(Part One) Book Review: Raising Hell

(Part One) Book Review: Raising Hell

If you’ve never read Hans Christian Anderson’s story The Emperor’s New Clothes, you should do so.  It is a delightful tale of the undoing of collective denial.  It has been said that Anderson’s tale was written as political satire, and although that may be true, I believe it is much more than that.  Anderson’s tale is a remarkable analogy for the religious pomposity that has had the world by its balls since the beginning of time.  This is evidenced by Anderson’s explanation about how his views on Hell differ from those of his teacher of Greek and Latin studies in his book, True Story of My Life, how he reacted at first, and finally, how those views surfaced in his writing:

…everything tended to assist me in my Greek and Latin studies; in one direction, however, and that the one in which it would least have been expected, did my excellent teacher find much to do; namely, in religion. He closely adhered to the literal meaning of the Bible; with this I was acquainted, because from my first entrance in the school I had clearly understood what was said and taught by it. I received gladly, both with feeling and understanding, the doctrine, that God is love: everything which opposed this–a burning hell, therefore, whose fire endured forever–I could not recognize. Released from the distressing existence of the school-bench, I now expressed myself like a free man; and my teacher, who was one of the noblest and most amiable of human beings, but who adhered firmly to the letter, was often quite distressed about me. We disputed, whilst pure flames kindled within our hearts. It was nevertheless good for me that I came to this unspoiled, highly-gifted young man, who was possessed of a nature as peculiar as my own.

That which, on the contrary, was an error in me, and which became very perceptible, was a pleasure which I had, not in jesting with, but in playing with my best feelings, and in regarding the understanding as the most important thing in the world. The rector had completely mistaken my undisguisedly candid and sensitive character; my excitable feelings were made ridiculous, and thrown back upon themselves; and now, when I could freely advance upon the way to my object, this change showed itself in me. From severe suffering I did not rush into libertinism, but into an erroneous endeavor to appear other than I was. I ridiculed feeling, and fancied that I had quite thrown it aside; and yet I could be made wretched for a whole day, if I met with a sour countenance where I expected a friendly one. Every poem which I had formerly written with tears, I now parodied, or gave to it a ludicrous refrain; one of which I called “The Lament of the Kitten,” another, “The Sick Poet.” The few poems which I wrote at that time were all of a humorous character: a complete change had passed over me; the stunted plant was reset, and now began to put forth new shoots.

Julie Ferwerda uses Anderson’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, to set the stage for her book, Raising Hell: Christianity’s Most Controversial Doctrine Put Under Fire.  Anderson’s story, coupled with Sam Walter Foss’s The Calf Path, serve as Ferwerda’s powerful double punch that knocks the hypocritical and complacent snot out of the religious mind before round one (I mean, chapter one).

Because of her life-changing personal discovery, I believe that Ferwerda needed to write this book.  To her “was granted this grace: to bring the evangel of the untraceable riches of Christ to the nations, and to enlighten all as to what is the administration of the secret, which has been concealed from the eons in God, Who creates all…”  She can’t help but express “that now may be made known to the sovereignties and the authorities among the celestials, through the ecclesia, the multifarious wisdom of God, in accord with the purpose of the eons, which He makes in Christ Jesus, our Lord;” in Whom we have boldness and access with confidence, through His faith.” (Ephesians 3:8-12)  To state it plainly, those of us who have Amazing Hope are too full of joy NOT to share what we know.  Believe me, I tried to keep it to myself when I was still shackled in religious chains, still allowing myself to be intimidated into silence by spiritual police, but one year later it burst forth from me.  His glory simply cannot be suppressed.  The whole world could not contain enough books to express the riches of His glory.

Raising Hell is written from the POV of one who once believed and vigorously defended the doctrine of eternal torment, a doctrine which her daughter was not willing to accept and which she regularly challenged.  Ferwerda writes,

In my mother-knows-best reasoning mode, I patiently yet dogmatically explained to her each time what I had been ingrained to believe over a lifetime: “God deeply loves every person He ever created, but in that love, He had to give them a choice to love and accept Him or to reject His free gift of salvation.  God doesn’t send anyone to hell, people choose to go to hell by rejecting Him.”

Her first confrontation with evidence which she says, “found me” was when she began to study with a Messianic Jewish woman.  She says, “…it seemed a whole world of understanding began to open up in our Bibles, particularly in the Old Testament.”  She found errors and inconsistencies between translations, not just in peripheral and obscure passages but in “what appeared to us to be arbitrary or slanted renderings of passages that are foundational to certain Christian orthodox doctrines.”  She cites as an example, Hebrews 1:2 which says in the various translations,

NIV: “…through whom he made the universe.”

NASB: “…through whom also He made the world.”

KJV: “…through whom he made the worlds.”

BBE: “…through whom he made the order of the generations.”

YLT: “…through whom also He did make the ages.”

