"The Water Torture. Facsimile of a Woodcut in J. Damhoudère's Praxis Rerum Criminalium: in 4to, Antwerp, 1556." - Used to illustrate http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_cure

Pour­ing water over the cov­ered face of an immo­bi­lized per­son is a bru­tal thing to do. The cap­tive expe­ri­ences severe pain and an over­whelm­ing sen­sa­tion of drown­ing. Some vic­tims have even been known to break their bones as they strug­gle against the restraints.

From the per­spec­tive of Edwards and Spur­geon, the depths of hell are inversely pro­por­tion­ate to the heights of Heaven, as an all-powerful God gives eter­nal life to both the saved and the damned. While tears and sor­row will van­ish from Heaven, the saved live with endur­ing knowl­edge and are even expected to rejoice that some­where else con­cur­rently liv­ing souls of the damned rang­ing from evil dic­ta­tors to their unsaved neigh­bors day after day expe­ri­enc­ing con­tin­u­ous rip­ping pain through­out eter­nity. An unre­pen­tant child who died 1,000 years ago is being tor­tured that much longer than a recent mass murderer.

But is this really some­thing that God would do?  Does this belief influ­ence how many Chris­tians relate to the rest of the world?

In a 2008 USA Today poll, 57% of South­ern evan­gel­i­cal respon­dents, and 48% of the gen­eral pub­lic, said that they believed tor­ture can be jus­ti­fied to obtain infor­ma­tion from sus­pected terrorists.

Why would be Chris­tians be more will­ing to jus­tify tor­ture than the gen­eral pub­lic? It might go back to the doc­trine of eter­nal tor­ment in hell.  Many believe that God will engage in tor­ture day and night for eter­nity, so it would fol­low that Amer­i­cans fight­ing for a right­eous cause are jus­ti­fied in engag­ing in tor­ture for short amounts of time to meet their objectives.

Vintage engraving from 1807 showing people being tortured during the Spanish Inquisition.

Vin­tage engrav­ing from 1807 show­ing peo­ple being tor­tured dur­ing the Span­ish Inqui­si­tion. — iStock​Photo​.com

But does suf­fer­ing in hell appeal to the blood lust of an angry God, or do many Chris­tians sim­ply have the wrong pic­ture of God? Where did this idea come from?

The doc­trine of hell, as is com­monly believed, has its ori­gin in Plato and its appli­ca­tion in the writ­ings of Augus­tine who believed that God must pun­ish, not only save, oth­er­wise no human life, lived well or badly, made any ulti­mate dif­fer­ence. (See James V. Schall, “Regard­ing the Inat­ten­tive­ness to Hell in Polit­i­cal Philosophy,“DivusThomas, (Pia­cenza), (#3–4, 1989), 273–79.)

Because human­ity set on a down­ward course through orig­i­nal sin, Augus­tine cre­ated the frame­work for an inter­min­gling of church and state which would be nec­es­sary to ensure the sur­vival of pub­lic moral virtues that would save as much of soci­ety as possible.

Execution by burning at the stake

Reli­gious pun­ish­ment: Burn­ing at the Stake

So Chris­tians act­ing with pre­sum­ably good inten­tions resorted to tech­niques rang­ing from star­va­tion to heap­ing burn­ing coals on parts of the bod­ies of heretics. Then they started invent­ing ways to cause pain more effi­ciently while avoid­ing death in order to obtain con­fes­sions. Medieval tor­tur­ers would tie the hands of the accused to pul­leys on the ceil­ing and attach weights to the feet and ankles.  They invented meth­ods of stretch­ing the joints of sub­jects to the point where bones were pulled from their sock­ets. They pulled at skin with pin­cers and thumb­screws and invented water­board­ing, a tech­nique first prac­ticed by the Inqui­si­tion against Men­non­ite Chris­tians in 1554.

What a per­son believes about hell has a lot to do with what they think about God and how they believe peo­ple should be treated. As we enter times of social stress and ambi­gu­ity, when fun­da­men­tal val­ues are at stake, peo­ple of faith who doubt the power of God to change lives and believe that they are needed to fight the spir­i­tual bat­tle often engage a per­se­cu­tory impulse, jus­ti­fied by a con­cept that what­ever tor­ture they mete out will be noth­ing to the fires of hell. In fact, for over a thou­sand years, Chris­tians were reli­gious persecutors.

(For a more detailed his­tory, pic­tures of tor­ture devices and illus­tra­tions of tor­ture for reli­gious dis­senters, visit MedievalWarfare.info.  Warn­ing — the con­tent is very disturbing.)

  1. Jesus will return as He promised. The liv­ing who have been saved by accept­ing this sac­ri­fice on their will ascend to heaven and the right­eous dead will be res­ur­rected at that time. (1 Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans 4:13)
  2. The destruc­tive results of the fire will be eter­nal, but the fire itself will go out.  (Malachi 4:1–3)
  3. ab

Chris­tians need not live as if they are vic­tims of Stock­holm syn­drome, with irra­tional love for a cap­tor who actively tor­tures His cre­ation. Instead, the Bible paints a pic­ture of a God who does not tor­ture. The freely avail­able gift is eter­nal life, the wages of sin are eter­nal death.


Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heav­ens;
and thy faith­ful­ness rea­cheth unto the clouds.

Thy right­eous­ness is like the great moun­tains;
thy judg­ments are a great deep:
O Lord, thou pre­ser­vest man and beast.

How excel­lent is thy lov­ingkind­ness, O God!
There­fore the chil­dren of men put their trust
under the shadow of thy wings.

(Psalm 36:5–7)




For more infor­ma­tion about the doc­trine of hell, visit:


Hell Truth (Amaz­ing Facts) — http://​www​.hell​truth​.com/


Film: Hell and Mr. Fudge — http://​hel​landm​r​fudge​.org/


1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: