The belief in hell is absolutely one of the most difficult beliefs for American Christians to rationalize and defend. In a culture that looks for the soft fluffy God who will never judge but only loves people, no matter what they have done or what they believe, this doctrine puts Bible-believing followers in Jesus is direct contradiction to the cultural norms. Nevermind that even the staunchest person objecting this doctrine will turn on a dime when we talk about Hitler, Stalin, or the child-molester down the street, believing that God will find a way to deal with them. But the real struggle lies when we hold to the core truths in Scripture that all people are sinners who absolutely deserve judgment, and that the substitutionary atonement of Jesus as the perfect Son of God who died in our place for our sin is the only hope we have as humans in dealing with the core problem we have, believing that only faith in Christ will save us.
For centuries Christians have been trying to soften the core beliefs we hold, making them palatable to the culture around. But most of the time these efforts result in people ultimately denying essential Christian doctrines and leaving the true faith. The recent attempt at this by pastor and author Rob Bell. Bell became a Christian pop-star with his video series called Nooma, a best-selling series used by churches everywhere. Still, questions about Bell’s belief system and commitment to truth have abounded for years. His most recent book, Love Wins: A book about Heaven, Hell, and Every Person who Ever Lived officially moves Bell out of the realm of someone we would question to someone who has denied Christian essentials leaving him outside the faith. Upon the publication of the book, Pastor John Piper tweeted, “So long, Rob Bell,” a way of expressing the reality that Bell’s beliefs can no longer be considered “Christian.” Yet, his book is selling like crazy, and the cover article on the most recent Time Magazine is on Bell and titled, “What if there’s no hell?”
I referenced this article in Sunday’s message, and my first thought was to write a lengthy blog stating where we stood on this issue. But much better writers have done a wonderful job of expressing the concerns about Bell’s doctrines and stating the truths taught in Scripture. I want to encourage you to read through these links, because this issue is hot and in our culture right now. You may have friends who have bought the book, but at the very least, they wonder why rational people could hold a belief in hell. So my encouragement is to read these so you can be ready to give a defense of the hope that is in you.
Al Mohler blog – Mohler is the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
The Resurgence blog by Mark Driscoll giving an explanation of the doctrine of hell and the afterlife
A Chronology of Rob Bell on hell – the Resurgence blog detailing the events leading up to this controversy within the church and linking to a number of other very good blogs and writings on the topic.
Hank Haanegraph on the Doctrine of Hell – While this post predates the current controversy, the content is dead on as to why we must maintain belief in the Scriptures and what they teach.