The Doctrine of Hell

In my deconstruction journey, one of the last things to go was the doctrine of hell as a place of eternal torment for the “unrighteous.” Honestly, it didn’t go without some kicking and screaming. I mean, how many evangelicals, like myself, were desperately needing this concept of hell, as a crucial part of their theology – to make everything else about salvation “work”? Let’s get into it.

Did you know that the popular view of early Christians was that of Universal Reconciliation, not eternal conscious torment (a.k.a., hell)? Universal Reconciliation was the dominant view of the church for the first 500 years. (source)

What is Universal Reconciliation?

Universal Reconciliation: Universal reconciliation in Christ means ‘hell’ is temporary/purifying and Jesus will eventually save all

Somehow, over the centuries, the Good News for many modern-day Evangelicals has morphed into a rescue plan for the afterlife (destination: heaven), while their enemies will forever be tortured in a fiery hell.

Releasing the doctrine of hell has been really freeing. Reverting back to 1st-century thought on this topic would be a good shift for the American Evangelical church, in my opinion. It means we are free to quite literally inhabit the directive that Jesus gave, and the implications dramatically reorient us around the pressing issues of justice, climate care, standing up for the marginalized, and recognizing our destructive patterns. It would put the focus back on what Jesus focused on: loving, healing, and doing good, here and now.

I don’t believe the Gospel is about saying a prayer to go to heaven. The Good News is that the Kingdom of God is within you, here, and you can start living that reality right now.

Myth-Busting Hell With Keith Giles
Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine Of The Church During It’s First Five Hundred Years
Rethinking Hell
If Hell Isn’t Eternal, Why Preach The Gospel?

Liberation is spoken of 45 times in the New Testament. But it’s missed because it is translated “salvation” to change the focus to the afterlife instead on life on earth.
σωτηρία (soteria) Salvation is a literal translation, however because of the way the theology of salvation became about saving people from hell, instead of the political word it was in the first century, “salvation” carries different meaning than “liberation.”

Salvation means a world where people don’t fight each other or know hunger. Where people behave in an idealized way. –Pamela Eisenbaum

We did not receive an education, we received an indoctrination: that there was only one way to interpret these scriptures (about hell). – Keith Giles

Christianity not only taught people to fear hell all their lives, but to actually take joy and solace when they believe others are going or will go to hell.
This adds to feelings of entitlement and supremacy as well as self righteousness. It generates toxic people.

2 thoughts on “The Doctrine of Hell”

  1. Any references? For example, links to scholars confirming that “Universal reconciliation in Christ means ‘hell’ is temporary/purifying and Jesus will eventually save all” and that that was the predominant view in early church? Thanks.

    1. Hi! Yes, I had references at the bottom of the post, but they weren’t very visible. I tried to fix that, if you want to look at the bottom for ‘Resources’

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *