Hell, and other thoughts that got me fired. A rant by Ryan Guard.

I’ve always had a hard time with the concept of hell, the devil, eternal suffering, etc… The idea that people are experiencing infinite consequences because of some sort of finite failure is unbelievable to me. 

I came to faith at 21, and I came with a LOT of questions. The biggest one was hell. “How could a loving God…?” and all of that.

I never heard a single answer that satisfied me. In fact, I was shocked at how little it seemed to both people that there was a Hell full of people suffering! I heard numerous people say that their suffering would somehow enhance the joy of people in Heaven… “Thank God we’re not down there, eh?!”


The idea that God created all of this, and that the MAIN POINT is that some people would come to believe something, and they would be IN, and everyone else would be… OUT. 

All the while, there are ~5,000 religions in the world, and tens of thousands of denominations and variations within those religions. So… God’s in Heaven right now saying, “You better get the right one!”?

What a weird game to play. 

You better get the right one. 

You better be born in a time and place where that’s even possible.

If you’re reading this in Utah, I bet you’re Mormon!

If you’re reading this in India, I bet you’re Hindu!

And so on, and so on…

Essentially, you better believe the right one even if the people who were leaders in that one mistreated you, tarnishing the whole thing. You’ve got to look past that and still believe, or else!

This quote from Brian McLaren ruined the whole idea for me in 2003: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, and he’ll fry your butt in hell forever unless you do or believe the right thing. God is a loving father, but he’ll treat you with a cruelty that no human father has ever been guilty of- eternal conscious torture. No wonder Christianity- or at least that version of it- is a dying religion in so many places in the world.” – McLaren

For the millions of people living (and dying) in poverty… if they don’t believe, then they end up in Hell too? That means that when I walked into the slums of Malawi, and saw people suffering and dying, I could have stooped down and whispered to those people on their deathbeds, “This is actually the best it’s ever gonna be for you.”

That’s insensitive, and I would obviously never do that… but it’s true. If this temporary suffering is just a mist, and eternal suffering and separation is on the way, then this actually isn’t that bad in comparison.

Is that the best God can do? That’s the best storyline God could come up with? That makes me want to cry.

The SAME God who dreamt up and created everything amazing and beautiful in this Universe (that’s a really long list), when it came to the pinnacle of creation, the human being, this is the best God could do?

I can’t fathom that. 

I can’t fathom the father coming off the porch, embracing his son, being the same father who would punish his children forever. 

That dad needs counseling.

I also can’t fathom a father who would LET their kid choose.

If I let Gavin choose what to eat every day for every meal, he’ll be 99% chicken nugget by the weekend. That would be unloving, because he isn’t smart enough to know better yet!

If I choose to believe in anything but God, and God actually exists, then I’m choosing the wrong thing because I don’t know any better.

I believe in God, but I think it’s rational and reasonable to NOT believe in God. Contrary to popular belief, most atheists aren’t out there drop-kicking puppies and pistol-whipping old women… They are people who have assessed the world they live in, and happen to believe that there isn’t a deity involved. And… they’re using the brains that God gave them to come to that conclusion. 

Why would God play that game? Why would God make it completely reasonable to question all of this?

Now, if you’re a Calvinist… holy cow thank you for reading this far. 

If God picked teams before everything even started, and some people were already in and some people were already out, then I’ve got a lot of questions about that god. 

This concludes my unedited rant.

Knibb High football rules!

7 thoughts on “Hell, and other thoughts that got me fired. A rant by Ryan Guard.”

  1. The pride you must have to think you have the question about hell that no Christian over the last 2,000 years has answered in a way to satisfy your doubts is amazing. It appears you have outsmarted billions of people, and the conclusions were found in your own rhetoric and a part from God’s Word or character or relationship with His creation. Oh wait, there is a vague reference to Luke 15, nevermind.