She also noticed that Jeremiah (8:7-9) said, “But My people do not know the ordinance of the LORD.  How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and caught; Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, and what kind of wisdom do they have?”  Ferwerda concludes, “Right there, Jeremiah confirmed that the scribes had inserted lies into Old Testament writings, many centuries before the Bible was ever established or canonized.  I’m not suggesting that all translation errors are intentional, but somewhere along the line, people with the authority to influence the theology of billions, mades some serious mistakes.  On the heels of this discovery, Ferwerda’s daughter referred her to this article on Savior-of-All.com, along with a bunch of scripture references, and she thought, “How had I never noticed all those verses before – verses that seemed to express a much more inclusive Gospel than what I had always believed?”  After a few months (taking time to be sure), Ferwerda discarded the doctrine of eternal torment and became convinced that God would reconcile everyone to Himself eventually.

In an effort to express the validity and soundness of her belief that Jesus is the Savior of all mankind, Ferwerda takes the readers on a tour of both important information and her personal experience.  The book is peppered with relevant stories to illustrate important points, as well as evidence to back claims.  She asks plenty of questions and offers good, solid answers, as well as some speculation as food for thought.  I believe the intended audience for this book to be the orthodox, mainline Christian.  Unfortunately, studies have shown and my personal experience has proven that this audience is not receptive to exposure to belief-opposing information, at least when others are watching.  Perhaps if Ferwerda offered a free book cover along with the book…  But seriously, I think that God is doing something amazing in the world, opening people’s eyes to Who He really is and what He really does, showing them the difference between Churchianity and spirituality, giving wisdom to fools and making the fools of the wise.  This book will help do both – orthodoxy will be further entrenched in dogma and fear because of rejecting God’s message (which is plainly explained in Raising Hell), and those who are designated to attend the School of Love will be given eyes to see and ears to hear.

Ferwerda’s informal approach to addressing opposing views is very non-threatening in its tone, but devastating in its content.  Because of her background, she is able to answer objections and brings satisfying resolution to questions such as:

If there is no hell, what did Jesus die for?

What about all the Scriptures that mention hell and eternal punishment?

Does everyone get off scot-free, no matter how they live their lives?  Why not live however we want if we’re going to be “saved” regardless?

Why evangelize or tell people about Jesus at all?

How could millions of devout Christians over many centuries have been duped, especially intelligent people who have devoted their lives to Bible scholarship?

Isn’t this some New Age teaching in an attempt to make God more palatable to the lost?

How could this satisfy God’s demands for justice?

Isn’t the Bible clear that people only get one chance to accept Jesus in this lifetime?

Doesn’t Jesus talk about hell more often than heaven in the New Testament?

The content of chapter six, When Hell Became “Gospel Truth”, is a concise introduction to later chapters which more thoroughly examine what Christianity used to be before it was hijacked.  She says,

If you study a bit about Church history since about the second century, the term “orthodox Christianity” really becomes an oxymoron.  Merriam Webster defines orthodox as, “conforming to established doctrine, especially in religion.”  You might also hear it defined as “right doctrine.”  Orthodox suggests that there are certain truths and doctrines that have always been peacefully and consensually agreed upon, accepted by the majority of “people like us” throughout all the centuries.  Those who have opposing ideas or who question too persistently are usually labeled as liberal or heretical.  in fact, these are the assumptions I grew up with in church, and no one ever suggested anything to the contrary.  It’s as if mainstream Christianity wants you to think there has always been this harmonious consensus, and if you are to question, you will be singlehandedly going against 2000 years of what “those who are in the right and who are following the Spirit of God” believe and accept as truth.


For instance, many Christians insist that if you question hell, you are rejecting what has always been agreed upon by the Church, yet the doctrine of eternal torment was not a widely held view for the first five centuries after Christ, particularly in the early Eastern Church, the Church of the early apostles and Church fathers such as Paul, Clement of Alexandria, St. Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, and others.

Here I must pause and comment on Origen.  My first shocking experience with Christian study materials happened when I read in a book about church history that Origen taught universal reconciliation.  First of all, I always had the understanding that people who believed everyone would be reconciled to God were dreamy, hippy types who had no basis whatsoever for their thinking other than good will and a good imagination.  I never knew that anyone who was considered an authority in theology had such an idea.  Then, as I kept reading, I saw that he was convicted of heresy by the Church.  I dismissed the man and what logical reasons he might have had to offer, simply because of that word, heretic.  I continued reading the book, and almost put it back on the shelf when I noticed an informational section at the back of the book.  I decided to go ahead and read that as well, and to my surprise, I saw that Origen was dead for hundreds of years by the time he was pronounced heretical.  My curiosity was peaked, because that certainly wasn’t the impression I got as I was casually reading through the chapters.  I purposed to study further on Origen, to find out why it took them so long to slap him with that label.  I learned that not only was he long dead when they named him a heretic, but his list of offenses never even included universal reconciliation.  The church was not concerned with calling universal reconciliation heresy at that time.  The book purposefully distorted the facts, making it appear as though within Origen’s lifetime he singlehandedly conjured up this crazy doctrine, and consequently, they ousted him from the church.  But his heresy charges were completely unrelated to his teaching universal reconciliation!  That is when my wheels began to turn, when I started doing my homework and checking to verify the accuracy of my study materials.  I found more and more of such instances of deceptiveness in my study materials.  Finally, I decided that I was just going to use non-religions sources, actual historical writings from the time period of the early church, and Greek and Hebrew concordances.  I still could not get away from the corrupted slant entirely, since the concordances were based in erroneous translation, but at least I could find everywhere in scripture where questionable words appeared so that I could verify whether they had been consistently translated.  For me, the way the church handled Origen, both during the heresy-fest and in modern study sources, convinced me that I should not trust the experts to teach me truth.

