A Brief Explanation of the Christian Doctrine of Hell

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Starbuck asked what happened to the Christian doctrine of hellfire. Here’s a short response.

There is definitely a hell. No one on earth knows exactly what it will be like. The Bible refers to it in terms of “Gehenna” (a burning garbage dump outside the walls of Jerusalem), a lake of fire, and “outer darkness, where men weep and gnash their teeth.” All of these are metaphors, I think, though the last of those is probably very descriptive.

For centuries Christian imagery of hell was dominated by the fire metaphor. In the 20th century, C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce led many of us to see it instead as a place where people continue their life’s trajectory into eternity. Let me explain further what I mean by that.

Lewis said something like this somewhere: “In the end there are two kinds of people: those who say to God, Thy will be done, and those to whom God says, thy will be done.” The former group are destined to eternity in heaven with God, the latter to eternity in hell without him.

Both groups continue to live the lives they created for themselves. The one who seeks God on earth will find him in eternity. The one who rejects God on earth will live in eternity without God, just as he or she has chosen on earth.

So for example the one whose life is characterized by self-centeredness will go into eternity focused on him- or herself. The one who backbites in the office will be a backbiter for keeps. The gossip on earth will remain someone who finds pleasure in the failings of others. He who is most focused on sex here will be the same forever. Of course every person is multi-dimensional; I mean to simplify here but I don’t want you to take this as over-simplified.

So as each person carries his or her personality into eternity, what’s different about heaven or hell? Simply this: the presence or absence of God and all of his goodness. Here on earth, God is active even among those who deny him. Where there is love on earth it is an expression of God’s reality and his action. Where there is goodness here it is his goodness being manifested.

In heaven that goodness will be multiplied infinitely. In hell it will be gone.

Someone (maybe Lewis again) put it well: believers in Christ are in the land of the dying, on their way to the land of the living; nonbelievers are in the land of the living, on their way to the land of the dying.

Those who go to heaven do not do so by their own goodness, though, for none of us is qualified to enter a realm of perfect goodness. We would ruin it upon our arrival. Only by the cleansing and forgiving work of Jesus Christ can we be with God through eternity. It’s available to all who will simply accept that it’s true and that they need that infinite help from God.

(I wrote this on Saturday morning, January 5, but set the publish time and date earlier so that the system would recognize this page as being connected to the one where Starbuck asked the question.)

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44 Responses to “ A Brief Explanation of the Christian Doctrine of Hell ”

  1. You have given a good analysis of Hell and the difference that exist between those who are God’s children those who are against or indifferent to God.

    I had just started a study on the realism of hell, the different names and the final estate.

    Well written.

  2. Tom,

    There is definitely a hell. No one on earth knows exactly what it will be like.

    Forgive me Tom, but don’t you mean you believe there is a hell? You do not know there is a hell, right?

    Further, if such a thing does indeed exist, and since you write off the only description we have of such a place as metaphorical, aren’t you essentially saying that we cannot know anything about it, other than what one imagines?

  3. Quit it, Fleegman.

    What I was stating was defined in the prior sentence: this is the Christian doctrine of hell.

    Now it does happen that I am convinced it is accurate.

    I’m also convinced that you are a quibbler, and it’s annoying.

  4. Furthermore, I have already said what we do know about it, and I did not say that it’s all metaphorical.

    If you want to have a discussion here, please don’t subject us to this kind of random pinging on questions that don’t need to be asked. That’s not discussion, that’s poking and needling.

  5. @Tom Gilson:

    Funny, whenever I try to imagine Hell two images pop into my mind: utter and complete darkness and void and utter and complete loneliness.

    Imagine an astronaut floating, lost in deep space; wherever he looks, left, right, down up, foward, backward, the same darkness. No point of reference, not a single star. Nowhere to go but more darkness. And complete and utter loneliness. And a little voice squatted in the inside of the mind mumbling: “this is what you have chosen… this is what you have chosen…”. That is Hell for me.

  6. I think people give too much credit to hell. It doesn’t really have to be anything special. Think about your life. Really think about it. Then think about it going on forever. Really think about that. Yikes!