  2. Well you’re a fun one, Christian!

    I never said that I had outsmarted anyone- I said that this is what I think. I’m allowed to think and question and come to my own conclusions, and so are you 🙂

    Let’s do a bible study, anonymous friend whose IP Address says they work at Hosanna Lutheran Church! I love Luther- what a courageous man he had to be to… question the beliefs and practices of the church for 1,500 years.

    You literally work at a church (I’m assuming) named after a guy who did what you’re criticizing me for doing. I’m no Martin Luther, but you’re a wee bit inconsistent if I do say so myself!

    Here ya go. Go grab that NRSV and let’s party 🙂

    John 12:32
    But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL MEN to myself.

    Acts 3:19-21
    Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you-even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore EVERYTHING, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

    2 Cor 5:12-21
    Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to ALL MEN, because all sinned- for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

    But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, HOW MUCH MORE did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the MANY! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, HOW MUCH MORE will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

    Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for ALL MEN. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the MANY will be made righteous.
    The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased ALL the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    1 Corinthians 15:20-26
    But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ ALL will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

    2 Corinthians 5:19
    that God was reconciling THE WORLD to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

    Philippians 2:9-11
    Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
    that at the name of Jesus EVERY knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

    Ephesians 1:10
    to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment-to bring ALL THINGS in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

    Colossians 1:16-23
    For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself ALL THINGS, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation- if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

    1 Timothy 2:4
    who WANTS ALL MEN TO BE SAVED and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

    1 Timothy 4:10
    (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the SAVIOR OF ALL MEN, and especially of those who believe.

    Hebrews 2:9
    But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death FOR EVERYONE (catchy).

    2 Peter 3:9
    The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting ANYONE to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

    1 John 2:2
    He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of THE WHOLE WORLD.

    And… pretty much all of Romans 8, Colossians 1, and Ephesians 1.

  3. Dear Ryan,

    It sounds like you’ve been really hurt and that you’ve had to deal with some hard questions. I have these questions too.

    What are your thoughts on being judged based on what we’ve been given? I was wondering about the example you gave about the person in Malawi and I agree with your line of thinking.

    Could you say more about your thoughts on free will? I know your goal with Gavin is that he would eventually be able to choose healthy foods by himself. What are your thoughts on how this mirrors God’s relationship with us?

    I hope that we can come visit you soon once the pandemic has settled down a little more. 🙂


  4. Hi Erin!!

    Thank you for commenting on here 🙂

    Your question makes me think of Luke 12:48, which says “For everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

    I think this has all sorts of implications, not just financial. It makes me pause and think about what I’m doing with the gifts and talents I’ve been given.

    Free will… I think we have a whole bunch of it, but I don’t think we should be fully trusted with it. This world is such a mess in so many ways, I can’t help but hope that the chapters to come are filled with forgiveness, redemption and hopefully a whole lot of “Ohhhh that all makes sense now!”!

    Gotta run to a meeting. You guys have gotta run to Ohio 🙂

  5. Ryan: Some number of years ago when you were at Mission Community Church you gave a sermon in which you mentioned 1 Corinthians 13:1. You said, as I recall, that trying to convert people to Christianity by yelling at them or telling all the things they are doing wrong does not work. All they will hear is banging gongs and clanging symbols. (I still have that sermon downloaded on my cell phone) The intended target must have the desire to see that what you have is worth aquiring. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says: “…if you want what we have..” Well, if you don’t want what I have then me yelling at you about the Book of Ezekiel accomplishes nothing.

    Anyway, Ryan, the point of this email is to tell you that I recall that sermon and mentioned it this week at the small group I am in and one person said: “Wow, I’ve never thought of that verse that way.” So, you see Ryan, you had an impact ten years after those words came out of your mouth.

    REgards, Clark

  6. Clark, thank you so much for the encouragement! I’m so glad that you found that helpful.

    I think you’re referring to a sermon I did titled, “Followers of the Way”, in which I covered the amazing story in Acts 19. That chapter has shaped me as much as any other in the Bible.

    Or it was something else haha! Either way, thank you very much for taking the time to share that.

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