The Doctrine of Hell Isn’t Up for Vote
In his article, "Is God a Monster?", Tommy Clayton puts his finger on the unpopular doctrine of Hell. We need to realize that when God wants our opinion on truth He will ask. And He never has. God hasn't given us a vote. He calls upon us to trust Him. He wants our submision, not our advice.
Justin Taylor posted a link to another excellent article, this one by Paul Helm, citing the church fathers and refuting the claim that universalism was a standard belief in the early church. Paul's article, "Can This Be True?", is worth reading, particularly by anyone dealing with Rob Bell’s claims in Love Wins.
Nearly fifty years ago, the British agnostic Bertrand Russell penned these words: “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment” (Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian).
Philosopher John Hick echoed those sentiments when he called hell “a perversion of the Christian gospel.” He believed the doctrine of hell attributed to God “an unappeasable vindictiveness and insatiable cruelty.”
We expect statements like that from fallen, unregenerate minds. But what do we do when we hear similar things from prominent, professing evangelical writers? “How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness whose ways include inflicting everlasting torture upon his creatures, however sinful they may have been? Surely a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God...” (Clark H. Pinnock, “The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent”).
It’s become popular today for professing evangelicals to join the ranks of Pinnock, atheists, and agnostics in protesting the doctrine of hell. They are preaching sermons, writing articles, and publishing books, and some are wandering into the comment threads of Christian blogs. Here’s a small sampling from Grace To You’s blog in our recent series on hell:
- “What kind of God torments people for all eternity?”
- “…Satan loves the false doctrine of eternal torment”
- “[eternal torment is] cruel and unusual punishment”
- “[eternal torment] makes God out to be a cruel tyrant,” “absolutely cruel and malevolent”
- “How can you in your right minds even consider this to be justice?”
If the doctrine of hell as eternal, conscious torment hadn’t been the position of the Christian church for two millennia, it might be easy to think we’re seriously out of step—a bunch of mindless minions who worship a monster-god! But when you examine the biblical evidence, without an agenda, you’ll find we sound a lot like Jesus and the apostles.