Chapter seven, Satan Wins, God Loses?, asks, “Does God stay angry forever?” Which scripture answers with an emphatic, “No!” Ferwerda also offers some insight from Thomas Talbott’s book, The Inescapable Love of God – an incredible book that I highly recommend.  When we consider the idea of death being swallowed up for all time, we need to consider death in its totality.  Ferwerda describes the difference between the first death, the second death, and the loss of abundant life.  Mainline Christianity has got this all mixed up because of its insistence on eternal torment = Lake of Fire, even though the scriptures clearly state that death and Hades thrown into the Lake of Fire is the second death.  Ferwerda notes,

I love how most Christians (including theologians) interpret Revelation.  They read about the woman riding on the beast, the red dragon with seven heads, the harlot sitting on many waters, and people standing on the sea of glass mixed with fire, and they all say, “Oh, obviously those are symbolic.”  But as soon as they get to the lake of fire, aack!  “That’s totally literal!” they say.  But at the beginning of Revelation John clearly states that all of Revelation is a vision.  So personally, I have come to believe it’s primarily symbolic.  Revelation is the only place in the Bible that even refers to the lake of fire.

Along with her fluid commentary, Ferwerda includes gems from Greek and Hebrew which help clarify the intended meaning of the Bible writers.  Such gems include:

fire = pur (from which we get our English words pure and purify)

brimstone = theion (divine incense, to purify, and to ward off disease)

torment = basanizo (to test for purity by touchstone)

*Other important words with which every believer should study out on their own: krisis, apollumi, ekklesia, satan, aion. olam, all of the “hell” words, and many more.

Part Two of Raising Hell addresses concerns about the human experience and how it relates to our heavenly Father.  An interesting section includes a list of characteristics of loving parents which includes that they “only intend good for their children”, “make sure the punishment fits the crime”, “understand there are factors behind disobedience”, “demonstrate fair and consistent character”, “ultimately long to be restored in relationship”, and of course, “never give up.”  Ferwerda examines the experiences of the helpless, the homeless, widows, orphans, blind, deaf, lame, sick, and even enemies.  The enemies section opens with one of my favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes, “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?”  Ferwerda considers what orthodox Christianity claims God does to His enemies and says, “If this is what our ‘Father’ is really like, and we are to imitate Him as ‘sons of the Most High,’ shouldn’t we turn our backs on our enemies, damn them, and then build torture chambers for them?”

Theologian William Barclay said, “The only victory love can enjoy is the day when its offer of love is answered by the return of love.  The only possible final triumph is a universe loved by God and in love with God.”  Ferwerda says, “I am positively stumped whenever I share the good, wonderful, awesome news of God’s plan to save all with my Christian friends and some of them, without even stopping to consider a few of my valid points, or to question the process that led me to this belief, or to take any time whatsoever to look into the possibilities, respond with, ‘I’m sad for you, Julie.”  I share in her experience, as does everyone I know who has Amazing Hope.  We wonder how it is that people who we call friends have no interest in allowing us to explain to them how our lives were dramatically affected in the most wonderful way.  If we got to go backstage and meet someone famous, they would want to know all about it, how did you get back there, what did you see, what was it like to meet him/her, etc.  It’s very strange, the lack of interest, the defiant talk-to-the-hand, the “so long (insert name here)” tweet, the heretic label, the icy reception, the fake friendliness, the back-stabbing gossip, etc., very strange behavior out of people who claim to live in light and love.

I appreciate the fact that this book is well organized, with headings for each chapter section.  As I am making my way through the book for the purpose of this review, I see the section called Only One Chance? where Ferwerda makes a very good point:

I have asked people the question, “Where in the Bible does it say that this mortal lifetime is the only opportunity we get to be saved?”  To which they usually respond with Hebrews 9:27, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”  This is certainly the verse I was taught to use in such cases in my years of evangelism training, but if you examine the verse more closely, does it really say anything about having only one chance to be saved?  All men are appointed to die, fact established.  Yes, there will be a Judgment – the Bible teaches that it will last a whole age.  But where in this verse is the one-chance-or-you-damned-forever teaching?  I’m pretty sure people make the mental leap because they assume the Judgment is a “you’re in or you’re out” situation, based on their church teachings.

