Friday, March 4, 2011

Weighing in on Hell

Well there has certainly been a lot of buzz on the blogosphere about Rob Bell's newest book. I was actually thinking I'd like to start writing formal book reviews on here a bit more, so I'll leave any comments on Bell or his theology to such a time... I do agree with Chris as he said that confrontations like this should get well intentioned Christians in to their own bibles, reaffirming what they believe, and that's good.

I thought I'd share a few thoughts I had and a few, far more intelligent thoughts, some other theologians have had concerning the doctrine of Hell.

First, for those who may cite John Stott, or Martin Lloyd-Jones as other theologians who have questioned the doctrine of Hell (as I've read on several uninformed comments of blog posts that have criticized Bell) , remember that both Stott and Jones publicly contemplated the doctrine of
Annihilationism. Annihilationism IS NOT universalism, nor does it renounce the doctrine of Hell... it simply says that sinners are destroyed rather than left to eternal suffering. It argues eternal separation can look like non-existence, or existence that is separate from God.

(It is also important to point out that neither theologian publicly supported this doctrine... it was a thought, or an idea that they gave some credence to. I've wrestled though this doctrine myself and would lean more towards a traditional view now.)

Now, a few things about Hell.

The bible doesn't exactly give us a detailed exposition of hell, but it does describe the fate of it's inhabitants and what they will experience while there with several adjectives, including: fire (Matt 13:42; 5018:8-9 and Rev 19:20), darkness (Matt. 25:30; Jude 13), punishment (Rev 14:10-11), exclusion from the presence of God (Matt 7:23; 25:41; Luke 16:19 and 2 Thess. 1:9), restlessness (Rev 14:11), second death (Rev 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8), and the weeping and gnashing of teeth we all hear (Matt 13:42 among others).

I like what Richard Niebuhr said of the ongoing attempt from liberal Christianity to ignore the bibles clear teachings on Hell. He says they teach of "a God without wrath who brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross." (The Kingdom of God without America)

Interestingly, all the buzz in liberal Christianity is just being a follower of Jesus and loving people. It seems as though the issues emergent types have with the bible primarily comes from Paul's teachings (church discipline, celibacy, sobriety and clear condemnation of homosexuality) but Niebuhr goes on to remind us that Jesus talked more of Hell than he did Heaven, or the Kingdom and he speaks more on Hell than anyone else in Scripture.

Mark Driscoll, in DOCTRINE, says "Amazingly, 13 percent of anything [Jesus] says is about hell and judgment; more than half his parables relate to the eternal judgment of sinners." (Cited in Doctrine by Mark Driscoll, from "What Ever Happened to Hell?" by John Blanchard)

Another interesting point that Driscoll makes in "Doctrine" is reminding us that hell isn't anything like the cartoons or modern pop-culture depicts it to be. It IS NOT a place where Satan rules. The devil ruling in hell (like so many of our theological assumptions, look for the term "apple" in Genesis in a real translation of the bible-- no I don't consider NLT or The Message real translations) is an idea we get from John Milton's Paradise Lost, in which the Devil arrogantly declares: "It's better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven".

The Devil, like all who die separated from Christ, are describes as those who:

"will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name."
Revelation 14:10-11

Hell is real and terrible. It is eternal. There is no possibility of amnesty or reprieve.

I think our attitude towards hell ought to be the same as our Father's... who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but pleads with them to turn from their evil ways (Ezek 18:23; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

Jesus weeps for Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44)

Paul has "great sorrow and unceasing anguish" in his heart. (Rom 9:2-3)

Charles Spurgeon rightly began a message on the eternal, conscious torment of the wicked in hell this way: "Beloved, these are such weighty things that while I dwell upon them I feel far more inclined to sit down and weep than I do to stand up and speak." (Spurgeon, The Final Separation)

No comments:

Post a Comment