The Eternal Damnation Myth
when I was exploring the Christian faith I recall
hearing a sermon about eternal damnation. Doris and I had just moved into
Kalamazoo and we were exploring various churches. This one turned out to be an especially
hardline fire-and-brimstone pack of Bible thumpers; the kind that singles out
newcomers as potential sinners in desperate need of salvation. Thus all eyes of
that congregation were on us as we endured that hour of unique torment.
preacher that day spoke of the one terrible sin that
a person could commit for which there can be no forgiveness. Anyone who commits
this sin, he said, is doomed to burn forever in hell. There could be no escape.
Thus, he warned, no one must ever do this terrible thing.
never heard of the “unpardonable sin,” my
curiosity was naturally spiked. And this preacher was clever in his
presentation. He spoke of the sin, but didn’t tell us what it was until the
very end of his sermon.
how Christians believed, I naturally assumed that
the unpardonable sin was to deny accepting Jesus as my personal savior, and not
changing my mind until the moment of death. Since I had been rambling around in
fundamental churches for a few years, and even gone through alter calls and
baptism by submersion, I felt assured that I had not committed this sin.
my surprise, however, when the answer was found
in Matthew 12 and Mark 3, when Jesus is quoted as warning the Pharisees that “Whoever
speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever
speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this
age or in the age to come.”
other words, anyone who dares to curse the Holy Spirit
is committing the unpardonable sin. At least that was what that preacher told
his congregation that fateful Sunday morning.
suspect at that moment everybody in the church thought
the very words that flashed through my mind. I couldn’t help but mentally curse
the Holy Spirit. It was impossible not to think it. Thus everybody stumbled out
of that sermon thinking they were doomed to hell, no matter what.
foolish minister, so typical of the Bible thumping
preachers busy scaring the bejesus out of congregations all across the nation,
missed the whole point of the story. Had he done his homework, as I certainly
did after going through that agonizing moment, he might have reached a better
understanding of the message.
reportedly said these words after the Pharisees
attacked him for healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. Jewish laws
at that time forbid anyone from working on that holy day of the week. Thus they
accused Jesus of sinning because he dared to heal a man on the Sabbath.
their arguments against the miraculous healing work
that was occurring before their eyes, the Pharisees said Jesus was casting out
demons, and that such miraculous happening could only be accomplished by a
union with Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons. In other words, they were saying
Jesus was in league with Satan.
this Jesus responded in Matthew 12:26-28: “If Satan
casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom
stand? But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God
has come upon you.
I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be
forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.”
how, we might ask, can a creator God who loves us
condemn anyone to an eternal damnation in a lake of fire just by saying or
thinking a curse on the Holy Spirit, which is, according to the Scriptures,
part of the Holy Trinity of God. Why wouldn’t it be just as terrible for us to
curse the name of Jesus, or God in Heaven, which many of us do in our daily
why are we damned in the first place? Just because we
were burn as descendants of a cursed human couple that dared to disobey God and
sample the fruit of knowledge while hanging out in the Garden of Eden?
theologian Clark H. Pinnock once stated that the
doctrine of eternal torture makes God out to be morally worse than Hitler “who
maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for his enemies whom he does not even allow
to die. How can we love a God like that?”
Scriptures speak of two deaths . . . the physical
death of our bodies and the spiritual death that comes on a day of judgment.
There is a promise that those who believe on Jesus as the Son of God will be
rewarded with a life in glory, but the rest will be condemned to a final death
which appears to be a cascade into total destruction of the body and the
spirit. Even the Bible does not teach of an eternal punishment in a lake of
we want to believe the Biblical teachings, we have one
of two destinies following the passing of our physical existence. Either our
spirit goes off into the light to exist forever in bliss, or we just die and
are no more.
is about the best that our best minds in the fields
of medicine and theology can offer even today, in this time of modern research
and thought. Since no one, except possibly Jesus and the other alleged prophets
of the ancient past, has ever died and returned to tell us about it, no one
will really know the truth until we get there.
eternal damnation is something we really don’t have
to worry about. It is a myth that cannot be supported by personal experience,
the Scriptures, or anyone else than a few wild preachers who like to thump on
their Bibles but have no idea of what they are talking about.