The Instigator
thett3
Pro (for)
Winning
14 Points
The Contender
Domr
Con (against)
Losing
7 Points

One can be a Christian and not believe in Hell

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
thett3
Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 8/11/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 716 times Debate No: 60322
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (9)
Votes (3)

 

thett3

Pro

My opponent made this claim in the comments section of one of my debates. Let's put it to the test.

A Christian is defined by Merriam Webster as[1] "one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ."

Hell is where non-Christians go to be tormented for all eternity.

First round is for acceptance.

1. http://www.merriam-webster.com...
Domr

Con

I accept, Teachings of Jesus are found in the Gospel of the Bible.

Books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Debate Round No. 1
thett3

Pro

Thanks for accepting, Domr.

Hell is the doctrine that those who do not accept Christ are, after death, condemned to eternal conscious torment.


I. No true Scotsman fallacy

Religion is a social phenomenon that springs up wherever humans inhabit as they form connections with the spiritual realm. Because each persons religion is fundamentally a personal connection with God, we should prefer self identification as opposed to lumping people into groups. That is to say if a person identifies as a Christian we should accept their self identification unless we have an extremely compelling reason to believe otherwise. Voting neg in this debate requires not only rejecting my arguments, but giving my opponent the power to define the beliefs of a community of over 2 billion people. I contend that most, if not all, attempts to limit who can identify as a Christian are fallacious under the no true Scotsman fallacy and run contrary to the message of inclusion that makes Christianity so appealing in the first place.

Remember the very definition of a Christian is one who professes to believe in the teachings of Jesus. If one professes to be a Christian, we should accept that.

II. Christian doctrine is open to interpretation

Christianity, like any doctrine, is open to a variety of interpretations. While there are arguably some beliefs that one absolutely must hold in order to claim to be a Christian such as the divinity of Jesus, unless my opponent proves that Hell is one of these beliefs you should vote Pro. As it stands, there has been debate among the Christian community about the nature of the afterlife for the damned since almost the beginning. A reading of the History section of Wikipedia's article on annihilationism[1] is instructive to show just how far back the debate goes--all the way back to the Church fathers. Con is denying the label of Christian to people who have done more the spread the Gospel than he or I ever will.


Con also has to prove that to be a Christian one must believe in the inerrancy of the Bible as it's currently interpreted or else I can just reject verses that suggest Hell as being untrue for going against reason.

III. Hell probably doesn't exist

Most of case will center around the argument that Christians should reject the doctrine of Hell because it's likely false. If the doctrine of Hell is false under Christian theology, clearly one can reject such a doctrine and still be a Christian.

In The Evangelical Universalist[2], the author explains that Christian theology is guided not just by scripture but rather by multiple sources including tradition, reason, and experience. When scriptural doctrine conflicts with one of these other sources, Christians have to reconcile their differences somehow and this includes revising our understanding of the scripture in the same way we revised our understanding of the scripture when reason proved geocenterism false. In this round, I'll show how reason tells us that the doctrine of Hell is false and so we should prefer a Universalist interpretation of the Bible. In the next, I'll refute my opponents arguments to show how a Universalist reading is compatible with scripture.

All reason and decency goes against the idea of Hell for a number of reasons. A multitude of verses describe God's love for humanity. As 1 John 4:7-8 puts it: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

I doubt seriously that Con is going to argue against God's love, nor His benevolence or justice. If he does belief in God's love, benevolence, and justice should be prioritized to belief in Hell because they are much more grounded in scripture and tradition and because make Christianity more appealing and therefore help bring more people to God. Condemning people to eternal conscious torment is not something anyone would do to someone they love, nor is it a merciful act for a variety of reasons.

