“But how is it possible that humanity for so long tolerated what to us is so obviously intolerable? And why did just one small group of people...suddenly see this injustice for what it was? Why in a morally blind world did Wilberforce and a few others suddenly sprout eyes to see it? [They] were something like the characters in horror films who have seen “the monster” and are trying to tell everyone else about it – and no one believes them.” 1
I'm not comparing myself to Wilberforce, but on a smaller scale, it feels as if I've 'seen the monster': eternal conscious torment teaching - and am trying to tell others... but many don't care or even want to investigate to see if it be true. To some, the monster is not monstrous enough - or at least they believe it is a monster placed in our doctrine by God, so it must be tolerated.
Again, I can relate to how Wilberforce must have felt when sharing with seemingly decent human beings the facts on the slave trade - and the facts made no headway in their hearts and mind:
“He hadn't yet seen that respectable gentlemen and noblemen, when presented with evils and cruelties more horrible than they had ever dreamed, would nonetheless yawn and shrug and turn away, or that, given what seemed an exceedingly clear choice between good and evil, they would choose evil... he could hardly believe that others wouldn't leap to do what was right when they finally knew the facts. He was mistaken.” 2
I was naive in my expectations as well. When the facts about ECT are laid out, the case against it is so powerful that I was confident any sincere, Bible-believing follower of Jesus would rush to investigate further and respond in an appropriate manner. I, too, was mistaken.
Then, because of self-consciousness, or perhaps because of the horrid disease of pride called "it's all about me," I thought that people didn't listen or outright rejected the subject because of me. I was the wrong messenger. I was not respectable, not a man, nor seminary educated. And although all that may be true, it turns out the reluctance to re-examine our hell doctrine is a common phenomenon among Christians.
I have to admit, it was comforting to find other believers (respectable, educated men even) who also experienced the very same phenomenon. Greg Stump, in the excellent book "Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism," writes:
"My abiding interest in hell, and the reason why I've poured so much of my thought, resources and conviction into this topic, has to do with the fact that there are so many Christians who claim quite confidently that hell will consist of eternal conscious torment, yet I personally... have found the biblical, theological, and philosophical evidence for this perspective to be weak and insubstantial. In contrast, I discovered that the case for conditional immortality and the final destruction of the unsaved was comprehensive and compelling...
And yet despite my own experience of the inferiority of the traditional view and the seemingly clear evidence and scriptural basis of the conditionalist view, there were so many other thoughtful and intelligent believers who have claimed the exact opposite - in fact, ECT has been the position of the majority of Christians throughout church history. And this is what has made me, and so many others, obsess over the issue.
How can it be that the evidence in favor of conditionalism appears so clear to those of us who have been convinced and yet is received with such skepticism by our fellow Christians? This experience is baffling, having an almost Kafkaesque quality to it, and it is honestly what has driven my own obsessive interest in the topic." 3
I've received messages from believers who felt like they were the only ones in their church to find the doctrine of traditional hell to be unscriptural. They even feel like heretics. Like outsiders. I certainly know how you feel. If it weren't for my husband, I would also be quite alone in this. Yes, we have the Lord, but there is something so very powerful in a united community.
Even so, my friend, be encouraged. After I sprouted eyes to see, it was soon made clear to me that there is a great and growing number of believers who share the same view. So many of them, in fact, that there is a name for this fellowship: conditionalists (simply meaning folks who believe that God's gift of eternal life is conditional). You are certainly not alone.
For those who have eyes to see, those who are sprouting eyes, and for those yet to see - please visit the website Rethinkinghell.com and learn what they have to teach. Don't just give lip service to believing Scripture alone, walk in it! And see.
1 Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas. Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY, 2007, p. xiv
2 Ibid, p. 121
3 "Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism", edited by Chris Date, Greg Stump and Joshua Anderson with a foreword by John G. Stackhouse. Cascade Books, Eugene, Oregon. 2014.