Some define hell as everlasting and utter separation from God. This certainly is supported biblically. However, many believe that people can be endlessly and utterly separated from God — Life Himself — and still be alive, experiencing unending suffering. How can someone be alive if they’re endlessly and completely separated from the Creator and Sustainer of all?

When people are alive, they’re connected to the Life Source; they have the breath of God in them. Even people who are far from God now are connected to Him enough to be alive; they’re still tethered to the Creator. God maintains that connection to give them an opportunity to choose Him. That opportunity spans their lifetime. When they die, their choice is sealed.

At the last judgment, God will honor each person’s choice and accordingly grant them either everlasting life or the second death (the death from which there’s no resurrection). After that point, there will be no life connection — not even a tether — for those who, in their lifetime, chose to stay in rebellion against God.

What would be the purpose of such a tether between the unrepentant and the Life Source? What would be the point of God keeping them alive? I can think of only one purpose: cruelty on the part of the One who is Love. That’s one of the many reasons why the notion of everlasting suffering in hell isn’t just unbiblical; it’s unthinkable.

I’m listening to some lectures about the Bible. Here’s something that was said about digital information and, ultimately, about human beings:

“Messages do not require embodiment. They can exist in their own right. Software has no mass. Now, what does that mean? If time is a physical property and software has no mass, it has no time dimension. What that really means is, the real ‘you’ is eternal, whether you are saved or not. The issue is, where are you going to spend it?”

If I may, I’ll make the analogy abundantly clear:

Human beings do not require embodiment. We can exist in our own right. We have no mass. Thus, we have no time dimension. The real ‘us’ is eternal, whether or not we’re saved. The issue is where we’re going to spend eternity.

Is this biblical? Let’s take a look.

Spirit and Soul

Genesis 2:7 says this about human life:

“The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath (nᵊšāmâ) of life, and man became a living being (nep̄eš).”

I included the Hebrew words to show how the Bible makes an important distinction that I think is missing in the analogy. The word nᵊšāmâ is sometimes translated as “spirit.” The word nep̄eš is sometimes translated as “soul.” So, the text basically says this: When you add the spirit of life to a body, you get a soul. BODY + SPIRIT = SOUL.

According to the Bible, a soul is simply a living person who is a blend of body and spirit. Indeed, a soul depends on both body and spirit to exist. Without that combination, you have just a lifeless body and some breath. There’s no evidence that God created human beings to be independent of a body at any point.

I believe that it’s that breath (spirit) that’s a better fit for what was said in the lecture. Let’s take the analogy again. It connected digital information with human beings (which the Bible sometimes calls “souls”). This time, let’s connect the analogy with the spirit (breath) instead of the soul:

Spirit does not require embodiment. It exists in its own right. It has no mass. Thus, it has no time dimension. The real spirit is eternal, whether or not we’re saved. The issue is whether or not our bodies are made alive by the spirit.

Now, that’s biblical (and more sensical). The Bible describes the spirit as everlasting, in the sense of “without beginning or end.” But, here’s the thing. God is spirit. He alone has immortality. God is the breath of life. Living human beings are not the breath of life, the spirit. We aren’t spirit; we have spirit. Anyone is alive only because God’s spirit has been breathed into a body. That’s what Genesis 2:7 and other passages say.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 explains death, which is the reverse process:

“The dust returns to the earth where it was,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”

The spirit — God’s breath — returns to Him when we die. The spirit — God’s breath — cannot die. It’s the life force itself.

When the concepts of spirit and soul are conflated, the issue is confused. When you put “soul” where “spirit” belongs, it makes human beings immortal — a quality that belongs to God alone. It also upends the concept of death.

Heaven and Hell?

That brings me to the final point I quoted above: “The issue is, where are you going to spend [eternity]?”

In an “immortal soul” paradigm, location is all-important. Everything is about heaven or hell. It’s a common refrain. But, this paradigm isn’t biblical. I’ve already covered one point about that — God alone has immortality. Here’s another one: The Bible uses a “location paradigm” only a handful of times, and it’s always to express extremes (the highest place versus the lowest place) in order to express totality. Here’s one example, Job 11:8, which is representative of every instance that the Bible uses the words heaven and hell together:

“God’s wisdom is higher than heaven.
What can you do?
It is deeper than the depths of hell.
What can you know?”

