Mark Driscoll: If you don’t believe in hell, you’re going there

Speaking of belief in hell, I found this little gem at Jesus Needs New PR (full transcript at the end of this post):

Where to start. The whole “you must accept Jesus or you will BURN IN HELL” thing is abusive theology that preaches a tyrannical and capricious God. Driscoll is also (consciously or not) using classic thought control methods here; he makes no attempt to defend his argument on rational basis. Instead he manipulates language and emotions and uses fear of punishment to motivate desired thought and behavior. Classic cult stuff. For example:

Some of you will say, ” I don’t believe [in hell].” Dear friend, come to Jesus, or you will experience it.

Don’t believe in hell? That just means you’re going there! I don’t know about you, but this sure is making me want to come to Jesus. I loved MPT’s comment about why using hell to motivate belief is theologically problematic:

Using “Hell” as a selling-point for Jesus actually elevates Hell’s importance above that of Jesus’s importance… because it’s like saying… without Hell… there’s no need for Jesus…
Isn’t Jesus more than an escape route? And I’m not trying to be sarcastic.
Would Jesus be relevant to your life without Hell?
I know Christians who answer “no” to that question…. which uplifts Hell far above Jesus… Jesus becomes simply the “x” in some weird scary spiritual equation…

I have thought about the problem of using the fear of hell to motivate people to “love” God (hello, abuse!), but not quite in the way MPT puts it, i.e., that this version of Christianity is based on faith in hell as much as it is faith in Jesus. That’s clearly what Driscoll’s comment implies. And It’s what most evangelical attempts to proselytize are based on – “do you know where you’ll go when you die?” It’s belief in hell first, then belief in Jesus – and all because you don’t want to go to hell.

Here’s a sad and telling truth: many evangelical churches tolerate and even embrace all sorts of vile misogyny and racist dogwhistling from the pulpit, and can’t be bothered to care about the injustices of poverty or war. Daring to preach that nobody goes to hell, on the other hand, is guaranteed to infuriate your congregation. That gets you condemned as a heretic and abandoned by your church. Priorities!

There is an eternal hell. This is not a point for philosophical speculation. This is a fact. There is a real hell that will be full. Many will not pass through the narrow door . . .

I do not think “fact” and “philosophical speculation” mean what Driscoll thinks they mean. Memo to Mark: any discussion of a possible afterlife is by definition philosophical speculation. You know, because it’s not observable? Also, it doesn’t really make sense that an all-powerful God who “loves” everyone and doesn’t want anyone to go to hell (John 3:16) can’t be on the ball enough to make sure that heaven, not hell, is full. “He” seems a bit full of fail.

Jesus speaks of hell more than anyone else in the Bible. Jesus likens hell to a place of conscious torment that is eternal and unending…For ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever…

Don’t believe the cartoons, and don’t be a fool. Satan does not rule hell… Jesus rules hell.

His Jesus sounds kind of douchey. Which, given that Driscoll preaches a Jesus whose persona is basically identical to his own, isn’t surprising.

When you die, there is no opportunity for salvation. The door slams shut behind you, and you will stand before Jesus, and he will sentence you to a punishment in hell that absolutely fits the degree of wickedness that was present in your life. That means that some of you will suffer more than others. But all who fail to pass through the narrow door will suffer. And they will suffer for ever.

Wait, wait. Is Driscoll getting his theology of hell from Dante now? Or from Greek mythology? Because I’m pretty sure there isn’t a damn thing in the Bible about “degrees” of punishment to suit one’s wickedness in life. Also, his god continues to be douchey by arbitrarily defining “wickedness” as not being a Christian.

Many preachers are cowards, they don’t tell you this. My job is to love you well and tell you the truth…I will treat you as adults and I want you to make your own decision. But I also want my hands to be clean of your blood. I want you to make the decision fully aware of the consequences of this opportunity that God sets before you. [Dramatic delivery] Some of you are going to hell…For all of your days you will regret your own folly and the opportunity that you allowed to pass you by. And you will have no one to blame but yourself.

OMG, you guys, Mark Driscoll is SO BRAVE (if he may say so himself). Let’s pause a moment to admire his amazing COURAGE and FORTITUDE in telling people they’ll burn in hell.  What a hero.

“You are going DIE and REGRET your horrible decision as you are being TORMENTED in hell FOREVER if you don’t listen to me – but dudes, it’s your call!” Driscoll respects you. He’ll let you make your own decision.

