Hell Revealed (How do we know?)
Every person makes a choice, where will he or she get information? How will we know? How much can we know? Recently there has been a lot of buzz about a young boy who had an after death vision/experience of Heaven. It is a compelling story and has resulted in a best selling book, but how do we measure its truthfulness? Is human experience ultimate reality or are there verifiable truths that are currently beyond human experience? What about science? Do we have enough faith in science to believe that its capabilities are limitless? Do we trust science enough to be the ultimate measure of truth? Can all truth fit into a test tube? Here is a brain teaser for you, is the scientific method scientifically verifiable? How can it prove or disprove itself?
We must make a choice on how we answer this most basic question of human existence, how do we know?
When it comes to knowing God, a being that is beyond time and space, man is behind the eight ball. He needs information. We call this revelation. Unless God reveals Himself to us, we would find it virtually impossible to know Him. True, we can know that something else exists simply because something is here. The world is, so there must also be ____________. But what is His name, what is He like, does He have a Son? When it comes to Heaven and Hell, again, we are sort of behind the eight ball here as well. I can drive to Albuquerque, but I will have a hard time finding a travel agent who will book me a visit to Hell – unless it is Hell, Michigan. Even then, I might not want to go. So when it comes to Hell, how do we know?
Biblical Christians put an incredible amount of faith in the Bible as revelation from God. This does not mean that all science and empirical evidences are necessarily excluded. Instead it means that Biblical Christians take what the Bible says to be true and then make a few basic presuppositions:
1. A great deal of science and experience will correspond with Scripture.
2. But not all science and experience will correspond with Scripture.
3. Science and experience is not enough for me to know all there is to know.
So when it comes to matters of Heaven and Hell, people who claim to be Biblical Christians and/or theologians have to make a few judgment calls:
1. When a little boy says he has been to Heaven, this is a compelling story that must a) Be judged by Scriptural evidence, but b) it is not a story that replaces or supersedes Scriptural truth in any way and c) ultimately we do not need his story, or anyone else’s for that matter, in order to believe in Heaven or Hell. Why? What if a man died, came back to life, and wrote a book about all the nothing he saw? Would that disprove the Bible? Christians who easily get excited about afterlife stories need to be incredibly careful here!!!!!!!
2. We need to separate what philosophical and theological conjectures about Hell with what the Bible actually says about Hell. For instance, what most people know about Hell comes from “Dante’s Inferno”, which most don’t realize is after all a part of the “Divine Comedy” (ironic). Most people’s creation and sin theology comes from Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” When it comes to theological conjecture, I mean that preachers, teachers, and theologians must interpret certain ideas about Heaven and Hell, and in doing so may assert opinion as Biblical truth. Conjecture is natural and necessary, but of this we must be careful. This happens a lot in discussions of angels and demons, of which the Bible says very little, but of which writers have said way too much. If the Bible doesn’t spell it out clearly, it is more Biblical to say, “We just don’t know.”
So what is the assignment here? The assignment is to pull from the Biblical text its revelations about Hell. Once we gather these texts we can say that this is what we know and this is how much of it we can know for sure. This is the nature of believing in Biblical revelation.
I promised to try and keep all of this short. I am an elephant. So tomorrow I will post what I originally intended to post today – what are the Bible passages that reveal Hell to us?
But I think you've already made a choice as to which source you think is (or should be) primary. You've decided to start with Scripture.
Granted, you have to start somewhere. And, I'm a fan of starting with the Bible. But the topic will no doubt engender the different ways Christians think theologically about the authority/nature of Scripture in our faith lives. I guess what I'm saying is that the phrase "Biblical Christian" might become more ambiguous as choices are made about how to translate/interpret the Scripture we have inherited.