Thursday, March 5, 2015

Proof texts about hell - what do they prove?

It seemed about time to address these so-called proof texts for the doctrine of 'hell'. I have posted about several of them in detail individually, but I realized something interesting about them overall.

What I saw was this: The mainstream verses that folks use to support eternal torment are either symbolic or allegorical, or they are drawn from a parable.

You can review the definitions of these types of writings (or ideas) below. What strikes me is that they are not literal, but many times must be interpreted or explained by the rest of Scripture. Taken alone, their meanings would be at the mercy of the reader, concluding any number of interpretations that may or may not be biblical.

The verses have no fault; they are as God-breathed as the rest of Scripture.

The fault of interpretation will always fall with us, the reader, if there be any. It is pretty tough to muddle a literal command, "Love one another" or a teaching, "Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith..".

There are all kinds of temptations in interpretation when it comes to symbolic language. Some of it is just mysterious - and we do well to wait on God and pray for revelation and discernment.

One thing we know - much can be deduced by using the full counsel of God's word in our meditating and studying. Another sure fact - if we start with a doctrine and only focus on the verses that seem to fit and support its conclusions, then we are headed on the road of self-deception!

As far as looking at each one of these 'proof' texts about 'hell', I found a quicker way to address them! In my research I came across a great website with a study called "The Bible and Hell: Supposed Proof Texts for Eternal Torture". It goes into fine detail about most of them. Although their study differs with mine in some minor areas, I thought they did a great job of explanation and I suggest you read their post:

"Watch your life and doctrine closely." (1 Tim. 4:16)

Allegories are typically used as literary devices or rhetorical devices that convey hidden meanings through symbolic figures, actions, imagery, and/or events, which together create the moral, spiritual, or political meaning the author wishes to convey.
A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. Parables have human characters and are a type of analogy.
An analogy is a comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification.
Symbolism is the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities. A symbol is an object that represents, stands for, or suggests an idea, visual image, belief, action, or material entity.

1 comment:

  1. Edward Fudge states, “It is not proper to interpret dozens of clear statements throughout the Bible to fit one or two symbolic passages in the Book of Revelation. It is a well-established rule of interpretation that one should read symbolic or unclear texts in the light of texts that are non-symbolic and clear, not the other way around. Nor is it appropriate to choose an opinion supported by a handful of texts at best and to discard an alternate view that has the support of many multiples more of scripture passages from Genesis to Revelation. The preponderance of evidence favors conditional mortality.”


I understand this is a difficult subject and there are different views from folks who all value God's inspired word. I value your feedback, corrections and questions. Please leave a comment!