I’m pretty sure saying  “the bogeyman will get you if you’re bad” is how (not very nice) people treat children, not adults.

Transcript of Driscoll’s comments after the jump.


The world as we know it is not the world as God finished it. We have created this world to be an absolute place of horror for us, but it is our doing, not God’s.And Jesus says that there is a kingdom and that he in fact is a king. And for those who pass through this narrow door returning back to their king, there is a heavenly kingdom.

Additionally, there is an eternal hell. There is an eternal hell. This is not a point for philosophical speculation. This is a fact. There is a real hell that will be full. Many will not pass through the narrow door. They will die on this side of that door. And they will stand before God to be judged for their deeds and misdeeds. some of you will say, ” I don’t believe that.” Dear friend, come to Jesus, or you will experience it. And if I am wrong, I have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, and if you are wrong, you have nothing to gain, and everything to lose.

Jesus explains hell in the most painful of terms. Jesus speaks of hell more than anyone else in the Bible. Jesus likens hell to a place of conscious torment that is eternal and unending. Jesus says it will be a place where [pantomimes weeping] people will be weeping profusely and that they [speaking through clenched teeth] will be gnashing or grinding their teeth in agony. Friends, have you seen someone in so much pain that their lips are quivering, their jaw is shaking, their eyes are weeping? For ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever.

And don’t believe the cartoons, and don’t be a fool. Satan does not rule hell. Jesus does. Jesus is lord of all. It says in Revelation 14 that Satan, demons, and those that do not pass through the narrow door will be, quote, tormented forever in the presence of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God and his holy angels. Jesus rules heaven. Jesus rules hell. Jesus says in John 5 that he is the one who will judge you.

Some of you have said to family, friends, [yelling] “you can’t judge me!” [normal voice] The truth is Jesus will. And when you die, there is no opportunity for salvation. The door slams shut behind you, and you will stand before Jesus, and he will sentence you to a punishment in hell that absolutely fits the degree of wickedness that was present in your life. That means that some of you will suffer more than others. But all who fail to pass through the narrow door will suffer. And they will suffer for ever.

Many preachers are cowards, they don’t tell you this. My job is to love you well and tell you the truth. The Bible says that teachers will be judged more strictly and harshly. That means I need to stand before Jesus and give an account for even these words. I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not going to sell to you, I’m not going to soften the blow. I will treat you as adults and I want you to make your own decision. But I also want my hands to be clean of your blood. I want you to make the decision fully aware of the consequences of this opportunity that God sets before you. [Dramatic delivery] Some of you are going to hell.

And it says there you will be able to see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, not that they are in the place of torment, but somehow you will be able to gaze upon the place of blessing. And you will see the love and the grace and the mercy of God, and you will see the joy and the gratitude of the people of God. And for all of your days you will regret your own folly and the opportunity that you allowed to pass you by. And you will have no one to blame but yourself.

31 Comments

  1. Another interesting fact about the experience of hell is the adaptability off human beings. This has *always* fascinated me, even back in my CLC days… They preach the forever suffering aspect of hell. In fact, it’s one of hell’s most notorious selling points: you will suffer, as Driscoll reminds us, forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever etc.

    Tough thing about this is, to suffer at all relies on the physical and mental experience of human beings. In other words, in order to experience hell’s suffering we’ll have to retain our human experience of our surroundings. And fur anyone who’s experienced chronic pain, poverty, hunger, abuse, etc, they can tell you that while it still sucks, yes, you nonetheless become used to it after a while. In fact, the longer you suffer, the more accustomed you become. It doesn’t matter how heinous and miserable the experience, you still get used to it. It’s one of those features of the human experience of suffering.

    In other words, hell is basically a logical impossibility. Several different pastors have engaged me on this one and in the end, all they can actually say is, “Oh no, YOU’LL see. God MAKES it work.”

    …wait wait wait, but that brings up another problem. So you’re telling me, not only does god banish me to this place of unknown origin and location and possibility, but he has to take an active role in enforcing my suffering to even make it possible in the first place? …yeah, okay, that makes sense! Sweet.

    • On the things God has to do to make the whole hell thing work, you reminded me of this video which I had been planning to include in the post (but then it got really long).

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QecUUnLNSiY]

    • So you’re telling me, not only does god banish me to this place of unknown origin and location and possibility, but he has to take an active role in enforcing my suffering to even make it possible in the first place? …yeah, okay, that makes sense! Sweet.