  7. @BillT:

    I think people give too much credit to hell. It doesn’t really have to be anything special. Think about your life. Really think about it. Then think about it going on forever. Really think about that.

    Woa, wait a second. Are you *seriously* telling me that I should stop being sad-death-obsessed-compulsive-maniac-depressive-self-destructive-pathetic-killjoy?

  8. Fleegman,
    I assume you’re human 😉 so I assume you know what to means to have a heartache. That term is 100% metaphor, and yet somehow I bet you know that it refers to something real, not imagined.

  9. Fleegman,

    You do not know there is a hell, right?

    If you have knowledge of the problem of evil, you have knowledge of hell. So let me ask you, Fleegman, do you know about evil and the problem it creates for those living in the midst of it, or are you just imagining the whole thing?

  10. “Woa, wait a second. Are you *seriously* telling me that I should stop being sad-death-obsessed-compulsive-maniac-depressive-self-destructive-pathetic-killjoy?”

    And spoil all your fun? I wouldn’t want to do that!

  11. I think the main worry of most sincere seekers has nothing to do with how literal the images are, but with the fear that God somehow tortures people.

    The correction here is very good. Because it is often helpful, this is my best attempt to put that in a sound byte:
    Hell is what happens to us naturally as we distance ourselves from God.

  12. Interestingly, the teaching of hell has made life hell for me, since I was five years old. And I’m not the only one.

    Christianity is psychological terrorism. Millions of kids go to their beds at night in abject terror of your “loving” god’s afterlife torture chamber. Please tell, how is this “good news”?

  13. @Rob
    There is a more involved discussion of this topic on another thread. You can go here to follow it (although this link jumps to a comment that I made to specifically answer the charge that you have made.

  14. Please tell, how is this “good news”?

    I’d be pleased if you could show us that you actually know what the phrase ‘good news’ means? What you’ve described above ain’t it.

  15. Name one spot in the Bible that makes the statement that anyone has an immortal soul! Please! And even if we were distancing or self from God, He would have to keep us alive! The One who works all things according to His will! I believe in total and complete blackness… You know as you weep and gnash your teeth seeing what you missed out on and you sink slowly into absolute obliteration… What excruciating pain, both psychical and mental, as You cease to exist! Everlasting destruction! And no chance of any other Resurrection!
    2 Thessalonians 1:9 KJV

    Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

    Romans 6:23 KJV

    For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Ephesians 1:10-11 KJV

    That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

    Romans 2:7 KJV

    To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:

    1 Corinthians 15:54 KJV

    So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

    1 Timothy 6:16 KJV

    Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

    2 Timothy 1:10 KJV

    But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:

    You may wanna restudy your Bible and it’s use of symbols and metaphors before you go on polluting the Word of God! May God bless you with His Truth and understanding of His master plan!

  16. Hell is a lot like a black hole — a giant star whose gravity has pulled its light back in on itself, with a pull so powerful nothing can escape, even light.
    Sad to say, sometimes the Christian church is like that too.

    I’ll be blogging about this when I get my site up but for now I’d suggest looking up “event horizon” and make a comparison between descriptions of hell and black hole.

  17. It’s striking how many Christians, even those who tend toward fundamentalism, tend to lose their nerve and fob off the hard question of hell to the more comforting C.S. Lewis, instead of trying to figure out what the Bible is saying.

    “The Great Divorce” indicates that one can leave hell once you’ve properly repented, a concept there is no Biblical justification for, AFAIK.

    C.S. Lewis also said in “Problem of Pain,” that “the doors of hell are locked on the inside.” Also, nothing AFAIK.

    When did fiction and commentary by C.S.Lewis supersede the Bible for Christians?

  18. “the doors of hell are locked on the inside.”

    Clay,

    You might reconsider what that means. It doesn’t mean they aren’t locked and locked securely. Maybe even more so than if the lock was on the other side. And I would disagree with your understanding of hell as presented in “The Great Divorce”. Proper repentence wasn’t the issue.

  19. Maybe there are two kinds of people: those who are not bothered that declarations of there “definitely” being a hell can be made without reference to a single material fact, and those who are.

    Imagine for a moment, that you had no knowledge of Hebrew Scriptures, of the Greek Testament, of Hades, of the River Styx, or anything of that sort. In the absence of these stories, how does one come to a “definite” hell, either philosophically or observationally?

