Ur Video: NT Wright on Hell
The Bishop of Durham kicks off our new series on eternal damnation.

We're starting a new weekly series on Out of Ur about the doctrine of Hell. Each week there will be a post (video or written) from a church leader on their view of Hell and the role of the doctrine today. Given the diversity of views, and the different ways evangelical churches talk (or don't talk) about Hell, we hope this series informs your own thinking and communication.

Displaying 1–10 of 58 comments

Elli.A

December 18, 2011  3:01am

Sometimes things are not working as forecasted, thats life.... bye, Elli

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Elli.Z

November 01, 2011  2:44am

Sometimes things are not working as forecasted, thats life.... bye, Elli

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Hilary

March 07, 2011  12:10pm

I cannot believe that many of you are questioning Jesus' words. You CANNOT say you believe that every word of the Bible is true and then question what Jesus said. You either believe the Bible for what it says or you don't. Jesus wasn't speaking in parables when He spoke of hell. He was speaking literally. We are all headed straight for hell without the atoning work of Christ on the Cross. If there is no hell, why did Jesus die?

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Karen

February 08, 2010  10:20am

With regard to the mention of Orthodox Bp. Alfeyev's scholarship of St. Isaac (which is well worth studying), I would add that in spite of what his teaching might lead a modern protestant (or Roman Catholic) to think, St. Isaac (and all the other Saints who express this kind of profound insight into the radical nature of God's love in their life and teachings–most of whom do NOT teach a finite "Gehenna" and neither is this a dogma of the Orthodox Church) were also firmly grounded in a tradition of the most rigorous Christian asceticism and a kind of literal obedience to Jesus' commandments that modern Christians generally eschew as legalism and rarely view as meant to be taken and worked out in life so literally (i.e., the commands to "pray without ceasing" and to "love your enemies.") They actually take the working out of one's salvation with fear and trembling and the overcoming of sin and the flesh in one's life with the help of God's grace as of the utmost critical importance. We should ask ourselves why. Without knowing why (and Bp. Alfeyev comes from a tradition in which this sort of rigorous asceticism is still very much taught and assumed even today), I think there is some important information missing here, which easily leads to the perspective that Historymaker expresses, and which I think flies in the face of the fullness of Christian revelation. What Jesus taught and demonstrated through His life, death and resurrection about the nature of ultimate things is of far more interest to me than subjective modern accounts of people resuscitated to a kind of existence in which they will clearly someday die again (not to be resuscitated into another mortal existence). There are also modern accounts of near death experiences where what was experienced was a lot more like "hell," but these don't sell popular books! As my Orthodox Priest recently pointed out, whatever these experiences describe, it is not the afterlife that Jesus and Scripture address, or we wouldn't be talking to them–they would still be dead!

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still

February 07, 2010  11:51pm

"And while I do believe people have free will, I do not believe human free will is more powerful than God's free will. When it comes to a battle of Free Wills, God vs. Man, God's Will shall surely prevail." Bone of contention: The use of the term "free" made the statement self-contradictory. "Free" is defined in a dictionary as "At liberty; not bound or constrained." The phrase "God's Will shall surely prevail" renders human free will null and void. C.S. Lewis words are upfront: "If you choose to say 'God can give a creature free-will and at the same time withhold free-will from it', you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combination of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words 'God can'."

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Historymaker

February 07, 2010  7:30am

I would also recommend reading what the Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev has to say on this: http://mercycongress.org/story.php?NID=3132 Remember, that over the last few years, a lot of Evangelicals converted to Orthodoxy (Hilarion isn't one of them) and may have brought a lot of their previous beliefs into Orthodoxy.

