About

You may think hell is an odd topic to discuss these days given a significant number of people in the West don’t even believe it exists…

First, what people believe can affect those around them. This is becoming ever more apparent in our increasingly globalised world. An extreme example is someone who believes blowing themselves up in a crowded place will earn themselves a spot in Paradise. Assumably, you think that’s a ridiculous thing to believe but the fact someone else believes it still affects you, even if only indirectly1.

Second, I’m sure I’m mistaken about many things in life. At the same time, that the majority of people throughout history probably did/do believe in some sort of Hell2, should make us all pause. It’s just possible you might be mistaken about what happens after you die.

In both cases, I think it’s better to engage with the issue—even if you think it’s only a hypothetical thought experiment—rather than simply ignoring it. We may not significantly, nor rapidly, change the other’s view but we might reform/improve it a little, and influence those quietly following the discussion.

Anyway, I’m a Christian, a husband, a father of 3 young children, and a full-time worker but God willing, I hope to make time each month to share thoughts on:

  1. Does our view on hell affect the way we interact with God, people, and creation?
  2. Does our view on hell affect our view of justice, punishment, and evil?
  3. What things in this world, which is hellish3 for many people, can we improve/reform?
  4. Can people in hell be reformed? Is hell a place of reformation—a reforming hell?
  5. How are Christians currently trying to reform our view of hell?
  6. How have past Christians wanted to reform our view of hell?
  7. Does our view of hell fit into the Bible’s big picture, particularly pre-Fall?

1. e.g., the tightening of security at airports.
2. In this case, I’m speaking broadly of any negative fate of people after death, so including beliefs, such as annihilationism, where people cease to exist.
3. “this present evil age” Galatians 1:4

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19 thoughts on “About

  1. Aww so fun to find your blog and see a comment from Thomas Talbott!! Inescapable Love of God was instrumental for my husband and me in questioning some of what we’d always been taught in church growing up. Looking forward to reading through many more of your posts. Thanks for writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kimie, that’s very encouraging! The Inescapable Love of God is one of the few books that I’ve read multiple times. When the 2nd edition came out I managed to arrange for it to be made into an audiobook narrated by the talented George Sarris so that my brother could benefit from it 😀

      The Inescapable Love of God (Christian Audio audiobook)
      The Inescapable Love of God (Audible audiobook)

      My latest post Engaging Orr-Ewing: How Could a Holy/Loving God Send People to Hell? contains Talbott’s insights into C. S. Lewis’ conversion and a link to a great article he wrote fleshing it out.

      Like

  2. william twiss

    I would like to know what you believe about Jesus our Lord? . One of my favorite verses is Heb,1:8 I believe Jesus is God ,because God says so What do you believe about it.?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the question William. I believe the eternal Trinity is the best systematic description of God that we have. I believe it is what God has revealed, primarily in the Bible but by also through secondary means (e.g. logically an eternally loving being requires someone to have loved eternally). I believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the promised Messiah, and eternally/fully part of the Trinity. I believe He physically incarnated, taught, performed miracles, was crucified and resurrected, before ascending. While He is currently with us via the Spirit, I look forward to His physical return. Because of who He is and what He has done, I try to follow Him.

      Feel free to ask me to clarify anything.

      Like

  3. Femi Oluwawunmi

    Hi Alex,
    My name is Femi, Nigerian based in Johannesburg. I am happy with what our Father is doing through you. And most importantly, thank you for making sure the Inescapable Love of God is in audio.
    Please do you by anyway knows anybody that believes that “Love Wins All” in Johannesburg? I am very hungry to meet people who have same believe like you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your encouragement Femi! My brother was too busy to read the book but said he’d listen to it if it was an audiobook… thankfully George Sarris was keen so that made it doable!

      I don’t know many people in SA but I believe one of them does believe “Love Wins All” so I’ll see if I can get in contact with them 🙂 Are you happy for me to give them your email address?