The next section asks, Does Everyone Really Get a Fair Chance Now?, to which many people reply with Romans 4:20.  Ferwerda quotes the verse in a typical modern translation, which I’ve read many times, but I don’t recall ever understanding it as thoroughly as I did with her emphasis on those words which indicate about whom this verse speaks, and since she suggested, “If you read this passage in context and especially in a more literal rendering, you find quite a different message:

For God’s indignation is being revealed from heaven on all the irreverence and injustice of people who are supressing the truth in injustice, because that which is known of God is apparent among them, for God makes it apparent to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His enduring power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that [these] people are without excuse.  Because the ones knowing God did not glorify or thank Him but they were made vain in their reasonings and darkened is their unintelligent heart.  Alleging themselves to be wise, they are made stupid, and they change the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of an image of a corruptible human… Wherefore God gives them over, in the lusts of their hearts, to the uncleanness of dishonoring their bodies among themselves, those who alter the truth of God into the lie, and are venerated, and offer divine service to the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for the ages!  Amen.

Ferwerda notes:

The people being talked about in this passage were those who already knew God, stopped acknowledging the truth about His character, suppressed the truth that had been revealed to them, and then taught lies.  This is not saying that all people everywhere have had the truth of God revealed to them, but rather that those who did were not faithful with it, and became darkened in their understanding.  It is these people who are without excuse.

Chapter Twelve, Tracing Gospel History, is a more thorough examination of ideas introduced in chapter six.

As I celebrated in the video, Christian Universalism, the Internet is to the modern day church (I’m not talking about a building, but people) as the printing press was to the Reformation.  A dramatic shift in spiritual understanding is underway because we finally have the ability to access information which demonstrates where and how corruptive influence has taken place, to separate truth from deception, to be given a fair shot at truth as it is instead of how the religious elite portrays it!  Ferwerda recognizes this as well.  She writes,

The Internet, with its unlimited access to information, is quite possibly the most stunning, magnificent, brilliant plan of God for our world today.  We now have the ability to research ancient writings and books that at one time were only available in a few obscure libraries and even rare collections.

There are definitely sections of this book which I will revisit and use as a springboard for further prayerful thought and study, namely, chapters thirteen, sixteen, and seventeen, entitled Hebrew ABC’s, The Two Major Covenants, and The Great Harvests, where Ferwerda touches on some very interesting subjects such as the contrast between history unfolding in repeated cycles and the idea of dispensationalism, as well as the apparent progressive patterns of fulfillment in prophecy which move from tangible to intangible, from external to internal.  I imagine she could have written an entire book on this subject alone.  Other subjects include the spiritual significance of Hebrew feasts, the “unilateral, unconditional” Abrahamic covenant versus the conditional Mosaic covenant and how these are relevant to citizenship in the Kingdom, the Millennial Kingdom belief in early church history, the Barley (firstfruits) Harvest contrasted with the Wheat (Pentecost) Harvest, the Grape Harvest.  Ferwerda does a good job of wetting the appetite of the reader to look into these matters further.

*I’ll continue with the book review in the next blog post.


  • Kevin July 27, 2011 at 2:55 am

    Wonderful review of Julie’s book! I’ve started reading “Raising Hell,” can’t wait to finish it.

  • Mary Vanderplas July 27, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    I agree with the basic argument concerning the doctrine of eternal torment. Most compelling for me is the analogy of a human parent and how unthinkable it is that any good and loving parent would punish a child cruelly and beyond measure. I agree, too, that to interpret Rev. 20:14 as teaching that human beings will be thrown into a literal lake of fire is to grossly misinterpret this text, for the reasons the author of the book cited. (I like the idea of judgment as purification, though this doesn’t really fit the picture of Death and Hades being cast into the “lake of fire.”)

    I am less convinced than you and the author of the book are about universal salvation, even though I share your aversion to eternal torment. I still can’t entirely rule out the possibility that God will allow those who in their lifetime lived as those who were alienated from him to persist in their self-chosen alienation. At the same time, though, I agree that there is something wrong and perverse about Christians holding on tenaciously to the doctrine of eternal torment or even to the doctrine of limited salvation, refusing even to entertain the possibility that God in his great mercy might act in the end to bring to himself every lost one of his children. This sort of stinginess on the part of believers almost certainly says more about the persons who hold the doctrine and about their failure to grasp the depth of their own need than it does about God’s intentions toward those who persist in rebellion.

    I have problems with the author’s take on several of the passages you cite. While I agree that the text from Jeremiah 8 is an indictment directed toward Judah’s leadership, specifically toward the scribes, who intentionally distorted the meaning of the Torah for self-serving purposes, I don’t agree that the message here is to watch out for those who have mistranslated the Bible, intentionally or unintentionally, in ways that distort or obscure the truth. The issue, in my view, is not identifying mistranslations but interpreting difficult texts or texts that present a different and seemingly conflicting picture of who God is than the picture of God that is presented in other texts. The answer isn’t, in my view, to gloss over the hard or seemingly conflicting texts or to write them off as erroneous, but to wrestle with them and to do so in light of the character of God as good and loving and gracious.

    On the issue of only one chance, I don’t disagree that the text from Hebrews 9 does not say anything about having only one chance to be saved. I would go even further, though, and argue that the text has nothing to do with our death and judgment. Read in context, it is about the nature of Christ’s ministry as high priest: his sacrifice for sin was done once for all. Our death and judgment – which occur only once – are analogies of Christ’s ministry.

