Does Abandoning Legalism and Belief in Hell Destroy the Foundations of Morality?

When I was seven years old, my family joined a fundamentalist church which taught that if we did not observe the laws of the Bible we would burn forever in hell. I embraced this concept completely.

For the next ten years, I tried my best to live according to the rules I was taught. We couldn’t work on Sunday, so I wondered if I should avoid organizing a little play area I was creating. Though a good student, I made poor grades in high school PE class because I would not wear the required shorts; I also would not shower with naked boys.

After high school I began to question whether some of these rules were valid according to the Bible. Years later, I concluded that the entire concept of legalism is both misguided and harmful. Some years after, I realized the Bible doesn’t teach the concept of eternal punishment in hell that I had been taught was so central to Christian belief.

Preaching the Commandments

The Claim: Abandoning the Law Results in Sin and Immorality

As expected, I received opposition when I expressed my views about legalism or when it became apparent that I no longer lived by ‘rules’. I was told repeatedly that without rules to guide me, I would fall into sin and wind up in hell. “What is Christianity if it is not observing the rules of God?”

I understand that living by rules is comforting. If we have a list of rules to follow, we don’t have to think about decisions when faced with moral situations. No decision is required except whether or not to obey the rule; our responsibility is only to observe the rule.

For example: one of the strongest rules in my life was never to lie; and I didn’t—no matter what. The situation didn’t matter and the consequences didn’t matter. Had I been in 1940s Europe and Nazis came to my home and asked, “Are there any Jews in this house?”, I would have said, “Yes sir, they are behind that false wall.”

The consequences of my truth did not matter; only following the law mattered. This does not mean I think lying is okay—I certainly don’t, but a rule is not more important than people. To tell the truth about the hidden Jews in that situation would be immoral.

When dealing with moral issues, I believe we must be guided by something other than rules. A list of rules can never cover every situation; but, more importantly, following rules relieves us of our responsibility to make moral judgments and appropriate decisions.

If we cannot depend on rules to guide us, then what basis do we have for moral choices? I will address that in a moment, but first let us consider another claim.

The Claim: Abandoning Belief in Hell Removes all Motivation for Living Right

There is a similar objection to rejecting the idea that God punishes people in hell: Without the threat of hell there is no incentive for anyone to live morally.

I am often accused of interpreting the Bible differently so that I can indulge in whatever sins I choose. This accusation is not true of me, but it might reflect the thinking of some people regarding morality. I’ve had Christians, who were totally devoted to the church, and who attended every service, paid their tithes (and more), and constantly warned others to be ‘saved’ to avoid God’s wrath, tell me that if they thought there was no hell they would sin with abandon.

I don’t think this represents all legalists who believe in hell, but this attitude is NOT morality. True morality comes from the heart; fear-driven morality is dry and ineffective, except that it might actually restrain a person from some destructive behaviors. It is also a hard and harsh morality; this morality is a burden, not a joy, to those who follow it, and it harms others in that it produces destruction of its own in judgmentalism, dehumanization, and often domination of people’s lives to keep them in line.

This is not morality at all. But where, then, can we find a true guide to morality?

A Superior Foundation for Moral Living

Jesus gives us the principle of moral behavior—to love the Father, in response to his love for us, and to love others as ourselves. When we learn the good news that the Father loves us, we are able to love ourselves appropriately, begin to see others as the loving Father sees them, and treat them with good will. This is the foundation of morality—treating ourselves and others with our best intentions.

So, as to whether abandoning legalism and belief in hell destroys moral behavior, the answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. If a person’s desire is to behave immorally, but they avoid doing so due to fear of punishment, then abandoning legalism and belief in hell might very well allow them to act on their immorality.

However, if a person receives Jesus’ good news of the Father’s love, begins to love themselves, and treats others appropriately, their sense of morality is far stronger than that of keeping rules. Even though we all make mistakes in practicing these principles of behavior, we continue to grow—and love, peace, and reconciliation abound.

This is true morality…but what are the real-world implications? We will talk about that next time.

Photo Credit: Krzysztof1986 via Compfight cc
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67 Responses to Does Abandoning Legalism and Belief in Hell Destroy the Foundations of Morality?

  1. michaeleeast says:

    Well said Tim.
    We do good because it is a good thing to do.
    Not because we are afraid of hell.

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  2. scraffiti says:

    I am often accused of interpreting the Bible differently so that I can indulge in whatever sins I choose.

