Welcome to part 2 on Hell! Last week we looked at four reasons why we should talk about hell, so why don’t we?
This week, to continue this rosey topic, let’s consider four reasons why we don’t talk about hell!
1 . People don’t believe in it
When you look at the way our society presents the idea of hell – the idea is often mocked. Several episodes of the Simpsons poke fun. There are businesses which use little devils to market themselves. And the idea of hell is used to promote first world products or services – from ice cream to insurance.
Hell is a toothless idea – in the minds of many.
2. It is objectionable
We don’t talk about hell because it is objectionable. It is not polite, it is affronting.
I was at the hospital a couple of weeks ago. Here is the conversation I had with a nurse.
She said – what do you do?
I said – I am a minister?
She said – Oh, like the go-to-church and talk about God kind of minister?
I said – Yes, got it in one!
She said – I used to go to church and do all that kind of stuff.
I said – why did you stop?
She said – I got too busy.
I said – yes, I have heard that before.
She said – my brother has become one of those ‘born-again’ Christians. He is always talking to me about hell.
I said – maybe, he is worried you are going there!
She said – He just goes on and on about it – he sounds too serious. He shouldn’t worry I plan to go to heaven!
I said – really!
She said – Heaven sounds like a really nice place, but all that hell stuff is just offensive.
I said – I think your brother has a point!
We don’t talk about hell because it is objectionable.
3. It is questioned
We don’t talk about hell because it is questioned.
Not everyone mocks the idea of hell – some have given the topic quite serious thought and due to the nature of the topic they have found it to be morally unbelievable, cruel and unfathomable.
I am not talking just of unbelievers – there are some evangelicals who hold to the Bible as the inspired Word of God who have questioned the idea of hell and have instead suggested a form of anniliationism – that is, while believers go off to heaven, the unbelievers will be allowed by God to pass into nothingness. To be annihilated. The attraction of this position is that it means the person is not eternally suffering in hell.
Learned men, scholars, leaders – is it possible they are right, should we follow their lead and water down the rhetoric and remove the gravity of hell?
To do that would be to reject the testimony of scripture – if you want to talk about heaven as an eternal place, it is hard to dismiss hell as an eternal place when the same word is used to talk about both.
Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 25:41 about those who are declared unrighteous ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’. Then Jesus explains the difference between those declared unrighteous and those who are declared righteous ‘they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life’ (Matt 25:46).
4. We have a person-centred view
And last, we have a person-centred view of the world.
A mark of the fall, right back in Genesis 3, is that people refused to believe. The serpent said to the woman – ‘You will be like God’ (Gen 3:5) – and she listened to a snake instead of the creator, obviously thinking that the serpent was onto something. It didn’t quite work out as she planned!
Unbelief is itself a sin. Humanity deepest problem is person-centredness.
It is the cause behind all our problems. We make ourselves the centre of the universe and expect that everything else should revolve around us. It is a persuasive view, it is a pollution, a poison, a toxic view and we breathe it. Person-centredness is at the root of the objections to hell.
Let me quickly show you how.
Our society has a person-centred view of itself. The highest imaginable value in our society is ‘human well- being’. Go and stand in line at the local centrelink and listen to the way people ask for hand-outs. It is not thankful that they are given some, it is critical because they have a right to receive benefits and if they don’t they are not happy.
People must be ‘happy’ when our society places the individual at the centre.
Hell rips this view at its core. Damnation, fiery pits, worms that gnaw at our flesh – that is not a happy place and we must not think about that! Talk to me about heaven instead.
Our society also has a person-centred view about sin. What is ‘sin’ nowadays? We can’t really call it that. So, what is considered to be shameful or wrong? Let me tell you. The whole idea of sin is reduced to anything that hurts another.
Unfortunately as a society we have not worked out how to apply the principle equally.
Let’s call the Boston Bombers evil. They hurt others.
Let’s call Vince Focalli evil. He hurt others.
But where do you draw the line? I’ll tell you where our world draws that line!
It is here – there is no problem hurting another who has inconvenienced us in someway! Want some examples:
– we can abort the unborn baby,
– we can send back the asylum seekers,
– we can hurl abuse at the politian,
– we can ignore the beggar,
– we can reject the Christian who talks about hell.
My convenience needs always to be placed before the reality of sin!
We have a person-centred view about sin – yet sin is real – and the consequence is hell.
So we find it difficult to talk about hell.
Christians should, must, view and talk about hell. Yes that will be counter-cultural. But we must not be driven by a self-centered view about ourselves or our sin. And why? Because Jesus saves us and our world from hell, but only those who believe. Take Jesus out of the picture and no wonder that some find hell to be morally unbelievable, cruel and unfathomable idea.
Okay, conversation started – please keep it going – use the 5pm Facebook Group.