What do you think of hell?

Is it a real place — perhaps a fiery pit or lake? Are there levels of hell? Is it eternal separation from God? Is purgatory real? Can one work his or her way from hell to heaven?

All of these views can be found in Christian beliefs depending on denomination. And, for many people, their views of heaven actually come from literature, such as “Dante’s Inferno,” rather than from scripture.

And of course, many people don’t believe in hell at all.

Rethinking eternity

On July 11-12, the first Rethinking Hell Conference was held in Houston. It brought together speakers from several countries and viewpoints.

The Rethinking Hell project is a group encouraging people to reconsider their beliefs about hell and to correct any mistaken beliefs they have, using the Bible as their guide.

On its website, it says Rethinking Hell is a partnership between two groups of people: Evangelical Christians who have worked to revise their beliefs and concluded that Conditionalism, one of three main categories of beliefs, is the most biblical view; and people who are willing to investigate the case for Conditionalism.

Rethinking Hell.com says, “There are three views of Hell, labeled most efficiently: Traditionalism, Conditionalism and Universalism. The traditional, majority view is commonly and non-pejoratively called “Traditionalism” in this context, and sometimes delineated “Eternal, Conscious Torment.”

Conditionalism is short for Conditional Immortality, a perspective incorporating Annihilationism. Universalism is sometimes referred to as Universal Restoration or Universal Reconciliation.”

A quick look at theological dictionaries shows the traditional view of hell is the place of eternal punishment, often filled with flames, for the unrighteous. Universalists teach that everyone eventually makes it into heaven.

Rethinking Hell claims, “We believe that those who are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ have their sins forgiven, and receive the gift of eternal life. We believe that the unsaved do not have eternal “life” in Hell, but will be resurrected in order to face judgment, and receive the penalty of death (“The Second Death”), which is permanent (eternally effective).”

The Rethinking Hell site has a welcome page that spells out its basic beliefs. The site also leads to its blog, podcast and forum.

Your views

So what do you think? Tell us about hell. Keep your answers brief and send them to lenglish@theadvocate.com or to Leila Pitchford-English, P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. Include full name, where you live and a way to contact you if we have questions. We may publish some answers in a future edition.