Authors such as Bill Weise (23 minutes in Hell) and Mary Baxter claim Jesus allowed them to experience hell in order to warn us.  They portray hell as an eternal torture chamber with excruciating physical pain.  I wanted to get your input as to whether you believe their portrayals or think it’s a big hoax?

I do not know Mary Baxter or Bill Weise.  For this reason, I am not in a position to judge whether they are putting on a hoax or are sincere.  They will have to answer for their own motivations.  What I can say is that such things should be taken with a huge grain of salt.  We cannot base our lives or our beliefs on anyone’s personal experience.  Whether or not Mr. Weise and Ms. Baxter are lying or not is not really all that relevant to how you ought to respond to their writing.  Their visions, whether created out of sheer imagination in order to earn a profit, or if they sincerely believe in their significance, have no authority.  I am sure one could find examples of a Muslim having a similar experience showed to him or her by Muhammed or a Hindu having a vision given by Krishna.  There is simply no way to judge the validity of such an experience. 
Bottom line, individual religious experience is not good evidence we can use to decide what is true.
The situation with the Bible is very different.  There is an almost unlimited amount of evidence that the Old and New Testament is inspired by God.  There is sufficient authority here that you can trust the Bible to be the very Word of God.  It is tempting for us to try to fill in details when the Bible does not answer every question, but we will do well to take the admonition to "not go beyond what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6) in the Bible.
John Oakes

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