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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/25/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,204 times Debate No: 35076
Debate Rounds (3)
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The "Doctrine" of Hell (with it's inevitable accompaniment of Sin and Judgement) is terribly damaging to the saving message Christianity would otherwise certainly give to the world. Add the fact that the Scriptures have been either misunderstood or (worse) misconstrued, often for power, one will conclude that ironically eternal damnation as taught and thought in Western Christianity is anything but Good nor News.


I will be arguing that Universalism is fallacy in respect to the Doctrine of Hell, and that the “Western Christ[ian]” (assumed to be conservative Protestant) view on the subject is a correct interpretation of Scripture.

Scriptures (Bible, Old and New Testaments, 66 books Genesis through Revelation) will be assumed infallible and inerrant.

I couldn’t find an official statement of the “Doctrine of Hell” like the Nicene Creed, but I found a website that lays it out what is said about Hell in the Bible in a way that seems to be on the up and up from an orthodox standpoint, and seemed to be suitably opposed to what Pro is saying. [1]

Second, I need some clarifications, which he may already have planned on giving. In the next round, I would ask Pro to explain what Scriptures have been so misunderstood or misconstrued, and also how that benefits people seeking power, and who these people are, even in a general sense. How does Sin, Judgement, and Hell damage the saving message of Christianity, and how can you show from the Scriptures these are not true?

I also ask that he explain what the saving message of Christianity is, what it saves people from, and back it up with Scripture.


Debate Round No. 1


An Everlasting Lake of Fire?

I'd like to engage on a topic that is very meaningful to me. It is far more than just an excercise in the extrensic because whether true or false, no one can argue, no matter how absurd the argument for or against eternal damnation by fire may be....the stakes are indeed very high.

The issue here is a matter of life and death... without end. The centrality of the Atonement of Jesus' perfect sacrifice is no small factor in determining of the popular doctrine of an everlasting torment for the damned be something that Christians should hold to.

I'm going to address the above issues that my opponent is requesting by referring to four components of Christianity. But make no mistake, do not miss the forest from the trees. The central and key issue has to do with nothing short of the power of the very Cross of Christ itself. I'll state what is THE question for any who profess Christian Orthodoxy and then answer it through these four components.

The Question: Is the Cross of Christ more or less efficacious than the Sin of Adam and the human race?
Or to put it another way: Just how powerful is the Blood of Jesus?

To demonstrate that the Blood of Jesus is all powerful, (as the old hymn refrain: "Grace that is greater than all my sin"), I point to how Universal Salvation for all is part in parcel with Historic Christianity and the very truth of the matter itself by pointing out it's merit: 1. Scripturally 2. Traditionally 3. Philosophically 4. (most important) Theologically, going to the very character of God and virtue of love.

Universal torment, a never ending Lake of Fire is a "Johnny Come Lately" doctrine of the Christian Faith.

1. Scripturally. When Jesus cried "Kulah" from the Cross according to John's Gospel, the very declaration means "a perfect sacrifice". Therefore, New Testament Scripture makes it clear that final Sin Offering for mankind collectively is mysteriously yet judiciously able to satisfy God's righteous, settled opposition to evil once and for all. Therefore, in Romans 5, Paul the Apostle says that "in the same way" Adam plunged the world into a state of brokeness that the "Last Adam", Jesus of Nazareth, brought us out and into righteousness. In fact, Paul goes on to say, "how much more" , as in if Adam brought death to us all, "how much more" shall Christ bring us life through His righteousness. Supporting New Testament texts are found in the following writings of the Apostles: Col 1:18 " Christ has reconciled all things whether in heaven or earth by the shedding of his blood making peace through the Cross"; 1 John 2:1 "Christ died not only for our sins alone but for the whole world"; 1 Tim 4:10 "Our hope is in the living God who is the savior of all people, especially to those who believe"; Titus 2:11 "For the grace of God bringing salvation to all men has appeared"; John 1:29 "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world". Also, Revelation points out that millions of people, even beyond number will be around the throne of God singing the song of the redeemed. Philippians tells us every knee will bow and tongue confess, both on the Earth and under the Earth implying that even in Hell, salvation is attainable. (I will address the one text in Matthew Jesus refers to Gehenna in everlasting terms later). As far as Revelation, speaking of the Lake of Fire, it is not hard to include that in the overall genre of the book, which is symbolism and nothing less.