    Your comment above is where I find ‘progressive’ Christianity paradoxical and still hugely problematic in certain areas Tim.

    If progressive thinking denies the story of Adam and Eve (interpreting the Bible differently) then where does the concept of sin (sins) come from?

    Secondly, I don’t think the concept of the foundations of morality is exclusive to believers – that is those that think they know better. For example, my grandparents never went near a church in there lives except for weddings and funerals and yet had no problem with being thoroughly decent people. They certainly didn’t think they could do what they liked because there were no consequences. It seems to me that because they were not church goers there were no blurred lines in their thinking and that decency (morality) wasn’t the preserve of the church but a way of life. They didn’t see any need of help from Jesus!

    So to return to the beginning, if there is no sin, then what is Jesus for? If we don’t need redemption why do I need Jesus to show me who God is? Who cares if that’s the case?

    Sorry if this is a bit pointed. Progressive thinking leaves a lot of grey areas for me.

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    • Chas says:

      scraffiti, the points that you made about your grandparents being thoroughly decent are valid. My Dad also never went to church, except for weddings, funerals and christenings, but I feel that he was truly a better person than my Mum, who was a regular churchgoer. However, could we really say that your grandparents, or my Dad, never did anything that might have led to someone, or a creature, suffering? My Dad was a shepherd at several times in his life and the delight and love that shone in his face when he watched a sheep licking a newborn lamb after he had had to intervene to help the birth stays warmly in my memory, yet at sheep dipping time, and a sheep was resisting him as he tried to tip it into the dip-tub, he was rather rough, maybe unnecessarily so. If we take the definition of sin as knowingly doing something that might lead to suffering, then we cannot hope to resist this alone: we need God to help us and we can only do this through acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God, while understanding that we are unable to resist this ‘sin’ because we are separated from God, and that belief in Jesus as His Son is our door of entry into His Presence.

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      • scraffiti says:

        Thanks for this Chas. Your newborn lamb story reminded me of when staying on a farm in Wales as as lad when witnessing such things was truly magnificent. I’m trying to square this issue of sin. If creationism has given way to evolution – and I don’t have a problem with that – then surely the sin issue becomes redundant. The Bible clearly teaches that sin entered the world via Adam and Eve. If they are fictitious people then surely sin is too. That all I’m asking. Legalism is pretty much a denominational problem/issue and therefore has precious little to do with anything or anyone outside of that clique. However, if sin is real then it effects everyone. If it isn’t then the redemptive power of Jesus is meaningless.

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        • Chas says:

          scraffiti, the newborn lambs used to thrill me too, but it was the look on my Dad’s face that I really treasure. I don’t see how the fictitious story of Adam and Eve has to be irrevocably linked to sin. I believe that God acts to minimize suffering in a world that is separated from Him, and therefore vulnerable to the effects of destruction. If we do something that would lead to suffering, then we must be acting against His wishes and, in effect, acting against Him. The redemptive power of Jesus does not enter into this scenario, it is only the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, to bring us out of separation from God, that is necessary. It follows that belief in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is not necessary.

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        • Scraffiti: I don’t think it follows that if Adam and Eve are fictitious then sin is too. The Eden story is, as I see it, a mythic explanation of WHY there is sin. It may be helpful to try to get behind the literal narrative and ask questions of the story like: Who am I in this story? What aspects of human nature are being portrayed in the actions of Adam and Eve (and maybe the serpent?!)? What kind of separation between us and God is being illustrated here? Just food for thought. Similarly, if the creation story in Genesis 1 isn’t literally true, the world still exists!

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Scraffiti, I have missed some good conversation over the last few hours!

      I agree with you that many people are good; in fact I think most people try to do good. And Jesus is not the only person who teaches us to do good and to love others–most of the religions of the world teach this, though many followers get so tied up in religious incidentals and ‘requirements’ that they become more harmful than helpful.

      In my opinion, Chas did a good job in suggesting that sin has to do with causing suffering (harm). I think many Christian believers have embraced Augustine’s theory of original sin inherited from Adam and understand Jesus’ work to be absorbing our sin on the cross.

      “Then what is Jesus for?”

      Jesus came, I think, to tell us of the loving Father, to lead us in reconciliation and love for each other, and to tell us about an eternal life of peace and happiness. His resurrection demonstrated his ability to provide for our life after death.

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      • scraffiti says:

        Augustine got his idea of original sin from Irenaeus but that’s beside the point.