The Bible’s “heaven and hell” paradigm is not related to being saved or lost. When it comes to being saved or lost, the Bible has a different paradigm: life and death. Forget the paradigm of “heaven and hell.” Embrace the paradigm of “life and death.” Everything will come into focus. You’ll see the thread through every page of the Bible.

The devil conspires to confuse the issue. He seeks to scare us into false belief or turn us off to God. He hopes to hijack what belongs only to God. In the devil’s paradigm, the issue is where we’re going to spend eternity: hell or heaven. In God’s paradigm, the issue is how we’re going to spend eternity: dead or alive.

I just finished reading the book 10 Mistakes People Make About Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife by Mike Fabarez. Fabarez holds the popular view that hell is eternal conscious torment. He referenced Revelation 20:14 (“Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire”), saying that the last term the Bible uses for hell is “the lake of fire.” I was sorry that he didn’t continue to the rest of the verse, which truly contains the last term the Bible uses for hell: “This is the second death.”

Fabarez went on to say that “the lost will be consigned permanently, physically, and consciously to experience a kind of living that is described as death.” I had to read it again: “A kind of living that is described as death.” That is mighty strange.

This is why it’s important to understand what the Bible teaches about death if we are to understand what it teaches about hell. Hell is “the second death.” In fact, the Hebrew and Greek words that are sometimes translated as “hell” are sometimes translated as “grave.” According to the Bible, hell is the grave.

Just as the first death is nonexistence, the second death is nonexistence. It’s not “a kind of living.” That’s what the devil wants us to believe. As he told Eve, “You surely will not die! … Your eyes will be opened.” Only in that deceitful paradigm is death “a kind of living.”

Two Vastly Different Paradigms

It’s critical to understand the differences between the two worldviews. Let’s look at the distinctions in two important areas that relate to death and hell.

Spirit vs. Soul

  • Pagan paradigm: “You have a soul that is immortal.”
  • Biblical paradigm: “You are a soul that depends on the immortal spirit (breath) of God because God alone has immortality.” (See Genesis 2:7, and notice the Hebrew words.)

Eternal Status

  • Pagan paradigm: “What matters is where you spend eternity — hell or heaven.”
  • Biblical paradigm: “What matters is how you spend eternity — dead or alive.” (See John 3:16.)

Wrapping Up

All of that being said, I appreciate Fabarez’s sincere effort to understand and share what the Bible teaches. A love of truth is paramount, and I think he has that. None of us gets it all right. But, if we love truth more than we love our current beliefs, we’ll be fine.

You might want to read 10 Mistakes People Make About Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife and decide for yourself. I’d like to hear your observations.

Most of us have wondered what hell is like. One of the best clues we have about the nature of hell is what happened with Jesus on the cross and in the grave.

Jesus laid down His life to atone for sin. He died to atone for sin. He went to the grave to atone for sin. With His death, He fully paid the wages of sin for those who trust Him with their salvation.

Those who do not trust Jesus with their salvation will pay the wages themselves. They will atone for their own sins. How? The same way Jesus did—by dying the second death. This is the death from which there’s no resurrection (unless you’re God—unless you are the life force yourself).

Jesus is not suffering eternal torment to atone for sin. Those who trust themselves for their own salvation will not suffer eternal torment to atone for their sin. They will go to the grave, as Jesus did. It’s no surprise, then, that the word usually translated as “hell” in English Bible translations means “grave.”

Hell Is the Grave

So, when we ask what hell is like, we ask what the grave is like—basically, what it’s like to be dead. After Jesus’ resurrection, He had no experience to report. After Lazarus’s resurrection, He had no experience to report. In the Bible, people whom God raised from the dead had nothing to report. God resurrected them from nothingness: “The dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).

Just as God brought Adam into existence from nonexistence (Genesis 2:7), we return to nonexistence when we die (Ecclesiastes 12:7). That’s why the word usually translated as “hell” in English Bible translations means “grave.” That’s why the Bible refers to the destruction of the lost as “the second death” (Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8).

