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 Diest philosophy it was taboo to speak of miracles. It was and is a challenge to these cultures to hold forth what God says even in the face of social intimidation on these points.
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 or in times past, but it one we now face here. This is a stand from which many young Christian workers are tempted to back down or even to compromise in order to accommodate their own doubt. However if we do this I think we lose three important things.
- We loose 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 are free to do so. 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.
- 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.
- We loose God's Love. This may seem a paradox, but what does it cost a God to love a humanity who has not aroused divine anger? Hell is the price of choosing separation from God and as Christians we believe it is a 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 there he declared, "I love you!" If there is no hell to pay, God's love is nothing but a hippy like abstraction, like a cup of warm milk before bed. Love is proved with real nails and real thorns passing through a real fire.