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Poll For Christians: When Is Last Time You Heard About Hell In Sermon/Homily?

About my pewsitting youth, I do not recall much. When young, I was too busy snapping the hat holders on the pew backs. While a teen, my acts of rebellion became more creative, and my ears became plugged. The only I time I can recall since my return to the church of a priest or bishop in public mentioning Hell was Archbishop Chaput at a First Things event in the city a few years back.

But in a homily, no. My experience is limited, as is obvious, by my being only one man and thus unable to listen to many sermons. That Hell is a place Yours Truly well and truly deserves to go goes without saying, but I say it anyway in case there is any confusion—though I do pray I, and you too, Dear Reader, make the Great Escape.

Before answering the main question, it is not worth saying anything whatsoever along the lines of “Dude, it’s like if a priest only talked about Hell and stuff, then people would be bummed out and they’d stop coming to church.” This sentiment is worth less than what a northbound cow deposited on the south field, but for the purposes of this survey, accept it. We’ll all believe that mentioning Hell more times than a San Franciscan can bear to hear is bad.

Now that that’s out of your system, don’t mention it below. We get it. Instead, ask around. Do you yourself, or do you know anybody, who heard in public and in earnest from a priest or pastor that actual people will go to actual Hell?

If so, what were the circumstances?

I don’t want to know about articles or books a priest may have written on the subject. I want to know what admonishment, if any, has been given in public in speech, preferably during a religious service. If a pastor or priest has echoed the modern sentiment that Hell is a figment or fairy tale, let’s hear about that, too. Or if the priest or pastor says Hell exists but nobody goes there—except perhaps Donald Trump or the people that say people go to Hell, mention that, too. Any plug for Hell, whether real or otherwise, counts.

If you yourself have not heard about Hell, your task is to ask another, then another, then another still until such time as you have met such a person who has heard about it. But no friend-of-a-friend stories. You can talk to Fred who heard from Bill that Ed once told him a priest said something about H-E-Double-toothpicks. You have to have it from Ed’s mouth directly. No hearsay.

That’s it. That’s your homework. The post will be open for comments all this week. Thanks.

Jesuitical

This is from Father Z.

A while back, the head of the Jesuits, their Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa Ascobal, opined that we don’t know what the Lord taught because no one had a tape recorder…

About the existence of the Devil, Sosa said:…

From my point of view, evil forms part of the mystery of freedom. If the human being is free, he can choose between good and evil. Christians believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God, therefore God is free, but God always chooses to do good because he is all goodness. We have made symbolic figures, like the devil, to express evil. Social conditionings also represents that figure, since there are people who act this way because it is in an environment where it is very difficult to do the opposite.

Where’s Clement XIV when you need him? It may be worth mentioning the Pope Francis is a Jesuit.

45 thoughts on “Poll For Christians: When Is Last Time You Heard About Hell In Sermon/Homily? Leave a comment

  1. Brent,

    “We”? Is this reminder from your wife after your forgetting to take out the trash? Perhaps another circumstance?

  2. Well, if you hear homilies about going to Heaven, is that implicitly about Hell? (That is to say, by mentioning one, you imply the opposite?) And, if you don’t go to Heaven, where will you go? As a Catholic, I have the Purgatory option; this has been described either as Minor League Hell, or as Rehab, preparatory going to Heaven.
    And, no, in 22 years since my conversion, I don’t recall one homily about Hell.

  3. At my Catholic Church they’re always banging on about the Jews and how they killed Jesus. No forgive and forget there. My take-home is the that Jews are going to hell for it.

  4. Don’t you know Briggs that hell went the way of the DODO bird. Hell is simply extinct as a reality. It still retains some historic value as an illustration of what unenlightened Catholics think but those in the know realize Jesus made use of many myths to illustrate his teaching. Thanks be to a higher power that we now have a Church and a Pope who realizes that much of what Catholics used to believe is simply wrong and that Pagans had it right all along. Life is really just a bowl of cherries and when it’s over, it’s over. So live, love and …………………or something.

  5. On the wall of the subway in Archway on Highgate Hill where I trained in Physiotherapy:

    “I know when I die I will go to heaven because I’m in hell now.”

    Lots of Catholics were busy preparing their souls in the Archway tavern several doors down from the college. Throwing people down the stairs who argued about Ireland.
    So much preparation.
    Nobody understands the recipe.

