Whatever Happened to Hell and Going to Heaven: Why Churches Promoting “Going to Heaven” Are Soon to Disappear (9/11/2121)


In my first year at the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley); I was required to read Oscar Cullmann's <b> Immortality of the Soul or the Resurrection of the Dead? </b> (1956). I was shocked and dumbfounded by what I discovered. Giving my religious instruction under the guidance of the Ursuline nuns at Holy Cross Grade School, it never entered my mind that Jesus did not believe that every person had an immortal soul that survived the death of the body. After a single reading, however, I suddenly realized that Jesus never endorsed the immortality of the soul. I suffered a crisis of faith--I realized that my Catholic upbringing had been contaminated by dubious ideas that originated with Socrates.<br> More recently, the international NT scholar and Bishop N.T. Wright has challenged the Christian churches to drop Socratic ideas and to return to the faith of Jesus:<br> <quote>Mention salvation, and almost all Western Christians assume that you mean going to heaven when you die. But a moment’s thought, in the light of all we have said so far, reveals that this simply cannot be right. . . . If God’s good creation—of the world, of life as we know it, or our glorious and remarkable bodies, brains, and bloodstreams—really is good . . . , then to see the death of the body and the escape of the soul as salvation is not simply slightly off course, in need of a few subtle alterations and modifications. It is totally and utterly wrong! </quote> In my article, I use my personal story to illustrate how Socratic doctrines had distorted my faith in Jesus. I use my training in historical theology to illustrate (a) how Socrates became the patron saint of the Church Fathers; (b) how Jesus' mission in Hades expanded during the first three centuries; and (c) how Hades began as a cool place where the souls of saints and sinners resided together and ended up as a hot place where grave sinners were eternally tormented. Along the way, I show how Socrates failed to resolve key issues such as (a) whether the soul survives death; (b) whether communication between souls is even possible after death; and (c) whether souls in the heavenly realm are locked in a permanent coma. In brief, I supply N.T. Wright with massive evidence of just how "utterly wrong" the "going to Heaven" movement has been.<br><br> Note: I just finished this paper and hope to publish it. Any help you can give me to improve its readability or content, would be appreciated.

Author's Profile

Aaron Milavec
University of Roehampton


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