      Yes, actually I have read this theology. I’m afraid I cannot remember the book, but I remember being shocked by the assertion that (from memory) “God creates and sustains the hell to which he (sic) sends each person that he damns”.

      For the record since I’m new here I do NOT agree with such theology. The provenance of this theology is academic conservative hyper-Calvinism.

      • Welcome to the blog, Pam, and thanks again for the link!

        “God creates and sustains the hell to which he (sic) sends each person that he damns”

        Yes, I’ve seen this claim as well. It’s pretty horrific to worship a God that creates and eternally sustains a place that exists solely for the purposes of torture.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Mark Driscoll: If you don’t believe in hell, you’re going there « Are Women Human? -- Topsy.com

  3. So if Driscoll is wrong, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain? Let’s think that through for a second. If you believe him that there is a hell and that you have to follow him to Jesus to avoid it, then what he currently HAS is the devotion and worship of lots and lots of minons who fund his fascist oppression.

    If he’s wrong, he has nothing to lose. Except the entire construct he’s created, all of his followers, and so forth. But, of course, since he won’t find out until after he leaves this life, he’ll have made off with all of your money and lived his ignorant intolerant life in luxury. He’ll have nothing to lose anymore.

    This entire “logic” also supposes that the only possibilities are that his vision of heaven (a monarchy where you sit around and adore the guy who created hell for not putting you there) and hell or else the same heaven he already imagines, but no hell.

    Yeah, those are the only possibilities. There’s no chance that there is no afterlife. There’s no chance that the afterlife is reincarnation. There’s no chance that it is even Mormon afterlife. Or Muslim afterlife. And lord knows there’s no chance its Albert Brooks’ afterlife. (Seriously, I yearn for the afterlife in “Defending Your Life” one of the most optimistic looks at afterlife ever: you go to Judgment City, they look at your life and see what you’ve learned and how you’ve treated people. If you did well enough, you move along, retaining knowledge and experience, and go forward to the next endeavor where you learn and interact more and try to keep moving “up” through the universe. If you learned nothing, treated people poorly, et cetera, you go back to Earth with the slate wiped clean and try again. Also, like all good afterlifes, Rip Torn is there with one of the best quips ever, when explaining to Brooks how afterlife works: “Actually, there is no hell. But I hear Los Angeles is getting pretty close.” That should be on a t-shirt.)

    So yeah, as long as you agree with Driscoll, or else accept that the only chance is that his vision is wrong only in its fearmongering, then he has nothing to lose because he’ll already have used you for all he needed in this life. You, on the other hand, have everything to lose if he’s right and you don’t listen to him. Of course, that presupposes that you can tolerate a “heavenly” afterlife that you have to share with him anyway. Me? I’ll take his hell. At least God will be putting thought and effort into how to one-up himself in setting punishments and tortures for us, instead of requiring even more adoration just for not torturing me.

    • Yep, Driscoll definitely benefits from preaching this view of hell (not that he doesn’t sincerely believe parts or all of it). People who are busy focusing on avoiding a quite possibly nonexistent afterlife aren’t thinking with an open mind about what’s really best for them in the one life they actually have for certain. They spend their lives doing what someone says is right, not trying to figure out what’s right. I think it’s a big part of why so much fucked up stuff and callous attitudes to suffering people is tolerated in the church – all that matters is adhering to this completely arbitrary list of what it means to be “good.” Whether your lifestyle actually hurts or harms people on the whole has nothing to do with it.

    • Jordan, actually I’d say that Driscoll has everything to lose.

      Driscoll is preaching a God whose character is such that He (clearly Driscoll would not want his God to be anything other than a “He”) is demanding that we as human beings get quite a lot of small detailed beliefs right or, off we go to hell.

      What happens, for instance, if in reality, God damns human beings to hell for not belonging to The One True Church and said church is some small group in Turkey with roots closest to the apostles? What happens if God damns us to hell for not believing in transubstantiation? Or infant baptism?

      Driscoll’s God is a pretty precise God. His God is not one of those wishy-washy Gods who asks us to follow the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. His God is not a Jesus of Nazareth but a Sergeant Major.

      I’d say that, actually, Driscoll has a lot to lose if God hates as much as Driscoll thinks and punishes for the the kind of non-precision that Driscoll claims.

