Rules for Teaching Hell

Rules for Teaching Hell

Rules for Teaching Hell

Guidelines and Rules for Teaching Hell

Guidelines

Let’s be honest, Sunday School teachers and small group leaders. It’s terribly uncomfortable to talk about Hell. Here are some age-appropriate guidelines and rules to help you as you help us preserve this essential doctrine.

Age 2-8

We don’t really want to teach young children about Hell. But since our doctrine of the Age of Accountability has little or no Scriptural support, it’s probably a good idea to at least introduce the concept. Since younger children do not yet have the ability to think logically, they will generally accept whatever you tell them, as long as you keep it simple. You can read them Hell proof texts, but they probably won’t understand. Here’s an article that might help. Divert all questions to parents, as younger children could become traumatized if you attempt to answer their questions in any detail. They might pose profoundly difficult-to-answer questions, anyhow, so it’s best to just let their parents sort it out for them.

Age 9-12

Teaching older children about hell may a bit more challenging, because by ages 9-12, children are developing logical and rational thought. And not only this, but they are much better at seeing things through another person’s point or view. This may cause some problems with teaching Hell, but fortunately, they still rely on what they can see and touch to learn. They will probably ask a lot of questions. We will provide cheerful, colorful illustrations, activity materials, and media so that you can redirect their attention to more positive things like salvation, God’s love, and being kind to one another.

Age 13-18

It will be challenging to teach teens about Hell, because they can recognize how their own thought processes work and may refuse to have their attention redirected. In addition, they are more bold with grown-ups than ever before, and they can speculate about alternative explanations to orthodoxy. Familiarize yourself with all the Hell proof texts and be prepared to engage in some discussion. The key here is to exclusively use the infallible, complete, authoritative, sufficient, Holy Bible, along with your authority to correctly interpret it, to make your case, and not allow their common sense or logic (2 Timothy 3:7) to interfere with God’s Word. If you can point to a page, and words like eternalHell, torment, Lake of Fire, destruction, judgment, etc. are clearly there in plain English, teens will likely back off for fear of looking stupid in front of their church friends. If necessary, acknowledge that there are a few (emphasize few) Christians who believe in annihilation. This will not only give an opportunity for the teen to save face by “winning” the argument, but it will help prevent the discussion from progressing to universalism, the most dangerous heresy of them all.

Age 19+

Teaching adults about hell isn’t too difficult, because teens who oppose the doctrine tend to avoid church as adults. Adults who become church members generally understand that the church has its orthodox doctrines, and that challenging them is pointless. If they disagree, they usually keep it to themselves and have little or no impact on the normal role and function of our traditional beliefs regarding eternal torment. There are exceptions, however, and for these exceptions, we have created a convenient list of rules to follow in order to maintain the perfect, loving unity of the church.