      Like

  4. Norm Ross

    Alex, I find you, and the majority of those who respond to your blogs, to be courteous, unassuming, and enlightening – I’m not trying to curry favour, just telling how I feel. In short, I appreciate what you write and the manner in which you write.
    A brief word of explanation – I’m 77, a Christian since 1953, married with nine children. My beautiful wife’s condition is now a state of advanced dementia, i.e. she is totally helpless. I insist she remains at home with me and count it only the greatest joy and privilege to take care of her every need. God alone gives me the necessary strength and grace. He has also provided me with Jaki, a lovely Christian Filipina, to assist me. We now live in Canada, which is probably quite similar to Australia in its origins, culture, politics, etc. but with very different climates!
    My wife and I have attended many different churches, of all persuasions, but which we considered held firmly to “the faith once delivered ..etc.” I have been an elder and a lay preacher in some of them. I have written quite a few essays on a number of subjects, the most recent (since we are presently members of a very conservative Reformed church) being a critique of the doctrine known as exclusive psalm singing. I am currently leading our church’s mid-week bible study on Revelation. I, unashamedly, use the Internet quite a bit to find out what interpretations are “out there”. So, I chanced upon your blog.
    My Internet searches caused me to come across the story of Michael Servetus who was burned at the stake for the heresy of denouncing Trinitarians. The reformed churches, under Calvin, handed him over to the civic authority to perform the slow, excruciatingly painful execution. In my essay, I asked the question, backed by the beautiful commentary of the Heidelberg Catechism, whether such an action was wilful non-adherence to the Sixth Commandment. (The 10 Commandments are read every Sunday by Reformed churches who remain strictly faithful to the prescribed Order of Worship). Reading through the Belgic Confession we find that the future of the wicked is to suffer “eternal torment” – not for the 35 minutes it took to extinguish Servetus’ life, but for ever, and for ever, and for ever.
    I give my wife supper every evening before putting her to bed a 6 p.m. The ladies in our church graciously prepare meals to help me. I heat them up in our microwave. Recently, I took note of how hot the bowls of food became after 2 minutes. Too hot for me to extract them with my bare hands. I needed to use a tea towel. No tea towels would help in hellfire. An eternal, conscious hell is not something that one likes to think about.
    Then a thought came to me – please tell me if it was a suggestion from the Devil – if I, a man created in the image of God, could never torture any living being, say a cat, by setting fire to it or throwing it into a cauldron, how can a loving God, infinitely more caring and loving than I, ever do such an act? I am fully aware that God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, but I am still left with an unanswered question.

    Please say hello to your dear wife,

    Norm

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alex, I find you, and the majority of those who respond to your blogs, to be courteous, unassuming, and enlightening – I’m not trying to curry favour, just telling how I feel. In short, I appreciate what you write and the manner in which you write.

      Thanks for the encouragement! It takes hours—sometimes days—to do a post as I’m trying my best to “to give the reason for the hope that [I] have. But do this with gentleness and respect”, knowing that there’s lots more for me to learn about most things in life, not least the Bible & God!

      A brief word of explanation – I’m 77, a Christian since 1953, married with nine children. My beautiful wife’s condition is now a state of advanced dementia, i.e. she is totally helpless. I insist she remains at home with me and count it only the greatest joy and privilege to take care of her every need. God alone gives me the necessary strength and grace. He has also provided me with Jaki, a lovely Christian Filipina, to assist me.

      Thanks for introducing yourself. I’m married with 3 kids & that’s often a juggle so I can’t imagine how anyone handled 9 :-O Sorry to hear your wife has dementia—that must be so tough. I’m impressed you’re able to care for her and I’m glad to hear God’s given you the strength and grace (& Jaki) to do so.

      We now live in Canada, which is probably quite similar to Australia in its origins, culture, politics, etc. but with very different climates!

      I live in Tasmania, which is the coldest state in Australia but despite some people complaining that it’s too cold over winter, I know that it’s mild compared to Canada!

      My wife and I have attended many different churches, of all persuasions, but which we considered held firmly to “the faith once delivered ..etc.” I have been an elder and a lay preacher in some of them. I have written quite a few essays on a number of subjects, the most recent (since we are presently members of a very conservative Reformed church) being a critique of the doctrine known as exclusive psalm singing.

      I grew up in a small, fairly conservative, Brethren church (I also visited one that only sung psalms). When I was 15 I joined a conservative Presbyterian and was a member there for about 15 years before joining a conservative Christian Reformed Church for almost 2 years. I’ve then returned to my childhood church, where my parents & 8 of my other relatives go. I do a couple of sermons each year (for the last few weeks I’ve been working on one for the 26th of Nov) and hope to one day go to https://www.ridley.edu.au/ as I love theology, particularly where it intersects with life—“rubber hitting the road”.

      I am currently leading our church’s mid-week bible study on Revelation.

      Good on you, that’s a challenging book! Although it contains so of my favourite passages (e.g. Rev 22, particularly verse 17)

      I, unashamedly, use the Internet quite a bit to find out what interpretations are “out there”. So, I chanced upon your blog.

