church 🙂

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8 hours ago, Holmesschooler said:

 

Then does this also mean that Christians of this mindset do not believe in Satan and fallen angels?? 

I am struggling to follow, because if one believes all of the above, then what really is the purpose of professing or purporting to that faith, much less religious practice of it?

I do believe in Evil, not a devil with horns or whatever, but I know there is an evil force at work in the world. 

As for the point, the point is to work to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven, to be God's hands in the world. 

8 hours ago, kokotg said:

As I understand it, most universalists (or most Christian universalists, anyway) believe that repentance, belief, etc.--that conscious act--WILL happen for everyone, but not necessarily before death. So many universalists believe in some form of punishment in the afterlife, but punishment that ultimately leads to redemption. 

Sort of gets back to the purgatory idea. 

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Another piece to all of this is the fact that if there was a creator, this creator purposefully made life on this earth to be imperfect (assuming one accepts evolution.) When I was in the process of deconstructing my faith, this point was hard for me to get around.

This deity had the option of making life perfect (like in heaven), but instead opted to make life suffer and die for millions of years before humans ever arrived on the scene. Then we came along and we never had the option of being perfect. We were flawed from the get go with all our messy instincts and drives. We might (maybe) have enough free will to chip away around the edges of our imperfections, but none of us have enough to actually choose to be perfect.

So in essence, we were created to be imperfect, and some of us were created to be monstrous, and then it's our fault? We are the ones who are supposed to answer for our mess?Nope, not buying it. 

If there is a redemption process, that's great, but personally I think most of us are doing the best we can given what we've got to work with, and maybe the problem lies more with a creator who could have made us better (and still will someday apparently).

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Holmesschooler said:

I am not asking you directly @Ordinary Shoes, but using your quote to my response as a jumping off point, as it applies to the other answers to my post as well: 

Does it follow then that people like Genghis Khan, Hitler, Pol Pot, Ted Bundy, war mongers of all stripes and nations, terrorists, fill in the blank (you get the drift) will equally achieve salvation under this theology, even without repentance, belief or any conscious act? It seems rather all or nothing, and I am trying to follow the train of thought...... So everyone goes to heaven because of Jesus, no matter how reprehensible the life? 

Then does this also mean that Christians of this mindset do not believe in Satan and fallen angels? Or are they also redeemed post-Christ and there are no other "principalities" as referred to in the good book? 

I am struggling to follow, because if one believes all of the above, then what really is the purpose of professing or purporting to that faith, much less religious practice of it? It simply takes care of itself, no? And as @ktgrok alluded to earlier, Jesus merely becomes someone to aspire to much like Tony Robbins as a motivational speaker or some other great American philanthropist?  

I apologize for coming across as dense, it's rather that American (which I think the majority of you are posting here are American and/or adopted Americans except for a few Aussies) profession and devotion of faith varies rather markedly to that of South American, Asian or African professing Christian faiths and I am trying to reconcile the two. American Christianity as represented here seems rather.... I am not sure of the correct word to be honest. Flexible, perhaps is the most apt term? 

 

ETA: I am also living now in the USA and am trying to wrap my head around some of these things as professed here, as they are quite different to my IRL exposure here in the states. 

The Christian universalist tradition that I’m describing would not say that Hitler, Bundy, etc will achieve salvation without repentance or belief.  Rather, it’s believed that God’s mercy and love will burn or purge away all sin and they will eventually come to repentance.  Free will is still espoused in this view.

Christians of this mindset do believe in Satan, demons, principalities and powers.  In fact, David Bentley Hart’s writings have given me a much clearer understanding of these powers.  These ideas date all the way back to the early church father, Origen.  Origen believed that Satan would ultimately be redeemed as well, others have argued that he won’t, so that is debated within the universalist tradition.

The purpose of confessing faith and the practice of it is Theosis, or becoming like Christ over time to put it another way.  Practicing the faith is a great comfort, and it is transformative.  It does not take care of itself according to the universalist tradition, those who don’t do it in this life will do it through hell/purgatory, just not for eternity.  
 

I’ve tried to answer your questions with just the brief facts of the tradition, but there is obviously a lot to unpack and understand for each of them, though it would be hard to do so in a forum post.  
 