When we seek to understand what hell is like, we can take clues from Dante’s Inferno (still good for literary value), Far Side cartoons (still good for a laugh), or the Bible. (If you’re thinking that the story of the rich man and Lazarus is the model, please read this).

“It Is Finished”

It comes down to this: Why would the lost receive a different consequence for sin than Jesus did? Why would Jesus pay a different price for sin than the lost will? The old covenant atonement system required the death—not the eternal suffering—of an innocent lamb. The wages of sin is death.

Regarding Jesus’ atonement act, “it is finished” and complete. Regarding the atonement for the lost, it will be finished and complete. There will be an end to suffering. “’There shall be no more death.’ Neither shall there be any more sorrow nor crying nor pain” (Revelation 21:4).

The debate about what happens when we die essentially comes down to two opposing views: non-existence vs. a new form and/or place of existence. Either death is the cessation of life (and therefore existence), or death involves a journey to “the other side” or “a better place” where life goes on. Which is it? How can we know?

How Do We Know What’s True?

We can consult three sources as we seek to understand what happens when we die: scripture, experience, and observation. Let’s take a look at each.

The best source of information about what happens when we die is the Bible. That’s because it’s the Creator’s word that has been well-validated over the millennia. No other scripture passes the tests that the Bible passes when it comes to trustworthiness.

Experience and observation are helpful sources of information about what happens when we die only in this sense: They provide nothing substantive. Althought it records a few resurrections from the dead, the Bible records zero accounts of experiences people had while they were dead. Lazarus had no stories to tell (John 11-12). Jesus said only that He had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17).

(By the way, you might wonder about the Lazarus who features in the story Jesus told in Luke 16. Rather than a literal account, it’s a parable that Jesus told to teach the concept that your economic status doesn’t determine your salvation. Learn more about that story.)

To follow is a bit more on what the Bible says about the two schools of thought about what happens when we die.

What Happens When We Die: View #1

View #1 is non-existence—that death is the cessation of life. Here are just a couple of representative Bible texts that support this position:

  • “The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
  • “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence” (Psalm 115:17).

According to the Bible, death is non-existence. Just as a body infused with God’s spirit (breath) comes into existence (Genesis 2:7), a person ceases to exist when God’s spirit (breath) leaves the body (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

The Bible uses the term “soul” to denote a living person (Genesis 2:7, 1 Peter 3:20, etc.). The concept of “soul” is completely distinct from “spirit,” which is the immortal breath of God or the life force (Genesis 2:7, Job 33:4, etc.). A person does not have a soul; a person is a soul. A soul is a combination of body and spirit; it depends on both to exist.

What Happens When We Die: View #2

View #2 about what happens when we die is a new form and/or place of existence—that death involves a journey to “the other side” or “a better place” where life goes on. Here’s what the Bible has to say on the matter:

“The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that, on the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God’“ (Genesis 3:4-5).

God had told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate from the tree of knowledge (Genesis 2:17). In direct opposition to God’s word, the devil told Eve that she wouldn’t die. Instead, she would be elevated to a higher plane of existence.

View #2 is a lie perpetrated by the devil. In the third and fourth centuries, the lie entered mainstream Christian theology by way of Greek philosophers who adopted the idea from Egyptian pagans. Here’s what a few historians have to say on the matter:

  • “The notion of the soul going to heaven when you die and the body being left behind on earth: That’s a notion that is widespread in the Christian tradition nowadays. It comes from Plato, and I worry that there’s a spirituality attached to that, which is specifically Platonic and not Christian” (Phillip Cary, Philosophy and Religion in the West).
  • “Many early Christians had a deep respect for Pythagoras. … Jerome (c. 347 – 420) praises Pythagoras … and credits Pythagoras for his belief in the immortality of the soul, which he suggests Christians inherited from him. … Pythagoras studied with the Egyptian priests at Thebes” (”Pythagoras,” Wikipedia).
  • Some ancient writers claimed that Pythagoras learned the doctrine of metempsychosis (the transmigration of souls) from the Egyptians (see Pythagoras: His Life, Teachings, and Influence by Christoph Riedweg and Life of Pythagoras by Porphyry).

