Is Hell an Artistic Concept? Or Did Jesus Really Believe in Hell?
It needs to be stated as clear as day: hell was not created for the sake of celebrating the freedom of artistic expression. It was meant to instill fear and manipulate poor people that already had hundreds of superstitions.
This is mainly a response to Nature of the beat, who helpfully challenges me fairly often on my views. Thank you for that and for discussing these interesting topics.
I think it’s clear from the Bible that some passages are artistic and some are not. The Genesis creation account fits into your proposition, as an artistic account. Timothy Keller among others have said that it is written in the form of a poem, which probably adds to the fact that it is actually that.
No one talked more about hell than Jesus. And out of all the things he’s said, most parables and sermons have been on hell. That’s not a coincidence I don’t think and would seem unproductive if it was only for the sake of art.
Why warn someone so much about something that doesn’t really exist? That is a scare tactic fallacy and has little space in modern day culture. Why would we expect the all-knowing God to subject himself to such low levels of intellectual discourse.
Literally or Figuratively?
I think we need to be careful on what type of reading we give to the Bible. People can read it artistically, yet that still does not take away from the horror that these verses display.
Consider these examples:
8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.
46 Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
2 Thessalonians 1:9
9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might
43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.
Question related to the verse: If salvation is, first of all, a gift then why are you sending me to hell?
The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God.
and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
2. Peter 2:4
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment.
You see, these vivid examples of hell, eternal punishment, damnation, etc. are all reasons why I am slow to take them as a artsy concept.
I know what you are saying, however.
We don’t know whether it will be a literal “blazing furnace.”
I actually sincerely doubt that. It will not be a furnace. But one thing that all these verses share is that it is clearly a place of torment, judgement, gnashing of teeth, eternal fire, on and on we can go.
This is a scare tactic fallacy and has little to do with actual persuasion. It could be impossible to persuade, though, as you have definitely noticed with your exchange with contemporary evangelicals.
All the best, brother! And once again, I very much appreciate the comment and challenge. Let me know what you think.