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Historymaker

February 07, 2010  7:24am

If we are to be truly honest with ourselves, none of us really know if there is a heaven or hell when we die. It's all based on belief. Whether we believe what this book says or that book says. What we believe this scholar or that scholar says. This religion or that religion. This or that vision. Personally, the closest we can get to a blurry picture of the afterlife is in people's Near-Death-Experiences. According to Barna, nearly 8 million Americans have died and come back to life experiencing similar things. The majority are positive experiences, regardless of being atheist or having religious beliefs. There are a few negative ones, but they always end up getting rescued by some being of unconditional love. But even those experiences do not prove anything. It creates another belief for those of us who have yet to experience death. But at least this belief is based on empirical fact, rather than religious theory. I've read Wright's books, NTPG, JVG, Surprised by Hope and Meaning of Jesus. And I've read every early church writing written before 120AD which seem to believe in Annihilation and Conditional Immortality. I've also read books on Universalist Christians beliefs such as St. Gregory of Nyssa (who co-wrote the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed). However, after going through theological college, I've had enough of Christianity's diverse theories (as there are 39,000 different Protestant denominations alone who disagree with each other over the interpretation of one Biblical passage or another). I'd recommend a few books written by medical doctors who have interviewed patients who are dying are who have died and returned to life. You may choose to believe or not, but at least you will know the experience of many. Into the Light by Dr. John Lerma Closer to the Light by Dr. Melvin Morse At the end of the day, I believe that God is the Ultimate Sovereign, which means if God wants you to believe in Hell, that means He needs you to believe in it. If God doesn't want you to believe in Hell, you won't. Many people need to believe in Hell. Fear and Love are the two motivators in life, and if you have not experienced Perfect Love (which casts out all Fear), then you must have Fear to motivate you. Hell is a great motivator to make people do good things that they otherwise wouldn't. However, if you do good things because of Love, then God will not need to use Hell on you as a Fear-based motivator, and will lead you down a different path. And while I do believe people have free will, I do not believe human free will is more powerful than God's free will. When it comes to a battle of Free Wills, God vs. Man, God's Will shall surely prevail. Therefore, if God's will is for none to perish, and if God has the power to create a situation where everyone will choose to come to him of their own free will, then the question is will God succeed or not? All-Sovereignty + All-Powerful + Will to save all = ?

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Karen

February 06, 2010  8:36pm

"I think that those who have commented so far and are obviously very worked up are those who have been immersed in a version of Christianity that really likes hell." Tony, an astute observation, I believe. I think this is related to modern "Atonement" theories rooted in "Penal Substitution," a Reformation doctrine not found in early Christianity, but the predominating model among protestant evangelicals today. Some food for thought here based on the writings of a Saint of the early church here: http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/st-isaac-mercy-and-justice/

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tony

February 05, 2010  12:15pm

I think that those who have commented so far and are obviously very worked up are those who have been immersed in a version of Christianity that really likes hell. Not in that they want to visit, but in that they find it very useful in "spreading the good news" of Jesus. I find it strange that so many seem to think there is SO much at stake if it turns out that there isn't a giant burning lake of fire somewhere, as if there is no gospel apart from a burning pit of fire. What Wright says about what is traditionally called the Orthodox view of hell is not that there is no such thing as hell, but that it is less about God (out of "justice" or something) torturing sinners and more like being shut outside of the life God gives and hopes for all creation. And this is what Wright is talking about when he says our choices in life really do matter. So that when God puts things to rights on the last day there will be a welcome extended to those sinners who have said "yes" to God and the others will get exactly what they want, namely eternity w/o God. And the consequences of a life cut off from God is, as Wright says, increasingly dehumanizing. And the name we have used to describe this way of "living" is "hell".

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Karen

February 05, 2010  11:20am

Okay, I'm Eastern Orthodox (formerly Evangelical), and this is the very issue that compelled me on the journey that led me to convert to Orthodoxy. For a fuller understanding of what Orthodoxy and the Bible actually teaches about this issue, go to the following link and scroll down the article "Heaven & Hell in the Afterlife." http://stjohn.ny.goarch.org/ There is also a very helpful podcast by Orthodox prof. of philosophy Clark Carlton at this link: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/carlton/hell_a_modest_proposal I hope this helps the discussion on this very important issue where the faith of many are harmed by distortions on both sides of this issue (a diminishment of God's mercy on one hand, or the real and potentially terrible consequences of man's choices on the other), whether one takes an NT Wright approach or Jon Piper's, or adopts heresies like Universalism and Annihilationism.

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