        Romans 5:12-21New International Version (NIV)
        Death Through Adam, Life Through Christ
        12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
        13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

        Tell me again there is no relationship between Adam and sin!

        If progressive Christians believe that Adam is mythical then where did sin come from?

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Scraffiti, you ask a very reasonable question: ‘If progressive Christians believe that Adam is mythical then where did sin come from?’ I think we first have to determine what we mean by sin. I think sin is simply destructive behaviors that hurt ourselves or others.

          The roots of sin can be many things, such as hunger, insecurity, fear, greed, the desire for power, or damaged emotions; but these all boil down to self-centeredness. Sin is self-centeredness that puts our desires in competition with other people. So people are hurt; and people hurt us.

          There is another aspect of suffering that is separate from people hurting each other, and that is nature. The struggle for survival, from the constant search for food to the threats of wildfires, tornadoes, and animal predators, causes us to question why. Why are things so tough? Why is pain and suffering and death so widespread?

          I believe the story of Eden comes from such questions; it is a reflection on the human condition. Why do we have to work so hard for food? Why do we die? Where do we come from anyway? And why are there men, and women, and sexuality. Why do women have such pain in childbirth. Why do we kill each other? And why don’t snakes have legs?

          To frame these, and other, questions, a place was imagined where humanity, and suffering, did not exist. It is a story–an important story. For much of my life I thought it was a true story.

          I came to believe differently, not because of the claims of evolution, but because of the claims of creationists. I was a committed creationist and read everything I could by creationists so that I could defend against the evils of evolutionist. I even had an outline and notes for a novel on the world-wide flood. But finally, I began to realize that the creationist claims for the Genesis stories were not persuasive–not because of the evidence of evolution, but because the best evidence of creationists was so inadequate.

          It was then that I began to try to discover what the Genesis stories really meant, and I realized it was the story of all of us–living people asking questions about life, pain, and death. Later I discovered that others came to the same conclusion–and it had nothing to do with evolution.

          However, adopting this belief did lead to a spiritual crisis brought on by the issue of inerrancy. It was a year of agony in which I grieved the loss of God before I finally found a more solid foundation for faith than biblical inerrancy.

          This crisis was precipitated by the very passage you highlight from Romans chapter 5. If you are interested in my crisis over this passage and its resolution, you can read it at https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/grieving-the-loss-of-god/.

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    • consultgtf says:

      Where does the concept of sin (sins) come from?
      When we disobey Gods commandments, we Sin!
      True, only blind people need a guide, but what about those who fall into ditch, taking with them their innocent family members by AIDS, HIV, smoking, drinking…
      Also if we already know who is God? and what are His commandments for, then it will be a waste of Time.
      But this is not the case for many, who need a whip in hand sometimes otherwise they are happy living in ditches..
      Jesus, said very clearly that he has come for, the lost sheeps/prodigal sons.

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  3. Chuck Gatlin says:

    Good post, Tim. I’ve been reading F. D. Maurice on the subject of “The Word ‘Eternal’ and the Punishment of the Wicked,” and he was kicked out of his professorship at Kings College, London–in 1853!–over the same issue: the principal of the college thought that the concept of eternal punishment was needed to keep people from sinning. Maurice’s position was that the concept couldn’t be supported by scripture or the Anglican formularies (the 39 articles, the three historic creeds), and that it was the biggest factor leading to disbelief in his day. The struggle you and I and others have lived through with legalistic systems vs. the gospel of Christ is nothing new, of course, but it is amazing how religious people keep returning to this same wrong direction over the centuries.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chuck, I think you are right. No matter how many people over the years escape these misguided ideas and begin to share the good news, people seem to fall into legalism again. I think it must be that people crave an authority to tell them plainly what to do instead of having to work through the difficult work of personal moral development themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Chas says:

    Tim, was the church in which you were brought up cessationist?

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, if you mean cessationist in regard to spiritual gifts, the answer is complicated. My congregation opposed the Pentecostal doctrine of a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit, but certain gifts occasionally presented in the church on an individual basis–especially divine healing.

      Of course, as I have stated elsewhere, when I was 19 I joined a Pentecostal church.

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      • Chas says:

        Tim, by cessationist, I did mean the idea that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit ceased with the apostles. The reason for my question was that, if you had been exposed to such ideas while only about 7 years old, then they would be deeply engrained in you, and that would make it difficult for you to accept their existence now. I did not come to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, in awareness of being separated from God, until I was 47, and it seemed entirely reasonable to me that, when we are in the Presence of God, we should be able to both hear from Him and speak to Him.

