Hazing the Hellbound

Third or fourth (maybe fifth? who knows?) rule of blogging: Every post creates more posts. Yippee!

 When last we spoke, I was sounding off about Lee Strobel’s take on Us Hellbound. (I’m being a little snarky with that phrase, but I also assume that I fall within his category.) Since then, some valuable comments have come in, which stimulated more thought and (hopefully, with this post) more precision.

Several of you agreed with me, which is always enjoyable for my sense of righteousness. (I can run off to my agnostic friends and say, “See?”) I especially liked the idea of the Gospel as practical, as expressed by Chuck, because that seems to approach the idea of the Axial Age that I’ve been reading about.

However, sprocket23 (good handle!) made an excellent point, that to evangelize to Us Hellbound is an act of love. Absolutely, I agree with this and I’ve seen this. I even had this in mind when I wrote the post, because I’ve had several friends tell me that they just don’t want to get to heaven and see that I’m not there. I believe that nothing but love motivates that kind of thing. So even if I didn’t say this in my earlier post, I do not question the motivation behind spreading the Gospel.

But my original point was that I object to the practice of seeing non-Christians as hellbound. Is it true, as Chuck points out, that Jesus never mentioned anyone being “hellbound”? If so, that wouldn’t surprise me. Although I respect the devotion of Christians to their idea of Christianity, I sometimes feel there’s a gap between what Jesus said and what Christianity (or later Christians) said.

Regardless of the scriptural basis of whether or not someone is truly hellbound, though, the real wrong is the idea of any human being presuming to determine that. I stand by my original thought that it is absolute arrogance to think that you know whether someone is hellbound or not. Catholics think Protestants are hellbound; some other sects think Catholics are hellbound; a whole lot of people think Jews are hellbound, and it’s all based on a scriptural interpretation and an opinion about the worth of that sect’s beliefs. Unless a whole lot of us are hellbound (and how again do we know until we go?), the sorting system isn’t really clear to any of us.

And arrogance just isn’t cute. Arrogance doesn’t make me think, “Hey, I think I should open up to this person.” On the contrary, it makes me irritable. Maybe I’m just contrary, but arrogance makes me more suspicious, not less, that the person in question doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I suspect, in fact, that this is at the heart of why a lot of evangelism doesn’t work. We’ve discussed this before, but I think it bears repeating because I think it’s a message that some evangelizing Christians won’t want to hear, even though listening might make them more successful with exactly what they’d like to accomplish.

If you see someone as hellbound, you have judged them. Period. And even where love abides, judgment makes for a big stone around its neck, dragging it away from its true purpose and real transcendence. Only God can judge, and the rest of us mostly have to theorize.

If you’re certain based on Scripture that someone is hellbound, you can have the comfort of your judgement, I guess. But you’ve also saddled yourself with a burden for your evangelism. Even if you don’t want it to, your attitude that someone is hellbound will communicate itself in the way you speak, the arguments you come up with, and other subtle factors that will tell your listener that you aren’t just saying, “Hey, this really was the right path for me and here’s why.”

When people can hear you saying, “You’re going to hell unless you do what I do,” the resistance springs up. You can dislike that fact all you want, and you can give reasons why it shouldn’t be that way. But if you can’t accept it as true (the way you want others to accept the Gospel as true), you’ll always be working with an anchor around your neck.


15 Responses to “Hazing the Hellbound”

  1. 1 Gordy May 15, 2007 at 2:26 am

    Jesus did in fact say people were hellbound:

    He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18

    I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Luke 13:3 (some may argue that perish refers to physical death, but that doesn’t make sense because then Jesus would be saying you could physically live for ever if you repent – which we know now one can do.)

    Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. John 3:5

    Have you ever examined yourself in light of the Ten Commandments? How many have you kept? If you are like me, you would have to admit you’ve kept none (looking with lust is adultery according to Jesus, hate is murder in your heart according to John). If you are guilty of breaking God’s laws and since he is a just judge, should he send you to Heaven or Hell? We are reminded in the Bible that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire. We are told that no thief, no adulterer, no murderer will inherit the kingdom of God. You could say you are sorry, but would that help you escape punishment if you were guilty of breaking a law and standing before a human judge? What about saying you broke those commandments a long time ago? Does a human judge let a criminal go free if the criminal is not caught for many years? What if the criminal does lots of good things to make up for his crime? That won’t work either. None of those things work with the just and holy God either. Justice must be served. That is the reason Jesus Christ came to the world and died on the cross – when he was on the cross, he became sin for us and he endured all of God’s wrath for all of our sins. Jesus died in our place, was buried, and then rose again to show that he does have power over death and that he is the Son of God. But just because Jesus died in your place does not mean you automatically go free. You must have faith in his sacrifice that it satisfied the justice of God. You must repent and trust Christ. When you do that, you are a new creature, you are born again into the family of God and given eternal life.