a) Infinite punishment

One problem with the idea of Hell is infinite retribution. In order to be just, a punishment must be proportional to the crime--a murder is not the same as stealing a candy bar. This is a fundamental tenant of every theory of justice and to deny it would be denying millennia of human moral experience. Because humans lead finite lives, there is no possible crime one could commit that justifies punishment of an eternal nature. For God to eternally punish people for finite crimes would be unjust and I contend the belief in God's justice is much more important in Christian theology than the belief in eternal conscious torment, because a belief in an unjust or non benevolent God undermines the entire idea behind Jesus--that God so loved the world that he was willing to give his sinful creation Jesus due to his benevolence.

b) Equal punishment for unequal sin

Under the traditional doctrine of Hell, all who did not accept Christ suffer the same penalty for all eternity. Belief in Hell means believing that Ghandi is suffering the same torment as Stalin, and not for any actions either of them committed but rather because neither of them were Christians. Despite Ghandi coming from a heavily Hindu background and thus being predisposed to disbelieve in Christian doctrine and leading a moral life, he faces the same punishment as Stalin who came from a Christian background and persecuted/murdered Christians. This kind of summary judgement is grossly unfair.

c) Joy in Heaven

Another issue is the joy of those redeemed in Heaven. In order to be able to properly worship Christ in Heaven, it seems uncontroversial that we must be able to remember our own sin and how He redeemed us. Anything less would be selling Christ and His mercy short. The problem with this is that if we retain our memories of our lives, we will also retain memories of those we knew who were damned which would detract heavily from our joy in Heaven. If I knew that someone I loved was being tormented for all eternity, I could not look on their suffering without suffering myself. Unless God hardens the hearts of everyone going into Heaven to not care about the suffering of others, there cannot be true joy in Heaven.

d) God's love

God is supposed to love his children. Matthew 5:43-48 tells us to love our enemy and to attempt to be perfect as God is. His love for even His enemies is why He chose to redeem us in Christ in the first place. Anyone who has experienced love would agree when I say that, save for going to Hell myself, there is literally nothing I wouldn't do to prevent someone I loved from going to Hell. If God truly loves those He made in His image, He will spare them. At the very least, He wouldn't create a situation where some people have never even heard of Christ.

e) Redemption after death

There is literally no reason for God to not extend Christ's offer of reconciliation beyond the grave. God loves and wants His children to come to Him willingly, so the rational thing for Him to do is to give them more than one chance to be redeemed. Pro has to offer an explanation for why God does not allow people to have second chances. If He loves us so much, it seems like a no brainer.

f) Annihilation

If people exist who absolutely will not under any circumstance accept Christ, the just and merciful thing for God to do would be to annihilate them instead of torturing them. Unless Con believes God cannot destroy a soul, in which case he is not all powerful, the sensible thing to do is to destroy those who won't accept Christ. If God cannot tolerate sin keeping unrepentant sinners alive eternally and hence tolerating sin forever is a funny way of doing it.

Reason tells us that the idea of Hell should be rejected. If we must conform to scripture absolutely, we should prefer a Universalist reading.

Sources:

1. http://tinyurl.com...
2. MacDonald, Gregory. "A Hell of a Problem." The Evangelical Universalist. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2006. Electronic.

Domr

Con

My opponent has made some great points. Most of which I agree with.

However, they do not belong in this debate.

The premise of this debate is:

"One can be a Christian and not believe in Hell"

"My opponent made this claim in the comments section of one of my debates. Let's put it to the test.

A Christian is defined by Merriam Webster as[1] "one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ."


P1. Christians believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ
P2. Jesus taught about heaven AND hell
C1. Believing in Jesus consequently means you believe in hell.



P1
Pro's definition has already proven this to be true. Christians are anyone who believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

P2.
Here are several bible verses in which Jesus speaks of hell.

Matthew 13:41-42King James Version (KJV)

41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;

42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 13:49-50King James Version (KJV)

49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,

50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Luke 16:23King James Version (KJV)

23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Matthew 25:46King James Version (KJV)

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Most passages speak about the "furnace of fire, torment, and gnashing of teeth. All of these resemble the end of days and the suffering that is put upon those who do not have faith in God.