      • Very true. Which is part of why I don’t think Driscoll really believes this deep down. That, or he’s arrogantly confident in his rightness and unconcerned about other people’s wrongness to a degree that borders on pathological.

  4. Hi Grace, just been introduced to your blog by a friend and I really like it – keep up the great work. Driscoll and his fundy ilk scare the living crap out of me!

  5. Grace, I think he believes what he says. I don’t see it in quite that dualistic a way. Here follows a generalized statement about where I think that conservative Calvinism (and Lutheranism) are coming from.

    They both offer a neatly-packaged systematic theological narrative with a hundreds of years of history. They are, ironically, following their own theological tradition which they see not as church tradition but as being the one true biblical and scriptural faith. I’m not a great expert on Calvinism, let along conservative Calvinism, but I reckon that belief in Hell is probably a core belief in the sense that belief in justification is core. And what the…er….hell would humanity need justification for if there weren’t a hell?

    The YouTube video sets out their problem brilliantly.

  6. “The whole “you must accept Jesus or you will BURN IN HELL” thing is abusive theology that preaches a tyrannical and capricious God.”

    Huh? That’s ignoring the fact that there’s something on offer to be accepted. I’m pretty sure that Heaven is at least as good (and not “quite possibly nonexistent” as Hell is bad).

    • No, its not ignoring that. What heaven “offers” in this theology is spending an eternity worshiping a god who demands that people worship “him,” or they’ll burn in hell. Sorry, but no. That’s abusive. I have no interest in worshiping such a god -and I don’t believe such a god exists.

      I also believe Heaven is quite possibly nonexistent, yes. I’m not sure what the significance of that is in your comment…

      • So when you say you don’t believe that such a god exists, do you mean that you believe a different god exists, or that no god exists? Because if it’s a different god then I’m intrigued about where you have deduced its existence from. I’m really not clever enough to make a god up, so I’m just going on the basis that the one in the Bible is the real one. And that one does demand that people worship “him” because “he” ;-) deserves their worship, and because “he” rightly believes that the most amazing thing that could happen to them is that they be worshippers of “him”.

        The kind of worship you seem to imagine is a kind of worship whose only purpose in the worshipper is to avoid hell. That’s not sincere. In fact I have no interest in such “worship”, and I don’t believe such “worship” is worship. God wants sincere worship, ie. worship because the worshipper recognises that the worshipped one is fantastically glorious and amazing.

        The significance of Heaven, is that the whole matter hinges on it! To suggest that the speaker’s viewpoint is only “if you don’t accept God you will go to hell” is disingenuous. Because he’s also saying “if you do accept God you will go to Heaven”.

      • I’m agnostic. I don’t believe there’s any evidence that a personal God exists. But if one did exist, and this God was supposedly good, and just, then it wouldn’t be the god Mark Driscoll preaches. Because that god is abusive, tyrannical, petty, narcissistic, and cruel.

        And that one does demand that people worship “him” because “he” ;-) deserves their worship, and because “he” rightly believes that the most amazing thing that could happen to them is that they be worshippers of “him”.

        Case in point. That right there is a pretty succinct description of pathological narcissism. And withholding of good things (“heaven”) unless someone does exactly what you want, and relentlessly punishing people for not doing exactly what you want, that’s also a pretty good definition of emotional abuse.

        A good and just God would be less concerned with blackmailing people into adulation and more concerned with, you know, people treating each other kindly and doing something about all the pain and suffering in the world. The only way your god can be “good” is if we assume an arbitrary definition of goodness that has nothing to do with that god’s actual actions or their effects.

      • And the post doesn’t say that Driscoll says nothing about heaven. But I do note that he spent about 5 seconds talking about heaven, and 5 minutes talking about hell.

      • Well it’s a 5 minute clip, making one point, from a 45 minute talk.

      • Ummm…
        1) It’s a 5 minute clip from a sermon titled “Jesus the Narrow Door” which is summed up, in Mars Hill’s own words:

        Salvation is one narrow door and that narrow door is Jesus. It is exclusive: there’s one door. It is inclusive: all are welcome. The narrow door divides heaven and hell and it is closing—there is no second chance for salvation after death. When you die, the door slams shut behind you and you will stand before Jesus. He is the one who will judge you. Now he is weeping, inviting you to run by faith through the door that he has suffered, died, and risen to open for you. The decision is yours.

        Which pretty much sounds to me like a sermon that’s more about hell and judgment than it is about heaven.