Rules

  1. Focus on God’s love. Spend the majority of your lesson on God’s love, salvation through Jesus Christ, loving others, and growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, mentioning Hell only in passing when it seems appropriate.
  2. You can read Hell proof texts, but when you are expounding on them, avoid using words like conscious torment, burning that is not quenched, crying, etc., because people might become skeptical about the doctrine of eternal torment. Instead, use words like final judgment, condemnation, outer darkness, or eternal separation from God. These words are more abstract, and consequently, have less emotional and intellectual impact and are less likely to draw unwanted scrutiny to the doctrine of eternal torment.
  3. Avoid specific questions about Hell, if at all possible.
  4. If questions are unavoidable, try to keep your explanations very general. For example, you could say, “Hell is the opposite of Heaven” or “His ways are higher than our ways” or “People choose to go to Hell.” Speak in a matter-of-fact tone and appeal to your position of authority in the church. If you are unable to end the conversation, then spend about 10-20 minutes or so having some surface-level discussion, so no one can say that orthodox doctrines can’t be challenged. Don’t let the conversation get out of control, though. If at any point the question-askers seem to be about to cross the line from curiosity about the doctrine to taking a firm stand against the doctrine, the discussion should be redirected right away. Always having church-approved study materials really helps in a situation like this, because you can remind everyone, “We’ll never get through this lesson if we keep getting sidetracked.” More than likely everyone will laugh and the whole thing will be forgotten. Another suggestion is to identify the one who is most interested in keeping the conversation going and tell him/her that after the class ends, you’ll stay behind to talk. After class, just repeat the steps in rule 4, and then politely dismiss yourself from the conversation after about 5-10 minutes, saying, “Let’s just agree to disagree.” (You may need to move on to rule 5.)
  5. Regarding adults with too many questions or belief-opposing ideas, ask an elder or pastor to talk to them, according to Matthew 18:15. Pastors/elders, make sure you meet privately, to maintain the public perception of your authority to interpret scripture more accurately than them. Direct them to that portion of the Statement of Faith dealing with eternal torment in Hell. For example, “We believe… the unbeliever, upon physical death, enters immediately into eternal, conscious separation from the Lord and awaits the resurrection of his body to everlasting judgment and condemnation.” Point out that it says, “We believe…” The unspoken implication here is that if they do NOT believe, then they aren’t really included in the “We.” This will lovingly plant the idea in their minds that they could feel some unexpected pressure from their peers should they continue listening to Satan’s lies. WARNINGDuring this meeting it is extremely important that the topic of discussion is only a cursory overview of the doctrine itself. Control the conversation, redirecting the listener to the authority of the Bible (church-approved translation and interpretation) and the authority of pastors and elders in the church. Do not engage in any significant opposition and rebuttal about the doctrine of eternal torment.
  6. If a member has already met privately with a pastor, yet openly challenges the doctrine by having in-depth conversations with other members, holding unapproved Bible study meetings with other members, posting belief-opposing materials on social media and/or blogs, using literal Bible translations, concordances, or reading/recommending belief-opposing materials (books, websites, etc), it’s definitely time to call an official a meeting with the pastor and elders, according to Matthew 18:16. Don’t waste any time putting out this fire, because it could spread if it is overlooked for too long. If a member is trapped in the sin of heresy, God commands us to confront, counsel, and encourage him/her toward repentance. A meeting with the pastor and elders may produce the desired result, or else the member may be intimidated into silence or leave the church. Regardless, the problem is then resolved. WARNING: During this meeting it is extremely important that the topic of discussion is not a debate about the doctrine itself, but instead, it is about the authority of the Bible (church-approved translation and interpretation) and of the authority of pastors and elders in the church. Do not engage in any meaningful discussion about the doctrine of eternal torment.
  7. If your effort to correct this offense does not produce the desired result and the member continues causing division, God commands the church leaders to intervene and exercise their authority to protect the church. The offender may attempt to use Matthew 18:17, “…tell it to the church” as a defense. WARNING: Do not bring the matter before the congregation, as this would give the offender an opportunity to spread heresy. There are probably other members who hold the same doubts about eternal torment who could be convinced of this dangerous, unholy heresy. Giving the heretic a platform will only cause further damage to the unity of the church. Instead, refer to our Shunning Rules on how to proceed. Although Jesus regularly engaged in open discussion, challenging orthodox doctrine, that was then and this is now. Orthodox doctrine is no longer publicly disputable.
  8. Christians who are really, truly convinced of the truth of eternal torment in Hell may suggest to your class that everyone there should get together and do something to warn people. Although this is admirable, and we really can’t find fault with them for feeling that way, this kind of thing can easily get out of hand. Make some positive suggestions, for example, praying together for lost loved ones.
  9. If your class is persistent about wanting to warn people about Hell, teach them the Romans Road, how to share their testimony of when they got saved, or conversation starting questions for evangelism.  The goal here is to keep conversations light, non-threatening, and positive, focusing on the love of God and salvation from sin, death, and separation from God (of course, this includes eternal death in Hell and all that goes with it, like weeping and gnashing of teeth, but we shouldn’t focus on that too much).
  10. Discourage church members from doing anything drastic, like standing on street corners holding Hell signs and warning passersby of eternal torment. This is the wrong way to go about sharing the Good News, and quite frankly, it makes the rest of us Christians look bad. Although it makes sense to do so, given the nature of endless torment with no hope of ever escaping Hell and the thought there are real human beings with very little time to make their decision to get saved, we don’t want people to think we are full of hate like members of Westboro Baptist Church. If church members decide to do this type of in-your-face evangelism on their own, you should strongly suggest that they don’t associate themselves with our church, for example, putting little yard signs with our logo in the grass, wearing our church T-shirt, or telling people they are members of this church. Our promotional materials should be used for pumpkin patches, chili cook-offs, and other congenial community events.

 

Comments
  • Lanny A. Eichert October 22, 2014 at 1:33 am

    Alice, that’s a sad commentary on your experience and bitterness. You’ll never move on if you continue to pour salt in your wounds. This blog is worthless satire. You’re wasting your time. I won’t even call it “venting” since you won’t move on. It is more like a vendetta.