I will say that before I was able to grasp universalist theology I had to shift much of my evangelical theology first.  I had stopped seeing salvation as a yes or no definite issue as decided by a “sinner’s prayer.”  I began to see salvation as a journey that we are either moving towards or away from.  I quit seeing the point of salvation as heaven or hell but instead as being transformed by degrees into the likeness of Christ, the beatific vision and the Orthodox concept of Theosis.  

Edited by WoolC
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1 hour ago, WoolC said:

I will say that before I was able to grasp universalist theology I had to shift much of my evangelical theology first.  I had stopped seeing salvation as a yes or no definite issue as decided by a “sinner’s prayer.”  I began to see salvation as a journey that we are either moving towards or away from.  I quit seeing the point of salvation as heaven or hell but instead as being transformed by degrees into the likeness of Christ, the beatific vision and the Orthodox concept of Theosis.  

Yes, it it is a whole different mindset - the purpose is different - the focus is different. I've posted it before, but I think it was Richard Rohr who said something about how if you are asking yourself, "A I saved" you are missing the point. Others said that seemed wrong to them, but it really is just a different approach all together. 

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9 hours ago, Lady Florida. said:

So apparently non-Catholic kids play church too? My cousin and I used to play communion with our grandmother's Necco wafers (the only thing those awful tasting candies were good for) and we used to take turns being the priest. Never mind that as girls we could never do any of those things we played at doing. It was fun pretending.

I wasn’t raised religious and do not remember ever pretending religious stuff as a kid. But all my kids do. And I teach at a Catechist of the good Shepherd program, so it’s very the expected norm. 

8 hours ago, Terabith said:

Thinking more about the theme of hell as justice:  Would it be just for Hitler to suffer the agonies that all of his victims of the war and tyranny?  What if he suffered each of those victims' suffering a trillion times?  Or a trillion times a trillion?  

At what point does God become more sadistic than Hitler? 

I don’t know that hell as a punishment necessarily looks like fire and brimstone. Maybe it does. Idk.

But a certain level of justice is about removing the rotten contaminate. For example the death penalty in itself is often not a deterrent to crime and obviously we are not teaching the criminal anything by euthanizing them. But some humans are not any better than rabid dogs. And while a cure for rabies would be great, the best we can do now is put the dog down.  Side note.  I am for the principle of the death penalty for rare situations but not for the death penalty in the states as it stands bc it is not reasonably determined who justly deserves it.  Because for me the death penalty is for basically rabid humans.  It’s not about teaching them a lesson.  It’s about straight forward justice removing that rotten contaminate from the society.  Not just putting it another society - prison society.  And long term isolation is cruel.

I guess one could argue God would have been smarter and more perfect to have created humans without free will. But he didn’t. So here we are. And in His mercy, he does not treat everyone like rabid dogs for disobeying him.  I think it is .... overly optimistic .... to suggest that all people will eventually choose good if given enough lifetimes to do so.  I think there will always be the Lucifer factor. Some that even knowing God face to face since the birth of their soul will choose their ego over worshipping anything Good.

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About the Bible, and Richard Rohr's take, which I share to some degree :

https://onepeterfive.com/catholic-priest-receives-distributes-episcopal-communion/

 

In his teaching on Scripture, such as in his book Things Hidden, Rohr describes the biblical record as a human account of humanity’s evolving experience with God, “the word of God in the words of people.”[18] Rohr’s book Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self suggests Jesus’ death and resurrection is an archetypal pattern for the individual’s movement from “False Self” to “True Self,” from “who you think you are” to “who you are in God.”[19]

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2 minutes ago, ktgrok said:

About the Bible, and Richard Rohr's take, which I share to some degree :

https://onepeterfive.com/catholic-priest-receives-distributes-episcopal-communion/

 

In his teaching on Scripture, such as in his book Things Hidden, Rohr describes the biblical record as a human account of humanity’s evolving experience with God, “the word of God in the words of people.”[18] Rohr’s book Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self suggests Jesus’ death and resurrection is an archetypal pattern for the individual’s movement from “False Self” to “True Self,” from “who you think you are” to “who you are in God.”[19]

Is anyone hear listening to Fr Matt Schmitz Bible in a Year podcast?

We are and they are absolutely excellent and thoroughly enjoyable.

anyways

But one thing Fr Matt says repeatedly as he very briefly explains the readings afterwards is that God is meeting humanity where we are and transforming his chosen people throughout. So for example some horrible whatever happens that is nuts by today’s standards - but God is transforming these people from that horrible inclination and giving them laws to make them better bit by bit. 