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, what you say makes sense except that when I became Pentecostal I fully embraced the baptism of the Holy Spirit and all the gifts. I was very open to hearing from God and speaking to God. A few times I even interpreted messages in tongues that were spoken by other people.

          I felt that I had a very personal connection with God. I still do, but for me it is not a dialog in which God gives me visions of truth. I often have sudden insights, as most people do, and some might consider them revelations from God, but I cannot treat them as God’s authoritative word.

          Do you have a special issue in mind here? I guess I am not sure where you are heading. If this is part of an earlier conversation, please remind me.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, It comes out of a recent conversation that we had on e:mail. My only concern is for your Spiritual health. You say that you interpreted messages in tongues, has that ability stopped, or is it just that you are now not in a church where people speak in tongues?

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Yes Chas, I recall that. I thought perhaps it was something more than that. I appreciate your concern for my spiritual health. The reason that I blog is so that I can be of assistance to those to whom I might be of help.

            However, I have no special, authoritative, or prophetic word to bring. I can only share the insights, observations, and studies from my own journey. It that is helpful to others on their journeys, then I am fulfilled.

            I no longer attend Pentecostal churches where interpreting messages is normative. However, even at the time I did not consider any sort prophetic message or ‘anointed’ preaching to be authoritative. Any utterance is subject to reasonable judgment.

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        • Chas says:

          Tim, I’m sorry if my pursuing this thread causes you any discomfort, but it is necessary for me to go on pursuing it at present. All interpretations that you gave was by God speaking through you. They would have authority to those for whom they were given. I believe that God has other things for you to contribute. What caused you to leave that church?

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, the last Pentecostal church of which I was a member was quite a distance from my home, so I looked for a church that was closer. However, I also could see that my views on many doctrines was drifting from what the church could accommodate, so I found a more open church to avoid potential conflict.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, did anyone actively question your beliefs, or was it that you found you couldn’t take something that they said/propounded?

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            It was clear to me that my views were becoming incompatible with the congregation and denomination. But I was an adult Sunday school teacher, and my suggestions sometimes created stress.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, in what way were your views in disagreement with their beliefs/dogma?

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Among other things, I no longer believed in dispensationalism, the existence of Satan, or that anyone would be punished forever in hell.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, I can see that would be problematic for you. I am in agreement with you an all those things. What type of church do you attend now?

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Currently, I am a member of a Presbyterian Church, USA congregation.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, I am unfamiliar with Presbyterian doctrine, but I have always assumed that religion to be rather ‘buttoned-up’. Are they aware of your beliefs? Are you comfortable with theirs?

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Yes, Chas. I am aware of Presbyterian beliefs. Historically they are Calvinistic, which I am not; but some Presbyterian bodies are ultra-conservative Calvinists. Mine is not.

            Recently, My denomination passed measures supporting the Palestinians against Israeli oppression, and they also passed a measure allowing ministers to perform same-sex marriages. I don’t think this is being buttoned-up.

            I am comfortable with my congregation.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, yes they sound much different from my thoughts of dry Scottish Presbyterianism!

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  5. gallbladder says:

    Your last 2 bloggs reflect what I said in my personal email I gave you some new writing material ……..but when i said it you took it as if it was judgemental when you say it It now becomes a subject of interest to you . . I pointed out my observations from your writings it was not a judgement .there is a difference i think you read more into it than what I stated . Peace.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      GB, I am sorry if I misunderstood your intention. I did conclude that your many communications were pointedly and persistently accusing and adversarial without any possibility of resolution, but I can be mistaken by misreading the tone and meaning of words without voices or faces to provide clues, even though I always try to consider the largest positive assumption possible.

      The views presented in these last two posts have been central to my perspective for many years.

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      • gallbladder says:

        thank you I will continue reading your blog and will not make “comments or express my views ” But I would like to have the ability to Bring up Concepts as a material s list you may consider as a possible subject of a blog you might want to use as a subject I will sit back and read your Views if you chose to use them as a subject for others to comment on may i suggest the difference in Belief IN vs Belief That . and its impact on religion If you Google Belief – wikipedia it will give you an idea of what i mean I think you touched on it with the concept of the stories of a violent God in the OT thank you

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          GB, perhaps we understand each other better now–I hope so. I do not wish to suppress comments or different views, but as mentioned in the comment policy I don’t think sustained argument without possibility of resolution is helpful.