  2. 2 Diane May 15, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    I agree with you Holly. It’s the ones that say they have all the answers that scare me. I don’t have all the answers and won’t until I die.

    And I’m also right there with your rebellion – you tell me that you know what’s right for me, and I’ll do the opposite. I guess its human nature, but some people don’t seem to be like this. Maybe they’re lucky – who knows.

  3. 3 billphillips May 15, 2007 at 5:10 pm


    That’s an interesting post.

    I agree with Gordy. No one goes to hell because you’re not doing what someone else is doing; you’re going to hell because you’ve broken God’s law. When someone says you’re going to hell, I suppose you could say they’re judging you. They’re taking the wild leap of faith that you’ve told a lie at some point in your life.

    So I’m going to join those who assume that you’ve lied, and ask: What are you going to do about your lie? How are you going to get that lie forgiven?


  4. 4 Rev Scottie May 15, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    Hey Holly,

    I really enjoy reading this blog. You have some very keen observations concerning the modern church.

    I think it’s funny that in response to a thread about being judgemental that Gordy feels he must not only tell you that you’re wrong, but also launch into a canned approach to evangelism developed by Ray Comfort and his Way of the Master program. Don’t you feel better knowing that you are a murdering adulterer. And if you don’t believe that you can add liar to the list as well. You can’t ask for a much better example of the us vs them mentality that so many christians have.

    I wish christians would take a moment to look at things from the viewpoint of an outsider to their religion.

    I pray that you will find some real truth as you navigate through the minefield of religion.

    Rev. Scottie

  5. 5 billphillips May 15, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Rev. Scottie,

    Of what are you a reverend?

    Are you saying that Gordy quoted a verse that shouldn’t be quoted to a non-Christian, or are you saying that he misrepresented the Bible, or what?

    Why are you going to heaven?


  6. 6 tobeme May 15, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    This is a very interesting discussion. Of course one of the things that we must do is define what “hell” is and what “heaven” is. Most of us view both as a place and we also have a “hollywood” visual of these places. I would offer that hell nor heaven is a place, they are both a state of being and I do not believe you have to wait until your human form expires to know these states. Simply stated, “hell” is the state of being disconnected from your source, God, whatever you may choose to call it and “heaven” is the state of being totaly connected with your source, your God. The ticket for entry into either heaven or hell is not deeds, nor affirmations of belief, rather it is a “knowing”, a knowing which is unique to each person and therefore cannot be judged by anyone else.

  7. 7 billphillips May 15, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    To be me,

    The idea of heaven and hell come from the Bible. Certainly Hollywood hasn’t necessarily followed the Bible in their representation of either place.

    The Bible says hell is a place of everlasting contempt (Daneil 12:2), unquenchable fire (Luke 3:17), torment with fire and brimstone, no rest day or night (Revelation 14:10-11).

    Heaven is where God dwells (Acts 7:49). If you don’t like God, you won’t like heaven.

    Where do you get your information?


  8. 8 ila May 15, 2007 at 9:42 pm


    I like your post. I’m grateful for your honest views of Christianity.

    What confuses me is Rev. Scottie. I’m not sure if he’s a pastor or not, but it seems he’s claiming to be a Christian.

    So, I’m curious. As a Christian, I believe there is a hell. I believe that all who do not repent from sin and trust Christ for undeserved forgiveness and entrance to heaven will go to this horrific place after death. This is clearly in the Bible (as quoted in some of the comments above).

    If Rev. Scottie truly believes this, why does he question Gordy for sharing the Gospel with you? I believe if you claim to be a Christian, it is essential to believe the Bible (so the Bible says). And you believe the Bible, you’re going to believe that other people need Jesus—whether you label it as “hellbound” or something else—more than the air you breathe. You’re going to believe that it’s a matter of life and death. For instance, if you saw someone about to walk off of a cliff, you would warn them (in as loving a manner as possible). It would not too much matter if he thought you were judgmental about his walking path. The fact is that you aren’t being judgmental. You are bold enough to shout out and caring enough to ensure he doesn’t tumble to his death.

