A pulpit, a pastor, and a hellacious controversy

You’ve probably heard the story by now about Chad Holtz, the United Methodist pastor who was removed for his views on hell.  Holtz claims after he posted entries on Facebook and personal blog about his doubting a literal hell, the congregants at Marrow’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Henderson, N.C. asked him to resign his pastorship and leave the pulpit.

Holtz in his postings said he agreed with Rob Bell’s views in Bell’s new book Love Wins.  Bell is a pastor in Grand Rapids, MI of a church called Mars Hill Bible Church.  He boasts 10,000 members.  He recently raised a controversy via YouTube over his Universalist views that everyone goes to heaven and the only hell are the problems we face here on Earth.  Of course, when asked if he was Universalist, Bell skirted around the issue and avoided answering the question by re-defining Universalism with a wrong definition, then denying he was Universalist.

Bell has also said that believing in the torments of hell keep Christians fearful of a loving God and turns off people who would otherwise become Christian.  He believes the idea of a literal hell is “misguided and toxic.”

But enough about Bell and back to Holtz.  Holtz claims “I think justice comes and judgment will happen, but I don’t think that means an eternity of torment.”  He further states, “We do these somersaults to justify the monster god we believe in, but confronting my own sinfulness, that’s when things started to topple for me. Am I really going to be saved just because I believe something, when all these good people in the world aren’t?” Holtz, who is also in his last year of divinity school at Duke University, also posted other things prior to this that upset the congregation and he believes this was the last straw with them.

So Paul’s prophecy about a great “falling away” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 continues to be fulfilled.  It’s getting so bad with these false teachers nowadays that if Jim Jones were to come on the scene today, he would face little opposition and would probably convince a greater number of people to drink his Kool-Aid.

Holtz has received a whole slew of “attaboys” over the internet from the deluded masses, but that should be no surprise.  Throughout the few years that I’ve been blogging on controversial subjects and sharing what the Bible says about them, I’ve had plenty of critics telling me “You shouldn’t judge people,” “you have no right to judge,” and “stop being so judgmental.”  Well, this is what happens when churchgoers stand by and refuse to judge what is right and what is wrong.  You get pastors and teachers who preach damnable heresies like Holtz and Bell who don’t believe in hell.  You get people who gladly say they’re Christian, then turn around and tear down God’s word. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate,” [Titus 1:16].

Here’s what the New Testament says regarding eternal punishment, or hell:

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. [Mark 9:43-46]

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. …And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.  [Matthew 25: 41-43, 46]

The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.  As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. [Matthew 13:39-42. Note: This is Jesus’ literal interpretation of the parable of the tares of the field after his disciples asked for its meaning.]

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:  Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. [Matthew 13:47-50.  Note:  This is another parable from Jesus with its literal interpretation of punishment for unsaved sinners.]

And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. [Revelation 19:20]

And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. [Revelation 20:10.  Notice how it says the beast, or Antichrist, with his false prophet still are in the lake of fire in the present tense here.  If the punishment was temporary for them, the past tense would have been used here.  It would have said “where the beast and the false prophet were.”]

This is just a small sample of the many times Jesus talked about hell and he spoke of hell, not figuratively, but literally as a real place where there is fire and people are burned.  He said people who go there are the ones who “offend’ and they are full of iniquity, or sin.  Who do they offend? God, because “he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” [John 3:18].

We can basically sum up these men with what Jesus said–“Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. …And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God,” [John 8:43, 46, 47].

Sources:

Breen, Tom. Pastor loses job after questioning hell’s existence, MSNBC.com, March 24, 2011.

Hahn, Heather. Post on hell lands pastor in hot water. UMC.org, March 25, 2011.

–posted by Harry A. Gaylord–

P.S.  I also find it ironic that Rob Bell pastors a church called Mars Hill.  In Acts, Mars Hill is where Paul preached in Athens to the Greek philosophers and their philosophies hindered the majority of them from seeing the truth of the gospel.  How befitting and prophetic.

8 thoughts on “A pulpit, a pastor, and a hellacious controversy

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  1. When it comes to ‘hell’ I always recall one of the Lord’s parables, and I also remember how this parable became very real for me in my early 20s. The story is one that Jesus told in Luke 16: 19-31, a story about a broken and poor man who begged day and night for a few crumbs at a rich man’s gate. We know what happened. He was scorned and turned away again and again by the rich man. Most likely he was told he was to blame for being in such a sorry spot! “Too bad, so sad!” At last this poor man died. He was carried off to a peaceful place in eternity, Jesus said, but across a dark wide chasm he heard the rich man who had also died…crying out from a place of fiery torment, “GO BACK! Warn my brothers that this place is real!” But Jesus said that if people didn’t believe God’s Word…the Law and the prophets, they surely would not believe even if someone returned from hell to tell them it was real.

