Hell has been a hot (no pun intended) topic in my recent conversations...specifically the doctrine of eternal torment. It's been good discussion and one that I have visited often coming from a Seventh Day Adventist upbringing. The SDA believe and teach the idea of eternal punishment and destruction vs eternal torture. A distinction that for many people is one that sounds heretical. I am not convinced either way completely...I do wrestle with the fact that eternal torture seems to be under supported in the whole counsel of the Word. It seems to contradict common sense logic about justice and is a doctrine that often repels people away from God instead of drawing them towards Him.
In my conversation the person said: "Eternal Torment was never taught in the old testament, The apostles never talked about it and the few scriptures where Jesus implies it come with no clarity; I think if a doctrine of this magnitude and horrific consequence were true, God would make it abundantly clear to all, and it would be a continuing theme throughout the Bible. On the other hand, eternal destruction is clearly taught and mentioned by all. The only exception is in Revelation where it appears to say Hell will be no more."
Good challenge...worthy of some good biblical study...I thought.
But then my youngest son, Micah came home distraught and angry Wednesday night from kids church. His first words to me were: "I'm pissed off, why would God kill Lots wife, just for looking back!" He was really upset. He told me that he wasn't going to believe in a God that kills people, that destroys huge cities. His little heart was broken and he was angry too. Every answer he recounted from the teachers of his class...he refuted and cast off with a disdain and frustration that they were not good enough answers according to him...which wasn't really the issue, our kids church is awesome and they were simply presenting a bible story; but Micah can grab a part of any talk and magnify it in his little mind. I tried to reason with him and explain the issues of choice, free will and all the other doctrinal anesthesia we use to try to soften a issue that we really can't explain either. I tried to use the concept of a parent telling a kid to stay out of the street for fear of getting hit or a command to come out of a burning building and if they didn't obey is the parent at fault? He responded: "Well Mom would come in an drag me out of the burning building!" I sat there stunned at his apologetic prowess that was really coming from a revelation of a side of God that frightened him and shook his understanding of a loving God.
We ended after talking some more with prayer. I told him I was proud that he cared about those people, cities and that we should love people. He calmed and I prayed with him about the issue. Needless to say, the hell, judgment and punishment doctrines are critical to understand because how we present our Father...can make some people stumble and even Jesus warned about the danger of making little ones stumble. It's a tough concept to wrestle with, one that trite answer dont really soothe the wounded heart.
I still am wrestling with the talk....the look and sound in Micah's face and voice was haunting.