          When you have ideas about potential blog topics, it would be better to send them by email.

          Have a great day! ~Tim

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  6. fiddlrts says:

    This debate reminds me of the tragic tale of Anne Hutchinson and the Puritans (John Winthrop in particular). The Puritans placed great emphasis on “evidence of grace,” meaning following the rules as proof of a redeemed life. Hutchinson, along with a number of others, advocated for an emphasis on grace – grace period, with no qualifications. The Puritans, naturally, like all proponents of legalism, were sure that this would lead inevitably to evil behavior, since the rules and the threats were gone.

    The story of her arrest and trial reflects much better on her character than on that of the Puritans who prosecuted her. (Many would say that she kicked their butts in theological knowledge.) If anything, the evidence was solid that she lived every bit as moral of a life as any of them – perhaps more so, since she had a reputation for her kindness.

    But, she spoke out against Church dogma – and worse, did so as a *woman*, which was completely intolerable.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Fiddlrts, I am shocked! How can you say that Anne Hutchinson lived a life as moral as the legalists of her day and even suggest that she was perhaps more so because of her reputation for kindness? Just look around you at the loving legalists we interact with in our day. Just look around.

      Oh. Never mind…

      😉

      Like

  7. sheila0405 says:

    This is the crux of the matter in the Beatitudes. Moving away from blindly following legalism and opening one’s heart to the spirit of the rules of behavior: love. I believe that there is inherent good in all people. Some find that goodness and some ignore it. It all comes down to the inner heart of the person. Looking forward to the next post.

    Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Sheila, I think you are so on target. Many people think Jesus advocated an even tougher legalism in the beatitudes and the sermon on the mount, but I believe he was pointing out the true morality that was obscured by legalism.

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  8. Marc says:

    Tim,
    The revelation of God is that there are two ways to follow; the way of life, or the way of death. Jesus Christ is the Way to Truth and Life eternal. When we live apart from the Source of our very being we follow the way of death. To sin, is to miss the potential to draw close to the Source. To follow Jesus and/or the conscience He places in each of us, is to follow the way of life.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Marc, this sounds good to me. When we understand the love of God for us, and the love of Jesus, we can follow the way of life and love other people. This is not to say that those who do not follow Jesus cannot love others properly–many do, but Jesus is the one who guided me.

      Thanks for the contribution.

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      • Marc says:

        Everyone will encounter Jesus Tim, either in this life or when they enter the spiritual realm upon the death of their body. I am convinced that most people will repent (change their minds) about misconceptions they may have had once they understand the true Gospel. For those who did not enter into the Church through baptism in this life, their physical death can be their baptism into the Church in Heaven. For those who choose not to enter into communion with our Lord God and Creator Jesus Christ in His Church, annihilation in the Lake of Fire with Satan and the demons is their choice.

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      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Marc, I think you are right that everyone will encounter Jesus and the offer of eternal life, and for many, it could be after death. If, with a sound and informed mind, we reject eternal life I think we will either cease to exist or continue to exist outside the presence of the Father and the people who follow him.

        However, I don’t think anyone will be punished in a lake of fire. In understand this imagery from the Book of Revelation as symbolic rather than descriptive.

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        • Marc says:

          Tim,

          Because eternal damnation in the everlasting fire is a reality prepared for wicked spirit beings, not human beings, there are differing opinions as to what the nature of the everlasting fire is. Some believe that it is a created material fire, while others believe it is the presence of God Himself. There are also differing views about what the outcome will be for those humans and demons who are cast into the everlasting fire.

          The prevailing view held by Christians is that those experiencing eternal damnation in the everlasting fire are consciously tormented forever. The Scripture most often cited in support of this is: The devil, who deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10). Because this view of eternal damnation seems to portray a mean and vengeful God who punishes in a fashion far in excess of the sins and crimes committed, some early Church Fathers like St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Isaac of Syria taught that the everlasting fire could have a remedial effect leading to a belated salvation for many, or even all.

          There have also been a minority of Christians who hold to a third view regarding eternal damnation. They hold to the view that eternal damnation in the everlasting fire is annihilation. The Scripture most often cited to support this view is: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).” This view holds to an understanding of immortality that is conditional, while the first two views hold to an understanding of immortality that is unconditional. There is a great deal of Scriptural support for this third view, but the concept of natural immortality of the soul that was so common in the Greco-Roman World of the early Church, seems to have prevailed.