        2) It’s a 5 minute clip that Mars Hill chose to post as representative of this sermon.
        3) It’s a 5 minute clip full of fear-mongering nonsense and intimidatory tactics that are very typical of Driscoll’s preaching (which I actually have listened to quite a lot of, fyi).
        4) It’s a 5 minute clip typical of evangelical theology in general, in which it’s far easier to articulate a detailed theology of what hell is than one of what heaven is.

  7. You say that you’re not clever enough to make up your own God, but you’re more than happy to make up what gender your God is, to make up your interpretation of what a book about your God written in a dead language 2000 years ago means, and to insist that other people’s opinions aren’t valid. I agree you aren’t clever, but don’t pretend you’re not creative.

    To the point of your lack of cleverness: In a mutually exclusive statetment, the fact that you are adding the other option doesn’t make your statement noteworthy. Not accepting God means you go to hell is in fact the position of Driscoll and adherents to this abusive teleology. What is being said is in fact not that if you do accept God, you go to heaven. What is being said is that if you don’t accept everything that Driscoll says God would want you to do, you go to hell. And if you do everything that Driscoll says, which even in the most benign reading would mean foresaking fair and equal treatment, individuality, and most personal desires, then you get to move on to a glorious party where you will continue to celebrate the God who asked that you do all of that, for his merciful acceptance that your subjugation was genuine.

    Hey thanks, my demeaning myself and my fellow man was deemed enough to you that I get to come to your party and continue to celebrate that you’re better than me, you know better than me, and whatever I feel/think/want should be denied so that you continue to feel good about yourself. Talk about self-confidence issues.

    • I’m sorry that you have somehow got the idea that I think I am better than you, or want to celebrate such a mistaken belief – I really don’t. And I haven’t made any claim that others opinions are not valid, merely that I don’t understand the rationale for them – I’ve yet to be given a rationale.

      However, it does seems that the whole of your post is making the very opposite point about me, ie. that I am neither clever nor creative, and then revelling in it.

      To be honest, your response seems at the very least odd, considering that the thing you seem to particularly like about Driscoll is his supposed intolerance.

  8. I agreed that I didn’t think you were clever.

    I said I do think you are creative, for picking and choosing what to believe about god and what to exclude.

    I don’t like anything about Driscoll. I haven’t the slightest idea why you’d call his intolerance supposed. His entire ministry is based on the idea that rigid adherence to what he says must be practiced at all times. (You know, “for God’s sake.”) Pretty much the definition of intolerant.

    Again though, your statement is only reasonable in a world where everything you believe has to be true. You’ve yet to be given a “rationale” for anything other than what you believe. Well, that assumes that the highly contentious, much disputed reading of certain texts and intentional omission of certain other texts, and deliberate literalization of some passages, and selective analogizing, is in fact a rationale. I understand your rejection of everyone else’s selective and creative readings as not rational, but you can’t say that yours is any different. It is the path you follow, but there are plenty of rational reasons to look elsewhere.

    For instance, I could believe every word of the Bible. Then I have a rationale for selling my children into slavery. You might not agree with it, but it is an explanation. I could believe that science is not out to trick us into being mongrelized satan worshippers. Then I would have a rationale for believing in evolution, a wide spectrum of human sexuality, and a litany of other evidence-based beliefs.

    Basically, you think what you believe is right, so based on that, the rationales for other beliefs break down. But if we accept that what you believe could be right or wrong, then the other rationales are just as valid.

  9. You seem to have a real handle on exactly what I believe, including my opinion on the whole Bible and everything in it. Unfortunately your handle isn’t at all accurate.

    • Unless Jordan is mistaken in saying you believe that your version of Christianity/biblical interpretation is true and all other religions are false, I don’t see how his assessment could be inaccurate.

  10. “That’s abusive. I have no interest in worshiping such a god -and I don’t believe such a god exists.”

    The point isn’t whether we have interest. The point is, if it’s true, like gravity, ignore at our own peril. Whether we like a god like that isn’t relevant. If we believe what we like about God and reject what we don’t like about him, it’s not God we believe in, it’s ourselves, essentially putting ourselves in the place of God. Completely understand not believing. We have to decide. That is the narrow door. But what if it was true? What if it was true? It would behoove us, like it or not, to find out more, just in case. Maybe we’re the fool and not everyone else. I for one have been a fool countless times in life thinking I pretty much knew only to later realize my own “fool”ishness. I’m just saying and I know it’s counter-cultural, makes sense to keep listening and just say, “what if.”

