When We Don’t Want Hell To Be Real

I was taking to a friend the other day and he made a comment and had a brief discussion on Facebook with Matthew Paul Turner.  For those of you who do not know, Matthew Paul Turner is a fairly famous Christian blogger who has writes and speaks on what I consider the friendly church movement.  I have only read his book Churched, which was a good read, but it was not something that I connected with.  I suppose not being part of the “fundie” church crowd has kept me from connecting with some of his messages.  Regardless, I agree with a lot of what he writes about.

Turner, I will refer to him as this as typing Matthew Paul Turner over and over again makes the fingers cramp up, shared a post on his Facebook page about “What Jesus Talked About When He Talked About Hell“.  The post deals with what Jesus says about “hell” and what he might have meant by it.

The author of the article, Benjamin Corey, stated that the word “hell” did not exist in first century Israel.  According to Corey, the word did not appear until AD 725, when it was introduced.

According to the The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, the word “hell” was adopted into our vocabulary as a way to introduce the pagan concept of hell into Christian theology– which it did quite successfully.

Corey then proceeds to give examples as how the word Jesus uses for hell in Greek is “Gehenna”.  I agree with the statement that Jesus used the word Gehenna in a parable that he told (Matthew 23:33).  I disagree with the notion that concept of hell as Jesus spoke about it, the pain and suffering aspects, was not known to first century Jews.

Looking for some background on the word Gehenna, I came across this noted in the NET version:

The word translated hell is “Gehenna” (γέεννα, geenna), a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew words ge hinnom (“Valley of Hinnom”). This was the valley along the south side of Jerusalem. In OT times it was used for human sacrifices to the pagan god Molech (cf. Jer_7:31; Jer_19:5-6; Jer_32:35), and it came to be used as a place where human excrement and rubbish were disposed of and burned. In the intertestamental period, it came to be used symbolically as the place of divine punishment (cf. 1 En. 27:2, 90:26; 4 Ezra 7:36).

While the word “hell” was not known to first century Jews, the concept of Gehenna as a place of divine punishment instead of just a historical location was known to them.  Now I disagree with Corey that the listeners of Jesus would taken this strictly in the historical context, but neither of us were there so we will never fully know.  This disagreement aside, I really enjoyed the post from Corey.

I do not agree with the way hell has been portrayed to people, as it was used as a threat and manipulation tool against far too many people.  The negative usage of hell aside, there is and i believe was an understanding as to the negative connotation of hell that cannot be discounted.  It needs to stop being used as a weapon, but we cannot just cast the idea of an eternal punishment spot aside because people either do not like it or have been hurt by it before.

John MacArthur and his Strange Fire

I was listening to a radio program the other day and heard about the Strange Fire conference that is scheduled for later this year.  The speaker said something about the need to warn about the dangers of charismatics, so I had to go to the website and see what they were even talking about.

The Lord calls His people to honor Him, to treat Him as holy. Leviticus 10 pictures the consequences of not doing so—of offering to Him strange fire.

For the last hundred years, the charismatic movement has been offering a strange fire of sorts to the third Person of the Godhead—the Holy Spirit. And evangelical churches have chosen to be silent or indifferent on the matter. This hasn’t served the church or the Spirit of the church with honor.

So what should be our response?

Strange Fire is a conference that will set forth what the Bible really says about the Holy Spirit, and how that squares with the charismatic movement. Through keynote speakers and seminars, the conference will expose the dangers of offering strange fire—and what the church can do about it.

The questions about and controversies surrounding the charismatic movement are more than theoretical. Your view of the Holy Spirit influences your relationship with God, your personal holiness, and your commitment to the church and evangelism. And He calls for our worthy worship of Himself.

I wish people would come out and say what they feel needs to be shared instead of making you wait and pay to hear it.  If this is really that dangerous of an occurrence, wouldn’t you want someone to know now instead of having to wait months to be set straight?  What if they die before the conference?  Are there no negative results of offering this “strange fire”?  What is this “strange fire“ that we are supposed to be offering up to the Holy Spirit?

I understand why people react the way they do when they encounter something that they do not understand.  I wish I could say that “charismatics” did not take the ideas to far and end up going astray, but I cannot.  That is true for every church and every theological group.  Just as I can honestly say that not everyone at my church has had an authentic encounter with God, I can say that about John MacArthur’s church and every other church that is in existence.  It amazes me at how much division there is within the Church.  If you think about the amount of time spent discussing theology instead of sharing the Gospel, I often wonder if it is worth it.  Of course, if a Christian thinks you might be going to hell for following a false doctrine then I understand why they feel the need to call it out.  I just wish they would not post pone the event or make people pay to find out what they are going to say.  Since the conference is really only going to attract those that agree with their position, I do not see much change coming in the near future.

I heard something the other day that I think pertains to this situation.  The statement was something to the effect that thankfully God uses people who do not think the way I think.  I am not sure who said it, but it keeps things in perspective.