2. Traditionally. The idea of everlasting damnation (not even to mention torture) didn't even make it's way into the Orthodox Christian Faith until 500 YEARS after Christ. The notable exception would be Augustine of Hippo who brought in neo-platonic thought into his doctrine in 330 AD. Everyone else stated otherwise, starting with the Early Church Fathers. The first Christian schools all taught Universal Salvation, Clement of Alexandria and Origen directly espoused Universalism (Origen being indicted for heresies and yet this was not one of them, ever). In fact, it was those with terrible youth backgrounds like Augustine and Tertullian that proposed eternal damnation. Otherwise, for centuries from the time of Christ, the Church believed Jesus preached and freed the dead in Hell (found in 2 Peter 3) and they prayed for the dead and to the dead (tough to do if the dead are preoccupied with flames). It wasnt until Justinian, a half pagan Emporer 5 centuries after Christ, dictated eternal damnation that it began getting traction, finding it's peak during the Dark Ages as Rome used the doctrine for political purposes. Neitzche was too right in saying religion is nothing but a "power grab". Look up the teachings, the Kerygma of the Early Church Fathers. You will not find a word regarding eternal damnation. It was a foreign concept to traditional Judiasm and stayed foreign when the Church was at her most beautiful.

3. Philosophically. CS Lewis made a cogent observation in his own thoughts of Hell when he said, "The door that blocks the entrance of Hell is locked from the inside". Indeed, honoring free will is a grace God has chosen to limit Himself to by granting us this God-like virtue of self sovereignty. By being locked on the inside, the metaphor is describing a place that those who are captive have every option and right to unlock the door and walk out if they choose and when they choose. His little book, "The Great Divorce" is a powerful allegory about this. For some, like a Hitler, this....may...take....a....very....long....time. But even as the Early Church believed in creed and doctrine, there is a redemptive purpose to hell that is purification and not just endless damnation (which does seem to be unhelpful as well as unnecessary). Putting Scripture and reason together with our faith, one sees Heaven AND Hell is something maybe not spacial so much a spiritual and being in the presence of the Living God. As the Jewish Talmud states it, " In Heaven, you will study Talmud with God all day and every day. For some this is heaven, for others hell". Indeed, being in the presence of God's Light will be heaven or it will be hell depending on the state of being of any person at any given time. Eventually, the blood of Jesus will prevail.

4. Theologically. This goes to the very heart of God's character. Would I punish my kids eternally for an finite error or act of disobedience? Jesus said, "If you being evil love to give gifts to your kids how much more does the Father love to give to those who ask". God is not more pernacious than me. And though His ways are greater than ours, often unfathomable in fact, the demonstration of His love by sending and then forsaking His own Son shows us that God Himself would go to hell and back for even one lost lamb. So I ask, is the Cross more powerful or is evil? Is grace more powerful than sin? Hell, yeah....I mean no!

Note: Jesus referred to Gehenna on multiple occasions. Gehenna, of course, was the valley outside Jerusalem which very likely was a garbage dump for the city where refuse was constantly burned. Certainly, Scripture points out it was were child sacrifice took place during dark days in Israel history. Both times Scripture refers to "everlasting" torment or damnation, apart from the appoclyptic nature of Revelations literary genre, the word "aionion" in Greek is used. It means forever, an era or epoch, an undetermined period of time. Translators took it upon themselves to chose "everlasting'. Yet even in the one instance Jesus referred to it as that, he was speaking in parabolic story form, not to be taken literally.

I am now running out of room. For any footnotes and references, I can definitely make any or all available in another post when I have more space if further clarification is needed.


The Question: Is the Cross of Christ more or less efficacious than the Sin of Adam and the human race?”

Christ's ransom is more powerful than the Sin of Adam. You are correct in pointing to Romans 5 to show there is “no comparison” between the power of the Sin of Adam and Christ's Redemption. The blood of Christ is sufficient for the whole world, but the disagreement is whether or not it is applied to the whole world, or only the repentant during this life.

Thanks for the clarifications, Pro. But for future reference, it would be best to give more specific source citations for your references, (sources WERE good for Bible verses). But your audience and opponent will be hard pressed to verify the information supporting your claims about the Early Church, Rome, and Lewis without an easier way to find what you’re citing. Searching through the entire Talmud or Church history book for a single passage without at least a chapter reference is difficult.

The first sign of trouble I see with Pro’s argument is that Theology is placed above Scripture in importance, and Scripture is not even given a clear ranking above philosophy or tradition. Theology is the study of the nature of God. The only conclusive/reliable study of God’s nature is done with the oversight of what God has revealed in Scripture. Without divine revelation, (direct communication/observation of the studied party) there is no possible verification of the conclusions of a theologian.

