Rev. Franklin Graham reproved a recently published column in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) for portraying Hell as a fictional, manmade concept – and warned skeptics about believing the columnist’s misleading assertion.
WSJ columnist Scott G. Bruce of Fordham University argued that mankind will be better off once it dispels of what he considers the notion of Hell – which is presented as a reality in the Bible.
“In some distant, better future, the foreclosure of Hell will be an important step in the maturation of human communities,” Bruce contended in his WSJ column last Friday.
As a segue into his argument, Bruce mentioned a statement made by Pope Francis this spring reportedly rejecting the Bible’s teaching that Hell is a real place.
“Bruce cites reports that Pope Francis denied the existence of hell,” WND reported.
The controversial alleged statement opened up his op-ed.
“In March 2018, Pope Francis allegedly denied the existence of Hell and the endless suffering of the damned in a private talk with his friend Eugenio Scalfari – a left-wing journalist – who published his account of their conversation in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica,” Bruce wrote. “The response to Scalfari’s article was immediate and explosive. How could the pope deny such a fundamental teaching of the Catholic Church?”
A question that deserves an answer
The son of the late iconic evangelist Billy Graham was quick to respond to Bruce’s column challenging the existence of Hell, a piece that leads readers to believe that the eternal place of punishment is merely a figment of man’s imagination spanning millennia.
“Hell is much more than a concept – it’s a reality,” Franklin Graham contended in a Facebook post, challenging Bruce’s take on the issue.
Turning straight to Scripture, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and Samaritan’s Purse relayed the description of Hell using some of God’s own words.
“[Hell is a] blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, [and it will] not change with the maturing of human culture – or anything else we might dream up,” Graham continued.
Embracing the Pope’s alleged notion of Hell as only existing in man’s mind, Bruce conceded that the New Testament clearly depicts Hell as a place of punishment for those who deny the deity of Jesus Christ … before discounting it as a burdensome idea:
“God created Hell for Satan and the rebel angels, but there was plenty of room to torture with fire and brimstone everyone who had rejected Jesus Christ as the Son of God,” he explained in his column. “By any measure, Hell is a cruel and oppressive concept: a place where sinners suffer unspeakable torments for all eternity for sins committed during their mortal lives.”
Bruce goes on to claim that the place of eternal damnation referred to as Hell in the Bible actually predates Christianity by millennia, which he says Christians borrowed from at a later time.
“[Bruce] believes it predates Christianity by thousands of years,” WND’s Bob Unruh informed.
Bruce attempted to approach the subject as a historian relaying the facts, but he provided no true foundation for his argument.
“[Early Christians composed] harrowing stories of human souls escorted by angels to witness the torture of those imprisoned in the infernal depths,” he argued. “By the Middle Ages, Hell was a cornerstone of Christian doctrine.”
The Fordham scholar then presented Hell as merely a contraption used by clergy, Bible scholars and authors to frighten people into not sinning.
“Parish priests delivered sermons about the awful torments awaiting sinners; theologians such as Thomas Aquinas argued that the blessed in Heaven rejoiced in the suffering of the damned; and Dante Aligheri composed his towering poem ‘The Inferno,’ which depicts Hell as an efficient bureaucracy shaped like a descending funnel, with Satan trapped in ice at the very bottom,” Bruce continued.
It was then asserted that even though Hell has been effectively used to steer people toward Heaven, the belief in Darwinian evolution has turned the emphasis from damnation to salvation – saying that today, Hell is just used as a fanciful allegory.
“[The fear of Hell] helped lead souls to Heaven, [but Darwinism] eroded the authority of the Bible and the tides of sentiment turned against God’s wrath in favor of His mercy [in the 19th century,” Bruce insisted. “[Hell was a metaphor for] the most extreme suffering and squalor in this world.”
The scholar from Fordham than attempted to place more doubts in readers’ minds, implying that Hell is nothing more than a useful tool to keep people from behaving badly.
“Has Hell outlived its usefulness to modern society? Probably not,” Bruce posed before answering his own question. “The doctrine still serves Christianity as it has for centuries – as a frightening deterrent to sinful behavior. We still hope that wicked people and corrupt leaders will get their just deserts in the world to come.”
As noted above, Bruce insisted that discarding the “concept” of Hell will evolve man into a superior and more independent state of being.
“In some distant, better future, the foreclosure of Hell will be an important step in the maturation of human communities that can mete out justice on their own – without supernatural aid,” he contended. “In the meantime, Hell is here to stay. Will Pope Francis evict the Devil and his minions and liberate the numberless, tortured souls clawing at the walls of their burning cells? Don’t count on it. There isn’t a hope in Hell.”
Denouncing a bad argument with Jesus’ words
When making his case for Hell as a real place – and not just an idea – Graham noted that Jesus Christ made it a point to assure His followers that the place of eternal damnation is a reality.
“Jesus spoke about it a great deal,” Graham impressed on Facebook. “Hell is a very real place that will be the eternal destination of souls who reject the forgiveness and salvation that a loving God offers us through His Son, Jesus Christ.”
And he assured that Heaven is just as real as Hell, reminding his Facebook audience that everyone on Earth will end up in eternity at one place or the other.
“Heaven is also a real place – prepared for those who put their faith and trust in Christ,” Graham reminded readers. “Now is the time when we must choose our eternal destiny – the Bible tells us ‘…now is the day of salvation’ (2 Corinthians 6:2).”
He concluded by seizing the opportunity to make people grasp the seriousness of their personal acceptance or rejection of Hell – and Heaven – as a reality.
“If you die today, are you sure of your destination?” Graham asked.