Tuesday Ear Tickler: Frank Schaeffer Rails Against Belief in Hell

clock September 25, 2012 01:09 by author John |

The Tuesday Ear Tickler award is Solemn Charge’s weekly recognition of teachers who “Tickle the Ears” of those who “no longer endure sound doctrine”. In the spirit of 2 Timothy 4 2-4, this award serves to identify theological or doctrinal errors, dissent or hostility toward the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, or writing that undermines the purpose of each human soul – to know love and serve God so as to enjoy eternal happiness with Him in Heaven. I make no judgment of the writer’s intentions. Usually the winner of this award was raised in the 60’s so that right there is a mitigating factor toward their culpability for their actions. I do judge concrete actions and the quality of ideas, however…

Today’s winner is Frank Schaeffer writing on the CNN DisBelief Blog. We have a special treat for this iteration of the Ear Tickler Award: a good ol’ fashioned Hell denier! Schaeffer's father was a prominent Evangelical Christian Theologian, Francis Schaeffer. The apple may not have fallen far from the tree, but it seems to have rolled quite a way in this case. Schaeffer lays out his case for disbelief in Hell… (Schaeffer’s comments in the red quote boxes, my comments in black, Jesus' comments in red font.)

My Faith: The dangerous effects of believing in hell

Is it any coincidence that the latest war of religion that started on September 11, 2001, is being fought primarily between the United States and the Islamic world? It just so happens that no subgroups of humanity are more ingrained with the doctrine of hell than conservative Muslims and conservative Christians.

I see, so we are already lumping faithful Christians in with Islamic terrorists. This seems a little over the line until you realize that Schaeffer is an Obama lackey and a “pro-life, pro-Obama” oxymoron apologist. You know, the Obama that thinks pro-lifers are a terrorist group.

So whether you're an atheist or not, the issue of who's going to hell or not matters because there are a lot of folks on this planet – many of them extraordinarily well-armed - from born-again American military personnel to Muslim fanatics, who seriously believe that God smiles upon them when they send their enemies to hell.

At first, I thought this was just a sarcastic remark. Then after reading the rest of the article, I have come to realize that Schaeffer is not well-read when it comes to the teachings on hell, justice, and mercy. I do realize that the 9/11 terrorists may have thought they were purchasing their eternal reward with their actions, but it seems a bit juvenile to plaster that belief on the people who are defending our country. A quick 5-minute look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church would have served him well before making such ridiculous comments. By the way, the issue of hell will be very important for all of us, with implications reaching far beyond the worldly ones.

And so my view of "hell" encompasses two things: First, the theological question about whether a land of eternal suffering exists as God's "great plan" for most of humanity.

“God’s great plan for most of humanity”? These are the kinds of statements that reveal his lack of understanding of the subject matter. God’s plan for us is to know, love and serve Him in this life so that we can enjoy the rewards of our actions in Heaven. Hell is a choice some of us make. God doesn’t plan on any of us going to hell. He does however give us the choice to love Him and our neighbors. If we reject that choice, in the end, God is just giving us what we wanted when we rejected Him. Heaven is the joy of eternity with God. The eternity of sadness due to the separation from God is the part of hell that frightens me more than any temporal pains from fire.

Second, the question of the political implications of having a huge chunk of humanity believe in damnation for those who disagree with their theology, politics and culture, as if somehow simply killing one's enemies is not enough.

While there are many that believe this, it seems to me that a well-educated Christian would come to the conclusion, as the Catholic Church has, that God doesn’t damn people to hell because they don't hold a theological point or two. Damnation is a consequence of our pride and rejection of God’s grace.

Since Christianity is my tradition, I can say more about it. One view of God - the more fundamentalist view - is of a retributive God just itching to punish those who "stray."

Again, this is a shallow view.

The other equally ancient view, going right back into the New Testament era, is of an all-forgiving God who in the person of Jesus Christ ended the era of scapegoat sacrifice, retribution and punishment forever.

As Jesus said on the cross: "Forgive them for they know not what they do."

What Schaeffer is missing here is the fact that forgiveness must be sought out. God does not bestow forgiveness on any and every person regardless of their disposition toward Him. It is true that God forgives people no matter how severe their sins, but we must first humble ourselves to seek that forgiveness. It’s the humbling ourselves part that many cannot bring themselves to.

While Jesus did seek forgiveness for the people crucifying Him, he also said:

Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:4-6

That doesn’t sound all-forgiving to me. How about you?

That redemptive view holds that far from God being a retributive God seeking justice, God is a merciful father who loves all his children equally. This is the less-known view today because fundamentalists - through televangelists and others - have been so loud and dominant in North American culture.

Schaeffer doesn’t want a merciful father. He wants a non-confrontational grandfather who just gives his grandkids candy and a few dollars every time he sees them. A loving father disciplines His children so that they will develop virtue and love Him for giving them life, character and knowledge of good and evil. If your child runs into the street do you reward him or punish him? A loving father punishes appropriately so that the child learns from making mistakes.

But for all that, this redemptive view is no less real.

Why does our view of hell matter? Because believers in hell believe in revenge. And according to brain chemistry studies, taking revenge and nurturing resentment is a major source of life-destroying stress.

“Believers in hell believe in revenge”. How do you like that for a blanket statement? I believe in hell, but I also believe that revenge is a great way to reject God’s will for us to “love our enemies”. Revenge is a sure path to hell for the one executing the revenge. A principled person also believes in self-defense, which is what the United States is doing against those who seek to wipe us off the map.

We need “hell” like a hole in the head. It’s time for the alternative of empathetic merciful religion to be understood.

