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Should Believers Fear Hell – and God? A Response to Oliver Thomas

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Earlier today I read two articles as they were making their provocative way through the viral atmosphere. Both of them were written by people I believe are Americans. Both articles were characterized by a hopelessness caused by an inability of their writers to comprehend the things of God. I am writing in response to one of those articles that carried the name reflected in my chosen title for this article.

I believe that in some way the author, one Oliver Thomas, wrote with the specific intention of being the devil’s advocate and in more ways than one open the religious version of Pandora’s Box. However, I believe the article in itself is a potential cause for the “speculations” and hopeless futility that he intended so scathingly to address.

In the article, published in the USA Today online edition of August 8, 2011, Mr Thomas asked the important question of what happens after death. But as one reads the article it becomes clear that he is not so much concerned with providing an answer to the question as he is with attempting to prove that Christians and believers in Jesus Christ have been surely misled due to the misinterpretation of Jesus’ words as they referred to hell.

The author suggests that a God who will punish an act of evil for all eternity is not as terrible (and somehow I infer he means obtuse) as the people who will actually believe in such a God. He used his parenting code to suggest he will only punish his daughter with an action that fits the disobedience. He refuses to believe that a place of eternal punishment exists, claiming that the “Christian Old Testament” only talks of the dead existing in a “dreamlike place.” One of the things about reading informatiion is that one can select bits and pieces to drive one’s point home. And generally Christians quote scriptures to get their message across.

However, Oliver Thomas basically condemns the believers in the Bible for their vulnerable gullibility because they believe something just because the Bible teaches it. But then he goes and quotes from the very same Bible he is claiming is erroneously misinterpretted and indicates that Solomon in Ecclesiasties proclaimed that “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might for there is no activity or planning or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.” This he says, clearly trying to convince the really undecided and scared readers that no real action comes after the human heart stops.

Well, Mr Thomas, Solomon whom you quoted was speaking as the wisest man on the earth who ever lived. But how is it, Mr Thomas, that you did not mention that Jesus had this to say in Matthew chapter 12 and verse 42: “…one greater than Solomon is here.”

The author of the article is trying desperately but to no avail to reason and understand the truths of the universe. The created being will never know as much as the creator. Do you think man will ever make a product that is equal to man’s capabilities or that surpasses man’s individual greatness?

Jesus Christ came to earth because there was a problem of significant eternal ramifications that warranted His intervention. Don’t you see the British Prime Minister who is on holiday leaving his happy time to return to deal with the escalating riots in London? Aren’t you hearing persons in your beloved America asking that the President recalls Congress from vacation time to deal with the economic woes? So, if human beings can see the need to leave their comfort zone to face a serious challenge that no one else can fix, then don’t you think Heaven will do the same? Mr Thomas, if the consequences of sin only led to a dreamworld of shadowy appearances, why would the creator of life Himself leave the infinite happiness of heaven to suffer the agony and shame during the crucifixion?

Or, how is it you didn’t think it convenient in your echoing of Satan’s manifesto to include the parable Jesus told of the rich man (who signifies the typical “American dream”) and the torment he endured from the moment he died? Go and read St Luke chapter 16 from verse 19 to verse 31.

This once wealthy fellow who was probably the beneficiary of the Wall Street of his day will not agree with you that misinterpretations from King James have been creating an unfounded fanaticism and religious fear. That rich man is still in that very place being tormented today. I hope that as you read, Mr Thomas, you will realize it takes something extraordinarily true, serious, and real to gain the attention of a wealthy person and make them beg for a vagrant or thug to put his once itchy finger in his mouth to ease his pain.

Please note as well that the end of this story saw Jesus making the point through Abraham that the living people on the earth have to choose on their own to listen to the preachers of the day. You are choosing not to listen. In the Caribbean we have been told time and again by our parents that “he who does not hear will feel.”

Are you hearing, Mr Thomas?

Now the article really makes one wonder about Americans and their acceptance of the Christian message. Hmm. All I would say is that the Bible has indicated that Christianity is not on the earth to win a popularity contest. In the months and years following the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, literally millions of His followers and believers chose to die a horrible death rather than deny Jesus and live a few more years on this earth.

Mr Thomas, I am certain you know that no sane person dies for a lie. And certainly even you, Mr Thomas, must agree with me that the millions of persons who allowed themselves to be killed in the most gruesome of ways cannot be all crazy.

Your article runs the risk of allowing some unconcerned soul to think it is all right to face their death day without answering the Jesus question. I really hope that your readers see beyond your verbally brawny logic. If not, you risk finding yourself having to explain to your Creator why you chose to propogate the ideals of Satan. When your state department released home videos of Saddam Hussein after they had killed him, they muted the audio because they saw the wisdom in not giving an outlet to his ideals and so corrupt the listening audience.

In the same way your article, in an attempt to create viral publicity, has chosen to be an outlet of Satan’s message to keep humanity from taking the reality of Jesus Christ as a personal responsibility with present and eternal benefits or losses.

I look forward to reading your follow-up article that is motivated by humility and inner inspiration and not just intellectual myopic panic.

