“You might want to reconsider the argument in your post. No serious scholar thinks this story is about hell.”
That is one of the written responses I received after posting The Hell Test – Tested (Part 12). First, the premise cannot be proven because the term “serious scholar” is not defined and only known to the mind of the writer. Second, when described by a scholarly definition – “thoughtful and sober learned person who has done advanced study in a special field” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary) – we will find many “serious scholars” who would agree that Luke 16:19-31 is about hell. Third, what does it matter whether anyone agrees with what you believe if what you believe is clearly stated in Scripture?
“And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” Luke 16:23
In our last study we saw Jesus declaring to the Pharisees the result of serving riches instead of God. It happened when the Pharisees heard Jesus telling His disciples the parable of the unjust steward. Jesus hit the Pharisees where it hurts – in their pride and pocket book.
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.’ Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. And He said to them, ’You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Luke 16:13-15
It was after those words that Jesus told the Pharisees about the rich man, Lazarus and Abraham. The story included the use of the word hade (hades).
“If the Rich Man and Lazarus story (Luke chapter 16) is real and NOT a parable, then we will be able to converse with our loves ones who did not make it into heaven. Would heaven really be paradise if this were true?” (The Hell Test)
The short answer to The Hell Test’s question about whether the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is real or a parable is – it’s real. Check out our previous post for a background about parables in the ancient world.
Parables are about real-life issues, but not real-life people. When you see a story with the names of real people used in it (e.g. Lazarus, Abraham), you know the story is real and not a parable. Another clue is when the writer identifies a story as a parable.
To help us see that the story of the rich man, Lazarus and Abraham is real and not a parable, let’s first look at examples of Christ’s parables in the Gospel of Luke.
“If there is a Hell and according to most denominations of Christianity the majority of mankind will go there, could you really enjoy heaven knowing your mother or father or children or best friend are suffering everlasting tortures the likes of which would make the Holocaust seem like a picnic? If the Rich Man and Lazarus story (Luke chapter 16) is real and NOT a parable, then we will be able to converse with our loves ones who did not make it into heaven. Would heaven really be paradise if this were true?” (The Hell Test)
These are typical questions by universalists. How could we “enjoy” Heaven if our loved ones are suffering everlasting torture? Notice the emphasis on “our” enjoyment, not God’s justice and glory. Then there’s the question about whether the story in Luke 16 about the rich man and Lazarus is “real” or a “parable.” That’s an important question since truth is always the key to faith. Jesus told the story about Lazarus and the rich man for a reason. We need to know why He told it and how it impacts our life and the lives of the people we know and love.
It’s interesting to see the universalist’s question about whether Heaven could really be paradise if hell was true. That’s not an honest way to approach truth. We cannot and should not base our acceptance of what’s true on whether we like it or not. If we trust God, then His truth will always be the right thing.
With that being said, let’s put The Hell Test to the test.
“If Hell was real, does that mean Jesus raised the wicked from an unconscious state, make them alive only to be endlessly tortured? Wouldn’t it be more merciful to just leave them eternally unconscious (which some believe)? (Ecc. 9:5; John 11:11)” (The Hell Test)
The author of The Hell Test is using the “straw man” technique to throw people off the trail of the truth – “If hell was real” … “Jesus raised the wicked from an unconscious state” … “make them alive only to be endlessly tortured” … “Wouldn’t it be more merciful” …
The “straw man” argument is a type of informal fallacy that misrepresents the position of people who believe in Christ’s eternal judgment of the wicked and creates the illusion that they have effectively refuted the position. The author of The Hell Test fails in his attempt to persuade because of the weakness of his argument.
The “straw man” argument is often used with highly-charged emotional issues where logic and facts are lacking on the side of those who build the straw man. It’s a process of moving attention away from the facts and toward the emotions (e.g. fear, pity, anger). The subject of Christ’s final judgment of the wicked deserves more and better than this.
The word “error” meant little to me when I was an atheist. An error was just a mistake that could be corrected if necessary. However, the word “error” means far more than just making a simple mistake.
First, here are several English dictionary definitions of the word:
“an act or condition of ignorant or imprudent deviation from a code of behavior” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary)
“An act, assertion, or belief that unintentionally deviates from what is correct, right, or true”
“The condition of having incorrect or false knowledge” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language)
“belief in something untrue; the holding of mistaken opinions” (Dictionary.com)
“an incorrect belief or wrong judgment” (Collins English Dictionary)
I find this one interesting. It’s from the Webster 1828 Dictionary and includes the Latin word and meaning.
“ER’ROR, n. [L. error, from erro, to wander.] A wandering or deviation from the truth; a mistake in judgment, by which men assent to or believe what is not true. Error may be voluntary, or involuntary. Voluntary, when men neglect or pervert the proper means to inform the mind; involuntary, when the means of judging correctly are not in their power. An error committed through carelessness or haste is a blunder.”
The word error took on a new meaning when I became a Christian. I was reminded of that recently when someone asked me a question about something they heard on a religious radio program. Interestingly enough, that program is what started me on the path of an apologetics ministry more than 40 years ago.