  9. 9 hdolezalek May 15, 2007 at 11:40 pm

    Thanks, ila, and welcome!

  10. 10 Rev Scottie May 16, 2007 at 2:54 am

    Please forgive me if this turns out to be a double post but let me just clarify that I would probably agree on Gordy and Bill’s interpretation of scripture but it’s their presentation that I am at odds with. Why in the world would you call someone a liar, adulterer, and murderer and then expect them to be all excited about the rest of your message? Just because Ray Comfort teaches you to do this on his TV show doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do things. All people deserve to hear the Gospel presented to them in a caring loving manner. If you can’t do that I am afraid you may do the cause of Christ more harm than good.

    1 Peter 3:15b-16 NIV And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way.

    Gentleness and respect seem to be missing from a lot of Christian conversation.

    Rev Scottie

  11. 11 jim May 16, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    Great conversation. Here’s my two cents. I’ve been taught that nobody cares what you know, until they know that you care. My responsibility as a Christian is to love the people around me, regardless of their position with God. I can’t tell you that always happens, but I do my best. God’s job is to judge, mine is to love. I think His job is harder.
    Eight years ago I did’t think too much of God, but my wife to be brought me to a church that loves people. I was encouraged to read the bible for myself, and I learned what God has to say to us as His creation. I tell that story to say that I choose to believe God. I was not forced, and He doesn’t want people forced. He gives us a choice to follow Him, or not. We as humans either believe His word is true, or we don’t. If a person dosent believe the bible is “God breathed”, that person doesnt care about heaven or hell.
    Thank you Holly for spurring this open communication. If you are really seeking God, you will find Him.

  12. 12 tobeme May 17, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    I understand the how the bible describes heaven and hell. Do you believe that these are places as dipicted in Hollywood’s movies or do you see them as a state of being?

  13. 13 dave anderson (moviepastor) May 19, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    When religious people brought a woman to Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery – what was Jesus response? The Romans Road to salvation? The 4 Laws of Spirituality? The Way of the Master? No. Instead he stooped and wrote something in the dirt on the ground. One by one the religious people who demanded this woman be stoned (which was what the law required) left. Then he asked – Woman – where are those who accuse you? Hasn’t anyone condemned you? And she said – no one. Jesus response – Neither do I. Go and sin no more.

    Jesus loved this woman – not her sin. Rev Scottie is spot on. Its the presentation of the gospel that causes most people to choke on it. Not the Gospel itself. The Gospel is Good news.

    But we want to walk up to complete strangers and tell them whats wrong with them and say clever things like “turn or burn” “smoking or non-smoking” and we think its funny and stick on a t-shirt or our stupid looking marquee outside of our saints only club and call it evangelism or love. Its not. Its offensive.

    In my opinion there are two things that stand in the way of many people giving their lives to Christ – Christians – and the Church. We need to get over ourselves and stop trowing stones and start loving people.

    Jesus said – God didn’t send his Son into the world to condemn it but that through Him it the world might be saved.

    Glad I ran across your blog. Enjoyed the read.

  14. 14 hdolezalek May 20, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    Thanks, Dave, and welcome!

  15. 15 rjlight May 21, 2007 at 8:00 pm


    Wow, I turn away from your blog for a few days and look what happens! Where do I begin. The Bible-thumpers love to quote little snipits out of the Bible to prove their points inter-changing words like “kingdom of God”, “condemned”, “hell”, “eternal life”. I would love for them to go to the ancient Greek for the NT and the Hebrew for the OT and find out if “hell” actually means “grave”. It’s so easy having all of the answers from a book that is filled with mystery. Do I believe there is a hell — as been brought down through the tradition of church for years–the fire and brimstone? Hmmm. I am having a hard time seeing where the Bible really supports that idea. Do I believe that “heaven” is a place? I believe that I do spend my life with Jesus now and look forward to the afterlife with him later. I believe there is no way I could explain what heaven will be like. I can imagine. I can look at the very few verses that decribe heaven and imagine, but I cannot look at the universe in all of it’s mystery, splendor, and creativity and think for one moment that I have the answers to heaven and hell. What is messed up about religion, among other things, is spending so much time on the stuff we can’t understand instead of focusing on what we do know — like love your neighbor as yourself or love the Lord your God with all your heart. Why were these so important for Jesus to stress as principle to our faith and yet we are taught to look next to our neighbor and tell them they are going to hell….something doesn’t compute…

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