My blog has moved!

You will be automatically redirected to the new address. If that does not occur, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hell: A vaild motivation for evangelism? - Pt. I

Part I
There is not a touchier subject to discuss, even among Christians, than the subject of hell. If there were a way to dispense with certain doctrines of Scripture, hell would rank above election and genocide. Hell is, to be quite a honest, a downer; it is an unpleasant thought that one does not discuss among friends, especially one’s pagan friends.

Randy Alcorn in his book, Heaven, first begins with the subject of hell:
I am addressing this issue (hell) now because throughout this book I will talk about being with Jesus in Heaven…The great danger is that readers will assume they are headed for Heaven…But Jesus made it clear that most people are not going to heaven…
He then goes on to quote Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:13-14,

13"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

14For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 

So, Jesus says that most people, not even a lot of people are going to hell? Even the optimistic NT Wright in his book, Surprised by Hope, believes that there is a hell:
My suggestion is that it is possible for human beings to so continue down this road…that after death they become at last, by their own effective choice, beings that once were human but now are not, creatures that ceased to bear the divine image at all. With the death of the body in which they inhabited in God’s good world…they pass simultaneously not only beyond hope but beyond pity.
The Bishop of Durham nor Randy Alcorn speaks of hell fondly; when they do, it is with much reticence and care; both men are willing to trust God’s judgment on the matter.

Hell is a sticky subject because there is a disagreement about 1) whether it exists and 2) if it does, who goes there and why. There are some common misconceptions about hell and the subject of hell that need to be spelled out first:

1) When speaking of hell, Jesus normally is speaking to or about the religious leaders

This is a bit unsettling and for good reason. Jesus had lots to say about the coming judgment (whether this implies the place of hell is debated). What is not debated is who the majority of these conversations were directed at: the religious people. In fact, these conversations were directed at the best of the religious people. What does this mean? It means the same thing it meant in Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “Revelation,” it means that we who claim to know God need to be more careful and alert than anyone else, lest our “virtues be burnt up. “We are much more likely to be deceived by comparison or bookkeeping than the prostitute or the tax collector. The Apostle Peter admonishes us in 2 Peter 1:10, to make your calling and election sure. In the same verse, Peter uses the Greek word σπουδασατε (spoudasate) meaning “with diligence and labor,” to describe how intense we should be at the assurance process. Those who are religious are much more susceptible to believe a lie about their righteousness before God and its proper source. Jesus made sure that the religious were warned because they were more lost than anyone else.

2) No one is destined for hell; as long as temporal life lasts everyone can be saved.

Contrary to the implications of certain Reformed views, hell is not a place man was predestined to go. Hell is “prepared for the devil and his angels,” (Mt 25:41) and is not someplace that even fallen humanity was supposed to end up. In fact, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, (Rom 5:8) and he is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. “ (2 Pet 3:9). Christ died so that no man or woman would have to endure the fires of hell. The idea that people are predestined to damnation is rejected by most (but not all) modern day Calvinists and is absolutely reprehensible considering the great mercy, patience, and compassion of God. When you, as a Christian, tell someone to “go to hell,” or “God damn you,” you are taking power into your hands that you do not have and you are attempting to use that in an act of hatred, not love, toward your neighbor. Every time we write someone off as beyond hope, we are spitting in the face of the very Gospel, and the very Christ who somehow managed to save our wretched souls. No one is destined for hell and we need to live like this is the case.
More to come next time.

To Be Continued…Next Time: Hell: A valid motivation for evangelism? Part II.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home