      I’m very thankful for the Internet as it’s been even more effective than the printing press giving lay people easy access to the Bible in dozens of translations, to interlinears & lexicons, to numerous commentaries, and great works by respected theologians, all the way back to NT times! I’m delighted to hear you stumbled upon my blog—I hope it’s a blessing to you.

      My Internet searches caused me to come across the story of Michael Servetus who was burned at the stake for the heresy of denouncing Trinitarians. The reformed churches, under Calvin, handed him over to the civic authority to perform the slow, excruciatingly painful execution. In my essay, I asked the question, backed by the beautiful commentary of the Heidelberg Catechism, whether such an action was wilful non-adherence to the Sixth Commandment. (The 10 Commandments are read every Sunday by Reformed churches who remain strictly faithful to the prescribed Order of Worship). Reading through the Belgic Confession we find that the future of the wicked is to suffer “eternal torment” – not for the 35 minutes it took to extinguish Servetus’ life, but for ever, and for ever, and for ever.

      While I am a Trinitarian and think it’s a very helpful way to articulate the God we see revealed in Scripture, I think Jesus wouldn’t have burned someone at the stake and so neither should we.

      I give my wife supper every evening before putting her to bed a 6 p.m. The ladies in our church graciously prepare meals to help me. I heat them up in our microwave. Recently, I took note of how hot the bowls of food became after 2 minutes. Too hot for me to extract them with my bare hands. I needed to use a tea towel. No tea towels would help in hellfire. An eternal, conscious hell is not something that one likes to think about.

      Yes, I’ve burnt myself on microwaved containers that get surprisingly hot, surprisingly quick! Yes, eternal, conscious hell is hard to even imagine and a lot of people prefer not to think about it—although I admit I’ve been thinking about it since I was a teenager in the 90’s.

      Then a thought came to me – please tell me if it was a suggestion from the Devil – if I, a man created in the image of God, could never torture any living being, say a cat, by setting fire to it or throwing it into a cauldron, how can a loving God, infinitely more caring and loving than I, ever do such an act?

      I think wanting to see someone made in the image of God become God’s son or daughter He intended is a suggestion from the Holy Spirit. In Eden, we see God laying out His plans—giving us our telos—humanity is designed to be in a relationship with Him, that’s the way things ought to be—that’s Justice. There’s no Hell in Eden, it’s not part of His intentions. I believe He only tolerates Hell because He knows it’s a temporary and seemingly unavoidable necessity for dismantling some delusions. Similar to how a loving parent tolerates a child crying for a few minutes when they’re disciplined because they know spoiling a kid actually isn’t in the kid’s best interest—isn’t actually loving. Or how a surgeon tolerates the blood when he operates because he knows that it’s in the patients best interest. Or how a gardener tolerates a tree looking bare when pruned because it’s better in the long run. I would struggle to be a surgeon so I’m glad I’m not responsible for overseeing hell—I think only God is capable of knowing how to morally do that.

      I am fully aware that God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, but I am still left with an unanswered question.

      It’s not surprising that we don’t yet understand everything God has done and is doing. However, it’s important to note that the context of Isa 55:8-9 is actually God’s compassion and forgiveness:

      Let the wicked one abandon his way and the sinful one his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, so He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will freely forgive. Isa 55:7

      That’s what we underestimate—He has a higher amount of compassion and forgiveness than even the best parent for their child.

      I reckon you’d really benefit from reading “The One Purpose of God” by Jan Bonda (Dutch Reformed Pastor who engages with Scripture and the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, etc. Short review here: The One Purpose of God – Jan Bonda (Eerdmans 1998))

      Please say hello to your dear wife

      She said, “It’s lovely to get such an encouraging message all the way from Canada.” 🙂

      Like

      1. Norm Ross

        Thanks for replying so quickly, Alex. As a “teenager in the 90s”, you would be a contemporary of the middle third of our family! We wouldn’t notice the addition of another son. We seem to have walked down similar paths, e.g. my wife and I attended a (Free) Brethren meeting when we lived in Zambia where our first two children were born; the church where I served as an elder was CRC; denominations are unimportant, a true church is one that is Bible-based and exalts Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
        I really should go through all your prior blogs before posing this question – I would probably discover you have already dealt with it. If hell is only “temporary” as you put it and is intended to be reformative, then will not every man, woman and child have to spend varying lengths of time in it since not only have “all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” but all continue to sin, unconsciously as well as wilfully? And isn’t that idea a bit similar to the Roman Catholic teaching about purgatory? Help me out here, I’m a little confused.
        And thanks for referring me to Bonda’s book. I’ll be sure to get it and read it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for replying so quickly, Alex.