    • Stephen Helbig October 22, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      Caiaphas spoke ~ 🙂 ~ John chapter 11 ~ Similar to you comment above

      • Stephen Helbig October 22, 2014 at 10:08 pm

        Caiaphas spoke ~ 🙂 ~ John chapter 11 ~ Similar to your comment above

        I find beauty in the Words of Lanny’s above comment, in lieu of the possible meaning with which those words were uttered. I see those words as being prophetic, much like the words of Caiaphas in John Chapter 11. Much like the words uttered by the Jews who came before Pilate and shouted, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25). For those words were indeed prophetic. So let me breakdown why Lanny’s words can be seen as words of beauty ~

        ~ “That’s a sad commentary on your experience and bitterness”
        ~ The teaching of Hell as taught today within the dark walls of religiosity is indeed is a sad commentary. This current doctrine, of man’s traditions, does in fact yield an experience of bitterness compared to the GOOD NEWS of LIFE FOREVERMORE

        ~ “You’ll never move on if you continue to pour salt in your wounds”.
        ~ To continue in such folklore and tradition is painful. Pouring salt on an open wound hurts, and to further hurt someone who is already injured in the falsities of this doctrine is like kicking the sheep while they’re down. Not a great method for restoration unto the eternal judgments of RIGHTEOUSNESS BY CHRIST JESUS ~ I am the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS

        ~ “This blog is worthless satire. You’re wasting your time.”
        ~ The current practices and RULES as outlined in the above blog for the teaching of Hell and Eternal Torment is a waste of valuable time. This blog is a literary work, (“worthless satire”), ~ and/or an outline yielding only to that of unfruitfulness and irony in this current state of its confusion.

        ~ “I won’t even call it “venting” since you won’t move on. It is more like a vendetta”.
        ~ If one indeed refuses to “move on”, (which I don’t believe is a correct assessment concerning Alice), if one remains stagnant, and remains in this current teaching of these traditions, it becomes a “vendetta”, ~ a “blood feud”, a feud of dispute, compared to the precious “blood of atonement”.
        Jesus said, “IT IS FINISHED”. ~ In our perfecting we must come to know that you were not redeemed with perishable things, and that the “LIFE” IS IN THE BLOOD. It was there at Golgotha, that the Lord commanded the blessing, even “LIFE” forevermore. ~ Let His blood be upon us and our children.

        • Alice Spicer October 23, 2014 at 12:37 am

          Thanks, Stephen 🙂

          • Lanny A. Eichert October 23, 2014 at 1:56 am

            Alice, it is no wonder that Stephen’s proficiency for inverting God’s words is turned to inverting my meaning as well. You should be ashamed of your blindness rather than thanking him for patting you on the back. God’s perfect literal Holy Bible still ends with unbelievers in the everlasting Lake of Fire tormented without remedy. That’s the way God deliberately ends His Revelation of Jesus Christ and you are not happy nor ever will be. God will leave you there.

            • Stephen Helbig October 23, 2014 at 12:58 pm

              I find beauty in the Words of Lanny’s above comment

              Lanny. I did not “invert YOUR meaning” or possble intent, as I made note of it in my first sentence as re-quoted hear ~ “I find beauty in the Words of Lanny’s above comment” ~ (now Lanny please take note of the last part of this sentence) ~ “IN LIEU of the ‘possible’ MEANING with which those words were UTTERED”, ~ (tying to make known the “possible” meaning and intent of your comment). ~
              Lanny, please also notice, I said, ~ “possible” meaning. ~ All words have meanings, and I truly desire to do everything in both word and deed as unto the Lord. ~ The reason I chose “possible” meaning is becuase I see Christ IN you, and I choose not to look after “a natural understanding”. ~ Now concerning the meaning of your words I too also DID NOT invert your words or misquote you, nor did I “reverse in position”, “reverse order”, or “reverse relationship” to those utilized words. This dear brother is what invert means.

              1 in•vert
              verb \in-ˈvərt\
              : to turn (something) upside down
              : to change the position, order, or relationship of things so that they are the opposite of what they had been

              Full Definition of INVERT
              transitive verb
              1 ~ a: to reverse in position, order, or relationship
              b: to subject to inversion
              2 ~ a: to turn inside out or upside down
              b: to turn inward
              3 ~ to find the mathematical reciprocal of

              Examples of INVERT
              The lens inverts the image.
              The number 9 looks like an inverted 6.
              invert the order of two words in a sentence

              —————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

              p.s. ~ By the way, God deliberately ends His Revelation of Jesus Christ with this last verse, (and I’ll try not to add to it except my smile) 🙂
              The book ends with this verse ~ (Rev. 22: 21)(KJV) ~ “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. {THE END.}”

              p.s.s. ~ So Lanny ~ Grace be with you

              p.s.s.t ~ , ~ I believe Alice’s “thank you” to me was in regards to my statement ~ “which I don’t believe is a correct assessment concerning Alice” ~ found in my sentences dealing with being stagnant 😉

    • Alice Spicer November 8, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      Instead of reading me, read what I wrote. You are probably familiar with how teaching Hell in the church works. It’s satire, yes, but satire is a form of social study to expose problems and contradictions. My hope is that readers with think the problems and contradictions to logical conclusions. I imagine it is much easier and more comfortable to write a response about the author than it is to write a response about the content.

