2018-07-17 Christian Cults and the Concept of Hell

"Christian" Cults and the Concept of Hell

Rev. Robert Pardon

July 17 2018

Rev. Robert Pardon, Director of MeadowHaven, talked at the recent ICSA Annual Conference about a subject that is relevant to spiritual abuse - the misuse of the concept of hell by manipulative groups and individuals.

The talk had three parts:

  1. The historical and cultural concepts of Hell
  2. Contemporary ideas about Hell that are inconsistent with cultic views
  3. A case study of the misuse of Hell by a “Christian” cult

A quotation from philosopher Peter Kreeft makes the logical case for a Christian view of hell (most other religions have concepts of hell, as well):

Hell generally follows from two beliefs: the existence of Heaven and human free will. If there is a Heaven, there can be a not-Heaven. And if there is free will, we can act on it and abuse it. Those who deny Hell must also deny either Heaven (as does Western secularism) or free will (as does Eastern pantheism).

There are three views of hell in Christianity:

  1. Universalism: All, regardless of severity sins, are eventually saved. Not compatible with cult manipulation.
  2. Annihilationism: Humans are not immortal. Those not saved are annihilated. Not compatible with cult manipulation.
  3. Traditionalism: Some people are not saved. At final judgment given either eternal life or eternal condemnation. Compatible with cult manipulation.

Often overlooked is the fact that there are two major models of hell within Christian thought:

  1. Punishment Model: Hell exists to punish those who deserve everlasting punishment. This punishment will be consciously experienced by some people who will not be permitted to leave or escape Hell.
  2. Choice Model: Holds that Hell is inescapable and that it is a “place” of conscious experience. While it is compatible with Hell being a place of punishment, the fundamental purpose of Hell is to honor a person’s choice. Affirms free will that can reject God’s gracious provision (Christ’s death upon the cross) for the forgiveness of sin.

A quote from C. S. Lewis, a major proponent of the choice model of hell, expresses the dilemma of many Christians:

There is no doctrine I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of our Lord’s words; it has always been held by Christendom, and it has the support of reason.

Three other quotes from Lewis succinctly articulate the choice model:

All that are in Hell, choose it. Without self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that ever seriously desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it will be opened.

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.'

To enter Heaven is to become more human than you ever succeeded in being on earth; to enter Hell is to be banished from humanity. What is cast (or casts itself) into Hell is not a man: it is ‘remains.’ To be a complete man means to have the passions obedient to the will and the will offered to God; to have been a man – to be an ex-man or ‘damned ghost’ – would presumably mean to consist of a will utterly centered in its self and (the) passions utterly uncontrolled by the will.

Rev. Pardon says:

Cults and aberrational Christian groups can twist the meaning of Scripture by not taking into account context; and in a literal way that does violence to the text. Sadly, this allows for great abuse and manipulation by destructive groups that tend to be controlling and manipulative to begin with.

To see the full Power Point, go here.

Barring technical problems, a videotape of this talk will be posted on the ICSA YouTube channel within a few months. Subscribe to that channel to be sure to receive an announcement.