Evangelical Update

A resource for lefties who want to understand conservative Christians.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


This is an issue that I still do not understand. One one hand Evangelicals are quick to say that they do not condemn anyone to hell (that is God's job), yet I still constantly read statements to the effect that they believe certain people are going to hell. As far as I can tell, there are two major categories of people that conservative Christians believe are hell-bound: 1) non-Christians and 2) Christians who do not believe certain things, those things being very unclear to me.

[By the way, the following may all seem focused on me, but I happened to ask about hell back in February and the answers were directed to me, so those are the quotes I am using. I'm trying to get at the idea of how conservative Christians decide who will be eternally condemned to hell.]

Here are questions that I am still unable to answer due to mixed messages:
1) To a conservative Christian, what constitutes a hell-bound Christian?
2) Do conservative Christians think it is ok to tell someone that he/she is going to hell, unprompted?
3) Do conservative Christians believe that it is ok to speak for God regarding another's eternal fate?

This issue of condemnation ultimately stems from the conservative Christian's belief in absolute truth as it relates to eternal punishment (I'm not saying that liberal Christians or non-Christians don't also believe in absolute truth!). Ron has stated several times in one way or another, that with absolute truth comes the right to condemn actions or beliefs that do not meet those truths. Yet he has also said, "If I tell you you're going to Hell (which I wouldn't if you recall my first post to you waaaay back in the day) then it shouldn't bother you unless it turns out I'm right. " Similarly, Rev. Ed states (see comments), "I don't tell anyone where they are headed after death. That's not my call. That's God's call." Yet Rev. Ed also has a firm belief in hell and who is and is not going there. So there are two examples of conservative Christians whose belief system states certain people will go to hell, but do not tell individuals that they will go there.

Kristen puts a compassionate spin on warning of hell: "Christians aren't telling you that [you are going to hell] because you're some kind of jerk that they can't stand." Then she explains why she believes that certain people are going to hell based upon Biblical scripture. I get the feeling she wouldn't have said this to me unprompted.

Amy and Samantha have objected to my characterization of Christian condemnation in other correspondence, essentially saying that they do not condemn one to hell simply because they do not agree with another's beliefs.

For what it's worth, Graham Old, who does not characterize himself as an Evangelical, yet seems to be a pretty strict Anabaptist, said "I have no idea if [you are] going to hell or not. Nothing in the Bible implies that someone goes to hell because they don't believe in the divinity of Christ (which is a very tricky concept to explain or grasp). "

Most conservative Christians probably won't come right up to a non-Christian or errant Christian (by their definition) and tell him that he is going to hell, though there are certainly exceptions. But conservative Christians have an opinion on who is and who is not going to hell. And in their view it is not an opinion - it is the God-given truth.