  20. @Larry Tanner, #22:

    There are any number of metaphysical foundations one could adopt which lead to a concept of hell — or not, as the case may be. For instance, one can arrive at the concept of an immortal (or at least immaterial) soul just by contemplating the nature of consciousness, and “hell” is, in a broad sense, just a category of possible experiences that such a soul could have in the long term — specifically, an unpleasant one.

    If one holds these metaphysical beliefs with sufficient conviction, the conclusion can be “definite” in the subjective sense. So, for example, Dawkins thinks there is almost certainly no God, and, by implication, that there is almost certainly no hell. Right or wrong, I’m pretty sure he didn’t reach his rather definitely-asserted conclusion about hell by reference to scriptures or other testimony of that sort.

    Or have I misunderstood what you were insinuating by asking the question? Is it fine and dandy to reach the conclusion that hell does not exist through metaphysical reasoning? Is it only those who assert the existence of a hell that need to support their assertion with something more substantive?

  21. TFBW,

    I imagine some philosophers have already done the work. I would guess Anselm, for one. I just don’t know off the top of my head how the existence of hell is established by reason alone. So I ask.

    Should one hold philosophical positions with conviction? Shouldn’t a reasoning person also and always hold a certain disinterest toward favored conclusions? I’m responding here to your remark about holding beliefs with “sufficient conviction,” which seems to me a wrongheaded way to refine one’s thinking about beliefs. I think rather we should always ask ourselves how our beliefs might be wrong and what that wrongness would entail.

  22. BillT, fair enough re the “doors,” though it weakens the metaphor (if a door can’t be opened on either side is it really a door?).

    As for “The Great Divorce,” the damned do get a bus ride to Heaven and the chance to stay there, which is in no way Biblical.

    And there are evidently untold billions of souls past present and future doomed to writhe in eternal agony, having never known there was a door (or a bus).

    On a related note — many Christians (either directly or furtively) give me the lame Pascal’s Wager, the idea that it would be safer to believe in Christianity (as if it was a conscious choice to make).

    I would offer an alternative wager to Christians: Given the unspeakable horrors of eternal damnation, wouldn’t it be safer to hew to the most strict fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible out there, and assume you earn salvation solely by works and clean living, to the best of your ability? As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, no gluttons, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, drunkards, thieves, etc….will get to heaven.

    Taking this wager, it would make sense for believing Christians to play it safe and conduct themselves puritanically and abstemiously in all things of this life,separating themselves wholly from earthly pleasures to avoid even the slightest risk of eternal damnation — to make themselves miserable in this life, for the guarantee of eternal bliss.

    It makes more sense than Pascal.

  23. Clay,

    …”though it weakens the metaphor (if a door can’t be opened on either side is it really a door?).”

    That the door “can’t be opened on either side” is what makes it a
    metaphor.

    “…the damned do get a bus ride to Heaven and the chance to stay there, which is in no way Biblical.”

    Which is just what Lewis says about it.

    “…wouldn’t it be safer to hew to the most strict fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible out there, and assume you earn salvation solely by works and clean living…”

    No. Assuming “you earn salvation solely by works and clean living” would be errant Biblical interpretation, a denial of the Gospel and lead to what is probably the most fundamental error made in Christian theology.

    And Pascal’s Wager is best (though not exclusively) understood as a challenge to all that given the seriousness of “losing the wager”, for either believer or non believer, that one should do their due diligence.

  24. So Paul is bad scripture? (Unrepentant) homosexuals, drunkards, gluttons, adulterers, etc., ACTUALLY CAN get to heaven? I’d love a straight answer from somebody on this.

    I realize that according to Scripture no one is good enough to make it to heaven on their own. But the passage I cited from Paul would indicate that “good” behavior in this world is a necessary but not sufficient trait to enter heaven.

    Are you so profoundly confident that your interpretation of the Bible is correct, that you can safely eschew Puritanism and take the occasional drink and overindulge in the pleasures of this world, without being what Paul calls a glutton and be thus damned? Are you willing to risk eternity on your human and thus flawed interpretation of scripture? Sounds like an awfully huge risk to me.