    When I was a young woman of about 24, I met a down-and-out man named Joe. Joe had experienced a ‘hell’ of a life…he was around the age of 35 but he looked 90. He had faced horrible abuse, neglect, abandonment, and trials from childhood. Joe told me he always remembered one story from the Bible – the story of the poor man at the rich man’s gate. He asked me to explain it. Joe said he was trying to detox and get his life right. He asked me what the Bible story meant, and I told him that in God’s eyes, he was the ‘poor’ man in the story and that God loved him deeply and had died to carry all His sins, and that Jesus wanted to spend eternity with him. Joe’s eyes filled with tears. He didn’t feel worthy of such great unconditional love. Joe reeked from booze, his face was swollen from hard living, but he tenderly reached out in childlike faith and gave his life to Jesus that day. A week later Joe died instantly in a head on car collision while speeding along in a friend’s vehicle to race through a red light near Higgins and Main Street in my home city of Winnipeg, right in the roughest ‘booze corridor’ of town. All I know is…Joe and I met just in time for him to choose Jesus.

    I thank God for the privilege of sharing the truth with Joe. Joe understood hell was real, and he wanted God’s better place for him.

    So, what do YOU think? Should we help people to understand truth and heaven and hell…or not? It’s often easier NOT to, isn’t it? Are we ready to take God at His Word do we want to wait until eternity spells it all out and there’s no turning back?

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    1. Sue, thanks for mentioning the rich man and Lazarus story. That’s also an awesome testimony regarding Joe. It’s always a great reminder that God continues to love and care about what we humans consider the lowest of the low that he creates “divine appointments” to draw them to himself.

      As for your very timely questions, they are something every Christian must consider. We should talk about everything the Bible talks about from Genesis to Revelation. This subject reminds me of what Paul told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20–“For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” All would include everything from heaven to hell. Jesus also told us the Holy Spirit “when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged,” [John 16:8-11]. And in the teaching of that judgment, hell is included since hell was originally created for the devil and his angels, according to the scriptures.

      Also in Isaiah 5, which was a prophecy that was literally fulfilled about God’s judgment against Judah, says “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.” This is one of the scriptures letting us know hell is down and those who reject God go there. Preaching about our loving God includes teaching about his judgment. He loves people so much that he warns us about what lies ahead if we choose the wrong path in life. He also explains the benefits we receive when we choose the right path in life. This is nothing new in this world since man’s laws do the exact same thing. Our laws warn people against committing murder, fraud, obstruction of justice, and other crimes because punishment is inevitable. Those who obey the law enjoy the benefits of their choices also.

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  2. I would like to commend those good methodists for tossing Chad Holtz, and I pray that Holtz will re-examine the scriptures, “Search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life.”

    I have said this often about methodists. If John Wesley could see them now, he wouldn’t recognize the churh he helped found.

    Apparently Rob Bell is making big inroads in evangelical circles these days, I’m frankly not familiar with him, but anyone that tries to cool off the fires of Hell is doing no one a favor.

    I’m reminded of what Timothy had to say about these last days.

    “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine, instead, to suit their desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

    Btw, I have been to Mars Hill in Greece and I read Paul’s account right there on top of that hill.

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    1. Greg, that’s great you actually saw Mars Hill. Was it easy to imagine what Paul must have seen there?

      I’m like you as far as Rob Bell is concerned. I didn’t know who he was until I watched part of his YouTube presentation in a news story a few weeks ago.

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  3. Harry – Yes it was very easy to imagine. I visited there in about 1982 when I was in the military. Those were some amazing years when God was doing wonderful things in my life, of course He still is, but I had fallen away from the things of God in the previous few years and this was a time that God was drawing me back to Himself. I was there with several other christian friends and we had a great time.

    There is alot to consider in Acts 17, but I just love how this wise Apostle approached the Athenians with the gospel message, why he could have come on strong, and said something to the effect of “you wicked bunch of idol worshippers” same thing with Jesus speaking to the woman at the well, “you little tramp” no, no, no, they were wise. Paul looks around and finds the idol to the unknown God, Aha, he must have thought, I know how I’m going to present this message. I just love it, I’m coming out of a very fundamentalist baptist background and unfortunately they often want to hit you in the head with haughty judgement, and they lose their audience before they can even get started. Paul is much too wise for this. “Let me tell you about this (unknown) God” Beautiful! and then goes on to really expound about God and Jesus to these folks and eventually does get around to denouncing their “God’s” after awhile, but in an agreeable fashion, at least agreeable enough so that they didn’t run him out of town. How many Hell, Fire and brimstone preachers could learn a lesson from this wonderful Apostle Paul.

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  4. Harry – Almost forgot, during my years in the military I spent time in the area of the mediterrean and got to visit all over that part of the world. I also got to see Rome, and visited the prison that Paul was held in. I have heard stories in the last few years that the sewer actually ran through this jail, (haven’t been able to verify that) can you just imagine this wonderful Apostle standing in human waste writing the letter to the Ephesians or Philemon or one of the others. My, my how fortunate we are today!

    Have many pictures of all these sites.

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  5. Hell is not real fortunately and people who still believe are mislead. Answer this question – if you are in the new earth and people you know (and possibly love) are in hell, how in your right mind could you live in peace knowing they are suffering every day FOREVER?? Come on folks, the Bible does not teach this heresy. And anyone who says it does, is not getting their information from God.

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