Better understanding Universalism from Pro's explanation, I tried to view the Bible from Universalism’s perspective, as I understand it, and see if there’s anything definitely contrary to that perspective. In Pro’s referenced verses and surrounding verses, I could find nothing contradictory, if you start from a Universalist perspective. Now lets address Universalism in the light of other Scripture.

Pro’s Theological argument is the great lengths God will go to save even one lost lamb. True, but not all are “lambs,” (belonging to the flock).

John 10:1

Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.

Not all are saved.

Matthew 22, the parable of the King's banquet:

For many are invited, but few are chosen.

Romans 9:

It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

There are some who refuse to understand, and will not be redeemed because of their stubbornness, though they know the truth. In Ezekiel 11, God compares the sin of Jerusalem to an irremovable deposit from scorched meat in a pot. He does say that “you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided.” but in the illustration, the city is the pot to be cleansed, and his wrath was only subsided when most of Israel was destroyed and only a remnant remained. These people did not repent during the worst siege ever recorded. Most were never redeemed, they were destroyed.

Jeremiah 6:

They are all hardened rebels,
going about to slander.
They are bronze and iron;
they all act corruptly.
The bellows blow fiercely
to burn away the lead with fire,
but the refining goes on in vain;
the wicked are not purged out.
They are called rejected silver,
because the
Lord has rejected them.

In Luke 16, the account of Lazarus and the Rich Man, we see a repentant Rich Man in Hades, and Lazarus across from him in Paradise, or Abraham's Bosom. “between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”

If I understand Universalism correctly, they would say even the unnamed Rich Man was still saved after the death of Jesus when he descended into the Grave, or some later point. This is not the case. The righteous were also in the Paradise part of the Grave until Christ paid their ransom. Then they were retrieved, but those in Hell, the other part, remain. We know the righteous also descended down to the Grave because the spirit of righteous Samuel was called up from the ground by Saul in the extra-ordinary account of 1 Samuel 28. Later Christ's redemption covered their sins, and Paradise is now empty. Matthew 22:41-46 demonstrates (and most of Isaiah) how the righteous that came before Christ still had faith in Christ before he even came.

In Revelation 20:11-15, we see the ultimate fate of those who do and do not believe, and there is never any indication sinners get out of hell.

Tradition and Philosophy are not without value, but unless they are backed up with Scripture, they cannot be used to prove any truth about God. Nevertheless, I will respond to a few points.

Tradition: I don't see how II Peter 3 applies to this point, nor do I see how the Doctrine of Hell is used by ambitious people.

Philosophy: We can see from C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain, that he indeed was not a Universalist.

From these premises it follows directly that the Divine labour to redeem the world cannot be certain of succeeding as regards every individual soul. Some will not be redeemed. There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture, and specially, of our Lord's own words; and it has the support of reason. If a game is played, it must be possible to lose it. If the happiness of a creature lies in self-surrender, no one can make that surrender but himself (though many can help him make it) and he may refuse. I would pay any price to say truthfully "All will be saved." But my reason retorts "Without their will, or with it?" If I say "Without their will" I at once perceive a contradiction; how can the supreme voluntary act of self-surrender be involuntary? If I say "With their will", my reason replies "How if they will not give in?"[1]

While I like and agree with much of what C.S. Lewis has said, he was never infallible, and his allegorical stories take many artistic liberties that cannot be taken literally. In his Silent Planet series of allegorical fiction, the main character flies to Venus and Mars to discover people there. The bus from Hell to Heaven in The Great Divorce is only a device to explore a hypothetical, and not meant to show that people actually can get from Hell to Heaven.

Talmud and other commentaries might have value, but if not consistent with scripture, cannot be taken as reliable. The Talmud is not Canon, nor should it be. My opponent's quote from it states that the Talmud is Canon, and that believers in Heaven will for some reason hate studying it. This directly contradicts Jeremiah 31:31-34:
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”

1) (pg.119)

Debate Round No. 2


RowdyPiper forfeited this round.


Another FF. Great.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by RowdyPiper 5 years ago
Okay, Sir Fundy. :) Let's dance.
Posted by RowdyPiper 5 years ago
That's why I mentioned goodwill to the world, generally. You bet Pharisees like the upper hand in the name of God.
Posted by lannan13 5 years ago
Actually most Christians find Hell Fire and Brimestone sermons to be great.
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