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Do you believe Christian teaching that Hell is a reality is an essential doctrine that is fundamental to Christian theology — that it is, indeed, a place of eternal suffering and punishment?  Or, could the existence of Hell be a reality that has a purpose other than punitive?

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Personally, I don't believe a supernatural place called Hell exists whatsoever.  Certainly, the kind of Hell somewhat portrayed in the New Testament (a place of eternal suffering and punishment) has nothing in common with the previous +500 years of teaching in Judaism, which although English versions of the bible use the word 'hell', it is actually referring to their belief in Sheol, a place where all the dead go (except for maybe a few exceptions such as Moses and Elijah).  A burning, punishing hell is a Greek development that was adopted by Christianity.

Bart Erhmann, who is an expert on early Christianity, explains it much better than I do, here:

https://www.npr.org/2020/03/31/824479587/heaven-and-hell-are-not-what-jesus-preached-religion-scholar-says

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On 11/5/2020 at 6:20 PM, LRT Jr said:

Do you believe Christian teaching that Hell is a reality is an essential doctrine that is fundamental to Christian theology — that it is, indeed, a place of eternal suffering and punishment?  Or, could the existence of Hell be a reality that has a purpose other than punitive?

A close reading of the Christian bible reveals that hell  itself is eternal, but nothing about eternal suffering and punishment.  That idea comes from Dante and Bosch.

Think of the biblical idea of hell as an eternal incinerator where souls not fit for purpose are denied resurrection and eternal life.

This is not unlike the the Oriental concept of imperfect souls being destroyed and reincarnated on a wheel of karma until they reach a state of perfection.  This general theme has some support in the common biblical metaphor of ‘The refiner’s fire.’

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