A Clergyman Takes Another Look at Hell
RECENTLY a United Methodist clergyman’s doubts about the existence of a fiery hell were published in U.S. Catholic magazine. He wrote: “There are in fact so many strong biblical, doctrinal, and logical arguments against the existence of a literal hell that this question naturally arises: Why do the churches teach it and why do people often believe it?” The minister, Robert Short, suggests that the answer lies in the churches’ “faithless fear of giving up ‘the gospel at gunpoint.’” He said: “The churches tend to believe, consciously or unconsciously, that fear—rather than love—conquers all.”
The clergyman asserted that the “most powerful argument against the existence of a literal hell is . . . that we can know a thing by its fruits. (Matt. 7:16, 20)” Using this test, he observed: “It has become painfully apparent that the ‘Christian’ doctrine which has yielded the most poisonous fruits is the teaching of a literal hell. For not only can it be proven that this doctrine has produced cruel, self-righteous ‘Christians’ throughout Western history, Christians who have felt justified in hating and even killing since it can be argued that any action is justified if it saves more people from hell, but a literal hell’s more modern and even deadlier fruit has been atheism.”
In conclusion, Short declared: “Only if the teaching of hell were true would the churches be justified in retaining it. And a growing number of theologians—both Catholic and Protestant—are now saying it is not true. If it is not true, then the churches have no time to lose in loudly and clearly saying this to the world.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses had a hundred-year head start in “clearly saying this to the world.”—U.S. Catholic, April 1980, pp. 37-40.