  6. As director of a small schola we sing the Dies Irae at every requiem Mass. I like to think it makes up, partly, for any neglect of Hell in the sermon to follow.

  7. Nearly every Sunday service, to varying degrees. It depends on the specific topic of the pastor’s sermon — all of which are based on an exegesis of a biblical passage — as to the emphasis on hell. It certainly isn’t an ignored subject, but neither is it obsessed over. Mine is a community Christian church, loosely affiliated with the Assemblies of God. Call us “evangelical” if you want a label.

  8. Yes , in Extrodinary Form Latin Masses , in the homilies of at least 3 different priests . Usually in relation to Fatima . This is probably unusual even in the Catholic Church but we are blessed to have such good priests . Scott . We also say the St Michael the Arcangel prayer after the Mass if that counts

  9. No idea. Haven’t gone in years. I assume they not longer preach about the wise man not building his house on sand, either, or real estate over the internet would be a dead industry. Building on sand, on flood plans and landslide areas is the norm, not the exception.

  10. Universalism dominates modernist theology. Besides, Hell hath no fury like a couple attending a church with tight parking and no day care center.

  11. Last Sunday, in the course of discussing Pentecost, the priest touched on the topic of Hell and the last judgement. But, the was the first time in a while that I recall hearing it mentioned.

  12. Are homilies what we protestants call “sermons?” Does mention of Satan count? Because I do know Satan was mentioned in yesterday’s sermon. I also just went to Israel with a group, including the pastor and we talked about Hell while visiting Caesarea Philippi (where Peter confessed Jesus). I checked the sermon pages of both churches I attend and didn’t see any immediate references to Hell there but that doesn’t mean they weren’t mentioned. You want links specifically to those sermons?

    But then I attend protestant congregations so conservative I’m not entirely sure what separates us from the Eastern Orthodox.

  13. Like so many concepts, the notion of the afterlife has been amended to fit contemporary events. And the notion of hell was developed and amended over time hand-in-hand with the notion of rewards in the afterlife. “The whole truth” as in the witness oath in a courtroom matters! No study of hell’s mention or omission in modern sermons is complete without understanding the history & concept of hell in broader context.

    Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them …..”

    That’s something…what did the law say back then about hell and what happened shortly after:

    Several old biblical references a place called Sheol (cf. Numbers 30, 33). The suggestion is that in the netherworld of Sheol, the deceased, although cut off from God and humankind, live on in some shadowy state of existence. There is generally no concept of judgment or reward and punishment attached to it. The more pessimistic books of the Bible, such as Ecclesiastes and Job, insist that all of the dead go down to Sheol, whether good or evil, rich or poor, slave or free man.

    THEN…the concept of life after death is linked to the development of eschatology (speculation about the “end of days”) in Judaism. Beginning in the period following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem (586 BCE), several of the classical Israelite prophets (Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah) began forecasting a better future for their people.

    Repeated military defeats and episodes of exile and dislocation culminating in the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE led Jewish thinkers to lose hope in any immediate change, instead investing greater expectations in a messianic future and in life after death. This was coupled with the introduction into Judaism of Hellenistic notions of the division of the material, perishable body and the spiritual, eternal soul. While the rabbis often claimed that it was the Israelites’ sinfulness that led God to allow it to be defeated (mi–p’nei hataeinu, “because of our sins”), it was more difficult to explain why good and decent individual Jews were made to suffer.

    This led to the development of another theological claim:

    Rabbi Ya’akov taught: This world is compared to an ante-chamber that leads to Olam Ha–Ba, (the World-to-Come)” (Pirkei Avot 4:21). That is, while a righteous person might suffer in this lifetime, he or she will certainly be rewarded in the next world, and that reward will be much greater.

    In fact, in some cases, the rabbis claim that the righteous are made to suffer in this world so that their reward will be that much greater in the next (LeviticusRabbah 27:1).

    (re the above ref: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/heaven-and-hell-in-jewish-tradition/)

    …and so it went:

    In societies where the religious elite are shown by events to have presented failed or false doctrines, they invariably change the doctrine, or add details, to get themselves out of the dilemma–and retain their position of power & influence.

