Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Defending Hell to Share the Gospel

Last week I mentioned a pagan blog that used three arguments to dismiss the idea of hell:

1. Power-hungry religious leaders invented hell to control their followers through fear.

2. Hell wouldn't be just because it is infinite punishment for finite transgressions.

3. Hell wouldn't be right because it is punishment based upon the violation of arbitrary rules.

We received some great responses from blog readers. Some of these I'd like to bring to the forefront in the coming weeks as we talk about how to reply to these challenges.

This first response counters the accusation that hell was invented by power-hungry religious leaders.

"Faithful religious leaders have nothing to gain by inventing a punishing state of existence for those who deny God's grace and mercy. Those who reject Jesus as their Savior live without any hope, and we see the real-world consequences when people live without any sense of sure and certain hope outside of themselves. If there is no hell, why do people keep referring to it?"

I agree. When I look at the sheer scope of hell which the Scriptures -- and Jesus Himself -- describe I can't imagine even power-hungry religious leaders coming up with something that expansive, that horrific. If the notion of purgatory -- a limited duration of suffering -- was enough to sell indulgences in Martin Luther's day, there was no need to invent never-ending suffering if it was just a way to raise money and increase the power of the clergy.

On the other hand, if teachings about hell come directly from the God who created it as a place of punishment for the angels who rebelled, then religious leaders preach about hell because they genuinely care about the people to whom they are speaking; they want to teach them how we can all escape that dire punishment through God's free gift of forgiveness for Jesus' sake.

But the last sentence of the comment really jumped out at me: "If there is no hell, why do people keep referring to it?" Why do people feel compelled to construct arguments to invalidate something in which they don't believe? Can it be that the law of God is written in their hearts, the truth is ringing in their ears, and these arguments are their attempts to silence it?

Now think of the people around you: your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers who are living without a proper fear of the holiness and justice of our Holy Creator. There is only one reason to discuss God's wrath and hell with them, and that is to establish their need for a Savior. Once this is done, you can share the Good News of God's Son, Jesus Christ, who became human and paid that penalty in their place. And be sure to remind them that you too were under that same sentence until Jesus set you free.

Hell. Everybody's got an opinion about it.

What's yours?

You can share your thoughts on the Men's NetWork blog by clicking here.

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