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About Ashford Daniel

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    I believe Mr. Thomas made the mistake of trying to appeal to logic. Where religious belief is concerned, it’s useless to appeal to logic. Faith and logic don’t mix.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    No, the rich man from the parable is not burning in eternal torment today, for one simple reason.

    He didn’t exist.

    Jesus’s parables do not describe true events: they are fictional tales told to illustrate or clarify a point he was making. So there was no real Good Samaritan, no real Prodigal Son – and no real rich man.

  • Baronius

    I’m with Dread on the small point, Ashford on the big one. Jesus makes a lot of references to punishment after death. And let’s grant USA Today’s Oliver Thomas the possibility that hell isn’t permanent (although I don’t think he has a leg to stand on, theologically): so what? If Jesus came to warn us about a temporary place of wailing and grinding of teeth, should we not be afraid of it because it’s temporary? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, not its end, but fear is a fitting thing. Justice demands that we be afraid, because humans are pretty lousy. Even if you believe that hell is a passing thing, Jesus is offering us a pass from standing in the garbage pit.

  • Ashford Daniel

    First of all I thank both of you for using your “non-refundable” time to read my article; however, I just have few questions:

    1. If hell is indeed a passing or temporary state then why did Jesus subject Himself to the passion week? I mean, after a temporary time in hell, man will not be punished any more hence the need for a Saviour is useless. So you are both saying that Jesus wasted His time dying on the cross.

    Hmmm…

    2. If hell is a temporary existence then it is fair to say that heaven is also a temporary existence as well, right?

    3. My final question to you, gentlemen, is this: Why is it that even with several documented instances of people being raised from the dead throughout the Bible, the writers documenting those events never recorded the experiences of the resurrected ones? (The “never happened” parable I used in the article holds the answer.)

  • Bob Todd

    I loved the piece by Oliver Thomas. He is on the right track talking about a
    loving, powerful, purposeful Creator. I
    also loved the piece by Dr Dreadful as he is correct. Read “The Rich Man and Lazarus” by Otis Q. Sellers
    Write to me and I will give you a
    scanned PDF. The Bible says that many of us are made stupid
    (ignorant) as the comments by Ashford Daniel prove… but, I hasten to say, it is
    not Ashford’s fault. God made him that
    way. We are supposed to believe lies as
    that is why God put the Tree in the Garden in the first place. Eve believed the lie of Satan more than the
    truth of God Himself. We are supposed to
    wallow in our sin and corruption, especially in this AGE (there are five), as
    that is God’s way of using His Satan, who He created, for His purpose of the AGES. Read “God’s Eonian Purpose” by Loudy and read “The Outcome of
    Infinite Grace” by Hurley. Read “Hope Beyond
    Hell” by Beauchemin and read “At The End
    of The Ages” by Everly. Write me: Google K7VHQ and click on San Jacinto.

  • Bob Todd

    You are correct.

  • Bob Todd

    It has nothing to do with “logic” but with facts. Hell is a myth but God’s eonian chastisement is not.

    • Fred

      You seem to be redefining what the word “Fact” means. It’s just another way of lying. Stop that.

  • Joseph O Polanco

    The Hellfire doctrine is a perverse mendacity that defames God. A God of justice and love would never prescribe infinite punishment for a finite crime no matter how wicked: http://bit.ly/17fVMYm

    • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com/ Christopher Rose

      It isn’t possible to defame imaginary things.

      Wake up!

      • Joseph O Polanco

        1. Claims made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
        2. You claim God absolutely does not exist.
        3. You have limited and incomplete knowledge.

        4. It’s possible God exists outside your knowledge.
        5. Therefore you can ‘believe’ God does not exist, but cannot prove it.
        6. Therefore your claim can be summarily dismissed for lack of evidence.

        “To sustain the belief that there is no God, atheism has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, “I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge.” ― Ravi Zacharias

        • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com/ Christopher Rose

          Correcting all your erroneous thinking could be a full time job.

          1. Nuts like you are the ones claiming the existence of mythical creatures. so the burden of proof is on you.

          2. There is zero evidence to support the existence of any gods so, until there is, we can be happy knowing they don’t.

          3. Everybody’s knowledge is limited but that doesn’t support your theory.

          4. Everything is “possible” but if there was a creature existing outside of my knowledge, it would be outside of yours too.

          5. I can confidently state that god doesn’t exist, because there is zero evidence to suggest that it does. There is no requirement to prove a negative.

          6. Therefore, everything you are writing can be summarily dismissed for lack of evidence.

          Ravi Zacharias is a religious nutjob so quoting him only makes you look even more absurd. His stupid argument can be demolished quite simply; It isn’t necessary to have infinite knowledge to disbelieve in gods; his argument is based upon a false premise, like all such witterings.

          Get a grip…

  • Joseph O Polanco

    I see what you’re saying because Atheists’ conviction that the universe came from nothing by nothing for nothing is completely logical …

    • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com/ Christopher Rose

      That isn’t what atheists think, so congratulations on making stuff up.