Historians know that the concept of an immortal soul (life after life) isn’t biblical; many theologians do not. Most Christians aren’t aware of the concept’s origin and geneology.

Good News for the Redeemed

On the surface, without its origin revealed, it might seem that View #2 about what happens when we die is preferable. Life on a higher plane or in a better place certainly sounds better than non-existence. But, as always, God knows what He’s doing. Just as He created human beings to begin with, He can revive people who died.

The Bible tells about a few of these instances and promises mass resurrections in the future. The dead will live again. When the redeemed are resurrected, they will be raised to eternal life. Eternal life for the saved will begin, not one at a time, but all together (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Hebrews 11:39-40, etc.).

We don’t have to worry about our deceased loved ones building new lives in eternity without us. Those who have lost a child will get to pick up right where they left off and raise that child themselves. Eternity will begin when we all can experience it together. We can content ourselves about our loved ones who rest in peace—those who are asleep in Jesus (Daniel 12:2, 1 Corinthians 15:51, etc.). The next thing they know, they will join the Lord in the air with all of the redeemed (1 Thessalonians 4:17). We will put on God’s immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53), and we all will gather together for the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).

Good News for the Lost (and the Universe)

After God resurrects the lost and reveals His judgments, the lost will experience the second death (Revelation 20:11-15, etc.). The second death is like the first death in this way: it is non-existence. The second death is unlike the first death in this way: it’s not followed by a resurrection. The lost, along with the devil, will cease to exist forever (Ezekiel 28:19, Malachi 4:1,3, etc.).

After the second death, “‘There shall be no more death.’ Neither shall there be any more sorrow nor crying nor pain, for the former things have passed away ” (Revelation 21:4). This promise isn’t just for the redeemed; it’s for the universe. The lost will not suffer forever; they will cease to exist forever. The loving God will mercifully put them out of their misery. The redeemed will not be enjoying eternity while the lost suffer in torment in some corner of the world. The lost will be ashes under our feet (Malachi 4:3).

Non-existence is preferable to eternal suffering. This concept is biblical, reasonable, and fair. And, it’s consistent with a loving God.

Wrapping Up

What I’ve shared here is what the Bible has to say in a teeny-tiny nutshell. It says much, much more about what happens when we die. Be sure to subscribe to the blog and YouTube channel to learn more. Also, check out my course on Death & Hell: What Does the Bible Say? If you have questions or comments, please drop me a line or use the comments below.

“Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

How would you put this into your own words? Would you say, “Faith without works goes to heaven“? Might you say, “Faith without works returns to God“? Surely you wouldn’t say, “Faith without works will burn in hell forever.” Surely.

It’s more likely that you would say something such as, “Faith without works is nothing.” That makes more sense, right? That seems to be the point that James is making in James 2:14-26.

James understood that death was nothingness. Afterall, that’s what the whole of scripture tells us. So, how did death come to mean “going to heaven” or “returning to God” or “eternal torment”?

The Spirit versus the Soul

Some interpret the spirit returning to God as the person returning to God. However, the creation account tells us that the spirit is the breath of God, the animating life force that makes a body a living person, or soul (Genesis 2:7). At death, the spirit (breath) returns to God who gave it. But the breath is not the person; it is what animates a body, resulting in a living person (soul). On the cross, Jesus said to the Father, “Into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). At that point, He stopped breathing and died; He didn’t go to heaven (John 20:17). He went to heaven later, after His resurrection (Acts 1:9-11).

The Notion of an Immortal Soul

Another explanation is that the notion of an immortal soul entered mainstream Christian theology by way of Greek philosophy. The philosophers got it from pagans, not scripture. The Bible teaches that God alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:16).

The Good News about Death

James tells us that works animate faith. Just as the spirit (God’s breath) brings a body to life, works bring faith to life. “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

James makes a fantastic point with a brilliant analogy. Usually, we pay attention only to the point. But, it’s also worth noting what he understood about death. He did not see it the same way most Christians do today.

According to the Bible, death is nothingness. It implies a lifeless body that returns to dust, resting in peace. It is good news that, for those who trust God, there will be a resurrection to eternal life when Jesus comes again (1 Thessalonians 4:16). But, there is also good news in the fact that death is nothingness. It means that those who do not trust God will be sentenced to eternal nothingness rather than eternal suffering. Not only is that good news, it is consistent with the Bible and its broadest theme—that God is love.