          The full understanding of this mystery of eternal damnation will have to wait until the end of this age and the beginning of the endless age to come. The weight of the good news of the Gospel would seem to support the view of remediation or annihilation over eternal torment.

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  9. Chas says:

    Tim, This question is about absolutism in regard to truth, because you and Harvey have asked the same question, although perhaps in slightly different words. In your post above, you said this:
    ‘Had I been in 1940s Europe and Nazi’s came to my home and asked, “Are there any Jews in this house?”, I would have said, “Yes sir, they are behind that false wall.”’ At first sight, this seemed to be a case in which there would be no realistic alternative except to lie. However, it still did not feel right to me, so I thought about it for some while, and it occurred to me that the Nazis would never have asked such a question, because, if they did, they would expect to receive the same answer ‘no’ from everyone. In fact, in the unlikely event that they did ask, and you were really concealing Jews in the house, the best reply would be to say (very sarcastically) ‘yes there are several here. Don’t you like them?’ That would be the truth and surely the most likely to succeed. A much more difficult situation would be if you were aware of Jews being hidden in the house next door and the Nazis came and asked ‘are there any signs of Jews being hidden next door. If you say no, and we discover that there are, we will take your family and sent them away with the Jews.’ What would the the right answer be then?

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, you have put some good thought into this and have presented a very good scenario with a reasonable question: “What would the right answer be then?”

      This is the point of the entire post–there is no right legalistic answer. Legalistic rules provides the ‘right’ response in real-life situations without regard to the complexity of the situation or the harm the ‘right’ response might involve.

      Instead, one should consider the good of others and respond in the best way possible at the time. I cannot tell you what the ‘right answer’ is for you regarding the Jews. I cannot even tell you what the right answer is for me until I am faced with it, though I have established helpful guidelines for making quick decisions based on my past experiences and reflecting on the best ways to treat people in a loving manner.

      What do you think the right answer is?

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      • Chas says:

        On the logic that the Nazis were clearly intending to search the house next door anyway, and would most probably find the Jews who were being hidden there, you would have no choice but to tell the Nazis something that you had seen, in the hope that they would not condemn your family for you not having reported to them previously what you had seen. If they did not condemn them, then the overall suffering would be minimized. Considering how much difficulty I had in giving what had seemed an easy answer, it is not immediately obvious what the most loving action would be in that situation. Could anyone think all that through quickly enough, if some Nazi officer was standing on their doorstep wanting their immediate reply? Your guidelines would need to be easy to apply.

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, I agree that there often difficulty in determining the best choice, but there is always a choice. In legalism, however, the choices are often cut-and-dried so that one follows the rules, or not, instead of considering the good of people. This is my point.

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  12. Janice MacKenzie says:

    Well, doctrinal details aside, I always had a problem with the idea that the only way to avoid Hell is to accept Jesus as your savior. And you could spend your whole life doing evil but get yourself saved at the last second by asking Jesus to forgive you. And the good and loving non-christians – the atheists, pagans, polytheists, and monotheists who don’t believe that “Jesus is the Way” – they all are doomed because they don’t belong to the right club. As a kid this struck me as completely unfair, and it was one of the main reasons I stopped going to any kind of church. Talk, talk, talk about sin and salvation all you want; but if you aren’t living a life of daily kindness and compassion, you’re missing the whole point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Janice, I am sorry you had this negative experience with Christians; I did too–I was raised this way. Today, it is much easier to find followers of Jesus who believe in loving others instead of observing dogmatic rules and doctrines.

      I welcome you to continue interacting with some of those believers here, in other places online, and in person.

      Like

    • consultgtf says:

      Janice, why are you giving the answer in the end and asking question in the beginning?
      Yes, very rightly said “Just by accepting Jesus as your savior” will not save you, As Jesus himself said, I stand outside of your heart and knock, if YOU open, I will come and reside, but this means that, our life will/should change after receiving him. But as you rightly said in the last moment, if say “forgive me Jesus” it becomes a joke,
      If God is in You, your life will be entirely different, people will be able distinguish between Christian and Non Christians, Though you stopped going to church, but quality of your life is much better than others.
      Visiting hospitals are required for patients though, not for healthy people like you! But visiting doctor anywhere to have a check up now and then will be better, only to confirm our fitness?:)
      Regarding, Jesus as your Savior, that’s a different topic, all together. Can discuss?

