WRF Board Member Dr. Augustus Nicodemus Lopes Discusses "Hell in Popular Brazilian Culture"

The item below was submitted by WRF Board member Dr. Augustus Nicodemus Lopes, Chancellor of Mackenzie Presbyterian University in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He may be contacted at augustusnicodemus@terra.com.br.

Hell in Brazilian popular theology

The idea of hell is strongly present in Brazilian popular belief. However, the popular concept of hell is far from being biblical, in spite of the phenomenal growth of evangelicals in the country. Hell is usually depicted as a place where lost souls are tormented by the devil and his demons. At the same time, it is a place where there is carnival, samba, drinking and sex in contrast to heaven where pure souls live ascetically like monks. For many, hell is here on earth, not a future and eternal state. And, of course, there are those, among evangelicals Christians, who have read liberal theology or writers like Rob Bell. For them, hell is either a symbol of annihilation or of something other than the Biblical representation of the eternal punishment of the wicked.
I cannot speak for Reformed and biblical Christians in Brazil, but I guess the following personal confession would fairly represent what most of those would say about hell:
·         I believe that there is a hell just like the Bible says; I believe it is eternal and I thank God that he gave me no condition to understand fully what it means to suffer forever, otherwise I would go out of my mind.

·         I believe that only those who believed in Jesus Christ as their Savior, the Son of God who came to earth to die for our sins, will escape from going to hell. Those who have never heard of Christ are no exception because there is no innocent before God, as Paul teaches in Romans 1 and 2.

·         I believe that hell was also prepared for the devil and his angels, but I do not think the devil is already there, much less that he is the king of hell, where he rules sovereignly and torments lost souls. The devil fears and trembles in anticipation of that day when he will be forever cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.

·         I believe the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners from hell and that he gave himself on the cross for this. I also recognize that most of the quotes and information about hell was made by Jesus himself and not by the so called "evil god" of the Old Testament nor by the "hard hearted" apostle Paul.

·         I believe that even though Jesus used a lot of imagery and figurative language when he speaks about hell this fact does not diminishes the horror of the things he meant.
I regret that I have spoken little about hell in my preaching. I regret that I was not more convincing when I did do that. And I regret even more that there are few preachers today who are willing to preach about it.

For those interested, here are some of the biblical passages relevant to this discussion:
Psa 9:17; Prov 5:5; 9.13-17; 15:24; 23.13-14; Isa 30.33, 33.14; Mat 3:12; 5.29-30; 7:13-14; 8.11-12; 10:28; 13.30, 38-42, 49-50; 16:18; 18.8-9, 34-35; 22:13; 25.28-30, 41, 46, Mark 9:43-48, Luke 3:17; 16.23-28, Acts 1:25; 2Tess 1.9; 2Ped 2.4; Jude 6, 23, Rev 9.1, 2, 7.11 , 14.10, 11, 19.20; 20.10, 15; 8.21 2.11.