Shuck and Jive

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ah Hell

I thought this question from the wandering wonderer is too good for Sunday School:
A big part of evangelical theology is that Jesus died to satisfy God's justice, and took the punishment that humanity deserved.

But evangelicals also say that those who reject Jesus are sent to hell, where there will be punishment for all eternity.

So, if the punishment is eternal hell, and yet Jesus took the punishment that humanity deserved ... shouldn't Jesus be in hell for all eternity?


  1. Jesus has been in hell, watching us make a complete hash of just about everything he tried to teach . . .

  2. A very good point!

    As bad as crucifixion was, eternal torture by fire is infinitely worse! So it makes no sense to say that Jesus "paid" for us...assuming the amount was supposed to be the same.

    But the real question is why would God feel the need to cause anyone to suffer for any reason? If one were to actually get the message of Jesus, he rejected this concept of "justice," and argued for a whole new view of God--one who forgave instead.

    I've actually written an entire book on this topic--"Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell," (for anyone interested, you can get a free Ecopy of my book at my website:, but if I may, I'd like to share one of the many points I make in it to explain further.

    What historical Christianity is saying is that God can't forgive, not even be forgiving of the slightest, little sin. He MUST be "paid in full."

    But Jesus, presumably speaking for God, taught US to forgive others, just as God forgives us, meaning, that he doesn't require any payment! Was Jesus mistaken?

    If Jesus had to "absorb" God's wrath, then God can't forgive. Everyone has to PAY, or have someone else PAY, and pay in full.

    On top of that, God supposedly requires eternal torture of the worst sort for that payment, or the blood of an innocent deity/man, no matter how small the sin. Actually, he does this even if we don't get a chance to sin, because we are all all held accountable for what Adam did, and "deserving" of eternal wrath.

    But all of this is in complete contradiction to what Jesus said about God's nature.

    If one reads the words of Jesus in the gospels, and look for where HE said his purpose for coming was to die as a blood sacrifice to PAY for our sins, guess what? YOU WON'T FIND IT. In fact, the one place where he does talk about sacrifice is where he says God doesn't want it! He quotes Hosea, saying that God desire MERCY instead.

    Look in the book of Acts, at all those first Christian sermons. One would think that would be a real good time to explain what was Jesus' main reason for coming, right? But in none of those sermons, do any of the apostles say Jesus was a blood sacrifice to pay for our sins!

    No, all these stuff about blood sacrifice was superimposed later on. Jesus actually said that God just forgives when we own up to our sins and repent. That's it!

    If not, then Jesus/God asks us to do something he, himself, cannot do, to forgive others without demanding any sort of payment or to suffer some painful punishment.

  3. Excellent point.

    Substitutionary atonement is a medieval theology based on Feudalism. I don't see any solid evidence for it in the Scriptures except the occasional metaphor that does not imply causality, only juxtaposition. You know, the kind that happens when a drunk driver gets somebody else killed. The death that was his falls on somebody else. They die so the drunk can live. The early Christians struggled to find a meaning in the the untimely death and departure of Jesus.

    I reject substitutionary atonement. But if I accepted it, I would have to agree. If the 'punishment' is Hell, then Jesus would have to spend eternity in Hell.

    Excellent point.

    But I do like the "lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world"

    That is the convolution of two metaphors. The passover lamb who dies so that the angel of death passes over God's people (in John, Jesus is the Passover Lamb), and the goat that is set free to wander in the wilderness after having the sins of the people placed upon it. It 'takes away' the sin of the people.

    That's not substitutionary atonement. It's something else completely different.

  4. Right, Jodie.

    The key word is "redemption." But that one has also gotten tainted with "substitutionary atonement" and "redemptive suffering." "Redemption" really means buying a slave's freedom -- or "redeeming" a coupon at the grocery store. Doves were bought at the temple to "redeem" the first-born from temple sacrifice, or from being otherwise given to God. Jesus was "redeemed" in that way when his parents presented him to Anna and Simeon as Luke tells the tale.
    The metaphor gets extended to Jesus himself, but then the theology gets too tricky for a "comment" in a blog.

  5. I explore some of this in my work commenting on the Revised Common Lectionary. See "Paul's Resurrection Theology" at the following url:

  6. My favorite commentary about the crucifixion, atonement, suffering, punishment, beating up on oneself et al is from Dolly Parton:

    "Get off the cross, honey. Somebody else needs the wood."

  7. Then there is Rummi, trying to get his self-victimized friend to join the rest of humanity. "Jesus is here and he wants to resurrect somebody." But I digress.