  25. From the flap of the 2009 edition of “The Great Divorce” (HarperCollins):

    “What if anyone in Hell could take a bus trip to Heaven and stay there forever if they wanted to?”

  26. Clay @#30: C.S. Lewis wrote a lot of imaginative fiction, including religious allegory. He did not think anyone could take a bus trip to heaven. There are valuable things to be learned from The Great Divorce if one knows how to distinguish allegory from the reality it is illustrating.

    @#29: You act as if BillT is wrong to be confident of his interpretation of Scripture, and yet you recommend that he change his lifestyle to reflect another interpretation of Scripture. He would only do that if he were confident of that other interpretation.

    Let me re-state that to make it clearer: you imply that confidence in one’s interpretation of Scripture is wrong in itself, because it can lead to spiritual danger. Yet what you offer in place of it is confidence in another one’s (yours, to be specific) interpretation of Scripture.

    This is logically self-defeating, in the first place.

    In the second place, you skipped the all-important step of exploring whether BillT had good reasons for his interpretation. Since I share his interpretation, I can assure that it is supported by good reasoning. So there is nothing to support your suggestion that he ought to toss it out.

    In the third place, you are still misreading Pascal’s wager, which BillT already pointed out to you.

    So in summary:

    1. Allegory is allegory, and discerning readers can read it as such.

    2. You have committed the rational fault of self-contradiction, which negates your logic completely in #29.

    3. You omitted the process of inquiring about reasons, which is not a very smart thing to do.

    and

    4. You haven’t paid good attention to what has been said to you here, which is unwise on your part.

  27. Tom,

    The dripping condescension you display under the guise of what you consider cool rationalism(see, I have been reading you!) will convert no one.

    You took what you wanted from The Great Divorce and conveniently ignored the rest, then dismissed it as “allegory” when it was brought up. So “The Great Divorce” has valuable truths, except when it’s heretical, as it is with the bus ride? Lucky to have an infallible interpreter like you, who apparently knows more than the book’s publisher.

    My argument doesn’t rely on anyone’s own confidence in scripture. Since everyone’s human and fallible, everyone has their own interpretation, which is perhaps flawed. BillT can have the best reasons for his interpretation he wants, but he (by which I mean anyone) could still be wrong, and pay eternally for it.

    If the point is to get to heaven, wouldn’t the wisest choice for one’s eternal soul (no matter what one’s personal intellectual interpretation of scripture) be to live your brief human life in fear and trembling and piety, as if you’re on the knife’s edge of hell?

    Again, it makes a lot more sense than Pascal, which relies on the false assumption that one can choose what one believes to be true.

    It still boggles me that Christians so reliably, so predictably, fob this uncomfortable question off to C.S. Lewis.

  28. Clay,

    The key question you seem to have “…wouldn’t it be safer to hew to the most strict fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible out there, and assume you earn salvation solely by works and clean living…” is nothing less than the single key question that differentiates Christianity from every other religion in the world. Namely, salvation by grace or salvation by works.

    It is a topic that has undoubtedly seen more written about it than any other theological topic in history. If you haven’t done a thorough investigation of it there are quite literally hundreds of books to choose from. I hope you take the time and effort to do so as losing Pascal’s Wager is a serious matter.

    As you continue to quote from “the flap of the 2009 edition of “The Great Divorce” I gather you haven’t read it. If you had (and I suggest you do as it contains some wonderful insights into the nature of sin) you would know that first, it is certainly allegory and second, that in it Lewis tells his readers that the book isn’t even to be taken seriously as a representation of heaven and hell (much less as a Biblical exegesis).

  29. BillT wrote that “The Great Divorce” “isn’t even to be taken seriously as a representation of heaven and hell (much less as a Biblical exegesis)”

    Tell it to Tom…he’s the one who cited it and used it to support his own suppositions about the nature of hell!

    No, I haven’t read “The Great Divorce.” I find him turgid. But reading it doesn’t seem to benefit much theologically, since people who have read it can’t agree on what the book says. If the publisher got it wrong (by your lights), what hope is there for anyone else to know what Lewis meant?

    And why do so many Christians leave the biggest question of all to Lewis, instead of quoting the Bible itself?