    …and so it continues to go:

    The concept of a hell for punishments that couldn’t be meted out in this life came hand-in-hand with promises of future rewards in the afterlife for virtuous sufferers. Now, the need for hell is subsiding in socieity, but the offers of future rewards still sells. If anyone has any doubts about that, just listen to or read Joel Osteen and others of that ilk…and notice the size of their followings and associated trends there and elsewhere … where “elsewhere” includes more traditional faiths that are, if subtly, piling on the same bandwagon Osteen, etc. have exploited for fun and profit (theirs, anyway).

  14. I have been visiting an Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and in a sermon last month, the pastor spoke of spending eternity “in the absence of God’s love” as the sentence for those who fail to follow the Word and accept Christ. He did not refer to a discreet destination or “Hell.” However, he did spend time emphasizing the negative consequences living “absent God’s love.”

  15. “What do they feed you Irish men on in Pittsburgh?”
    “Steel, Michaelean, steel and pig iron furnaces so hot a man forgets his fear a’hell.
    When you’re hard enough…tough enough…other things…other things.”
    The Quiet Man.

  16. Ken, you omitted the key part of Matt 5:17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. The speaker of these words had some things to say about hell (Matt 13:36-43 is one reference). And about why He had to fulfill the law.

  17. Gary,

    The question of the day was about hell’s mention in sermons — I tried to stick close to that. The bit about fulfillment is certainly significant in the broad scheme of things, but not for the topic here, today.

    As for the other references (e.g. Matt 13:36-43), those sure look like some modern views re the afterlife were being expressed by Jesus in his lifetime. However, nearly all scholars that study the Gospels and date their origin put Mark as the earliest, and that after 70 AD. The reasons are too numerous to mention here, and readily accessible elsewhere. I find such dating compelling. And there’s ample other corroborative evidence for other implications of this (e.g., Justin Martyr’s First Apology where he states in the form of defense that this then-new religion held nothing in its beliefs that were fundamentally different from those of the then familiar pagan religions — just a different mixing of the same plot elements).

    Relative to today’s topic, that means that the evolution of what the afterlife was, and connections between what that was relative to one’s behavior in Earth, indicates a consistent pattern of changes made to suit the selfish interests of religious authorities bound and determined to maintain their position of power & control over society.

    That, should one care to look, is exactly the same pattern one observes in various modern cults (Scientology being a recent example in the media lately). When one makes such comparisons, arguing that this or that religion is correct boils down to special pleading.

    K

  18. As for the other references (e.g. Matt 13:36-43), those sure look like some modern views re the afterlife were being expressed by Jesus in his lifetime. However, nearly all scholars that study the Gospels and date their origin put Mark as the earliest, and that after 70 AD. The reasons are too numerous to mention here, and readily accessible elsewhere. I find such dating compelling.

    Yeah, I find it compelling too since there is no other ancient document that we have so close and near to the source. By a wide margin. Within a single human lifespan is quite remarkable and a testament to how accurate those books probably are.

  19. Ken, yes I was sliding a wee bit off topic, but the quote is from the Sermon on the Mount. 😉

    Modern views become old with time. The question is: does theological understanding progress toward more complete comprehension of absolute Truth?

    As for similar patterns in all religions and pseudo-religions, why expect them NOT to be there? Species of the same genus. Each, of course, must be judged on the fulfillment of it’s claims.

  20. Well, I think Hell is implied whenever it is mentioned that Jesus died so we wouldn’t have to receive our deserved punishment (Hell) for our sins. That much is mentioned quite often, though it has been a while since I have heard the word Hell itself. I go to a Baptist church, less often now than I used to.

  21. 1) Twenty years ago the late James Burtchaell, provost/theologian from Notre Dame, regularly mentioned Hell, abortion was murder, Catholic colleges were fast becoming secular, premarital sex leads to divorce and Hell, and a lot of other orthodox things. Burtchaell rarely touched on homosexuality because he was active that way with young adults. (I heard him admit his homosexual sinful behavior, that it was wrong, and that he would do anything to stop. Subsequently, he spent a year, 23 hours-a-day, caring for his dying mother who was beset by alzhymers. His brother relieved him one hour a day so he could walk to mass. During that year he started to experience his own alzhymers symptoms.)

    2) Indian priest with thick accent homlized on a bit on Hell, but immediately afterwards the celebrant, who was pastor, told everyone in the liberal parish that they were assured of heaven because of their belief in Jesus.