      • Lanny A. Eichert November 9, 2014 at 12:41 am

        Alice, the context of what you wrote includes you, your experiences and reactions, why you wrote it. I read it when you posted it and gave you my evaluation of its CONTENT: a sad commentary & worthless satire.

        • Alice Spicer November 9, 2014 at 7:27 pm

          Do you think that what I wrote is inaccurate?

          • Lanny A. Eichert November 9, 2014 at 10:49 pm

            With regard to MY experience in fundamental churches your content is inaccurate, because at all ages beyond approximately 2 we teach about hell. Liberal churches are not my concern since they are merely social clubs with inaccurate religion. That’s why it is just a sad commentary & worthless satire. In my experience, I don’t see any problems and contradictions; and I recommend your dad’s Fundamental Baptist church to get your bitter ideas corrected. Liberal churches are not subject to God’s perfect literal Holy Bible, so there’s no foundation for authoritative discussion. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. {Romans 8: 7}

            Do you see that my concern is the teaching of the authoritative Bible? If you don’t have one you have nothing worth anything, just vanity. Under your Bigger Fences blog I insisted by means of the perfect literal Holy Bible, God’s salvation makes the believer perfectly blameless because all his sins are removed and he is given Jesus’ earth-life’s righteousness by the transaction of God the very moment he leaves his unbelief and starts believing God’s Biblical words regarding Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection. The result is that he is forever blameless before God, in other as words, made perfect as Jesus. A blameless person is not brought into judgment by God. God’s believer has moral certitude and has every right to express it in contrast to those who don’t have it. Poor Mary and other of your poor readers accuse me of hate speech when I state their lack of moral certitude will put them in hell followed by the Lake of Fire forever as a warning for them to repent and believe ET, everlasting torment, along with the perfection of the Holy Bible which supplies the only foundation upon which to believe on Christ for salvation. Do you see that the Lake of Fire cannot possibly be the Christian’s finishing school since he is blameless before God and perfect in every way?

  • Mary Vanderplas October 22, 2014 at 5:24 am

    I like what you say by way of “helping” church leaders in the task of indoctrinating members across the age spectrum about the doctrine of hell – and in stifling and containing questions and doubts among those who are old enough and bold enough to raise them. I think you’re right on in what you say and imply about the challenge of teaching youth what cannot be defended theologically and morally (in light of the revelation of God as love in himself) – and what likely would traumatize them if it were spelled out in any detail. I think you’re right, too, in what you say about how teachers of youth “should” deal with the doctrine: mainly by glossing over it or by appealing to authority in asserting its truth. I like the list you give of ways to handle teaching adults so as to discourage them from thinking about and challenging the doctrine – and ways to handle those who have dared to think about and challenge it. Your detailed set of “instructions” is a sad commentary on church leadership that misuses authority to squelch truth-seeking – while convincing themselves of the rightness of their actions in the interest of maintaining the doctrinal purity and unity of the church. I like what you say by way of calling attention to the hypocrisy of teaching a doctrine that would compel those who believe it to urgent action on behalf of the lost while discouraging members from taking such action in the interest of preserving the church’s positive image.

  • Stephen Helbig October 22, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    and the weeds of yesteryear
    like criminals they have choked
    the breath of conscience good cheer
    for and unto our true hope.

    p.s. ~ every generation has to be converted once again. 🙂

  • Rules for Pastors October 30, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    […] Pastors are the mouthpiece of God. Although Pastors are fallible human beings just like everyone else, during the Sunday morning sermon and other teaching opportunities they possess supernatural wisdom to correctly interpret scripture. Pastors use infallible bible translations and have been appointed by God Himself with authority when it comes to discerning spiritual truth and error. If someone disagrees with sermon or teaching content, meet privately with him/her. (Rule Two does not apply to office hours and private conversations, so admitting error or doubt may be permissible within this context. However, under no circumstance should a Pastor admit error or doubt about orthodox doctrines, for example, eternal conscious separation from God. For more information, read Rules for Teaching Hell.) […]

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