    I don’t agree at all with the interpretation of the text from Romans 1. The guilty in view here are not a select group who once knew God but who stopped acknowledging him, etc., as the author of the book contends. Paul’s emphasis in Romans is that all have sinned, Jew and Gentile alike, that no one is without guilt, and that all are deserving of judgment. Here in the first chapter he seems to have in mind particularly those who refused to acknowledge the God worshiped by Jews and Christians, though his words really apply to all humanity. The revelation of God is present in the created world, Paul is saying; and those who refuse to acknowledge God, who suppress their knowledge of God, are without excuse. Far from saying that only some are guilty, Paul is saying that all are sinful and in need of God’s grace.

    Regarding the presence of universalism in the early centuries of Christianity, it is far from certain whether the church fathers the author mentions, including Origen, embraced this doctrine, at least in the sense of believing that in the end all persons will be restored to God. Still, that there were at least hints of universalism (and challenges to the belief that hell is eternal) in the early history of the church is hard to deny and significant in itself, supporting the author’s well-taken point that the development of “orthodoxy” was hardly a straightforward process.

    • admin July 28, 2011 at 11:00 am

      The church fathers she mention absolutely did embrace the idea of all saved. I can quote them for you if you want.

      • Mary Vanderplas July 28, 2011 at 9:57 pm

        I don’t doubt that you can find passages in the writings of these Christian fathers that state or imply universal salvation. But there are other places in their writings that call into question whether they were universalists in the strict sense of the term – i.e., holding to the belief that in the end every person will be saved. For example, in The Stromata, Clement of Alexandria talks about Christ being the Savior and Lord of all, but he also distinguishes between the Gnostic, the “simple believer,” and the heathen, implying that belief accompanied by right action is requisite for salvation. In talking about the future resurrection (in his First Letter), he says that “the Creator of the universe raises up those who have served him in holiness and in the assurance born of good faith.” In the same letter he also says that nothing is beyond God’s reach, that God will do everything he wants to, and that nothing God has purposed will fail – statements which, taken together, seem to affirm universal salvation.

        The same can be said of Origen, namely, that in some places he speaks pretty clearly of universal salvation, while in others he seems to be saying that only those who choose God and live a good and virtuous life will be saved. I’ll admit here that as I went back and read some of the relevant sections in his On First Principles, there is quite a bit to suggest that he was a universalist. But there are some passages that cast doubt on his view, as the following: “But that fate also which is mentioned in the Gospels as overtaking unfaithful stewards who, it is said, are to be divided, and a portion of them placed along with unbelievers, as if that portion which is not their own were to be sent elsewhere, undoubtedly indicates some kind of punishment on those whose spirit, as it seems to me, is shown to be separated from the soul. For if this Spirit is of divine nature, i.e., is understood to be a Holy Spirit, we shall understand this to be said of the gift of the Holy Spirit: that when, whether by baptism, or by the grace of the Spirit, the word of wisdom, or the word of knowledge, or of any other gift, has been bestowed upon a man, and not rightly administered, i.e., either buried in the earth or tied up in a napkin, the gift of the Spirit will certainly be withdrawn from his soul, and the other portion which remains, that is, the substance of the soul, will be assigned its place with unbelievers, being divided and separated from that Spirit with whom, by joining itself to the Lord, it ought to have been one spirit. Now, if this is not to be understood of the Spirit of God, but of the nature of the soul itself, that will be called its better part which was made in the image and likeness of God; whereas the other part, that which afterwards, through its fall by the exercise of free-will, was assumed contrary to the nature of its original condition of purity—this part, as being the friend and beloved of matter, is punished with the fate of unbelievers. There is also a third sense in which that separation may be understood, this viz., that as each believer, although the humblest in the Church, is said to be attended by an angel, who is declared by the Saviour always to behold the face of God the Father, and as this angel was certainly one with the object of his guardianship; so, if the latter is rendered unworthy by his want of obedience, the angel of God is said to be taken from him, and then that part of him— the part, viz., which belongs to his human nature— being rent away from the divine part, is assigned a place along with unbelievers, because it has not faithfully observed the admonitions of the angel allotted it by God.”

        Given your interest in universalism, you’ve no doubt spent more time than I have in recent years studying the writings of the early church fathers on this particular subject. I would be interested to know from your research specific references in their writings that speak unequivocally of belief in universal salvation.

        • admin July 28, 2011 at 10:25 pm

          Having their portion with unbelievers is not the same as eternal torment in hell or annihilation. It is their portion with unbelievers in judgment. Being disqualified from the first resurrection. I spend most of my time in this area of study prior to believing in universal reconciliation, a little over three years ago now, becoming more and more convinced as I went. I’ll try to retrace my steps, but it might take a while. I kind of set all of that aside once I stopped fighting that fight if you know what I mean.

        • admin July 30, 2011 at 3:29 pm

          Clement of Alexandria

          “And how is He Saviour and Lord, if not the Saviour and Lord of all? But He is the Saviour of those who have believed, because of their wishing to know; and the Lord of those who have not believed, till, being enabled to confess him, they obtain the peculiar and appropriate boon which comes by Him.”

