Tis the season for Halloween. Many churches object to the holiday, calling it satanic, yet at the same time, some of those churches will offer alternatives which are truly satanic. Their haunted houses offer images of hell complete with fire, demons and torture. You know, fun for the whole family.
Did you know the word for hell is not in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) at all? It’s only mentioned once in the New Testament (2 Peter 2:4). A few other verses speak of something we assume refers to hell but there’s a lot of room for discussion about it.
Our concept of hell comes from Dante or perhaps Milton and we’ve added to it over the centuries. We’ve certainly used it to frighten and control people, especially the children, and that troubles me greatly. Fear of hell was always a rotten motivator, however it can stoke the general anxiety of people.
I always soft pedaled the eternal punishment part of my preaching even in my early period when I was a conservative fundamentalist. A few years back I quit believing the church’s teaching on it because it just didn’t hold up theologically. In my final years, I did not speak of it at all from the pulpit and I quietly told individuals that my thoughts had changed on the subject.
I observe that hell has lost a lot of its fire these days. It doesn’t appear to scare us so much anymore, which suits me fine.