We need Schaeffer’s shallow views on hell like we need a hole in the head. Allow me to make this very clear. Hell is a choice. No one goes to hell by accident. If you end up there, it is because you rejected God and His mercy. While God is merciful, he is also just. By denying the existence of hell, you are denying God’s infinite justice. It wouldn’t make sense for all of the runners in a race to win the Olympic gold medal, no matter how slow they ran. Likewise, it wouldn’t make sense for God to award the eternal joy of Heaven to those who don’t want it or have forsaken the love of God for the instant gratification and fleeting fun of a depraved life. It would make even less sense for the reward of Heaven to be indiscriminately given to those who would live in disregard or contempt for the moral law and reject the many graces given to them to help them turn back to God.

The dangerous part about what Schaeffer spews here is that it nullifies the struggle each of us makes against evil within our own souls. If we don't believe in hell, then there is no way we can believe in Heaven either. How could a just God allow one without the other? What happens after we die? Do we all go to heaven? If so, then why should I struggle to do good if doing evil will get me the same reward? Why not have some carnal fun in the process? If there is no hell, why not just dispatch everyone that doesn't agree with me? Has Schaeffer really not thought about these questions? Or is he just trying to sell a book with a sensationalist article to get attention?

I hereby award the Tuesday Ear Tickler Award to Frank Schaeffer for Tuesday, September 25, 2012.

Muslims Storm US Embassy in Libya and Cairo, Kill Diplomats and Staff.

clock September 12, 2012 09:21 by author John |

This is terrible! Muslims have stormed 2 US embassies is Cairo and Libya and killed a US Diplomat and staff members. Apparently they were angry about a movie made by an Israeli about Muslims and Mohammed. These are the adherents of the "Religion of Peace", right? Rather than issue a strong response, the Obama administration called out the filmmaker and showed a moral equivalence between the killing with the offending movie as if they were equally wrong and offensive.

Give it time - these people will not stop until every last Christian and Jew is converted or killed. President Obama will continue to sit by and "condemn" the attacks but do nothing in response.

Why did God Allow 9/11 to Happen?

clock September 11, 2012 08:24 by author John |

Why did God allow 9/11?

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was a freshman at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Walking down the stairs of my dorm at around 9:00, I noticed about a dozen people glued to the television, watching Fox News. I noticed a building with smoke pouring out of it. It looked like the World Trade Center, but it seemed so surreal that I doubted that was actually the case. I sat down briefly and watched for a few minutes as the news came across the television.

So many thoughts were going through my head as I tried to comprehend what had happened. My mind began racing. I thought that it must have been a terrible accident. Was the pilot asleep or intoxicated? Distracted? How could a plane be flying that low over New York? How many people were killed or injured? We should say a prayer. I hope they can get everyone out before the fire spreads. It seemed like I was there for an hour, such is the way the mind works in situations like these. It turned out that I was only there for about 3 or 4 minutes until it happened.

I saw the second plane hit the other tower at about 9:03. I was in shock and disbelief set in. I remember thinking: How could this be possible? This must have been on purpose. Who did this? They are going to pay. Whatever my responsibilities were that morning – classes, most likely, I decided that they were not important. I was going to watch this scene as it unfolded. I prayed as I watched the smoke pouring from the buildings.

After a while, the reports started coming in that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon. Bad move, I remember thinking. By this time, there was a pretty good indication or at least a suspicion that Islamic terrorists were behind this. I got angry. I knew we would be at war.

After United flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, things began to hit a little more. That was only about 100 miles from Steubenville in a straight line. I remember feeling vulnerable. Could they possibly attack here? I mean Catholic and Muslims are not exactly best of friends. If you were going to attack a Catholic institution in the United States, Franciscan University would have to be at the top of the list.

I went to the Portiuncula (the adoration chapel on campus) to pray. I don’t remember what I said to God during those moments, but I do remember the fervor with which I was praying. Rarely did I ever pray that hard before. The chapel was relatively empty – maybe three people were there with me. There must be some people who still don’t know I thought. After a short time, people started to slowly enter the chapel. It began to fill up, so I decided to leave, since I had basically said everything I wanted to say to God and others could use the space.

Returning to the dorm, I called my parents. They were worried. They had been trying to call me, but communication lines were clogged that day. I guess they had trouble getting through. They didn’t know how far Shanksville, PA was from Steubenville, but they knew it was close. I told them I was OK, discussed the events a bit with them and then said goodbye. I didn’t feel like talking about it. It was too raw for me.

Word spread that classes were cancelled for the day. That was a good decision I thought. No one will go to class today anyway. Even if they did, they will not focus on the lecture. Their minds will be elsewhere. I remember thinking “Why would God allow this”?

That question still bothers me to this day. It seems contrary to human reason that a God that is all-good would allow evil. The problem with that line of thinking is that it assumes God created or condones evil. That is not the case. God gives us free will. Rather than force us to love Him, He allows us to choose to love Him. Love not freely given is not love at all. Evil is the absence of good. Where God has left the hearts of men, the void is filled with selfishness, pride, and most importantly, sin.

Evil is the manifestation of the choice we all make: that is, whether to love God or to love sin. Clearly the terrorists on that day made a choice for sin, for hatred, revenge, murder, war, however you describe it, it is the same thing: evil.

The best way we can honor those who lost their lives that day is to live our lives with an urgent dedication to God. We don’t know who from that terrible scene gained the eternal reward of Heaven. That is not in our control. It is God’s mercy that will determine their eternal reward. Our destiny is in our hands however. We can gain Heaven by loving God with fervent dedication, vigilance against evil, and the frequent reception of the sacraments, particularly confession. Let us honor the fallen by our lives, lived in virtue.