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2 hours ago, livetoread said:

Another piece to all of this is the fact that if there was a creator, this creator purposefully made life on this earth to be imperfect (assuming one accepts evolution.) When I was in the process of deconstructing my faith, this point was hard for me to get around.

This deity had the option of making life perfect (like in heaven), but instead opted to make life suffer and die for millions of years before humans ever arrived on the scene. Then we came along and we never had the option of being perfect. We were flawed from the get go with all our messy instincts and drives. We might (maybe) have enough free will to chip away around the edges of our imperfections, but none of us have enough to actually choose to be perfect.

So in essence, we were created to be imperfect, and some of us were created to be monstrous, and then it's our fault? We are the ones who are supposed to answer for our mess?Nope, not buying it. 

If there is a redemption process, that's great, but personally I think most of us are doing the best we can given what we've got to work with, and maybe the problem lies more with a creator who could have made us better (and still will someday apparently).

How I've come to see this is that it's not that God intentionally created us to be imperfect, but he intentionally created us with the ability to love -- and in fact, with love as our main goal.  (And genuine love is only possible within the context of free will.)  If God truly is love in its purest form, then that can only be expressed completely in relationship with others...  without others, it is incomplete.  I've even heard of the idea that the reason for the trinity is partly based on that...  That God can only express himself completely through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.   I don't know how that all plays out for mankind in infinity, but I think God's "kingdom" that we're called to build is a reality where a Christ-like love is the energy behind everything, and we're all called to be part of that.  And, each of us individually is somehow important -- we don't become just a merged blob of love.  

I do think that within the free will spectrum, there exists something like a principal of proportionality, which I think is kind of interesting to think about.  So for every increase in the capacity for good, there is naturally a similar increase in the capacity for bad (or sometimes evil).  All part of the free will spectrum.  That probably holds true for all things...  So to take an everyday example:  the capacity toward doing great things on the internet means there is also an equal capacity for doing bad or even evil things on the internet.   Same goes for wealth, and even things like creativity and humor and intelligence etc.   All of those things also include the whole spectrum of capacity toward building up that ideal loving reality, or breaking it down.  (But if something holds just slight capacity for good, then it only holds slight capacity for bad.  The proportions in either direction are always equal.)

I think we're told not to judge others -- never, actually, as far as I can tell, and for the reason that you say -- because we're all born into circumstances out of our control, some good and some bad, and most of us are doing the best we can with what we know.  Who knows, maybe all of us are doing the best we can with what we know, I don't know.  So God works with each of us in our own circumstances and meets us wherever we're at and takes us as far as he can, drawing us toward him, while working within our free choices.  And my own thought (based on what I believe to be God's character) is that he keeps working with us even after death.  Only when we all have equal opportunity to see him and know that love in the purest form will we be given the opportunity to say no thanks to it and walk completely away.   (Also, to be clear, when I say "not to judge" I don't mean ignoring evil when it happens; I certainly believe we need to take a stand and act against that.)

Anyway...  That got a little longer than I was planning, and probably a little off topic!  Obviously I enjoy thinking about these things...  🙂 

 

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22 hours ago, SeaConquest said:

I am sure that Yael could probably explain the Jewish perspective on hell better than I could, but you know, ask two Jews, get three different answers. 😉

From my perspective, Judaism is kinda murky on both heaven and hell because we focus on making this world a better place (tikkun olam). But, there certainly is the tradition of olam haba (the world to come), Gan Eden (heaven/paradise/the Garden of Eden), and Gehenna (hell), but a lot of that discussion comes from Midrash and the Talmud vs the Torah itself. We say the Mourner's Kaddish for many reasons, but one reason is to help the soul that has passed on. Saying Kaddish not only keeps the deceased person's memory alive here, but our connection to and praise of G-d also helps their soul to ascend higher.

I believe that, for a period of time after our death, our soul is going through an adjustment from the physical world back to the purely spiritual realm. We are grieving the loss of our physical bodies and also grieving the many spiritual mistakes that we come to realize were made during our physical lifetime. That is its own form of hell, in a sense -- that anguish in seeing the many times that we could have drawn closer to G-d and his light/goodness. During this time, prayers and mitzvot (good deeds) said/done on behalf of the deceased can help ease their anguish and soothe/uplift their soul, easing their passage to the spiritual realm.   