When it was announced that President Trump had COVID-19, some people responded with glee. Some even hoped that he would die.

In my last post, I wrote about people on Facebook responding to tragic news stories by clicking on the laugh reaction emoji under the headline. Many people were laughing that a marriage is over, that relationships are strained, that a man is struggling with addiction, that people are sick, and that people are dying. Laughing.

When it comes to the pleasure and ill-wishes regarding President Trump’s illness, some people offer what they consider to be justification for their attitudes:

  • Trump deserves it because he didn’t take COVID-19 seriously and take necessary precautions.
  • Trump deserves it because his policies cause other people to suffer and die.

Let’s give them the complete benefit of the doubt and assume that their “justifications” are valid. Would it then be appropriate for them to take pleasure in Trump’s illness and even hope that he dies?

To answer that question, let me offer a contrast.

“I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord God.”
Ezekiel 18:32

The death of anyone? Even a person who causes his own death because of his recklessness? Even a person who is responsible for the deaths of others? Are you telling me that God didn’t smile — even a little bit — when Hitler died?

“As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why will you die?”
Ezekiel 33:11

Not only does God find no pleasure in death, He pleads with us to choose life instead. This is in particular reference to the second death. The first death is the end of a lifetime on earth. The second death is a future event — after resurrection — that we typically refer to as hell (see Revelation 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8).

The second death is a natural consequence for those who choose to disconnect from the source of life. The second death is for those who rebel against God — against goodness, light, and life. Do they deserve death? Would their death be justified? When all is revealed, I believe that we will find the answer to be yes. Still, God will have no pleasure.

That is the spirit that we desperately need. We each need a heart that sorrows when others are hurting, a heart that seeks to bless rather than curse, a heart so full of love that there is no room for hate. We need the heart of God.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
Matthew 5:43-44

When I read the first pages of the Bible, I notice that the word “good” comes up frequently. The first use of the word “good” in the Bible is in Genesis 1:4, when “God saw that the light was good.” The word is used seven times in Genesis 1, culminating in this: “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

The first use of the word “evil” in the Bible is in Genesis 2:9: “The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, along with the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” It is used a second time in Genesis 2:15-17: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’”

Here we see the introduction of the twin dichotomies of good and evil and life and death, which is a theme repeated throughout the Bible. Notice that the classical philosophical dichotomy of heaven and hell is not present here, nor is it present anywhere in the Bible as a dichotomy related to eternal destiny.

Eve and Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil once they believed that God could not be trusted. The human knowledge of evil began when the first humans chose not to trust God. (Similarly, the universe’s knowledge of evil began when Lucifer chose not to trust God. See Isaiah 14:12-14.)

The knowledge of good and evil has been growing since its inception. Someday, when the knowledge of good and evil is fully mature, the question of whether God can be trusted will be settled for all time. Can God be trusted? Just how good is good? Just how evil is evil? These are the questions that will be answered when the knowledge of good and evil is fully mature.

At that time, eternal destinies can be realized. The life-and-death dichotomy that was established in the garden of Eden will come to fruition. Those who choose to trust God will receive eternal life, and those who choose not to trust God will receive eternal death.

  • God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
  • He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:11)

I mentioned that the classical philosophical dichotomy of heaven-and-hell as eternal destiny is not found in the Bible. Notice, too, that the classical philosophical idea of eternal suffering cannot be concluded upon consideration of all of the Bible passages regarding the final destruction of those who do not trust God. Ashes do not suffer (see Ezekiel 28:18, Malachi 4:1-3, 2 Peter 2:6, and Revelation 20:9,15). Good news!

Suffering is a result of evil. Once the knowledge of good and evil is fully mature, it stands to reason that no one will choose evil again. That will be the end of evil, which will mean the end of suffering. More good news!

There was a time when there was only good. Then evil entered the picture. But evil is a companion of good for a limited time only. One of these days, if we choose to trust God, our knowledge of evil will be only a memory. We will spend eternity steeped in a fully-mature knowledge of good. That is the best news.