    I’ve seen C.S. Lewis in general and “Divorce” in particular used to defend the concept of universalism. Others like you disagree. You can’t all be right. How can you be so certain that your interpretation is the right one? Hotline to heaven?

    And why have hundreds of books been written about “grace vs. works” if the answer is so clear from the Bible? Why would you need more than one? I’ll throw it out there again: Is 1 Corinthians bad theology? Is the Book of James (“faith without works is dead”) truly “an epistle of straw”?

  30. Oh, for Pete’s sake, Clay. The publisher put a question on the cover of the book. It wasn’t a summary exegesis of heaven and hell, or even of the content of the book, it was a teaser to get people to buy the book. So it’s not a matter of the publisher getting it wrong.

    At the risk of dripping condescension on you again (though I don’t think that was a fair charge when you first made it), you are simply wrong about this book. Now you admit you haven’t read it. For you to mount such a sustained critique on the basis of such ignorance is simply outrageous and irresponsible on your part.

    You continue also to harp on “how can you be so certain that your interpretation is right?” Then you add, “hotline to heaven?” This is a non-question posing as critique.

    Here’s what I mean. You have repeatedly suggested that our interpretation is not to be trusted, but you haven’t offered any substantive reason to doubt it, other than a couple allusions to out-of-context Scripture and history.

    A question that non-specific could only be answered thoroughly by presenting an entire systematic theology. Think of it: what you’re asking in effect is this: “I want you to provide for me the entire defense of your entire doctrine of grace and works, just because if you don’t, I think you’re acting like you think you have a hotline to heaven.”

    So I’m asking you to calm down, please. If you have a specific question and you can ask it in a specific manner, then we will probably be happy to answer it specifically. But these demands and hotline-to-heaven charges are unhelpful, to say the least. I should hope you would be able to recognize that.

  31. “And why have hundreds of books been written about “grace vs. works” if the answer is so clear from the Bible?”

    This question from the same person who wrote “…wouldn’t it be safer to hew to the most strict fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible out there, and assume you earn salvation solely by works and clean living…” Seems you’re the one who should be the expert on this topic. You seem to believe that you can be saved by your works. Why don’t you explain why.

    And I think I’m done answering questions about “The Great Divorce” to someone who hasn’t read it.

    But I will answer this question of yours.

    “And why do so many Christians leave the biggest question of all to Lewis, instead of quoting the Bible itself?”

    It’s really quite simple. They don’t. (Your anecdotal evidence aside.)

  32. Tom, you’re still doing it: The unearned superiority thing. And you’ve done it in every single blog post I’ve read so far here. That’s part of why I’m perched here, apparently annoying you. I don’t do this much (and I do appreciate you allowing me to do so, so far). There’s substantive stuff being raised here, but the guy doing it has an unpleasant tone of certitude that rankles.

    G.K.Chesterton is full of intellectual moonshine, but his generosity of spirit and wide-screen view of humanity could almost win you over in a weak moment, which is why I read “Orthodoxy” every now and then to keep myself honest.

    In contrast, the more I read your stuff, the more repellent the whole idea of apologetics is. Again, I can’t see you winning any converts this way.

    I am not normally this blunt, but I am just trying to match your strident, cranky tone (“outrageous and irresponsible…” and then you want me to calm down!).

    you ask for direct questions. I’ve relayed some. they have not been answered. i doubt they will be answered. but here are a couple, again:

    1) Why do so many Christians leave the question of hell to Lewis, instead of quoting the Bible itself?

    2) Are Paul’s letters (and the Book of James) bad scripture when they emphasize good works over faith?

    BTW, I don’t understand how you, as a serious Christian, can dismiss HarperCollins summary of the book. If it’s bad theology that could lead someone to hell, shouldn’t you address it?

  33. And I’ll answer this one, too. (As I’ve already answered the other.

    “Are Paul’s letters (and the Book of James) bad scripture when they emphasize good works over faith?”

    No, because they don’t.

  34. Clay, if you don’t like my blog posts, there are other blogs out there for you to read. If you’re here just to annoy me, recognize the asymmetrical relationship: you don’t have to read my blog, which annoys you, but I do have to read your comments here, with which you are intending mostly to annoy me.

