The whole idea of hell is a complicated one. It’s also very important, and I would encourage readers to work through the material in this post and read the scriptures to which I have added links.
There is first of all difficulty in defining what hell is. Conservative Protestants generally consider it to be a place, while Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican theologian typically define hell as a state of separation from God. The influential King James Version of the Bible translates three different biblical terms – Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus – as “hell”, masking shades of meaning in each term.
The basic premise, outlined by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, Continue reading “What kind of God would punish people in hell forever?”
Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist. He invented a mechanical calculator, and a modern computer programming language is named after him. His contributions had long-lasting impact in the fields of gambling theory, economics, and actuarial science. He was also a deeply religious man. His Pensées, an ambitious work meant to provide a thorough defense of Christianity, were unfinished at the time of his death. The most famous idea to emerge from his draft has been called Pascal’s Wager.
The basic idea is that either God exists, or He does not, and the matter cannot be proven one way or the other. If He does exist, you have everything to gain by believing that He does, and living your life accordingly, and everything to lose by rejecting or ignoring Him. If He does not exist, you have nothing to lose either way. Regardless of what probability you assign to his existence, the rational “wager” is to live as if He does exist.
Critics of Pascal’s Wager attack not the mathematics of it but the various underlying assumptions. Continue reading “Does Pascal’s Wager make sense?”
I find that one’s answer to this important question predicts a lot of how the rest of one’s thinking takes shape.
One group says yes, the Bible is inerrant, right down to the last detail, including the literal six-day creation. This position is usually maintained either through exaggerated claims about archaeology and prophecy, or on the fear that compromise on that point leads down a slippery slope.
A second approach is to say Continue reading “Is the Bible completely without error?”
No. Christianity is clear that God is love, and doesn’t hate any of His children. Anyone claiming to the contrary is badly misrepresenting the Christian faith. Such voices get far more attention than they deserve, and I won’t dignify any of them with a link.
The more significant controversy is whether gay relationships are by their nature sinful, or not. Christian social conservatives use biblical arguments to attack homosexual behavior rather than gay people. They are typically careful to remind people to “love the sinner, hate the sin”. For some, this maxim might just be lip service to cover up a prejudice to which the biblical passages provide convenient support. There is no good reason, however, to believe that all or even a majority fit that description. Just as it is possible to “love the sinner, hate the sin”, it is possible to disagree with someone’s argument, but give their sincerity the benefit of the doubt.
Other Christians interpret the same scriptures much differently. Continue reading “Does God hate gays?”
C.S. Lewis gives a good answer to essentially this question in God In The Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics.
I can’t say for certain which bits came into Christianity from earlier religions. An enormous amount did. I should find it hard to believe Christianity if that were not so. I couldn’t believe that nine hundred and ninety-nine religions were completely false and the remaining one true. In reality, Christianity is primarily the fulfillment of the Jewish religion, but also the fulfillment of what was vaguely hinted in all the religions at their best. What was vaguely seen in them all comes into focus in Christianity – just as God Himself comes into focus by becoming a Man.
One observation often made is that Continue reading “Didn’t Christianity just copy from earlier religions?”