There is also one direct quote that states "hell"

C1.
By believing in the Teachings of Jesus Christ you are a Christian.

Jesus Christ taught about Hell.

Christians must believe in Hell.



All of my opponents points about the fluidity of Christian beliefs, and the existence of hell, and if the punishment fits the crime...

Are all irrelevant. Pro has stated the rules of this debate is to define Christians by belief in Jesus Christ and his teachings.

I have already filled my BoP towards this debate by proving Jesus taught about hell.




Debate Round No. 2
thett3

Pro

Thanks, Con.

Considering my opponent had something around 6000 characters left to refute my case and chose to leave it untouched, I'll consider it dropped, extend it to the next round and point out where it clashes with his case and why mine is better.

I'll start by refuting Con's syllogism.

P1.

This premise is false for a variety of reasons. First, because the definition of a Christian is those who *profess* to follow the teachings of Jesus, even if you buy everything else Con says wholesale you still vote Pro because one can *profess* to follow the teachings of Jesus while *failing* to actually believe them. Indeed, religion is a much more nuanced thing than simply holding to a certain belief set, it's a combination between the personal and the cultural in an individuals quest to find a relationship with God. This is why inclusive interpretations should be preferred.

Secondly, he only gains any offense off of this point if he proves that the belief in Hell is one of the doctrines all Christians must accept in order to be defined as a Christian. Since he dropped my point about how Christian doctrine is open to interpretation, there's no reason to accept that Hell is a necessary part of the Christian doctrine.

Thirdly, there's no warrant on a Christian having to believe in *all* of Christ's teachings. After all, Christ endorsed the Old Testament in several verses such as Matthew 4:4, and the Old Testament makes scientifically inaccurate claims like the Earth being fixed, the Universe being made in six days, and that snails melt in the sun. Very few, if any, Christians believe in absolutely everything taught in the Bible and Con gives no reason why they should have to.

P2.

This is where the syllogism really falls apart. Con dropped all six of my arguments showing how the idea of Hell is incoherent and goes against the established nature of God, as well as my warrant for why we should prefer the nature of God as benevolent and loving as fact over Hell. Thus, you're going to look for *any* reason to reject the verses my opponent brought up, because since reason contradicts Hell, we're going to have to revise our Biblical understanding somehow should we view Biblical inerrancy as necessary for one to be a Christian.

Since Con never established that to be a Christian one has to accept everything the Bible says as the uncorrupted teachings of Jesus, I extend my argument about Hell conflicting with reason and reject the verses he brought up as Biblical canon. You're voting Pro right now. It's worth noting that the Bible is a collection of books that are thousands of years old and have been imperfectly translated time and time again. Christians absolutely can and should question the legitimacy of everything the Bible says.

Moreover, even *if* we accept without any argument from Con that we need to believe everything the Bible says as the inerrant word of God, that doesn't mean we always interpret it correctly. Just as the discovery of the Earth orbiting the Sun and modern cosmology and evolution have altered our understanding of scripture, so too should our idea of Hell be altered once we acknowledge that it's incompatible with reason. Remember, Christianity has mechanisms in place to reconcile changes in our perception of scripture, it's happened before.

So you're going to be looking for any reason whatsoever to reject Con's verses. One reason to reject them is that there are Universalist verses which directly contradict the idea of Hell, and we should prefer them because they are more compatible with the nature of God.

Romans 5:18 states: "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." This is saying that Christ's sacrifice was given to all people. I Corinthians 15:22 states: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Philippians 2:11: "and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" and so on and so forth.

When we have two sets of competing verses, we have to subject one set to a different interpretation. Given everything outlined in my case, the set we ought to take another look at is Con's.

Once again, you can vote Pro. When we have two conflicting accounts in the Bible of how far Christ's sacrifice goes, we have to choose one. I've made my argument for why my interpretation should be preferred and Con made no response.

