Well today is 6/6/6.  It seems I missed the rapture and you did too.  All I can say is, “A-boo-ga-boo-ga-boo-ga.”


Much of the spiritual baggage I carry around from my childhood revolves around over emphasis of the “End Times.”  Believe it or not, I never expected to make it to adulthood.  The idea of planning for education or a career seemed pointless.  Fortunately for me fate smiled on my lack of planning.  Things just managed to work out.


But I worry when I see this kind of pseudo theology being inflicted on another generation.  There is this nut in Colorado that holds a Hell House every year.  Basically it is a dramatic reenactment of the sins that *really* tick God off.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell_house  I thought this guy was out of his mind when I first heard about him in New Mexico.  Now my *parents* attend his church (he moved to Colorado).  My nephew is being exposed to this crap on a weekly basis.


How are kids suppose to develop a healthy image of God as loving father if our primary mode of evangelism is fear?  I say “our”, but that is not fair.  I no longer consider myself evangelical.  The mainline denominations have their problems too, but at least, from my perspective, they do not do damage with spiritual abuse.


Anyway…I am ranting yet again…sorry you missed the rapture…I am going out to get my Mark of the Beast…I need to buy a cup of coffee.

By Ben Posted in Life

27 comments on “666

  1. I totally agree! I saw at least one of the “Thief in the Night” movies and it scared the (*&^ out of me. But I was already saved at that point. A little fear can be a good thing, but getting saved and living under the impression that any moment God is going to squash you like a bug is not a good thing. You can’t develop a relationship with someone you live in total fear of.

    Isn’t it even scarier when our parents fall for crap? Makes me so angry.

  2. Ben, we go to a Baptist church now, and this week the pastor spoke on the topic of hell. I had been shocked to discover that Baptists too had received the constant “fire and brimstone” messages and that the only thought of hell they had been exposed to was the “fiery furnace” version. And I thought only Pentecostals scared people in to salvation!

  3. I’m not an “ist” or a “ian” or an “ish”. But I am human. Like most of God’s “homo erectus”. I can’t keep all these concepts straight in my head. I need it to be simple. So I just try to follow one “rule”: “BE that which you hope to find in others.” 🙂

  4. As has happened before on the blog, Ben and I tend to disagree on this subject. Pardon me, but what good does sugar coating the reality do for people. Some people respond to all that touchy feely stuff, but some people don’t. Hell is a bad place, it’s real, it’s in the Bible, people are going there every day. Do you want them to go there? I mean, I am sure you have no problem with the exhibits that I have seen around with pictures of bad car accidents and even actual wrecks on trailers to try to get people not to drive drunk or to wear seatbelts. Or how about telling people about the dangers of smoking, I remember seeing pictures of lungs from dead people that had smoked all their lives, and it scared the crap out of me. I don’t smoke now. I got the bejeebers scared out of me. So why is it ok to do that, but not ok to use hell and a fear of a bad end to direct people to heaven? A little fear is a healthy thing. Why don’t people obey the speed limit anymore? Because if you go less than 10 miles over, there really is no fear of getting a ticket. Fear is an essential part of what drives us. Pardon me, but it seems like the “mainline” denominations are so worried about sounding negative or actually sharing the message that they prefer people going to hell over offending them. How can we water down the message and leave out the parts we don’t like and still be credible? I’m all for the love of God, but last time I checked the wrath of God was still a valid concept, I don’t remember anywhere in the Bible where God suddenly stopped expecting people to turn to Him and obey Him, and it was suddenly alright if they didn’t. There is a penalty to sin. It is a huge penalty. If wearing a red hat was a capital offense in a country, wouldn’t you expect someone to warn you not to wear a red hat when you went to that country? You get there and you have your SF Giants hat on, and the customs people drag your bacon off to jail, what’re you going to say? I didn’t know it was against the law. Cuts no ice, they are going to fry you. But if you see a picture of someone wearing that SF hat and getting shot, guess what, you are gonna leave that baby at home. Better to me to tell the truth than let someone burn.

    I thought the point of the thief in the night movies was that if you get saved you get to miss out on getting “squashed like a bug”. I can’t speak to what the motives are of the guy running the hell house where Ben’s parents go, but I know the point in most cases it to let people know that they are going to get squashed like a bug unless they become Christians. At that point then they are safe. I agree that there are groups that keep people in constant fear, but once you are a Christian the fear of hell is one you no longer need have. Before that though, you better be ready!

    My interest is piqued though, what is the other version of hell? It’s like southwestern Kansas, hot and boring but livable?

