Tag Archives: Hell

Why Is Hell So Important to Evangelical Christianity?

Last time, I promised this post would consider the purpose of hell. It has been so long since that promise that some of my readers may think that I have actually gone there, but fear not: I have not and neither will you.

Alive and well so far, let’s turn to the cheerful subject of why hell is so important to evangelical Christianity.

1) Without hell, Jesus’ death on the cross is meaningless.

Several years ago, one of my daughters, who was a Christian, said she was worried about going to hell. At the time, I was still a Christian too, but, in the midst of my four-year period of deep questioning, there were some things I had figured out. I assured her, “Don’t worry. The doctrine of hell is ridiculous. A just God would not punish anyone for an infinite amount of time for sins committed in this lifetime’s comparative blink of an eye. Infinite punishment for finite sins makes no sense.”

She immediately saw the truth of my argument and stopped worrying about hell.

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“The Gates of Hell Are Locked on the Inside”

There are some beliefs that are so morally reprehensible that to dignify them with even a one-word response would only add to their offense, yet so common among otherwise decent people that one feels compelled spend a thousand words refuting them.

The list of such beliefs includes the conviction that African-Americans were better off enslaved in the South than left to their own devices in Africa; the assertion that poor people are just lazy; and the cultural attitudes behind the “honor killing” of rape victims.

Akin to these, but even higher on the list, is the belief advanced by no less a Christian luminary than C.S. Lewis, that “the gates of hell are locked on the inside” because the souls confined there for eternity are in rebellion against God and do not wish to be with him in heaven.

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Would you vote for this man?

In 1988 and again in 1992, David Duke ran for president. He was a handsome man with qualities that appealed to many, but his campaigns went nowhere. Even people who liked his economic ideas could not bring themselves to vote for him. Why not? He had only one fault:

He had been a Grand Wizard in the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

David Duke

Now imagine a politician who believes that every African-American should be lynched. “Every Negro on Earth deserves to be beaten, tortured, stripped and hung,” he says.

Even if you agreed with everything else he stood for, would you consider voting for such a man?

I think you’ll agree that it’s possible for a politician to have a single flaw that is so egregious that it totally disqualifies him as a leader.

When we vote, we vote for the whole package. Nobody is perfect, but it won’t do to say, “I know he promised to torture to death every black person on Earth, but I voted for him because of his economic policies.”

If you are an evangelical Christian, I have bad news for you. You have already voted for such a man.

In fact, you have voted for him because you think he’s utterly perfect.

His name is Jesus.

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

“Yes,” they replied.  (Matthew 13:47-51)

Although this passage and others like it consign the wicked to hell, you have interpreted “wicked” to mean “unbelievers,” probably due to passages like these:

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10)

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. (Revelation 21:8)

In other words, “If you don’t agree with us, you will be lynched for all eternity.”

Chances are good that the church you have joined has chosen to emphasize the doctrine of hell by including it in your Statement of Faith.

We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation. (National Association of Evangelicals Statement of Faith as of 1/27/2014)

Depending on how seriously your church takes its Statement of Faith, it may be that you cannot join the church without agreeing to every point including this one.

You know that it can’t possibly be just to punish someone for all eternity for sins committed in a comparative blink of an eye. You know that no injustice could possibly be more egregious. If a politician were to advocate a penalty of everlasting torture for even the smallest offense, you would never vote for him.

Why do you still vote for Jesus?