Indeed, we have good reasons to suspect that the verses Con cites are corruptions of original teachings. Terje Ronnenberg[1] explains:

"Jesus spoke of some being thrown into a "furnace of fire" (Matthew 13:41-42, Matthew 13:50) to His Jewish followers, many Christians today would say He is talking about the place where they believe a large portion of humanity will suffer without hope of escape. However in the Old Testament the word "furnace" is used to describe temporary earthly trials and afflictions such as slavery (Deuteronomy 4:20, 1 Kings 8:51, Jeremiah 11:4, Isaiah 31:9, 48:10, Ezekiel 22:18-22)

God told the captive Jews in Babylon that He had refined them and chosen them "in the furnace of affliction" (Isaiah 48:10). Being slaves in Egypt was spoken of as being in an iron furnace (Jeremiah 11:4). But God brought them "out of the furnace" (Deuteronomy 4:20, 1 Kings 8:51). Scripture speaks of God's furnace being in Jerusalem (Isaiah 31:9), In Ezekiel, God declared that the house of Israel had become dross and He would gather them into the midst of Jerusalem, and melt it there (Ezekiel 22:18-22). At a time when Israel had become more wicked than her neighbouring countries, God used the image of hair being cast into fire to describe the destruction of Israel by the Babylonians (Ezekiel 5:4-5). It is clear that being cast into fire speaks of God's earthly wrath on the wicked."

Thus I've won the debate for several key reasons:

a) Con doesn't dispute that we should accept religious self identification instead of adherence to a specific dogma to decide who is a Christian

b) Con doesn't prove that Christians must accept Biblical inerrancy

c) Hell probably doesn't exist, and verses that say it does are probably misinterpreted.

Vote Pro.


Domr

Con

I ignored all of Pros arguments because they do not belong in this debate. This is not an argument about the existence of hell.

This debate is whether or not Christians need to believe in hell.

Pro is trying to play semantics...

Christians are required to "profess" their belief in the teachings of Jesus. Yet because they just said it, doesn't mean they have to believe?

This argument is nonsense.

I have no further points to add.
Debate Round No. 3
thett3

Pro

Thanks for the debate, Con.

My opponent has entirely dropped my arguments about how Christian doctrine is open to interpretation. He's dropped my criticism of his verses suggesting that Hell exists. He's dropped my arguments about how Christians do not need to believe in Biblical inerrancy. He's dropped my argument about not having to believe in *every* teaching to agree with enough to identify with the faith. He's dropped my argument about religion being a very cultural thing on top of it's dogma and how we should believe people's self identification. He's dropped the verses I cited that suggest Universalism. He's dropped the argument that we should inherently prefer a Universalist intrepretation. Most importantly, he's entirely dropped all six of my arguments about how Hell contradicts the nature of God and the warrant about how we should uphold the nature of God over the doctrine of Hell.

If Hell probably doesn't exist and the current mainstream interpretation of the Bible is deeply flawed, one can indeed be a Christian and reject the doctrine of Hell.

The resolution is affirmed.
Domr

Con

"One can be a Christian and not believe in Hell"


"My opponent made this claim in the comments section of one of my debates. Let's put it to the test.


A Christian is defined by Merriam Webster as[1] "one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ."

Hell is where non-Christians go to be tormented for all eternity. "

^^This is Pro's Title/Premise and Opening Round.
This is a very straightforward debate.

A Christian is someone who professes their belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Pro is trying to argue that those teachings of Jesus Christ do not include hell.

This is it.

Pro has made very compelling arguments, however they do not apply to this debate. We are not debating the existence of hell, soley if hell is part of the teachings of Jesus.
Which I have proven they are.


Pro has also tried state that Christianity is open for interpretation. To this I whole heartedly agree. This is why the definition was given BY PRO, in Round 1 giving a strict definition of "Christians" to avoid any confusion.

Pro then decided to say Christian's don't have to believe in ALL of Jesus Teachings, only some.

Despite Pro's erroneous points about hell and the fluidity of Christianity, Pro also tried to debate semantics.

