Rejecting The Existence of Hell: The Next Nazarene Blunder?

“Christian theologians are rethinking the idea of hell, and it’s moving seminaries and other religious schools in the Kansas City area to examine how they teach students about this ancient, disputed concept.”

This is the opening sentence of an article written by Bill Tammeus, a Presbyterian elder in Kansas City.  I am not in any way endorsing any of Mr. Tammeus’ views, as he is a hardcore ecumenicalist and believes that Roman Catholics and Protestants can walk side by side together in unity, setting aside the teachings of a false religion which is Roman Catholicism. Mr. Tammeus also believes “that there’s no persuasive biblical case to be made against homosexuality”, and appears to support the liberal views on homosexuality.

Mr. Tammeus reports in this article about a trend among seminaries in the Kansas City area, where they are re-considering the traditional biblical view of hell as a place of eternal torment, and that separation from God is a result of rejecting God and His salvation through Jesus Christ.  According to Mr. Tammeus’ research, theologians have started a discussion “about whether eternal torment for unrepentant sinners is really part of God’s plan to redeem the whole creation.” (Source: https://www.flatlandkc.org/commentary/what-the-hell-thats-what-local-seminaries-are-asking/?fbclid=IwAR3YgHY-4pi0V4rYyr2suZFVICR0KzihMdoNhWkN41H-mUM-6veDHzPHn-I)

Tammeus states that:

 “But for such area Protestant seminaries as St. Paul School of Theology (Methodist), Central Baptist Theological Seminary (American Baptist) and Nazarene Theological Seminary, discussions about hell are considerably more nuanced. The denominations these schools represent historically have affirmed hell’s existence, but leaders are quick to point to disagreements among theologians about what exactly that means, about whether hell is permanent and about such alternative ideas as annihilationism, which proposes that when someone who refuses the eternal love God offers dies, God simply wipes out any trace of that person.”

That is troubling in itself for the body of Christ regardless of denomination, but I am particularly troubled because there seem to be the beginnings of this conversation within my former denomination, the Church of the Nazarene.  And this conversation no less has apparently been started by the current President of Nazarene Theological Seminary, Jeren Rowell, as well as NTS professor Andy Johnson.

Mr. Tammeus writes:

“A similar kind of discussion is happening at Nazarene Seminary and at the Nazarene denominational level.  Nazarene Theological Seminary President Jeren Rowell and New Testament Professor Andy Johnson say there’s discussion among Nazarene leaders about changing how the denomination describes hell.

The Church of the Nazarene has belief statements called “articles of faith.” One says that “the finally impenitent shall suffer eternally in hell.” With help from Andy Johnson, the seminary’s professor of New Testament, those statements are undergoing a revision, and there’s a recommendation that the “eternally in hell” statement move closer to the church’s current “Agreed Statement of Belief,” which says, “The finally impenitent are hopelessly and eternally lost.” That removes the word hell and leaves open the possibility that, in the end, no one will be “finally impenitent.” But it’s unclear whether that proposal will be adopted.

President Rowell stated in the interview that:

 “There’s so much we don’t know — and can’t. And in the Church of the Nazarene we have really not tried to bind our people with particular views of the beginning or the end of the world.”

Words can hardly express the sadness I feel.  It seems ten years ago, I would not have even thought this kind of wavering on God’s word would happen.  And to think it would come from the minds of leaders of a school that prepares future pastors is absolutely mind-boggling! And yet, I am not surprised at these additional steps towards apostasy, and dare I say, an almost universalistic view of the destiny of those who die and go into eternity, with or without salvation.

Are pastors and other leaders in a holiness denomination now willing to accept that leaders are even discussing the possibility that hell- as described by the Lord Jesus Christ, does not exist? Are Nazarenes in an even more difficult situation, that now they are seeing less wisdom, and more apostasy, being embraced by church leaders?  Do the words of the Lord Jesus Christ matter to President Rowell and all the others who are considering watering down God’s word?

Hear the words of Jesus on this subject:

The Lord describes the punishment of the wicked in Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  He further goes on in verse 46 and speaks of their destiny:  “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  Eternal punishment!  Everlasting!

In 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Paul writes: “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might”.  And Revelation 20:10 talks about a “lake of burning sulfur” where the wicked are “tormented day and night forever and ever”.

There is a lot more in scripture about this, but do I have to really write a complete treatise on the subject here? Hell is real, brothers and sisters. It is a place of torment and punishment that lasts forever and ever, with no end.  If anyone denies this, they are liars and do not speak the truth. They are speaking words from the pit of hell, no pun intended.

And so another camel has stuck its nose into the theological tent of the Church of the Nazarene. Soon it will be completely inside as well, joining along with all the other “heretical camels” that have snuck into the church. And once again, the most likely response to the creeping apostasy from the General Superintendents and many leaders in the Church of the Nazarene most likely will be… nothing.

I am reminded of the words of the serpent in Genesis 3, when he said to Eve “hath God really said?”  Has Satan whispered the same words to Nazarene leaders and bewitched them as well? For over ten years, I have seen this played out over and over in many other areas, including the denomination’s slow capitulation to the LGBT/homosexual movement. In the words of the apostle Paul, “I am afraid, however, that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may be led astray from your simple and pure devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3

I am comforted with the fact that, at least in the end, there will be a small remnant that will refuse to bow the knee to Baal.