          “..all things are arranged with a view to the salvation of the universe by the Lord of the universe, both generally and particularly. It is then the function of the righteousness of salvation to improve everything as far as practicable. For even minor matters are arranged with a view to the salvation of that which is better, and for an abode suitable for people’s character. Now everything that is virtuous changes for the better; having as the proper cause of change the free choice of knowledge, which the soul has in its own power. But necessary corrections, through the goodness of the great overseeing Judge, both by the attendant angels, and by various acts of anticipative judgment, and by the perfect judgment, compel egregious sinners to repent.”

          “1 John 2:2. ‘And not only for our sins,’–that is for those of the faithful, – is the Lord the propitiator, does he say, “but also for the whole world.” He, indeed, saves all; but some [He saves], converting them by punishments; others, however, who follow voluntarily [He saves] with dignity of honour; so “that every knee should bow to Him, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth;” that is, angels, men, and souls that before His advent have departed from this temporal life. ”


          “Stronger than all the evils in the soul is the Word, and the healing power that dwells in Him, and this healing He applies, according to the will of God, to everyman. The consummation of all things is the destruction of evil…to quote Zephaniah: “My determination to gather the nations, that I am assemble the kings, to pour upon them mine indignation, even say all my fierce anger, for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent”…Consider carefully the promise, that all shall call upon the Name of the Lord, and serve him with one consent.”

          “Seeing, then, that such is the end, when all enemies will be subdued to Christ, when death – the last enemy – shall be destroyed, and when the kingdom shall be delivered up by Christ (to whom all things are subject) to God the Father; let us, I say, from such an end as this, contemplate the beginnings of things. For the end is always like the beginning: and, therefore, as there is one end to all things, so ought we to understand that there was one beginning; and as there is one end to many things, so there spring from one beginning many differences and varieties, which again, through the goodness of God, and by subjection to Christ, and through the unity of the Holy Spirit, are recalled to one end, which is like unto the beginning.”

          “…When the Son is said to be subject to the Father, the perfect restoration of the whole of creation is signified, so also, when enemies are said to be subjected to the Son of God, the salvation of the conquered and the restoration of the lost is in that understood to consist.”

          “We think, indeed, that the goodness of God, through His Christ, may recall all His creatures to one end, even His enemies being conquered and subdued…. for Christ must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet.”

          Didymus the Blind

          “In the liberation of all no one remains a captive; at the time of the Lord’s passion, he alone (the devil) was injured, who lost all the captives he was keeping.”

          “For although the Judge at times inflicts tortures and anguish on those who merit them, yet he who more deeply scans the reasons of things, perceiving the purpose of his goodness, who desires to amend the sinner, confesses him to be good.”

          “As men, by giving up their sins, are made subject to him (Christ), so too, the higher intelligences, freed by correction from their willful sins, are made subject to him, on the completion of the dispensation ordered for the salvation of all. God desires to destroy evil, therefore evil is (one) of those things liable to destruction. Now that which is of those things liable to destruction will be destroyed.”

          Gregory of Nyssa

          “…God shows that neither is sin from eternity nor will it last to eternity. Wickedness being thus destroyed, and its imprint being left in none, all shall be fashioned after Christ, and in all that one character shall shine, which originally was imprinted on our nature.”

          “Sin, whose end is extinction, and a change to nothingness from evil to a state of blessedness.”

          “Sin is like a plant on a house top, not rooted, not sown, not ploughed in the restoration to goodness of all things, it passes away and vanishes. So not even a trace of the evil which now abounds in us, shall remain…”

          “The soul which is united to sin must be set in the fire, so that that which is unnatural and vile may be removed, consumed by the aionion fire… the healing is accomplished in the life beyond.”

          Basil the Great

          “The Lord’s peace is co-extensive with all time. For all things shall be subject to him, and all things shall acknowledge his empire; and when God shall be all in all, those who now excite discord by revolts having been pacified, shall praise God in peaceful concord.”

          “For we have often observed that it is the sins which are consumed, not the very persons to whom the sins have befallen.”

          “The mass of men (Christians) say that there is to be an end of punishment to those who are punished.”

          Gregory of Nazianzen

          “A few drops of blood renew the whole world, and become for all men that which condensation is for milk, uniting and drawing us into one… like leaven for the entire mass, and having made that which was damned one with himself, frees the whole from damnation.”

          “God brings the dead to life as partakers of fire or light. But whether even all shall hereafter partake of God, let it be elsewhere discussed… I know also of a fire not cleansing but chastising, unless anyone chooses even in this case to regard it more humanely, and creditably to the Chastiser.”

          Theodore of Mopsuestia

          “The wicked who have committed evil the whole period of their lives shall be punished till they learn that, by continuing in sin, they only continue in misery. And when, by this means, they shall have been brought to fear God, and to regard him with good will, they shall obtain the enjoyment of his grace. For he never would have said, ‘until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing,’ unless we can be released from suffering after having suffered adequately for sin; nor would he have said, ‘he shall be beaten with many stripes,’ and again, ‘he shall be beaten with few stripes,’ unless the punishment to be endured for sin will have an end.”