        I like to not be too busy on a Sunday so that makes it easier—during the week it harder.

        As a “teenager in the 90s”, you would be a contemporary of the middle third of our family! We wouldn’t notice the addition of another son.

        Hehe

        We seem to have walked down similar paths, e.g. my wife and I attended a (Free) Brethren meeting when we lived in Zambia where our first two children were born; the church where I served as an elder was CRC; denominations are unimportant, a true church is one that is Bible-based and exalts Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

        Yes, it seems we have walked a similar path. I should’ve said that it was “Open” Brethren, as opposed to the “Exclusive” type! I’d happily be part of a non-denominational church that was Bible-based & Christocentric 🙂

        If hell is only “temporary” as you put it and is intended to be reformative, then will not every man, woman and child have to spend varying lengths of time in it since not only have “all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” but all continue to sin, unconsciously as well as wilfully? And isn’t that idea a bit similar to the Roman Catholic teaching about purgatory?

        That’s a fair question. There are a number of responses:

        1. Some Christian Universalists believe that the Bible teaches that all the punishment has occurred (e.g. in 70AD. Full preterism), or will occur, in this age. My understanding is that they believe punishment won’t occur in the next age because once people come face-to-face with the risen & glorified Christ, all their delusions will evaporate and they’ll fall in love with Him.
        2. Some Christian Universalists believe that the Bible teaches that punishment will occur in the age(s) to come and that they can be just as severe, retributive, non-reformative, conscious, tormenting, etc. as whatever a non-universalist believes, except that it’s not eternal.
        3. Some Christians (even non-universalist Protestants, like Jerry Walls) believe that the Bible teaches purgatory (e.g. “everyone will be salted with fire”), except that it’s for sanctification, rather than satisfaction—that is to say, you can never earn your salvation (James Gould also discusses that in detail in this journal article: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-anglican-studies/article/gods-saving-purpose-and-prayer-for-all-the-departed/9884A1CDB22F8B3F94232F6142D64AA7)./li>

        While I think the biblical authors were often referring to the impending destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, I’m not convinced that ruled out multiple fulfillments. So I don’t hold view 1. above—I think partial preterism might be where I’m at, although it’s something I’m still quite unsure about.

        Regarding view 2., while I don’t like active/direct use of force, even retribution, I don’t rule it out as something that God requires to satisfy justice (although I’d want to be careful not to discount what Jesus has already done in that regard) and achieve the best for all creation. Also bearing in mind that 9/10 times in the Bible, justice is restorative justice, rather than retributive (according to the Bible Project scholars, who aren’t universalists)–so a restorative justice type hell actually seems more consistent.

        Regarding view 3., I don’t use the term “purgatory” as it has too much baggage and because I’m also unsure exactly when, where, and how, God intends to get everyone from their current state to the glorious, final state of God being “all in all”, uttermost/primary/filling to everyone—but I believe He will. I do believe repenting and coming to faith Jesus will be essential for each and every being ever created. I do believe that’s only possible because the Holy Spirit is working within people—I imagine in some sort of cooperative capacity as to allow free will but again, that debate is complex (I like Talbott’s chess illustration though see https://reforminghell.com/2017/03/18/engaging-orr-ewing-how-could-a-holyloving-god-send-people-to-hell/). I do believe everyone will freely give the Father the praise & glory He deserves—that mere lip service from a heart that hates Him wouldn’t be good enough. I think along the way He will seek to see every perpetrator apologise to every victim (remembering that victims are perpetrators of things too), for the victim’s sake, the perpetrator’s sake, and because I think leaving relationships unreconciled, leaving hatred even “quarantined” in hell, would be evil (I try to unpack that more in https://reforminghell.com/2017/02/12/engaging-shumack-justice-and-the-death-penalty/).

        The other important consideration is that the pattern throughout the Bible is that God patiently warns people to stop their evil behaviour but only for a limited time (albeit sometimes that’s decades). There comes a time when God allows (possibly causes) the ramifications to catch up with people—the resulting calamity may last for a while before another opportunity arises for repentance. This means it’s always better to turn to God today, rather than just assume you can get rescued as soon as the “flood” hits. I try to explain that more in https://reforminghell.com/2015/10/04/do-we-need-hell-as-a-motivation/

        I hope that helps. One of the highlights of Robin Parry’s book, “The Evangelical Universalist” (happens to be my favourite book on the topic), is that he carefully goes through the OT looking at the pattern of judgment.

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