The image above is a depiction of souls burning in the flames of Purgatory as displayed on the facade of the Church of Ánimas (Capilla de Ánimas) in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Source/License

“The practice of praying for the dead is, I think, the fundamental origin of the doctrine of purgatory. … We often want to pray for those we love who die. It’s actually fairly hard in certain Protestant services I’ve been at … where you don’t pray for the dead. My heart wants to pray for the dead that I love. That means that I’m one of those Protestants who think that there might be something to the doctrine of purgatory.”

This was said by Phillip S. Cary, an American philosopher who serves as a professor at Eastern University. I heard it in a course he teaches: The History of Christian Theology.

Purgatory is said to be a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are atoning for their sins before going to heaven.

Let me provide the context for the first sentence in the quote by Dr. Cary: “The practice of praying for the dead is, I think, the fundamental origin of the doctrine of purgatory.” Earlier in the lecture, Dr. Cary mentioned that Augustine of Hippo, in his autobiographical narrative, asked readers to pray for his mother, who was dead. Dr. Cary believes that the doctrine of purgatory developed from this request. The reasoning goes like this: It doesn’t make sense to pray for someone in hell, because it won’t do any good. It doesn’t make sense to pray for someone in heaven, because they don’t need it. Therefore, there must be a third place where the soul of a dead person can be, where prayers could be beneficial.

The reasons for believing

Dr. Cary teaches that the doctrine of purgatory is not from the Bible but that it was developed during the Middle Ages, likely based on a personal request made by Augustine — a theologian of the fourth and fifth centuries. The doctrine of purgatory relies on the soul being eternal (or, at least, existing after death). Dr. Cary’s course contains a lecture about the state of the soul after death, and he makes it clear that the idea of an eternal soul is from Plato, not the Bible. He contends that the Bible teaches that, after death, the soul sleeps until resurrection. (I, too, find this in my own study of the Bible.) It is relevant here to note that Augustine was greatly influenced by Plato.

Despite all of this, Dr. Cary “thinks that there might be something to the doctrine of purgatory.” Why? His own words: “My heart wants to pray for the dead that I love.”

What was the reason that the medieval mainstream church created the doctrine of purgatory? According to Dr. Cary, it seems that they wanted to provide an explanation for Augustine’s request for prayers for his dead mother.

These are Christian scholars and theologians. Their reason for believing (or wanting to believe) is not “because it is what the Bible teaches” or “because it is consistent with Bible teaching.” This particular belief is not in the Bible, nor is it consistent with Bible teaching about death or salvation. But, that does not seem to be a concern of these scholars and theologians.

The source of authority

I understand that not everyone shares my view of sola scriptura, that the Bible is the sole source of authority for Christian faith and practice. I believe that because I believe this:

  • The Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses.
  • It contains falsifiable claims that would have shut down the Christian movement at its start if the claims had been untrue.
  • Although the documents were written by about 40 authors over a period of about 2,000 years, they are coherent in message.
  • The Bible reports events that were the fulfillment of specific prophecies, and it contains prophecies that have been fulfilled in post-biblical times.
  • Much of the Bible is confirmed by the writings of contemporaries and by archaeological findings.
  • The Bible is by far the best-attested writing from antiquity.

(This is adapted from something that Voddie Baucham teaches.) Essentially, I trust the Bible as sole authority because I believe there is strong evidence that supports it as the word of God. I certainly trust it more than what my heart wants, and I don’t care for the idea of making up a doctrine to explain something peculiar that a particular theologian said.

The basis for belief

Many doctrines of the mainstream church come, not from the Bible, but from pagan philosophy or non-biblical, non-apostolic tradition. Do you know which ones? This post isn’t really about the specific doctrine of purgatory. It’s more about ideas and where they come from. It’s about our reasons for believing. The doctrine of purgatory is just one example.

It’s important that we know where ideas come from, especially the ideas we embrace or reject. It matters why we believe what we believe. We would be wise to base our beliefs — not on desires or hopes or an attempted explanation of one person’s notion — but on evidence. Only then can we build a thoughtful faith that is less likely to be shaken — and more likely to be true.