  5. Lets not through the baby out with the bath-water here.

    First, I will be among the first to stand up and say that there is a lot wrong with the Western Church (both those that consider themselves evangelical and those that consider themselves mainline denominations). Both stink of self-righteousness in my mind and both cause spiritual abuse, it may look different, but it is abuse just the same. I have no utopian (Judi did I spell that right?) view of the Western Church at all. It is a mess, all of it. Yes, I know that I am speaking in a very generalized way, I can, and I am sure you can as well, point to individual congregations that would not fall into this category. So I know that there are *the exceptions that break the rule.* So no need to jump me about that. And yet, while the Western Church is a mess, it is still a part of the Bride of Christ and His love for her cannot be ignored.

    Second, I personally don’t subscribe to evangelism by fear, I have always thought, “if you can be scared into the Kingdom of God, then you can be scared out of the Kingdom of God.” So the whole idea of “fire insurance” never seemed to be to wise to me. HOWEVER, that does not mean that God hasn’t or wouldn’t bless that kind of evangelism. There are those that using a fear type of message would be the only way they would hear or respond. So just because I am not ready to call down fire and brimstone on someone does not mean I can put the moving of the Holy Spirit on a persons life in a box. It is like the use of tracts or Christian Concerts in evangelism, I think that, from a strategic stand-point, they are not all that effective, yet I work with a fellow believer that found a tract on the street, took it home, read it and became a believer and I myself became a believer at a Christian Concert. They are effective and God will and does use that form of evangelism, but in the same breath I would say they are probably not the most effective form from a strategic point of view. And let me add this, while I do not use fear, I do not shrink back from talking about the very real reality of Hell and Satan.

    We need to be careful not let the pendulum swing to one extreme or the other. Those that would use fear mainly may have control issues to deal with and those that would say nothing about it all may have pride issues to deal with. We read in the Gospels that John the Baptist preached “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand!” that and the other things he said were pretty “fire and brimstone” sounding, at least in tone. And we cannot get away from the fact that Christ Himself spoke of these things and spoke about them openly. But we also must remember that he spoke about “loving God with all our heart, soul mind and body,” about loving our neighbor, about forgiveness, about sin, about money, about His being the way, the truth and the life, about…well you get my point.

    So lets be sure that when we dump the water our of the bath, that baby isn’t still in there.

    Ben don’t forget the cobbler!

    Dang, I hate it when I miss the rapture!

  6. I’m with you, uh… Jenny. I understand the reality of hell and that most of even my favorite family members will, unless they seriously change their minds, end up there. I just don’t see that scaring them is going to do any good.

    I think obedience and submission are both easier and more heartfelt when done out of love for something not fear of something. At least, it is so in my own life. I don’t respond well to threats.

    You know, I really don’t think that “we Christians” need to tell them about hell, they are already living their lives without the hope, light, and love of Christ. The problem is that they don’t know there is anything different. They think they’re happy and “doing okay as is” as my favorite aunt says– all the time.

  7. Constantine was quite successful moving into a town and demanding that people be baptized or killed. I am sure that some of those conversions were genuine. But I would not recommend it for general application.

    It just seems silly to me to try and convert people using fear. If you are selling your home, would you write up a brochure detailing the pain and suffering experience by people who die from exposure? I at least would show how life is greatly improved by indoor living. While it is a bit of a profane comparison, the same goes for faith. Relationship with God makes the “here and now” better than without.

    My mother went on and on about how some woman who was considering an abortion and found God at the Hell House. That was two people in their congregation of 300 and the thousands of people who visit the “Hell House.”(Not to mention the 10s of thousands who heard about it via the media) It is all fine and good, but how many people were turned away from the church and now think Christians are a bunch of hateful idiots? While I do not have hard numbers, I hear people gossiping around the water cooler every time Pat Robertson or some national figure shoots off his mouth.

    Then I look at my church. It is bursting at the seams because the members are so involved in ministry to the community/world. It is not that our pastor is afraid to tackle the subject of hell; it is just that he does it with a bit of tact that doesn’t leave people thinking that God is some kind of bully.

    Now as to Evangelicals, I probably overstated my prejudice. There are some evangelicals that I greatly respect. Tony Campollo being one, my sister’s pastor being the second. OK and Larry Norman, he would be number three. You get the idea. Unfortunately the evangelical church has certain triggers that bring back memories I would rather forget. I personally cannot effectively worship in an evangelical church for long periods of time…just part of the joy of being me.

    Anyway…2 more cents…I appreciate all the feedback.

  8. H-E-double hockeysticks!!

    There are two primary ways that moral behavor goes, in terms of motivation.
    You either

    1. Embrace Virtue or
    2. Avoid Punishment

    Do you do the speed limit? Precisely at the posted speed? How bout when a cop is following you? Yeah, that’s called morality for the sake of avoiding punishment.