    Many have prayed then, “OK God, if you’re real, show me.” And I’m not talking, “do a miracle or let me win the lotto.” Just, “show me, I’m listening for the next 24 hrs.”

    What the hell could it hurt?

    • The claim that a personal, interventionist God exists is an assertion, not an observable, quantifiable fact like gravity. The two can’t even be compared. There are hundreds if not thousands of religions in the world, many of which don’t teach a personal God, some of which don’t require belief in any sort of god at all – and that’s not counting faiths that have died out. It’s impossible to prove that any god exists, much less that any one particular religion is the one true faith. If your version of spirituality is the only true one, perhaps God should have made it a little bit easier to figure that out.

      Not believing in God isn’t actually the same thing as believing what one likes about God. That’s a strawman. There are many people who would like to believe in God, but see no evidence that one exists, myself included. There are a number of ways in which my life would be easier if I could still be a Christian in good conscience.

      It’s interesting that you assume that I haven’t prayed to be shown that God is real. I did, many times, when I was still a Christian. Try as I did to hear from God, to have the “personal relationship” with God everyone told me I could have, it never happened. I can’t force myself to believe in something I’ve never experienced.

      • Thanks for your reply. Completely understand your points. I wasn’t saying that God existing is necessarily an observable quantifiable fact like gravity, although some would say it is. Only that if it is a fact, denying it because it doesn’t fit your interest won’t change the fact. There must be a better standard than whether it fits your interest. You later mention evidence which is a better standard than interest.

        The only other thing I could say then is that, perhaps, rather than making it God’s fault that he hasn’t convinced you, maybe there’s something in you that prevents this relationship. Think of times in your life, when, despite your best efforts, someone in your life simply won’t listen to you or you simply can’t seem to get through to them. You think, if only they would listen or not be so stubborn or back down or just loosen up and really listen or not demand so much evidence, then they’d get your point. Certainly, that’s me, stubborn, stiff-necked, thinking I’m so clued in. It’s taken me forever to learn to come to a position of “OK, what if”, “nah, stupid, ridiculous, clueless”, “but, what if”, “don’t be an idiot, don’t be like all the fools”, “but, what if, what if I try again despite everything, go with it even without the evidence I so desperately demand…”

        I know, you can’t force yourself, don’t want to be like all the idiots. I understand. My prayer would be, “God, I don’t believe and can’t force myself, you need to change me.” Understand if you’ve done that over and over. Heck, it took me about 200 tries to quit smoking. But I did it.

        • Interest factors in precisely because there are many claims out there about God/gods, none of which can be proven. Interest is a perfectly reasonable standard given the lack of evidence for faith at all, much less any one faith. If I have to take my pick out of hundreds of religions that are all highly implausible, I’m not going to pick one that preaches a sociopathic and abusive God.

          I don’t think Christians are idiots.

          The only other thing I could say then is that, perhaps, rather than making it God’s fault that he hasn’t convinced you, maybe there’s something in you that prevents this relationship. Think of times in your life, when, despite your best efforts, someone in your life simply won’t listen to you or you simply can’t seem to get through to them.

          I’m going to assume you don’t realize how incredibly presumptuous and offensive this sounds. Not that I have to explain myself to you, but I was born and raised in the church. I was a Christian for over 25 years, and my faith and my desire to follow and obey God were considerable and sincere.. My consistent inability to have the kind of relationship with God that I was told I could have was a deep source of pain and fear (because I worried that I wasn’t “saved”) for many, many years. It’s ridiculous to suggest to anyone, much less someone you don’t know, that they reason they don’t share your faith is that they haven’t tried hard enough to listen to God.

          None of this is God’s fault. It’s the fault of people who insist that everyone must have the same spirituality regardless of personal inclination or belief, and my fault for trying for so long to go along with that demand. Any God that I could believe in wouldn’t punish people for being honest about what they believe, or for not being persuaded of something in the absence of evidence.

          You could consider another “what if” – what if instead of assuming that people who don’t believe as you do, or who don’t have the experience of God that you do, must be doing something wrong, you consider the possibility that different people have different experiences of faith and spirituality, and that not everyone has to believe the exact same thing? If faith is a gift from God, as I was taught, what if some people just don’t have that gift? I’ve accepted that I don’t, and since doing so I’ve had more peace of mind and spirit than I ever did as a Christian.

