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January 27, 2010



I took a "Bible" class in my final year at University of Memphis through its literature department. The professor, as you can imagine, was quite hostile to a believer's perspective on Scripture.

What do you make of the suggestion that "Hell" is strictly a concept that early Christians (or even the Catholic church) "made up?" Are there explicit references to hell in the OT that would refute this view of hell as a scare-tactic that the big bad church came up with to enhance its political power (by making ex-communication more of a deterrent for wayward rulers) during the Dark Ages?

James Fleming

As is often the case with Christianity's critics, there are some nuggets of truth mingled with their vitriol. It is true that our understanding of hell is almost exclusively dependent on the teachings of the New Testament. It is also true that the use of "hell" as a prop for "scare-tactic evangelism" is evident in both contemporary preaching and church history.

That being said, one's view of the Bible is the key to evaluating the doctrine of "hell." If the New Testament is a 2nd or 3rd century literary production of the church, as I suspect your professor believes, then his claims might have some merit. But if the NT is a first hand account of the teachings of Jesus (a view for which there is abundant and clear evidence), then any problems we have accepting what the NT teaches about "hell" are simply refusals to receive Jesus' instruction on the matter.

The five NT passages I have cited to provide sample descriptions of hell all come from the lips of Jesus! Our knowledge of this place comes from Him!

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