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Hell as a Place of Eternal Torment Questioned by Movie

Hell Questioned as Place of Eternal Torment

In this photo provided by Kevin Miller XI Productions Inc., writer/director Kevin Miller, right, talks with Margie Phelps, left, and Jonathan Phelps, of the Westboro Baptist Church, in a scene from the film “Hellbound?”. The documentary, which premiered last week in Nashville and opens Friday in New York, digs deeper into the modern Christian theological debate over hell and who’s going there.

A question that has troubled many sincere Christians and students of the Word of God down through the ages has been this: “What about the people who never heard the Gospel or who have never even heard the name of Jesus? How could a God of Love send them into everlasting torment in the Lake of Fire and Brimstone when they never even had a chance to hear the Gospel or know how to get saved?

And what about the untold millions of people of different religions who are fairly righteous and are trying to do the best they know how, living up to whatever light they have? How could God send them to Hell just because no one ever preached the Gospel to them and showed them the Love of God so that they would want to get saved? Are they going to be sent to eternal torment in the flames of Hell, even if they were kind, sweet people who tried their best to worship and please God, even though they never really knew Him or His Word and Truth?

By Travis Loller, Associated Press, September 19, 2012

NASHVILLE, TENN. — How can a loving God send people, even bad people, to a place of eternal torment? A new documentary struggles with questions of punishment and redemption and how culture affects and shapes Christian beliefs about God and the Bible.

Coming in the wake of controversy over Rob Bell’s 2011 hell-questioning book “Love Wins,” which put hell on the cover of Time magazine, and treading some of the same ground, filmmaker Kevin Miller believes the debate about the nature of hell is not academic.

In an interview after a Nashville screening of “Hellbound?” Miller said he believes our ideas about hell have a real-world effect on the way we live our lives and the way we relate to others.

McLaren’s position is contrasted with that of Seattle megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll, who explains that, in his view, “God created the world and people chose to rebel against him. And God came and died to save some of them from the death they deserve.”

Mainstream Christianity, especially evangelical Christianity, tends to promote some version of that view, which includes the idea of hell as eternal torment.

Miller briefly mentions the view that those unsaved by Jesus will simply perish, called annihilationism. But the filmmaker seems to lean toward a view that holds out hope that hell exists but may not be eternal – that God wants to be reconciled to all people, and that the reconciliation can happen even after death.

Bell was called heretical by some critics for promoting a similar view in “Love Wins.”

In the film, Missouri’s International House of Prayer Director Mike Bickle says that to promote the idea that the grace of God is available in hell, or universalism, “is the worst crime that a preacher of the Gospel could say to the world.”

But Miller seeks to show that the view is not out of line with Christian tradition.

Catholic apologist Peter Kreeft says the Catholic church leaves the question somewhat open.

“That there is a hell and that anyone can go there by their free choice, that’s dogma,” he says. “That there’s anybody in it and how many people are in it, nobody knows.”

Orthodox Archbishop Lazar Puhalo emphatically asserts, “God doesn’t send anybody to hell. God doesn’t punish anybody, either in this world or the world to come.”

In his view, “hell is a condition, not a place. The malice we feel is the fire that burns (…).”

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