    So I am putting your participation here to an end. That way you don’t have to read what I write, and I don’t have to read what you write.

  35. I want it to be known that I will gladly hear from anyone who thinks I need to be checked on my attitude here, and who can explain it in more specific and helpful terms than Clay has done.

  36. Clay,

    Again, I can’t see you winning any converts this way.

    Maybe those people with your particular sentiments aren’t a good match for Tom’s approach. Maybe a blog or a combox doesn’t fit your style. Nobody gets along with everyone, and no one form of communication works for everyone, so if it suits you better let Chesterton lead you. Just don’t let him, or anyone, lead you astray.

    1) Why do so many Christians leave the question of hell to Lewis, instead of quoting the Bible itself?

    2) Are Paul’s letters (and the Book of James) bad scripture when they emphasize good works over faith?

    1) They don’t
    2) Paul’s letters are not bad scripture. Paul’s letters don’t emphasize good works over faith.

    If it’s bad theology that could lead someone to hell, shouldn’t you address it?

    At the moment, Tom’s too busy addressing your theological errors.

  37. @Larry Tanner, #26:

    Is there a point you’re making? Your response seems tangential to all that’s come before.

    You started, in #22, with a disapproving remark about reaching definite conclusions “without reference to a single material fact,” then asked how one comes to a “definite” hell, either philosophically or observationally.

    I responded (#25) by pointing out that there are philosophical grounds one could accept which form a basis for belief in that category of things, and that “definite” was a subjective thing for a conclusion, grounded as it is in the premises that lead to it. Dawkins, for example, is quite “definite” about the non-existence of hell because he’s quite “definite” about the non-existence of God.

    To this, you respond (#26) with some vague and seemingly tangential questions about what grounds we can have for being definite about anything, as follows.

    Should one hold philosophical positions with conviction? Shouldn’t a reasoning person also and always hold a certain disinterest toward favored conclusions? I’m responding here to your remark about holding beliefs with “sufficient conviction,” which seems to me a wrongheaded way to refine one’s thinking about beliefs. I think rather we should always ask ourselves how our beliefs might be wrong and what that wrongness would entail.

    I don’t really disagree with any of this, and I don’t understand why you’re asking me as though I do. I wasn’t holding up Dawkins as a shining example of epistemic excellence, but rather as a person with rather definite views on the subject of hell which are, according to his report at least, derived through science and reason alone (i.e. philosophically or observationally). He assuredly thinks that his confidence is justified. Personally, I think he’s kidding himself in the extreme. I’m also sure that he is not disinterested in his conclusions. Are you agreeing with that assessment? I never intended to defend philosophical or observational reasoning about hell — merely to show that it’s far from rare, since you seemed incredulous that such a thing could exist.

    In response to your last remark, about considering what wrongness entails, I quite agree: it’s the keystone of Pascal’s Wager (if that subject hasn’t been poisoned for you too much by Clay’s rapid-fire blather, above). Should one hold philosophical positions with conviction? That’s trickier. It seems that there will always be some ideals that one considers to be more fundamental than others, and thus held with greater conviction. There are some issues worth making up one’s mind about, on the basis of what wrongness entails, for example. Given that all the alternatives seem to lie on a spectrum between radical dogmatism and radical scepticism, neither of which is appealing, the middle ground is to adopt a reasonable firmness about the issues that one has decided are important.

    But all that seems tangential, as I say. Getting back to the original issue, which was knowledge of hell (definitely an important issue, if nothing else), the Christian basis for knowledge on the subject isn’t observational or philosophical, but testimonial. If one is a Christian in the literal sense of following Jesus Christ, then one’s understanding of hell is based on his first-hand report of the subject. The reliability of his testimony stands or falls with his claim to divinity, since that is how he can have first-hand knowledge of the subject at all. A Christian might argue that this account of hell is philosophically reasonable, or that it comports with our moral intuitions, or whatever, but it is not philosophically derived.

    Presumably that is why Tom responded to your original question (“how does one come to a ‘definite’ hell, either philosophically or observationally?”) with, “One doesn’t. Why do you ask?”

    To be precise, one might, but Christians don’t.

    Why did you ask?

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