          I really don’t understand the suggestion that people just go along with a particular version of Christianity even if they have no reason to believe it. That seems to me to be a pretty low view of faith – fake it till you make it?

  11. I’m really trying to just be up front, not presumptuous or offensive. It might sound one way or another but given the limitations of commenting, it could be you’re presuming things about what I’m saying as well which then offend you. My apologies in advance.

    You’re right, interest is a factor if you want to choose a God that seems plausible to you based on your interest, intellect etc. But it may not get you closer to the real truth, just to something you’re comfortable with. Presume for a moment there is one God with certain characteristics, that this is reality, the truth and not evident beyond a doubt to you. Whether you like those characteristics or not doesn’t change the truth because the truth is the truth. That’s my only point. If God was actually a pink unicorn and you just hate the color pink, it offends you, this doesn’t change the truth. A brown moose might seem much more plausible or interesting but if in fact it was a pink unicorn, plausibility or interest won’t change the underlying fact.

    Our culture is steeped in Enlightenment thinking, we believe that human reason can overcome ignorance and tyranny. Voltaire, Ben Franklin, Jefferson, etc. The ideas of natural law, inherent freedom and self-determination. These are not inherently bad of course but give us fresh anxiety and anger about a God who can and does do whatever he wants whether we like it or not. “I’ve got rights!” “He can’t do anything he wants!” “That’s not fair! That’s not right!” The problem with Enlightenment thinking is that for the first time in history, our eyes focus solely on ourselves and against authority we don’t like. This works against tryants (King George, Mubarak) which can be overcome but not against God.

    You make it about me and what I believe and how I think others should believe like I do. In a sense you’re right I suppose, but it isn’t about me but about God. I do think he does whatever he wants. Presumptions: It does seem you were taught “religion”, not Christianity and there is a big difference. One focuses on what you do for God so he will love you, the other soley on God’s unconditional love for you. You’re right, you may not have that gift, but yet, it seems, because you are so often in the conversation, your eyes are actually still turned toward God and it may be still that they will be opened. You should not fake it for sure. I imagine this is extremely offensive and hurtful to you so I apologize. I have nothing to gain by it. Only a sincere hope that you would gain deeper understanding of the real God, regardless of whether it’s the God I believe in. I believe God can be found in this lifetime.

    • Kinda late coming to this, so I might just be talking to the ethernet here, but…

      Jeff, I think you’re making a common mistake, in that you believe that God will always show himself to people in ways that YOU can positively identify. God is big, but apparently not big enough to reveal himself outside the safe confines of evangelical Christianity. That any discrepancies in revelation have only to do with the person’s tastes, experiences, and desires…and if the person’s experience of the “real” God differ significantly from yours, it is the person’s tastes, experiences and desires which are to blame and which must be changed before they can see The Truth. Which completely leaves out the possibility that God may choose to reveal himself to others as Hecate, or Allah, or the Buddha, or even simply in the ideals of human love, community, and compassion for others.

      Also, it is possible to accept that the God of Team Burn-In-Hell exists, but to still refuse to worship him. In the same way I accept the existence of Saddam Hussein or Hitler or Stalin, but would never hail their rule as legitimate, let alone good or just. Yes, I am letting my expectations color how I see them, but that’s because they are bloody tyrants and my conscience won’t allow me to worship a tyrant, no matter how powerful he is. Claiming that allowing people to be tormented is abusive when people do it but okay when God does it (simply because God is really, really stinking powerful and it’s his prerogative) is just another expression of Might Makes Right. And to my understanding, that’s NOT what Jesus taught.

      Many people see a God who would allow his creations to suffer eternal torment for the “sin” of not believing in him as a tyrant, and refuse to have anything to do with him on those grounds. “Consider that God might really be like that, regardless of what you want him to be”, you say, as if absolute power makes eternal torment just or right. I don’t blame people in the slightest for saying, “All right, then, I’ll go to Hell!”, and if there is a loving God, I don’t imagine he would, either.

      Incidentally, I did once ask God to tell me once and for all Who He Was and if the hell-mongers were right. The answer I got was: “I’m not always who they say I am.” It gave me the courage to believe in a God who loved us enough to ensure no soul was lost…and the courage to face Hell without fear if the true God turned out to be *smaller* than I envisioned. If the damning, bloodthirsty God turns out to be the real one, he’s still not worth believing in, and his Hellfire will not intimidate me into thinking otherwise.

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