Excellent response to DMN Steve Blow’s column on the reality of hell.tinyurl.com/bxcf69z
— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) March 12, 2013
Over the weekend for the Morning News, Steve Blow wrote a rather strange, but introspective, column on hell, its place in modern Christianity, and the reality of it for non-Christians. Aside from being oddly bookended by Tim Tebow/Robert Jeffress anecdotes, I thought it was, let’s say, pretty okay. A taste:
I heard it said a thousand times in Sunday school: Folks of other religions may be wonderful people, but the only way you get to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ. It boiled down to a two-word theology — “Jesus Saves.” And I knew just what fiery horror Jesus was saving us from.
Ultimately, however, I concluded that most Christians really don’t believe this one-and-only path to salvation. If not, what monsters we must be. There’s no way we could sit complacently in our favorite pew Sunday after Sunday, or devote such energy to building pretty new sanctuaries, when most of humanity faces eternal torment without our intervention.
If we truly believed it, we would quit our jobs and spend every waking moment trying to save people from the flames — just as we would save someone from a burning house. And as it turns out, polls show we really don’t believe it. Not most of us, anyway. One recent survey found that 70 percent of Americans agree with the statement: “Many religions can lead to eternal life.” Even 57 percent of evangelical Christians agreed with that statement.
Highland Park Presbyterian Church senior pastor Ronald Scates took exception to the column:
Do I believe hell exists? Yes. Do I fear hell? No. I hold both those beliefs for the exact same reason that I believe that Jesus is the only way to eternal life: because He says so, and that if I be in Christ, hell is not my eternal destiny. In the gospels, Jesus talks more about the reality of hell than He does about heaven. It is Jesus Himself that makes the claim (as much a minority claim in the 1st as in the 21st century) that He alone is the way to the Father, and away from an eternity in hell. (John 14:6). Good theology always takes Jesus at His Word, rather than extend a wet finger to the prevailing winds of culture.
…Steve’s indictment of most Christians regarding our seeming lack of concern for the eternal welfare of others is spot-on but it doesn’t mean that we quit our jobs and assume “rat terrier” personalities, attacking people with the Gospel. Nor does it mean we abandon Biblical Reality. In 1 Peter 3:15, you and I are told how to best do evangelism: “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” In other words, if we truly live out a good theology (living transparently/publicly with Christ as Lord of every facet of our lives), people will begin asking us what’s different about us. They’ll be coming to us. We merely tell them the gracious Truth about Jesus as Lord and Savior.
None of this is new. The quest for culturally popular gods is as old as sin. Back in 1937, theologian Richard Niebuhr was disturbed by a similar call for “faith by majority vote” that he saw brewing in the mainline church of that day. He characterized that bad theology thusly, “A god without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”