God Forbid podcast | What is hell, and does anyone go there?

In popular culture, hell is often depicted as a place full of flames, demons and screaming people. Is this what Christians really believe? Join James and our panel of Christian theologians — each with a differing view of eternal torment, and how we end up there.

Listen Now

In this episode:

Even amongst Christians, there’s a whole range of views on hell — from temporal suffering to a fiery cauldron, and literal to metaphorical descriptions. But what is the mainstream Protestant view of hell? How does this differ from a Roman Catholic view? And what does Purgatory have to do with it?

Some critics of universalism — the idea that we’re all ultimately going to heaven — say it’s a postmodern, watered-down version of Christianity. But the idea is not new. Some scholars believe St Gregory of Nissa, a 4th century theologian from what’s now Turkey, had this view. David Bentley Hart agrees, but the Eastern Orthodox Church — which emphasises tradition and doctrinal purity — means everything to him. How did he reach this conclusion on hell?

Perhaps the greatest literary depiction of hell is Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem The Divine Comedy. Even though it was written in the 14th century, Dante’s imagery still captures our imagination today. We still associate hell with physical torture beneath the Earth’s surface, but that isn’t what’s found in the Bible.

Supporting Information

Hear Oxford Professor Margaret Kean and Reverend Michael Jenson talk about the literary figure Dante and his journey into hell on Encounter.

Watch David Bentley Hart’s full lecture on universalism he delivered to Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina.


Rev Dr Robin Parry, leading theologian of Christian universalism and Church of England Minister. He is in Australia for the Hope and Hell conference on universal salvation.

Rev David Robertson, Pastor and former moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, currently in Australia with the City Bible Forum.

Rev Dr Robyn Whitaker, Uniting Church Minister, New Testament Studies coordinator at Pilgrim Theological College and Senior Lecturer at the University of Divinity.

James Carleton

Rohan Salmond/ Hong Jiang

Add comment

About VOX

VOX brings members of the University, especially academic staff, into conversation with churches, the community and you. It publishes original material and may republish or link to items from blogs, social media and news media.