          “All have the hope of rising with Christ, so that the body having obtained immortality, thenceforward the predisposition to evil should be removed. God summed up all things in Christ as though making a concise renewal and restoration of the whole creation to him. Now this will take place in a future age, when all mankind, and all powers possessed of reason, look up to him as is right, and obtain mutual concord and firm peace.”

          “God knew that men would sin in all ways, but permitted this result to come to pass, knowing that it would ultimately be for their advantage. For since God created man when he did not exist, and made him ruler of so extended a system, and offered so great blessings for his enjoyment, it was impossible that he should not have prevented the entrance of sin, if he had not known that it would be ultimately for his advantage.”
          “…the same result (as in Christ) shall be effected in all his creatures… that there should be first a dispensation including evils, and that then they should be removed and universal good take their place.”

          Perhaps you are correct in pointing out that “there are other places in their writings that call into question whether they were universalists in the strict sense of the term – i.e., holding to the belief that in the end every person will be saved”, however, one cannot hold to the idea that some experience never-ending punishment and also make statements like the ones above. Furthermore, if these statements were to be made by a pastor in front of today’s orthodox crowd, that pastor would be shown the door and called a heretic. The mindset of early Christians is most certainly different from the mindset of modern Christians, in accepting the idea that a person can be a follower of Christ without having to embrace the doctrine of eternal torment and can say things like “And how is He Saviour and Lord, if not the Saviour and Lord of all? But He is the Saviour of those who have believed, because of their wishing to know; and the Lord of those who have not believed, till, being enabled to confess him…” and “The mass of men (Christians) say that there is to be an end of punishment to those who are punished.”

  • Julie Ferwerda July 28, 2011 at 3:06 am

    Alice, I was really amazed and surprised to learn from this blog post that Hans Christian Anderson wrote The Emperor’s New Clothes as an allegory for his religious discoveries. How exciting is that? I don’t really even know how it came to me to use that, and I had no idea there was a connection. Thanks for being such a good detective. And thanks for such an awesome book review!

    • admin July 28, 2011 at 10:52 am

      I came to that conclusion on my own, and I could be wrong. But it is a very believable guess, since he wrote what he did about his worldview being radically altered and this affecting his writing.

  • […] sure to check out her review of Raising Hell on her blog, What God Does. […]

  • […] (Part One) Book Review: Raising Hell […]

  • Acushla July 29, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    If there is no Hell, there is no Heaven, there is no Eternity. Our LORD YAHSHUA is not a liar, HE means what HE says and says what HE means.

    • admin July 30, 2011 at 9:44 am

      “If there is no Hell, there is no Heaven, there is no Eternity.” May I ask why?

    • Lanny A. Eichert August 2, 2011 at 6:39 pm

      Below Admin has to ask “Why” because she misses your “HE means what HE says and says what HE means.” Acushia, you and I know, but she’s tripped up in her own thought process of insisting on certain meanings for certain words.

      • admin August 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm

        He chose to speak through Greek/Hebrew, not English. So every time you read what He said in English, you are reading what someone else said He said. Maybe they are right and maybe they are wrong – that’s where the homework and spiritual discernment come into play.

        • Lanny A. Eichert August 4, 2011 at 7:45 pm

          (He chose to speak through Greek/Hebrew, not English. So every time you read what He said in English, you are reading what someone else said He said.) That’s quite a bold all inclusive discrediting of ALL other texts, Alice, leaving the reader of the Bible no solid foundation since in general the reader is not a scholar of either Greek or Hebrew languages. Won’t you give any estimate of the accuracy of any translations?

          • admin August 4, 2011 at 8:45 pm

            I think that if someone who God has gifted with spiritual discernment reads a variety of translations and researches anything that contradicts with anything else they might have a good working (although not perfect) idea of what God is communicating in any given passage.

          • Lanny A. Eichert August 4, 2011 at 10:10 pm

            I (Alice) think that if someone who God has gifted with spiritual discernment reads a variety of translations and researches anything that contradicts with anything else they might have a good working (although not perfect) idea of what God is communicating in any given passage.

            So who are those someones who God has gifted with spiritual discernment?

            • admin August 5, 2011 at 10:56 pm

              That is between the individual and God.

          • Lanny A. Eichert August 6, 2011 at 3:21 am

            And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, [even] in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. 1 John 5: 20

            Do you mean MORE than this understanding? Such as one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, meaning most saved individuals don’t have it, but only those few to whom the Holy Spirit divided to certain individuals? 1 Corinthians 12: 4 – 11 (9 gifts) or Romans 12: 6 – 8 (7 gifts)

            And what about the four gifts of Ephesians 4: 11?

            Or are you really making reference to 1 Corinthians 2: 14? But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned. So who are those who are able to spiritually discern in this context? Hint verse 12 and also 1: 30, 31

            • admin August 6, 2011 at 9:37 pm

              To be honest, I wasn’t referring to any passage of scripture (although these are all good ones) but to personal experience. I spent over a decade studying the word and not seeing things that are now very obvious to me. I do not credit myself with this. It was the Spirit of God opening my eyes, enabling me to understand.

