Hell does not exist as a place where people- or even demons- go after death, but it is still a useful concept. Those who commit the sin against the Holy Spirit, though they live, are in Hell. The sin against the Holy Spirit is certainty. Mark 3:28-30:
Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven all their sins and all the blasphemies they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin. He said this because they [the Pharisees] were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit’.
Jesus condemns the Pharisees in strong terms, eg Matthew 23:27:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.
What is wrong with them? That they close their ears, eyes, hearts and minds to any challenge to their own beliefs- Matthew 13:15, quoting Isaiah 6:10:
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.
Isaiah 6 is the call of the prophet, and his first message. Another possibility is that the person who does not hear with his ears is a person who refuses to empathise, even to try to see things from another’s point of view. He has his own point of view. No-one else’s can have value for him, as if he cannot hear it.
John 8 31-47 illustrates the problem in stark terms.
Jesus: The truth will set you free.
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Because they believe they have the truth, because of their certainty, they cannot listen to the truth Jesus speaks.
With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). How? John 3:5-8:
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
But Jesus also says, Luke 16:31,
If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.
An example may be useful: Young Earth creationism. Over the last century, a vast array of evidence has been amassed for the theory of evolution by natural selection, and for the age of the Universe- the current theory is that it is 13.7 billion years old, and has of the order of one hundred billion galaxies. This evidence is taught in universities all around the world, continually debated, assessed and theorised. If the Earth is really less than ten thousand years old, how may this be explained? Has God placed false evidence to delude all those academics? Or are they all the slaves of the Devil, conspiring together to delude humanity? Christianity itself refutes young-Earth creationism.
Realising one is wrong is intensely painful, but it gets easier. The cure for this sin is openness to truth.
For those who have a desperate urge to learn what “arsenokoitai” might really mean, the posts linked to here are very useful. For most of us, just knowing that the Bible condemns homosexual acts Christians would condemn if they were heterosexual- use of enslaved prostitutes, or gang rape in Sodom- is enough. Unfortunately some Evangelical christians deny this, and say the Bible condemns all gay sex whatsoever, ignoring the actual texts.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock: the knocking the Evangelicals have to ignore gets steadily louder. “Sexual orientation is not a choice“, says the Royal College of Psychiatrists. While looking for evidence of Evangelical denial of truth, I came across this:
We are willing to listen to evidence, we do not seek to stuff our convictions down people’s throats, but we do have certain convictions based on biblical principles, also bolstered by pragmatic, sociological evidence.
Not willing enough, some would say, a 5° turn from the lie rather than the necessary 180°, but cautious grounds for optimism.
However, (not recommended) if you really want an example of unreasoning hatred, of a man desperate to deny all truth, there is one here.
The need to be open to truth, observation and evidence applies to me first, before I demand it of others, and in my web-surfing I came across this report of a complete cure of gender dysphoria. A man had been preparing for transition, though he had not yet started the real life experience; and was in a therapy programme of which about 60% of the patients went on to have genital reconstruction surgery. After the removal of a female spirit, he pronounced himself cured, a happy heterosexual man.
I think his powerful motivation to be “cured” is relevant:
I love Mary and l’d have to give her up. Also, I find my career very rewarding and challenging. I would lose both if I have a sex change operation and become a woman. My wife refuses to live a marital life with another woman, and as it is, there are already great strains on our relationship because of my problem. My professional life would come to an end because there would be a paper trail. Anyway, who would take me seriously, despite my credentials? All that I value would be lost in order to live my life as a female.
Arguably, he has reverted because of personal circumstances and the intense, destructive discrimination which he anticipated and which many of us do not, in fact, experience. The report does not state how he is now, many years later.
How am I with evidence which does not fit my understanding? I am finding the holes in it, of course. But I have emailed to ask if the Spirit Release Foundation have any follow-up of the case. I seek to be open to possibilities, even those I find unattractive.