" First, because the definition of a Christian is those who *profess* to follow the teachings of Jesus, even if you buy everything else Con says wholesale you still vote Pro because one can *profess* to follow the teachings of Jesus while *failing* to actually believe them. "

Pro is trying to argue that 'simply because you say you believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, you don't really have to believe in them at all'.



This is pitiful debate practice to try and change the definitions mid-debate to prove a point.

My first argument solidifes my winning of the debate.

Per Pro's arguments about refuting my bible passages, while successfully raising doubt in the "furnace", there were two passages not argued at all.

Luke 16:23King James Version (KJV)

23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Matthew 25:46King James Version (KJV)

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

The mention of Hell, and eternal punishment, by Jesus, in the Gospel of the Bible, is simply enough to win this debate.



To recap: Can one be a Christian, and not believe in hell?

(Christians are defined by Pro, in Round 1, to being those who profess belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.)

Jesus Christ has taught about Hell, and eternal punishment.


After reading this poor attempt of a debate by Pro, who went against their own definitions, did not refute specific bible verses in which Jesus mentioned hell, and argued if hell even existed (Which is not part of this debate)...

The only logical thing to do is Vote Con



Debate Round No. 4
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by thett3 3 years ago
thett3
Oops forgot to cite my source. I'll put it in my next round as well as here. http://www.truth.info...
Posted by thett3 3 years ago
thett3
The thing is, I don't think that one has to accept the authority of the Bible absolutely to be a Christian. If I change the definition, the debate is going to come down to scriptural analysis--you're going to say that since the Bible says there is a Hell, a Christian must believe that. Part of my position is the rejection of the idea that a Christian must believe everything the Bible says. If I change the definition, I'm giving away half of my position.
Posted by Domr 3 years ago
Domr
Change the definition.

I am telling you I do not agree to the definition you have given thus far.
Posted by thett3 3 years ago
thett3
so that's a yes. Lets debate it.
Posted by Domr 3 years ago
Domr
If we believe in God, isn't it redundant to call it the "inerrant" Word of God.

If it were God's Word, wouldn't his Word always be inerrant?
Posted by thett3 3 years ago
thett3
Do you believe that in order to be a Christian one must believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God?
Posted by Domr 3 years ago
Domr
Not in my eyes.

If you believe in Jesus teachings, then he is God. If you believe in God, you believe in His Word.
(while everyone may have their own interpretation for some literal and non-literal passages)

belief, is belief.

No change, no acceptance.
Posted by thett3 3 years ago
thett3
No. One can be a Christian and reject the absolute authority of the Bible
Posted by Domr 3 years ago
Domr
And to the definition "and believes in the Holy Bible"

(King James Version....or whichever version you see fit)
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by dsjpk5 3 years ago
dsjpk5
thett3Domr
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Pro didn't contest con's definition of Christianity, so it is deemed accepted. Jesus was clear on the existence of Hell.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 3 years ago
9spaceking
thett3Domr
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: con did cite a lot of stuff in the Bible that suggested Christians had to believe in Hell, but thett3's definition in addition to his proof had more evidence that Christians did not have to believe in Hell, just merely in Jesus
Vote Placed by Phoenix61397 3 years ago
Phoenix61397
thett3Domr
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: This was extremely hard for me to judge. I went back and forth for awhile on this in my head. Con cited Bible verses that clearly demonstrated that Christ's teachings referred to hell, especially the ones concerning Lazarus. I'm not sure how this can be taken as anything but literally, as Lazarus and the rich man in that parable were definitely dead, and the rich man was definitely separated from God. However, con accepted the definition that a Christian is one who "professes" faith in Jesus' teachings. This means they don't need to actually believe in everything he says, only claim to. This makes pretty much any argument con could make into a "No True Scotsman" fallacy. This is semantic and kind of unfair, but con did accept. Therefore I must award the points to pro due to the agreed upon definition.