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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Must I Do to Avoid Hell? Part 4

Subtitle: What does Hell mean to me?

My how the mighty have fallen. With the simple removal of the doctrine of Hell, we've begun the slow demise of Christianity. But surely it is salvageable, right? I mean, how about "the Gospel"? That's a good thing and everyone likes "good news". That can stay, right?

I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but another casualty in this new concept of Hell is the Gospel. For as long as there has been a human in relation to God, the threat of punishment for sin has been hanging around. It started with Adam -- "the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." It hasn't let up. Jonathan Edwards was famous for his sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. That whole "fire and brimstone" style of preaching was a big deal in lots of periods of Church history. Threat of damnation was the horrible counterpoint to the sweetness of salvation. "You can go to eternal torment, but Christ offers you a way to get free!" That, in essence, has been the Gospel Call. Now, strip off the first phrase, and all you get is "Christ offers you a way to get free!" Free? Of what? The Philippian jailer cried out, "What must I do to be saved?" to which Paul should have replied, "Ah, don't worry about it! No one is in jeopardy of damnation here!" Strip off the "bad news" -- sinners earn eternal damnation -- and you don't have much good news -- "Place your faith in Christ and you can avoid ... well, never mind."

However, after all these casualties from this removal of Hell, there is a "gain". Remember, the problem with Man is "I will be like the Most High." The problem with Man is that we worship the creature rather than the Creator. The problem with Man is that we tend to think of ourselves more highly than we ought.

So along comes the biblical concept of Hell. And we don't like it. No, we don't. Man deserves better than that! God ought to do something about it. Look, quite frankly, if God allows people to go to eternal torment because of sin, well, He's not a very bright God, after all (at best), because we are pretty important. Or, at least, that's how it would seem.

Stripping away the biblical doctrine of a place of eternal torment for those guilty of Cosmic Treason, as I've already pointed out, will strip away many of God's fundamental character traits. It will destroy Justice in general, remove the rationale for morality, minimize the problem of sin, and undercut the reliability of Scripture as well as the Church. But the "good news" is that it makes Man a lot more important, a lot better off. It feeds his worship of the creature. By removing the penalty of sin, it makes God more amenable to seeing our true importance. We finally get what we deserve! Oh, wait ... that was Hell, wasn't it? Well, see, we get better than we deserve! No, wait ... that can't be right. Say, is this real gain, or is it an illusion?

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