 

I like what you have said. I'd agree! 

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16 hours ago, Lady Florida. said:

 

This makes me think of limbo. Any Catholics here remember limbo? I think the teachings about it stopped sometime in the 1980s but the belief persisted. Despite the RCC's official word some people think the whole reason for limbo was so people wouldn't imagine unbaptized babies burning in hell. And I do remember as a child and young teen being told that if we knew a baby was dying we could "emergency baptize" it with any available water, despite the fact that 1. We weren't priests. and 2. We didn't have actual holy water. In another part of my weird Catholic kid imagination I pictured coming upon a terrible auto accident and heroically baptizing a baby with melting snow (we still lived in NJ and in my scenario it was always winter) just in time for it to go to heaven. I swear, the things nuns put in my and other Catholic kids' heads is just so out there. Although, avoiding hell seems to be a pattern here.

Weirdly, most lay Catholics didn't learn that limbo wasn't even real Catholic doctrine until after it was officially-unofficially abolished in 2007. Limbo was just a bizarre teaching that never really made sense. 

My dad told me that the original "Limbo" was because it was still in discussion among the top clergy so they wrote it in the margins ("limbo" means "margin") - to denote that they couldn't yet be sure what God did with the souls of unbaptized babies.  Somehow "in limbo" got distorted to mean something that was not intended.

Humans are really uncomfortable with uncertainty, though, so I get it.

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I don't understand why people think God needs purgatory to fix up sinners - isn't he supposed to be omnipotent? I feel like all of theology - across many religions - has developed to explain why God/gods don't seem to be all powerful. Either there's a bad god/demon stopping things, or some gods are having a war, or maybe our ancestors did something bad and we're cursed. 

(This is kind of like the problem with writing 'magic' in adult books. Every writer has to invent a different reason why it doesn't solve all problems - maybe only certain people are magic, or you need magical substances or training etc etc.)

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If anyone is interested, here is an article that explains the age of accountability pretty well from an Anabaptist perspective. It's written by a Mennonite and I'm a different kind of Anabaptist, and I wouldn't say I agree with all of it, but it gives the gist of it. Most of the article deals with the historical development of the idea and the logical rationale behind it.

https://directionjournal.org/31/2/children-and-baptism-in-mennonite.html

The Scripture that comes to my mind is "to whom much is given, much will be required". Adults and those who have been given solid Biblical teaching and many godly examples in their lives will be judged according to a different standard than children and people who haven't been exposed to godly examples or very much of the Bible.

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23 hours ago, Lady Florida. said:

Your deconstruction journey sounds pretty typical of those who go through shedding a belief system. For some it depends on what their belief system was and how restrictive it was. I went through something similar to what you described in your post, including the parts I didn't quote. I even looked at other belief systems with the idea that maybe one of them was right for me, before deciding that they can't all be true but they can all be false. I'd call myself a strong atheist and a humanist now and am completely comfortable with both of those labels.

Learning about all of the profound differences within Christian denominations, primarily from this board, made me more convinced than ever that they can’t all be true, but they can all be false. When I first walked away from the Catholic faith I was raised in, I had doubts for quite awhile. But learning about the vast range of conflicting beliefs among Christians from these boards really helped me to be comfortable with no longer being a practicing Christian or believer. While I do find the type of Christianity described by J-rap intriguing, at this time I don’t feel compelled to pursue it. I guess I’m not a very spiritual person because I’ve never felt any inclination to examine other religions, although I certainly believe they are all just as likely as any Christian denomination to help someone know and grow closer to God (if God exists).

Growing up I definitely believed in literal hell and I thought the idea of purgatory made lots of sense. I still can’t wrap my head around the idea of being “saved” and guaranteed a spot in heaven (and hell for those who aren’t “saved”) that I was first exposed to in college and repeatedly thereafter. It’s still as strange and incomprehensible to me now as it was the first time I heard it, despite having many close friends over the years who believe it.

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13 hours ago, Frances said:

Learning about all of the profound differences within Christian denominations, primarily from this board, made me more convinced than ever that they can’t all be true, but they can all be false. When I first walked away from the Catholic faith I was raised in, I had doubts for quite awhile. But learning about the vast range of conflicting beliefs among Christians from these boards really helped me to be comfortable with no longer being a practicing Christian or believer. While I do find the type of Christianity described by J-rap intriguing, at this time I don’t feel compelled to pursue it. I guess I’m not a very spiritual person because I’ve never felt any inclination to examine other religions, although I certainly believe they are all just as likely as any Christian denomination to help someone know and grow closer to God (if God exists).