      Next you’ll be saying that the universe was created by some omnipotent being that no one has ever encountered and for the existence of which there is zero evidence…

      • Joseph O Polanco

        “Ex nihilo nihil fit.” In other words, something can’t come from nothing. (Not Hawking’s or Krauss’ mendacious pseudo-definition of “nothing” (“The Grand Design”/ ”A Universe From Nothing“) but the concept that describes no state of affairs, relations, potentialities, properties, that is to say, no “anything”.) If it could, why doesn’t everything or anything? Why aren’t dinosaurs, for instance, popping out of thin air, devouring everyone in sight? Why aren’t we afraid of elephants suddenly popping into existence and crushing us as they fall from the sky? If nothing can in fact produce something why would it discriminate? Conspicuously, then, such a violation of the laws of nature is laid bare as nothing more than fallacious special pleading.

        Furthermore, from the whole of human experience, knowledge, wisdom, empiricism and discovery we’ve distilled other self-evident, irrefragable truths such as:

        – A posteriori causality
        – Being does not arise from nonbeing
        – Whatever begins to exist has a cause
        – Information does not spring from chaos
        – Fine-tuning does not emanate from randomness

        Given these unshakable abecedarian truths, the natural questions that follow are, “Where did the universe come from 13.70 billion years ago?” and “What caused it to come into existence in the first place?” Whatever this cause is, it must possess certain requisite properties.

        Therefore –

        (1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
        (2) The space-time universe began to exist 13.70 billion years ago.
        (3) Therefore, the space-time universe has a cause.

        (4) The cause of the universe is a transcendent, beginningless, spaceless, immaterial, timeless, unchanging, omnipotent good personal being.
        (5) A transcendent, beginningless, spaceless, immaterial, timeless, unchanging, omnipotent good personal being is the definition of God.
        (6) Therefore, God caused the universe to exist 13.70 billion years ago.

        Now, let’s take a closer look at each of the premisses of this elegant syllogism. First and foremost, this cause must itself be uncaused. Why? Because an infinite regress of causes has no basis in reality; it can’t be turtles all the way down. (http://bit.ly/1dq935A)

        Second, this uncaused cause must transcend space-time because it itself created space-time. It is therefore, spaceless.

        Third, since this uncaused cause exists beyond space and time it is must be a non-physical or immaterial cause. Why? Because physical things exist only in space – they have dimensions.

        Fourth, this uncaused cause must necessarily also be timeless for the simple fact that it itself doesn’t exist in space-time.

        Fifth, it must also be changeless. As I’m sure you’re well aware, all matter exists in a state of constant flux. This is especially apparent at the atomic level. Since this uncaused cause is immaterial it is not subject to the same forces that affect matter, therefore, it is unchanging.

        Sixth, this uncaused cause is obviously unimaginably powerful, if not omnipotent, for it brought matter, energy, space and time into existence completely on its own.

        So, to sum up, whatever it is that caused the universe to come into existence 13.70 billion years ago it must be beginningless, spaceless, immaterial, timeless, unchanging and omnipotent.

        But we’re not done for there are two more properties of this uncaused cause that we can deduce from what we observe of the universe. Before we get to these, though, we first need to take a closer look at cause and effect. Here’s what I mean: if a cause is sufficient to produce it’s effect then the effect must also be present. The two are joined at the hip, so to speak; you can’t have one without the other.

        Let me borrow from an illustration to make this clearer. “Suppose that the cause of water’s freezing is the temperature’s being below 0°C. If the temperature were below 0°C from eternity past, then any water that was around would be frozen from eternity. It would be impossible for the water to just begin to freeze a finite time ago. Once the cause is given, the effect must be given as well.” (http://bit.ly/WQtgZY)

        The issue is, if we have in fact a timeless, transcendent cause why isn’t the effect permanent as well? In other words, if this timeless, transcendent cause actually brought the universe into being, why hasn’t the universe always been? How can a cause be eternal but its effect commence a finite time ago? We know the universe is about 13.70 billion years old but we’ve also deduced that whatever caused the universe must be transcendent and timeless.

        The only way this is possible is if this timeless, transcendent, uncaused cause were also a free agent – a being with free will who can act of its own volition. As we all know, free will is the hallmark of personhood.

        Last but not least, this beginningless, spaceless, immaterial, timeless, unchanging, omnipotent being must also be unimaginably good. Why? Suppose we concede for the sake of argument that he’s evil. Since this being is evil, that implies he fails to discharge his moral obligations. But where do those come from? How can this evil being have duties to perform which he is violating? Who forbids him to do the wrong things that he does? Immediately, we see that such an evil being cannot be supreme: there must be a being who is even higher than this evil being and is the source of the moral obligations which he chooses to shirk, a being which is absolute goodness himself. As such, there must necessarily exist a supreme being who is all powerful, all good and all loving; One who is the very paradigm of good.

        So here we arrive at this uncaused cause of the universe 13.70 billion years ago that is beginningless, spaceless, immaterial, timeless, unchanging, omnipotent and personal being who is all good and all loving.

        This is the very definition – of God :)

        • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com/ Christopher Rose

          I hope you’re not a teacher or in any other position of responsibility, because you don’t get logic at all.

          • Joseph O Polanco

            Prove it.