I have long anticipated the release of the film, Hellbound? To open the conversation, the title ends with a question mark. In my opinion, this film is not intended to prove the existence or non existence of hell as a literal place of conscious eternal torment, but rather to allow for the conversation to take place. When Martin Luther left the Catholic Church, he didn’t have the sum of all doctrines perfectly lined up and many theologians have questioned, wrestled with, and interpreted the Bible for ages.
What I took from this film was the idea that we can have this conversation and should be able to without fear of reprisal. Just as scientists have been ‘outlawed’ from teaching Intelligent Design (as we saw in the film ‘Expelled’), many Christians are being ‘outlawed’ from questioning interpretations of the bible. Many pastors will boldly say, “Don’t believe me, look in the bible and make up your own mind.” But I don’t think they really want us to.
This film shows us that theologians from various belief communities have allowed plenty of space for their theologians to have differing views, and shows that others do not. Some, such as Mark Driscoll, firmly announces (in this film) that he won’t partner with anyone outside his own boundaries of belief. As much as I disagree with Driscoll on many areas (like his views on ‘biblical’ sex) I have to give him some kudos for being brave enough to appear in this film. And while I greatly disagree with how Margie Phelps interprets the bible, I have to say that she stands for what she believes in, unashamed! She appears in this film, as Kevin approaches her during a protest against gays. He asks her thought provoking questions and speaks to her with grace and respect, while she speaks to him with a spirit of condemnation. Of all the Christians I have seen, heard, and read of; I have to say that she is the only person who truly believes in hell.
When I watched this film and saw the various representatives of Christian circles speak about hell, it gave me an opportunity to really think deeper on how this doctrine affects people. Watching Kirk Cameron’s friend, Ray Comfort, publicly condemn and belittle a man for not living up to the ten commandments was disturbing to me. Even with the amount of hate that comes from Margie Phelps, the abuse the passer-by endured by Ray Comfort left me deeply sad and baffled. I’ve seen plenty of videos put out by Ray Comfort, but what Hellbound? showed of his encounter with a man, in my town, infuriated me. If Ray really believes in the fury of hell, he hasn’t seen anything until he tries that in my presence.
At one point there is a comparison between three schools of thought;
- Eternal Torment
This was an overall theme throughout the film, but I’m not so sure it adequately encompasses the conversation about how hell is translated into our English language and how the traditions have passed it down through the generations. There is so much more to the conversation and while I know the film wasn’t meant to give an answer, it does do it’s job in opening the conversation a bit wider.
It has become popular for Christians to begin questioning traditional teachings and delve into translating Hebrew and Greek on our own. In the days of Martin Luther, this was unheard of. Especially among women. It was refreshing to see the filmmakers include women in this documentary.
But here’s the bottom line, we are free in Christ to be like the Bereans and question everything to see if what we’ve been traditionally handed is truth or not. I suppose the question isn’t so much about hell as it is about our religious leaders and if they can be mature, loving, and gracious enough to allow people to have the room they need to check for themselves. Can today’s religious leaders grow a bit more to allow themselves to be wrong, even slightly? Can we have this discussion without being persecuted by the churches?
Could it be that tens of thousands of religious leaders have not really studied on their own and simply taken traditional teachings as truth without exploring on their own? Have they done their proper duty to study and show themselves approved unto God, workmen (and women) who need not be ashamed?
As one preacher mentioned, no matter what direction you go with this topic, take it slowly. Study and pray. Don’t rush into a belief without taking serious consideration to what you are exploring and what you will face in the light of your discoveries.
I recommend this film to anyone who has questions about hell, but mostly I recommend this film for anyone who has considered (or already has) thought outside the box.
Sometimes people get handed a blurry image of God and it’s okay to double check your vision and look again. There’s so much more I could say, so if you have any questions or would like to have me expound more about the film, simply comment below.
Other reviews on Hellbound?
American Christians Can’t Claim Persecution
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