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  13. Pingback: Love is All We Need | Jesus Without Baggage

  14. Pingback: Come to Me All Who are Weary and Burdened Down and I Will Give You Rules | Jesus Without Baggage

  15. consultgtf says:

    Hell, is real, so is the heaven!
    But in this world itself, by the decisions that we take and more away from GTF, we get more further it is hell, it is basically the quality of life that we live in,
    but there are others who live in pseudo Heaven and Hell which is mirage! they find it in a later stage of their life.

    Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Consult, I assume GTF means God the Father, but I am not quite sure what you mean in this comment.

      Like

      • consultgtf says:

        Good morning,

        Just wanted to convey that Hell or the Heaven is on this earth only! but we are expecting a separate place where we will…and that is reason for all this suffering!
        Concept 1:- The further we go away from our Creator is Hell! the closer we come to our Father, it is Heaven.
        We can see/experience a different quality of life in each walk of life, otherwise…
        Concept2:- Can we say that the people who died before me (All) are waiting? Bible says, you will be judged as per your sins, but when? IT IS SPOT JUDGEMENT, immediately after our death.
        God gives us this opportunity to everyone while he is on the earth, those who can take this opportunity and change, see a different world, otherwise it is…?!

        Like

  16. Pingback: 3 Important Considerations in Loving Others as Ourselves | Jesus Without Baggage

  17. Andrea says:

    It is very liberating to read this essay. I was raised in a Parsi (Zoroastrian) family and you may be surprised how many of our creeds have influenced Christian beliefs. Historical context is so incredibly important when reading any religious text, I believe its vitality cannot be over emphasized. The concept of afterlife punishment and “paradise” existed in the cultures surrounding Israel of the time long before the birth of Jesus, including that of my own ancestors from which the term “Paradise” actually comes. Our limited scriptures have taught us that everyone will enjoy resurrection and eternal life, and that those who committed sins need only to be burned clean in the fires of a sort of purgatory before joining their fellow man in eternal glory. Of course, this was a a lot different from Israelite belief at the time of Jesus – according to the Old Testament there is no Hell or Heaven, simply life and death. I believe that ancient followers during and after Jesus’ lifetime completely mistook His descriptions of “eternal fire” (the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem) combined with the influence of the other religious traditions of the time to invent this idea of eternal punishment. Fear mongering Churches have used the Hell myth to subdue and control people and keep themselves in positions of power. When you know that Hell is a myth, the desire to love and be close with God becomes so much easier and feels right. I do not believe in fear-based love at all, in any circumstance, and I have been kicked out of Christian communities for my heretical beliefs. I have a personal relationship with Jesus and the only belief that I do my best to follow in daily life is compassion. Eternal punishment and compassion will never be compatible. That’s my belief.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hi Andrea, thank you for introducing yourself and commenting on this post. I became aware of Zoroastrianism by reading about it in my high school World Religions class in the late 1960s, and I wrote a term paper on it my first semester of college.

      I was fascinated! The towers of silence grabbed my attention, but I thought the description of Chinvat Bridge was particularly interesting. Later, Christian evangelism tracts and books began to use a picture of a bridge that one had to travel to get to heaven. It was in the shape of a cross and the valley below it was burning hell. The idea was that Jesus was the way to cross over to heaven and avoid hell. It always reminded me of Chinvat Bridge.

      I think many ideas in Judaism after the Babylonian captivity came from Zoroastrianism, such as the burning pit after death, Satan as the powerful enemy of God (like Ahriman), and others.

      Your comment really resonates with me: “When you know that Hell is a myth, the desire to love and be close with God becomes so much easier and feels right. I do not believe in fear-based love at all, in any circumstance.” I agree!

      I assume you have roots in India, perhaps in or about Mumbai. Are you still connected to your Parsi background?

      Like

      • Andrea says:

        Wow now I’m impressed! I have never met someone in North America who knows anything about the tradition, even in my university Religious studies faculty! It’s been really frustrating. I was born and raised in Canada, hence the English name, but the family was from a remote village in Iran – they are not very observant but I am very interested in knowing as much as I can about my history. Chinvat Bridge is thoroughly fascinating, isn’t it. I would love to read your paper if you still have it by any chance. I always try to keep up and get as much research in as possible. I’m very connected with the Iranian community and we hold all our usual ceremonies, especially Noruz and Mehregan. It’s something we can all share.