          • Lanny A. Eichert August 7, 2011 at 12:56 am

            I do not credit myself with this. It was the Spirit of God opening my eyes, enabling me to understand.

            Joseph Smith said it was a revelation from God. You and I now it wasn’t so for him, but why?

            That is, why do we know if our understanding is a product of the Holy Spirit or not? Don’t we have to test it by the whole of Scripture? Do our likes and dislikes play a part in this judgment?

            With an undissolved populated Lake of Fire without even a hint of any future escapees, that is, without remedy in the very last revelation to be given, how can you possibly credit the Holy Spirit for opening your eyes?

            • admin August 7, 2011 at 5:59 pm

              Because my entire belief system doesn’t revolve around one small section of one book in scripture.

          • Lanny A. Eichert August 7, 2011 at 1:06 am

            Hath not the potter power over the clay, … to make one vessel … unto dishonour … to shew [his] wrath, … the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: … which he had afore prepared Romans 9: 21 – 23

            The Lord knoweth how … to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: … But these … made to be taken and destroyed … shall utterly perish … shall receive the reward of unrighteousness … to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. 2 Peter 2: 9, 12, 13, 17

            For there are certain men … who were before of old ordained to this condemnation … afterward destroyed them that believed not. … are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. … perished in the gainsaying of Core. … to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever … the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince Jude 4, 5, 7, 11, 13 – 15

          • Lanny A. Eichert August 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm

            Because my entire belief system doesn’t revolve around one small section of one book in scripture, admin said.

            You have a bad way of dismissing this one small section of one book in Scripture so that you could manipulate the rest of Scripture that agrees with it so that it wouldn’t. As previously highlighted Romans 9: 21 – 23; 2 Peter 2: 9, 12, 13, 17; Jude 4, 5, 7, 11, 13 – 15

            Alice, is this one small section of one book in Scripture truly God’s revealed Word? Or are you unjustly excusing yourself from its authority and position?

  • Symph July 30, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    I must say, I am both excited and terrified to find out that other people have been coming to this conclusion as well. Well I take that back, I’m encouraged that other people came to the conclusion, I’m terrified to actually be admitting I may believe as you do.

    One thing that always bugged me, is the idea that “God doesn’t send people to hell, they choose to go there by their sin”. Cause if you really think logically about this, no people do not “choose” to go to hell, at least not by a fair standard. 99 percent of people who are in bondage to sin and are not repenting aren’t doing it because they WANT to burn in hell, most don’t have even the slightest inkling to consider that their actions might send them there. They’re just oblivious, going through the motions of life, searching for some meaning. I’m quite sure if they really knew (which they don’t) they would be tormented forever because of their sin, they would repent. I mean, what kind of God would spring that on someone, (to the hindu) “I know that you were raised to believe what you did and you honestly thought you were right, but sorry, you picked wrong, now you’re gonna be tortured forever.” That just isn’t love no matter how you look at it, and it shouldn’t take a genius to see that.

    The Holy Spirit told me to start reading in Matthew about 7 years ago. I was scared to because I knew what I had been TOLD the Bible said, and I didn’t want to hear it myself. I didn’t want all that condemnation, I didn’t want to read about God’s firey wrath tormenting people forever and ever. I always thought to myself, “if this life is just moment in God’s perspective, why would he allow anyone to be tortured and tormented FOREVER for a life that was a “whisp of smoke”? I felt like it was my obligation as a “good christian” to not question and just accept that what everyone said about the Word was true. (I grew up Church of Christ if that tells you anything)

    But I started reading because I knew the spirit had told me to, (I was very new to hearing the prompting of the spirit, so I was shocked when it was a LOUD voice in my spirit) After I started reading, I just got more and more intrigued, I kept waiting for the “get saved or go to hell” black and white cut and dry teaching of my church body, but it wasn’t really there. INSTEAD, everything seemed like it was worded in such a way as to purposefully throw those off you just read it for surface value and don’t mull it over.

    The more I read and thought about these scriptures, the more it seemed like they were concealing a plainly revealed, yet totally secret truth, that God was going to surprise us all by saving many many more people than we thought, though I never actually went so far as to think “maybe he’ll actually save everyone”.

    Now I’m not saying I’m sold on this issue, I haven’t put near the prayer and study time into this that you have, but I’m totally intrigued now at what you have found and what research you have done, because I’ve just had this “feeling” my whole life that God was going to pleasantly surprise us all when he wraps this thing off, and another feeling that there was more to these scriptures than the cut and dry usual interpretations.

    The last thing I’ll say is that I feel I should at least call attention to one truth, whether eternally damned or not, many people are living a hell on earth, and we need to get them to Jesus to save them from THAT hell. Anyway, thanks for letting me share, I’ve been given much to think and pray about.

    • admin July 30, 2011 at 9:29 pm

      Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts concerning His glory. I hope and pray that you continue on this journey with an open mind and His love in your heart.

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