Hell No?

IN THE MIDDLE EAST, it is taboo to speak about the Trinity or about Jesus being divine in any way. 300 years ago, when Western culture was saturated with Deist philosophy, it was taboo to speak of miracles. 

Every culture and every generation has values that will resist the Christian message at some point. Heaven will offend every earthly society because every one of them is corrupted by sin. But they are corrupted by sin in different ways. Thus, they are offended on different points. One culture may be open to some Christian truths (while rejecting others) and another culture will experience it the other way around.

Perhaps one of the largest taboos that 21st century Westerners face is proclaiming what the Bible says about the fate of mankind apart from the saving work of Jesus (ie. Hell). This is not a taboo that exists in the Middle East today and it was not one here in the British Isles centuries ago. But it is now. The social pressure against such the teaching of hell is so intense that some teachers, like former Evangelical leaders Rob Bell (USA) or Steve Chalke (UK), either deny it or strongly compromise it (Here).

This is a Christian teaching from which many preachers and witnesses are tempted to back down (or even to compromise in order to accommodate their own doubt).  But, if we lose the teaching about hell, we lose three important things.
  1. We lose an understanding of the power of free will.  The doctrine of hell is a tribute to the free will of man.  If we really want to screw up our eternal existence, we can. In Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley makes it clear to Scrooge that the chains he now wears in eternity were formed by every selfish choice he ever made.  The freedom God has given us is that radical.   
  2. We loose integrity in dealing with the Scripture. All of the sudden we have to take the words of Jesus on the horrors of hell to mean something other than what they seem to obviously mean. Having to do gymnastics with our interpretive tools is not a good way to read or teach Scripture.
  3. We lose God's Love. This may seem a paradox, but what does it cost God to love a humanity who has not aroused His divine anger? Hell is the price we pay for choosing existence apart from God. And we believe it is this price that Jesus paid for us on the cross crying, 'My God, Why did you forsake me?' On the cross, Jesus descended into the heart of hell and from where he declared, 'I love you'. If no hell was paid for our salvation, then what is God's love but a cozy ideological abstraction - like a cup of warm milk before bed. Love is proved with real nails and real thorns passing through a real fire. Jesus drank the cup of judgement so that we wouldn't have to.
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For more on resisting spiritual compromise, please check out the book Elijah Men Eat Meat: Readings to slaughter your inner Ahab and pursue Revival and Reform 

Comments

  1. I believe the words of the Bible, but hope (like many Christian's with whom I have talked at length who won't say it directly) that I'm seeing in a mirror dimly and can not possibly comprehend existence beyond this life in either heaven or hell. I guess its our selfish, entitlement western attitudes that sees life as unfair of not given a choice to be created, but then forced to choose sacrifice now or foretold sacrifice of eternity later.

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  2. Well said Kevin. With all the varying imagery of hell (and heaven) we can only take it is as a strong deterrent (or motivation).

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