Evangelical Pastor Rob Bell has been generating buzz by questioning a “fire and brimstone” version of hell. He expounds his views in a best-seller titled: Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. And apparently, Bell is not alone in questioning the real existence of hell.
Local Evangelical Pastor Corey J. Hodges in the SLTrib (7 May 2011) disagrees with this point of view:
The problem with these theories: They have little scriptural support. The scriptures teach that while God is loving and merciful, he is equally just. It is because of his love and mercy that he extends the invitation of eternal life to all through Christ.
While the thought of hell bothers Bell and many others, traditionals hold that Christians who adhere to inerrance of the scriptures cannot reject a doctrine solely because it does not bode well with them.
Certainly preaching hell, fire and brimstone is not the best way to present the gospel message. But if hell is indeed real, denying it will not change the reality.
Hodges case is based on the inerrancy of the scriptures (NT and OT). I think that a “perfect” Bible is a tough case to make in today’s world. And I’m not sure the issue is all that well spelled out in the Bible.
Mormons believe in 3 Degrees of Glory (kingdoms or heaven), as opposed to a heaven and a hell. Having 3 options instead of two doesn’t seem like much of a change. But the Mormon’s lowest degree can hardly be compared to hell.
One issue that is important for me is whether there is movement (upward and downward mobility) between heaven and hell, or between the 3 kingdoms. According to Hodges, “Universalists” view hell’s flames as a refining fire; ultimately everyone ends up in heaven. I personally believe that there are few, if any, fixed walls.
Mormon scriptorian, the late Bruce R. McConkie, held strongly to the opposite point of view. In a speech at BYU, he outlined “7 Deadly Heresies”, he outlines his case for no movement:
Heresy 5: There are those who say that there is progression from one kingdom to another in the eternal worlds or if not that, lower kingdoms eventually progress to where higher kingdoms once were. This is worse than false. It is an evil and pernicious doctrine.
Unfortunately, for my point of view, Elder John A. Widtsoe, a man I greatly admire, would have agreed with Elder McConkie on this point. So, the official Mormon point of view is apparently: no movement between kingdoms. I guess I will just have to disagree on this point.
According to the Eagles in Hotel California:
There she stood in the doorway;/I hear the mission bell/ And I was thinking to myself, /’this could be heaven or this could be hell’/Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way/
I just need her to show “me the way”. I’ve always loved candles.