  22. Professor Briggs, you believe you deserve be left in the hands of Satan for all eternity? What finite deeds deserve infinite punishment? I’ve never understood this part of Christianity – a loving parent may punish in the knowledge their child is being educated that their behaviour may result in worse things than their parents’ chastisement and so the punishment now may save them from worse in the future; but the casting into hell has no similar merit and all for the ego of not receiving worship. Evil is the only word I can use to describe such behaviour, but you think you deserve it. My goodness, why?

  23. Chinahand, and of course, the child of that loving parent might flee his loving home to live a dissolute life of fornication and vice in a drug and alcohol induced haze in some rat infested tenement to the everlasting sorrow of that loving parent.

  24. Chinahand.

    You raise a most reasonable question especially given that God is Love. I would like to think of hell and purgatory as being identical so the time of suffering has a limitation. Officially, Catholics believe that those who go to hell are the ones who reject God and His mercy at the time of their death. Maybe God, after our death, gives us one last chance, who knows. That’s a nice thought but not worth the gamble of presuming on God’s mercy while continuing to sin.

  25. There is a notion in Judaism that all of us fall short of the glory of G-D and we will undergo a process of purification…which may not be pleasant. The best modern analogy I can think of is Refiners Fire. This is not dissimilar to the Catholic notion of purgatory. By the way unlike the hundreds of rules Jews should obey, Gentiles need only obey the Noahite Laws, which most people do without thinking of it.

  26. Chinahand, you stated: “Professor Briggs, you believe you deserve be left in the hands of Satan for all eternity? What finite deeds deserve infinite punishment?”

    The question is not put well. The infinite punishment is not a result of a “finite deed.” Because God is infinite, a sin against Him is also infinite. Original sin was an infinite sin. That is why it took an infinite Person, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, to repair the infinite indignity suffered by the infinite God. Only an infinite Person can make infinite reparation.

    Whether a person goes to hell is that person’s free choice. Most people choose not to love God, as they choose to disregard the keeping of His commandments, and they keep that choice to the end of their lives; therefore, He allows them their choice. They want to be separated from God; He honors that decision.

    It is only at the end of our lives that we will discover Who God truly is because He will reveal that knowledge to us at our particular judgment.

    Some people will want to go directly to Him immediately, and they will be able to do so because their souls are pure and spotless. Think little children.

    Others will want to go to Him, but they will not want to appear before Him with sins on their souls that have not been sufficiently atoned for while on earth. This is the reason for purgatory.

    Yet others will flee from Him, as they see the state of their souls. They refused to love God in time, and they will refuse to love Him in eternity. It is their choice.

  27. We go verse by verse through a gospel every year. So at any point in the synoptics and the references to judgment in John bring hell up about as frequently as it appears in Scripture (since it appears mostly in the gospels).

    I gave a series of talks on Apostles’ Creed and hell came up in the talks on the judgment, forgiveness, and eternal life. I spoke of hell in both senses, present day judgment by natural or supernatural consequences as well as post resurrection exclusion from the beatific vision.

  28. I heard a sermon/homily on hell months ago by a priest at a Catholic Church in Maryland. He even brought and set up an old painting in the church showing people praying at the bed of a dying person which I think had pictures of demons and flames and angels and clouds to show hell and Heaven. He said that the painting was an old one used to remind people of their ultimate final destinations…, heaven or hell. Thank God, he’s a solid Catholic priest. He also gave a sermon/homily on the evil of artificial birth control. He offers Mass in the novus ordo and traditional Latin.

  29. I’ve been going to Catholic Masses in many and various parishes regularly for half a century and I cannot recollect even one explicit mention of Hell in any homily/sermon.

  30. Oh we had a wizz-banger on the WRATH of GOD the other day. How terrible the wrath of God will be in Hell. If you are not aware, God creates hell and wraths it out.

    It really put the cross in perspective and how that wrath is actually deserved by me because of my sin. Thanks be to Jesus for completing the work of atonement. It is finished.

  31. Jesus talked a lot about Hell as if it is a real place, and real people are destined for it. It seems like an injustice to think that all of ISIS, Adolph Hitler, Stalin, all end up in Heaven with Jesus and the apostles no matter what, even if they do not repent.
    I imagine that you’ll never hear a word about Hell in the mainline Protestant or Catholic churches, it’s bad for business. And I suspect the brimstone preaching is even on the decline in the Bible-thumpin’ fundamentalist churches. The pastor of my church preaches expositionally (straight from the Word) and if the topic of Hell comes up in context, he presents it in context, as a real place to be avoided.