    Do you kill those you are very angry with? Hopefully not- because you have decided that this kind of behavior is outside the moral code in which you choose to live your life- you choose to embrace the ‘virtue’ of not being homicidal.

    With children under 3, simply avoiding punishment is all the reason they need to tow the line. As they get older, you explain ‘why’ we behave the way that we do, and hope they choose to embrace the virtue of a behavior or path. Do you see how the motives change?

    Similarly, in one sense, we can look at people. With some folks, an appeal to reason is enough for them to embrace the virtue of the ‘right path’. With other folks, ‘fear of punishment’ ends up being the training wheels they need until they are able to just pedal down the virtuous path on their own. Their motive has changed, and ‘hell’ has been relegated from a place of prominence in their weekly worship to ‘a place we would have gone, but for Grace.’

    Although fear of ‘punishment’ is probably inaccurate- it should be labeled and communicated fear of ‘consequence’.

    What most people and churches do is they pick one corner of doctrine and specialize in it to an unhealthy degree. A balanced approace is best, one that doesn’t overdo the ‘hell’ thing, but also one that does not leave it out.

    Is Hell fire and brimstone? Is it pitch black and alone? Will we work the lava pits with demon’s cracking the whips at our backs? I don’t know. I know it will be eternal separation from love. And Love Himself as well. That’s all I need to know to know I don’t want to go there.

    Remember, Hell is a consequence, not just one of the top two afterlife retirement locations.

  9. Ben I agree with you…

    (pregnant pause)

    …I will wait for you to get back in your chair. hehehe

    I agree with you that it is probably not the most strategic form in our culture. And if I were to preach that way I would be convicted the Holy Spirit that I was trying to manipulate those that were hearing me. I much rather have folks make the choice for themselves, it seems to be much more meaningful that way, at least to me. Yet I cannot deny that there is some effectiveness in a hellfire type sermon/approach that may lack tact as you put it. Sometimes “folks is just hardheaded” I guess and that is the only way they hear. You know like how Tony Campollo uses a “shock factor” to wake people up. Maybe it is like Abraham Lincoln said that we all need “a little bit of a hanging.”

    I appreciated what our friend Talon had to say,

    “Similarly, in one sense, we can look at people. With some folks, an appeal to reason is enough for them to embrace the virtue of the ‘right path’. With other folks, ‘fear of punishment’ ends up being the training wheels they need until they are able to just pedal down the virtuous path on their own. Their motive has changed, and ‘hell’ has been relegated from a place of prominence in their weekly worship to ‘a place we would have gone, but for Grace.’…
    …What most people and churches do is they pick one corner of doctrine and specialize in it to an unhealthy degree. A balanced approace is best, one that doesn’t overdo the ‘hell’ thing, but also one that does not leave it out.”

    That is the point I was trying to make, I just did a very bad job of it.

    Ben, I am sorry that your experience with evangelicals has been so bad. I fear that in our past, that I may have contributed to that in my ignorance and zeal. If so, please forgive me. I am no longer that person, personally tragedy and age has tempered me. But I still have my good looks.

    Who uses a fork when they eat cobbler? I just stick my head in the pan and eat away! No forks, no spoons! 🙂

  10. Tim believe it or not, I have only pleasnt memories of our interactions in college. The “damage” was done long before I ever set foot on Bethany’s campus. It was done even before Kevin and I were friends. It was as Susan pointed out, that movie.

    In many ways Bethany was the beginning of the healing. Just knowing that other people were negatively impacted by that movie made me feel better. What really made the difference though was Bobo pointing out that God’s primary motivation was love. Not that I hadn’t heard it before, it just had never sunk in. So to some extent it is true that hell kept me in church until I found a better motivation.

  11. I guess I’m the odd-one-out (in so many ways, but here as well). At the age of 13, I gave my life to Christ, not to keep out of hell but to gain a relationship of love and acceptance with the Savior. Avoidance of hell has never been an issue in my relationship. Having grown up in a God-fearing home, but not in a church setting, I was not motivated negatively or positively by the concept of hell. I chose Christ because I saw true joy in the eyes of the pastor that led me to Him. I guess I’m fortunate that my early discipleship years was under the tutelage of one of the most God-like men I’ve ever met, and that it was a nurturing, caring, loving environment.
    I think, though, that for some people, the fear of hell is a key motivator; I’m just not one of them. I hope, though, that their picture of hell is the biblical one, not the flames and pointy pitchfork version a la Dante.