Growing up I definitely believed in literal hell and I thought the idea of purgatory made lots of sense. I still can’t wrap my head around the idea of being “saved” and guaranteed a spot in heaven (and hell for those who aren’t “saved”) that I was first exposed to in college and repeatedly thereafter. It’s still as strange and incomprehensible to me now as it was the first time I heard it, despite having many close friends over the years who believe it.

RE the bolded - I used to think there was something wrong with me because I was never as certain as other people seemed to be about religion. I remember a discussion with a young man who was attending an Orthodox Christian seminary. He said that someone who believed in a different religion (not Orthodox Christianity) was wrong and deluded. I asked about a Jewish person who *feels* that his religion is correct and the seminarian explained that it was delusions. 

I thought was a very strange explanation. 

An Orthodox Jewish woman once told me that carbon dating was a trick from God to determine who was actually faithful. 

I thought that was very strange too. 

When I first became an Orthodox Christian, I was told that I was argumentative (shocking - I know!). From this stage in my life, I am able to see that as a form of spiritual abuse and misogyny. I'm the kind of person who asks questions and sees other sides when I'm trying to figure things out. By calling me "argumentative," I was being told that I was the wrong kind of person which is why it was spiritual abuse. 

Those people with absolute certainty that they are correct about religion (and let's be honest, these people exist in every religion) are a different kind of person than me. 

I've also seen some of those people with complete certainty change their minds. I suspect (and I'm coming from *me* here and all of us are stuck in ourselves so we don't actually know what's going on inside of any other person) is that they weren't so certain before. Sometimes I see in myself a "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" mentality. Make a decision and move forward which is easier if I banish doubt from my mind. 

I don't think a God who tries to trick people or a God who allows people to be deluded about the truth makes much sense if He's supposed to be loving. And what I see is a lot of human rationalizing to make sense of that. 

I knew a woman who said that God wanted her to go to Nigeria to be a missionary. She went to Nigeria and came home in a month because Nigeria is a dangerous country for Christians. She said that God wanted to come home. I thought that was weird. God wanted you to go for a month and then come home? 

I know this will sound judgmental but it's pretty clear to me that she wanted to do both of those things (go to Nigeria and then come home) and convinced herself that God wanted her to do them. 

I've been a convert and now a revert and I see how people who leave our religion are seen as ignorant. "They didn't know the Catholic faith or they wouldn't have left." And then, those who join our religion were very thoughtful and guided by God, etc. Those are mutually exclusive things so they can't both be true. I left the Catholic faith as a very knowledgeable Catholic. I left the Orthodox faith as a very knowledgeable Orthodox Christian. 

I've read about mystical experiences and they seem to occur in all religions and happen to all kinds of people. I've been told that we know our religion is true because the Virgin Mary appeared to so and so and thousands of people saw the miracle of the sun at Fatima. But there are weeping icons in Orthodox churches and the Virgin Mary at Fatima said that Russia (where there weeping icons and miracles) needed to be converted. 

Seems like an easier way to convert the people of Russia would be the Virgin Mary appearing to them to tell them to convert to Catholicism. But it's never that. It's always, here's complete proof that you need to adopt this faith and if you don't...well that's why there's hell. 

Funny South Park clip about this way of thinking.

Back to the bolded, I can hear condemnations already but I think I'm to the point of believing that all religions can have an element of truth and represent the flawed human trying  to make sense of that we can't understand. 

I'm rambling here, sorry. 

 

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6 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

to the bolded, I can hear condemnations already but I think I'm to the point of believing that all religions can have an element of truth and represent the flawed human trying  to make sense of that we can't understand

 

 

That is where I am, and actually have almost always been. 

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15 minutes ago, ktgrok said:

That is where I am, and actually have almost always been. 

I actually think most people think like this even if they don't realize it. In the Hart article I linked in the OP, he wrote that if we actually believed in hell that we would do anything to try to save people. 

An excellent book that delves into these ideas is Silence by Shusaku Endo. it's a painful book to read and it takes a lot out of you but I'm very glad I read it. I haven't seen the movie though. 