  32. The last time I heard a sermon about Hell was during my Confirmation class some 50 years ago. I don’t recall the name of the priest who gave that sermon, but it was truly a Hell fire and brimstone stem-winder of a speech. It got my attention. In the half century since then, I have not heard its like.

  33. +JMJ

    Just mentioning that in my sermon of Apr. 23, 2017, I said, “A mortal sin merits eternal punishment as well as temporal punishment, and so a person who dies in a state of mortal sin will be condemned to Hell forever. ”

    The topic of the sermon was indulgences.

  34. While being raised in a Southern Baptist church, hell and brimstone sermons were the standard. As a young family man, I agreed with my wife and became a United Methodist. That way I could greet neighbors on the occasional trip to the liquor store.

    I don’ t remember a lot of hell being preached in the Methodist church. We have latched on to the good Jesus, and forgotten the jealous God, they being one and the same under Christian beliefs.

  35. I hear Hell mentioned once in a while in church, but not in a “fire and brimstone” sense.
    I, and some others I am aware of, lean towards anihilation.
    The Lake of Fire in Revelation is often confused with eternal Hell.
    But I see it as a destructive act.
    I am not concerned about Hell, as Jesus paid for me to not go.

  36. Our Catholic priest mentions it at least monthly in his homilies. But, he is Filipino and maybe not as politically correct as some. Although, his two predecessors, Anglos both, also talked about hell.

    Your mileage may vary.

  37. Wrote this last week when this post appeared.
    I believe events over the last two years caused most thoughtful people to question the state of the world and consider the looming evil threat to goodness, innocence and freedom and to those who believe in it and fight for it.

    It, evil, was held in sharp relief that day in London and then in the desert. It occurred to me:
    If there is evil there is goodness since evil doesn’t exist on it’s own.

    The lies about hell are precisely that. They are emotional place holders, when it suits, although I have never believed in it because it makes no real sense. I have always been ready for God’s judgement, believing it is ongoing.
    Ultimate justice happens at the end, I assume.

    However Eden’s remark reminds me that explanations of Jesus’s death never really made sense to me.

    It is the answer to the question about pain and suffering. The question that every atheist, believer and casual observer I’ve ever met has rightly offered as reasoning for the non existence of God.
    They are justified being angry about
    “bone cancer in children?” “Pain and decay in all around I see.”
    The truth, I believe, is that God became part of that suffering. It is an intellectual and physical acknowledgement of the pain and suffering in the world and it’s imperfections. It is the only way it makes sense and the only way there can BE sense.

    Without a choice between good and evil there is no freedom, no choice, no beauty, love, truth, no individuation.

    Everybody seems tempted to pre-empt God’s judgement in an attempt to understand evil, not good. They never wonder why butterflies or roses. So that is what they see. People see evil everywhere instead of beauty. Modern Art has helped or reflected this mentality.
    Pre-empting God’s judgement is
    “irritably reaching for facts and reason”. That’s what Good art doesn’t do.

    “He was little, weak and helpless,
    Tears and smiles like us He knew;
    And He feeleth for our sadness,
    And He shareth in our gladness.
    And our eyes at last shall see Him,
    Through His own redeeming love,
    For that Child so dear and gentle
    Is our Lord in Heav’n above,
    And He leads His children on
    To the place where He is gone.
    Not in that poor lowly stable,
    With the oxen standing by,
    We shall see Him; but in Heaven,
    Set at God’s right hand on high;
    Where like stars His children crowned
    All in white shall wait around.”

    The more people believe in ultimate justice the less they are likely to take it into their own hands.

    Unfortunately the evil messages and the lies reach the innocent minds of some who’s constitution is not and never is likely to be strong enough to also carry hell and damnation metered out by weirdos, pervert spotters and real ones, zealots, the jealous sadists which they do not deserve. It is mental battery. It is not gentle.

    When you have as I have, seen pure evil, it gives you a perspective and changes your life forever. When you have picked yourself up, that is.

    God Is Love. Makes sense. He is not soft or weak.

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