  12. Thanks Claire. Here are my results:

    Third Level of Hell


    In the third circle, you find yourself amidst eternal rain, maledict, cold, and heavy. The gluttons are punished here, lying in the filthy mixture of shadows and of putrid water. Because you consumed in excess, you meet your fate beneath the cold, dirty rain, amidst the other souls that there lay unhappily in the stinking mud. Cerebus, a canine monster cruel and uncouth with his three heads and red eyes, dwells in this level. He growls and tears at the damned with his teeth and claws.

    huh…guttony who woulda thunk.

  13. Judi, you know, thinking back you came to Christ in a very unique setting. No, not our home, but you were going to “the Bible Study” at the Ainleys and listening to Rich teach, yes? And Rich’s primary message all those years was basically “God’s love for you and love one another.” Judi probably had in some ways one of the purest conversions I have ever seen.

  14. I am reluctant to contribute to this because I might be called a heretic (*an* heretic?) by some, but here goes. Hell is a metaphor for separation from God. It is described as torment, because ultimately that is what separation from God is like for creatures such as ourselves. However, it is still principally a metaphor. Why? Well, among other reasons, it is difficult to imagine that doing finite stuff wrong, even very willfully, in one lifetime would result in a sentence (by a God of both justice and compassion) of ETERNAL torture.

    I don’t know about the afterlife to any significant degree. The Bible is vague or highly figurative when the subject comes up. However, a relationship with the just and compassionate Creator of the Universe has enough appeal to me and many others that hellish details aren’t of particular interest outside of Dante studies.

    Okay, so I’m a (an) heretic. Ain’t the first time. In your responses, please remember that you won’t change my mind any more than I have just changed yours, and that neither of our opinions will change the truth, whatever that may be.

  15. Sorry if that last bit sounded harsh. Didn’t mean it to. It’s just that we are arguing about the details of something that we cannot prove one way or another, and therefore I hope we can avoid getting too worked up about it.

    If we want really heated discussion, we should ask Brian to introduce another sexual topic.

  16. Craig, you had to go there. lol. I have come to the same conclusion basically because of the mathematics of the situation that you laid out. I am intrigued by the nillist who point out that the gift of God is eternal life (I am greatly simplifying their point of view). What is the opposite of eternal? Finite. No Hell or at least eternal. Of course according to the website Claire pointed out, I will spend eternity in a dung hole paying for my gluttonous ways.

    But then my question is what do you do with the Song of Benatar V4? “Hell. Hell is for Hell. Hell is for Children.”

    Sorry, I could not resist.

  17. Here, here, Craig! I don’t care about the details of hell. And I never chose a relationship with God in response to fear of it. Mostly because I know I’m not going there and that ultimately, I cannot make anyone I love choose “my” way; they can only make that choice for themselves.

    Plus, I still subscribe to the thought that God’s grace is probably much greater than anything we can fathom…i.e. maybe many more people than I have been taught will be in God’s presence after this life! Therefore, I don’t plan to scare the “hell” out of anyone! If they ask, I’ll tell them…otherwise, I’ll “preach” by “being”!!!!

  18. When I worked downtown near Pioneer Courthouse Square, there was one guy who “preached” about Jesus. Really, he spouted off scriptures about eternal damnation and destruction. People openly mocked him. Portland, especially, is not about to turn from their wicked ways by being yelled at. The most unchurched-state in the nation is not going to give up “I did it my way” by angry, hostile words being vomited on them.

    I keep remembering the scripture (not the reference): It’s Your kindness that leads us to repentance (paraphrased, I’m sure). I’ll keep holding out for God’s love on behalf of my friends and family until he refuses to contend with man any longer…

  19. ok… took Claire’s test… guess what??? I escaped eternal damnation and end up in Purgatory… Yesssss!

    “You are one of the lucky ones! Because of your virtue and beliefs, you have escaped eternal punishment. You are sent to Purgatory!


    You have escaped damnation and made it to Purgatory, a place where the dew of repentance washes off the stain of sin and girds the spirit with humility. Through contrition, confession, and satisfaction by works of righteousness, you must make your way up the mountain. As the sins are cleansed from your soul, you will be illuminated by the Sun of Divine Grace, and you will join other souls, smiling and happy, upon the summit of this mountain. Before long you will know the joys of Paradise as you ascend to the ethereal realm of Heaven.”

    So neenerneener to all of you… damn! I think I just ruined it!

  20. At a church I attended briefly, the youth were “encouraged” to attend a similar type of function. It did nothing but turn me further away from what they were preaching. I truthfully don’t think that scare tactics create true believers. Believing that they don’t work is creating a bit of a challenge in the church I am currently serving. They tend to be conservative evangelicals leaning closer to fundamentalists. They believe every sermon should be entitled “You horrible little heathens.” I tend to think that it takes more than sermons on being a heathen to create faithful Christian disciples.

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