        I can’t express how much I enjoy your website and reading about your personal journey from fundamentalism is truly moving. Everything you say about legalism reinforcing all the things Jesus told us not to do, I really feel your wisdom. I had a similar journey, to a much smaller degree. I’m glad you like my comments, that makes me happy and it means a lot coming from you! My thought is that fear-based love directly contradicts the gift of free will, which God gave us because doing the right things doesn’t mean much if we don’t have a choice. Using fear kind of defeats the purpose of that, in my opinion, who would choose eternal torture over eternal happiness, really? I was part of a Bible Study campus society until the fundamentalism drove me insane – the great thing about being Zoroastrian is that we don’t have to burn in hell for eternity for observing other religious practices. I believe Jesus is worthy of worship as much as Zarthust, both men who never asked to be worshiped, and I hold the words of Jesus Christ sacred in my heart. I’m still working on a personal relationship with Him, though, because those fundamentalist virtues have created some fear that is hard to get rid of, I’m sure you know what I mean. Reading about your thoughts on the inerrancy myth was equally liberating. Thank you for sharing this blog with all of us.

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Hi Andrea, I think I do have that 1969 term-paper on Zoroastrianism that I wrote, but it is not a very good paper. I received a D on it because of style and lack of interaction with the research. However I learned a lot about Zoroastrianism and also how to write a college-level paper!

          I find it interesting that you are from Iran, since my understanding is that most Zoroastrians moved to India centuries ago after Muslims began to dominate the area. I had to look up Noruz and Mehregan, as I was not familiar with them, so I learned a little more. Thanks!

          You mention that you have had difficulty with Christian fundamentalism and that you had been kicked out of some Christian communities for your beliefs. It sounds to me that your beliefs go in the right direction since you follow Jesus and a life of compassion. What Christian group or organization do you now identify with most? Do you consider yourself both a follower of Jesus and a Zoroastrian?

          I find your story very interesting, and I am glad you found my bog useful.

          Like

  18. Andrea says:

    Yes you are right, India has the highest population of Zoroastrians but there are still a few small populations in Iran, and the religion is one of the legally protected religions in Iran along with Islam , Christianity, and Judaism. Like you said, after the Arab invasion most Persians eventually had to convert to Islam, over the following centuries – the history is angering to say the least. This is religious bullying, what can I say? History is full of it.

    I guess I shouldn’t say kicked out, but I certainly felt the hostility – particularly the feeling of being looked down on for believing something different. One of my ministers even openly denounced Catholic people, which surprised me a lot. I Do consider myself both, and I know that can be offensive to some Christians so I am sorry if it does offend you at all. Zarthust’s teachings are very incomplete because of historical battles and fires etc… so I find both Teachers have a lot to say that fits together well. One of the things that ministers have criticized about me more than anything else is that I would not join my fellow church members in their evangelism missions, because although I was told to go around telling people that Jesus is the only way to salvation, which I believed was true at the time, I couldn’t bring myself to say it to people who were devout Muslims or Buddhists or atheists. When I told my best friend that Jesus was watching over her, she responded “I believe more that my mom [deceased] is watching over me. Is that okay?” And I said yes. Oh my minister was not happy. Right now I’m feeling very isolated from any Christian community, it’s not a good feeling, that’s why I’ve been searching online to see if anyone else had the same pains as me and as your blog shows I’m by far not the only one. 🙂

    Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Andrea, I believe truth is truth no matter where it is found, and I also believe all truth is God’s truth. I do think Jesus is the fullest expression we have of the Father, but that does not mean a Parsi must renounce Zoroastrianism in order to follow Jesus.

      I used to be one of those who ‘witnessed’ constantly to ‘save sinners’, but I no longer think this is a good approach. I think it is important to share the good news of Jesus with those who are open and interested, but this comes about more through natural relationships rather than evangelistic recruiting, and it is a positive experience while aggressive witnessing causes much damage along the way.

      Like

  19. consultgtf says:

    Following His commandments, either in this life or when we enter the spiritual realm upon the death of this body, not necessary death, (it can also be when we understand that this life is illusion and once we have abandon this body and go near our Creator! being in this body itself) Nirvana stage
    What if if you adhere to moral law rather than to personal religious faith still if you are not against HIM, you are with HIM?
    It is like seeing the sun in the naked eyes, in the day or night? through moons reflection! depends how and when you see HIM!
    But it will be better to be under shelter, as it it will take care of us, whether it is summer, rainy or winter, we are protected, will not have full impact of anything as it will reduce while it passes through our shelter… GTF!

    Like

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