 

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2 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Back to the bolded, I can hear condemnations already but I think I'm to the point of believing that all religions can have an element of truth and represent the flawed human trying  to make sense of that we can't understand. 

I'm rambling here, sorry. 

I don't think you're rambling at all and I totally get everything you're saying.

Paul wrote in Romans 1:20 that creation itself is evidence enough that there is a Creator, and of course people try to make sense of that, wherever and whoever they are. I do believe all (or most) religions have some elements of truth. I can believe that and still believe and know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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2 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I actually think most people think like this even if they don't realize it. In the Hart article I linked in the OP, he wrote that if we actually believed in hell that we would do anything to try to save people. 

An excellent book that delves into these ideas is Silence by Shusaku Endo. it's a painful book to read and it takes a lot out of you but I'm very glad I read it. I haven't seen the movie though. 

 

And that is why I find is odd that people who believe in hell were appalled by what the church down the road does in order to proselytize children. At least they are being consistent in their beliefs. They believe there is no established age of accountability, and the Anabaptist article linked to show there is one or a reasonable belief in one is only convincing to folks who already hope or believe there is one. It is an exercise in apologetics to provide comfort to folks over the fate of children's souls, and I get how that came to be because it is pretty damn awful to believe that millions to billions of souls are going to be given some sort of body after this one dies so they can be tortured for eternity, and that includes the little one sitting on your lap. I get it. The human brain has a hard time with it. But just because it hurts doesn't mean it isn't true, theologically speaking. So the crazy church next door is not wrong from their belief perspective, and the age of accountability folks are hoping they aren't wrong in their own belief.

And that said, the practice is abusive plain and simple. No apology. It pains me that these people have custody of their children. I can't imagine the night terrors they suffer, how very very afraid of god and their church and their parents they must be how warped their view of other humans must be! So it the very saddest thing in the world that they are more consistent in their beliefs than most people who believe in a torturous hell for eternity.

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2 minutes ago, Faith-manor said:

And that is why I find is odd that people who believe in hell were appalled by what the church down the road does in order to proselytize children. At least they are being consistent in their beliefs. They believe there is no established age of accountability, and the Anabaptist article linked to show there is one or a reasonable belief in one is only convincing to folks who already hope or believe there is one. It is an exercise in apologetics to provide comfort to folks over the fate of children's souls, and I get how that came to be because it is pretty damn awful to believe that millions to billions of souls are going to be given some sort of body after this one dies so they can be tortured for eternity, and that includes the little one sitting on your lap. I get it. The human brain has a hard time with it. But just because it hurts doesn't mean it isn't true, theologically speaking. So the crazy church next door is not wrong from their belief perspective, and the age of accountability folks are hoping they aren't wrong in their own belief.

And that said, the practice is abusive plain and simple. No apology. It pains me that these people have custody of their children. I can't imagine the night terrors they suffer, how very very afraid of god and their church and their parents they must be how warped their view of other humans must be! So it the very saddest thing in the world that they are more consistent in their beliefs than most people who believe in a torturous hell for eternity.

I actually had the same thought. If you believe in hell, what's so terrible about scaring people, even children, about hell? 

If hell is real, then that crazy church are the good guys. 

I once read an article about the doctrine of hell and children. I can't remember the specifics but basically every religion found a way to save their kids. No one can look at a baby and think that it makes sense that the baby might die and go to hell. Hence limbo and age of reason arguments. 

 

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My feeling is that theologies have a way of making connection with God/gods (either metaphorical or literal) very complicated. 

I've had a very few moments of that connection in my life, and it's never been mediated by theology, or even religion. It's given by grace, and the experience of grace is enough to be transformative, in that it encourages us to continue in the hope of it again.

In this type of experience, hell is an irrelevancy. 

 

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56 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

My feeling is that theologies have a way of making connection with God/gods (either metaphorical or literal) very complicated. 

I've had a very few moments of that connection in my life, and it's never been mediated by theology, or even religion. It's given by grace, and the experience of grace is enough to be transformative, in that it encourages us to continue in the hope of it again.

In this type of experience, hell is an irrelevancy. 

 

This is a beautiful post.

I belong to an organized church and generally believe the theology it teaches (I think some things may belong more to the realm of human thought stretching to satisfy our desire to fill in all the details). I absolutely believe however that connection with deity is accessible to and can be experienced by anyone and that no organized religion is necessary to have such experiences.

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