Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rob Bell: To Hell, or Not To Hell...That is the Question.

The other day, I viewed a video trailer for Rob Bell’s new book; “Love Wins” (see the trailer at the bottom of this post). In the video, Rob shares with the viewer his struggle with the idea that a loving God would actually “send people to hell for all eternity?” In the book, he suggests that a God who would allow people to go to hell is not a great God. "Love Wins" is his attempt to set the story straight about Heaven, Hell, and man's eternal destination. Unfortunately, while Rob's take on God and Hell may cause many folks to breathe a sigh of relief, it presents a doctrine that not only blurs the lines of biblical truth, but erases them completely. So, with all the “hoopla” going on over this controversial book, I want to share an earlier blog entry of mine in which I try to shed some light on God, his view of sin, and why some people will indeed have to enter this terrible place known as Hell. Here's the post.

Before I begin let me make it clear that I realize I’m certainly no theologian, nor do I care to be. I may not have a “Dr.” decorating the front of my name plate, but amazingly…..I can read the bible for myself! God has given us His Holy Spirit to “bring us into all truth” and that’s good enough for me. I realize that the following post is most likely riddled with gaping holes, but I do feel it is a good opening to what can be a very complex issue. So, if you dare, read on! Hopefully, you will find it of some benefit! The following is an excerpt from an article written by Dr. John H. Gerstner entitled “Does God Love the Sinner and Hate Only His Sin?” “Repent or Perish” forces people to ponder seriously the popular slogan, “God hates the sin and loves the sinner.” Is a necessary repentance consistent with “God loves the sinner?” If God loves the sinner while he is alive, it is strange that God sends him to hell as soon as he dies. God loves the sinner to death? Loves him to everlasting torment? There is something wrong here. Either God loves the sinner and will not send him into the furnace of His eternal wrath; or He sends him into His eternal wrath and does not love him. Either “you are going to hell unless” because God hates you, as you are. Or, God loves you and “you are going to hell unless” is false. Dr. Gerstner goes on to say, “God has no complacent love for the sinner at all. He has a perfect hatred of him”. If what the good doctor says is indeed true, it would seem we would need to blot John 3:16 from the scriptures. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” The word clearly states that God “so loved the world”. Notice it does not say He “so loved the nice people”, or “the religious people”, or even “the God fearing people”. No, it says “the world”. A world chock full of mean, ugly, selfish, sin ridden people. A world that for the most part, didn’t give nor does it now give a rip about God or His son. Yet even so, our gracious God sent His most precious gift to “the world” to save it. Why? Because He “so loved” it. If God truly “hates” people, then why not just do away with us? Don’t send your son. Send a few angels down and torch the place! Why waste your time trying to save what you hate? Yet, we know that is not the case. God loves people, all people. We also know that it doesn’t take a genius to see that the whole “God hates you and wants to smash your dirty sinner face” is just not biblical. All one needs to do is look to Jesus and his treatment of “the lost”. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”. I’m going to offer an analogy that is far from perfect, but might possibly help to put this whole idea of God’s punishment of sin into perspective. As I understand, American policy dictates that when planes are hijacked with the intent to use them as a weapon of destruction, the president will call upon fighter jets to take the planes down. Such was the case during the 911 tragedy. After coming to grips with the enormity of the situation, President Bush knew he had to act to ensure the safety of innocent civilians. This was certainly no easy decision to make. Yes, these hijacked planes had to be stopped, but what about the innocent people on board the planes? To destroy the plane was certainly a decision to end the lives of many passengers. Unfortunately, the people could not be separated from the plane. The destiny of the plane and the people where inseparably intertwined. Though the president was terribly grieved at having to make such a decision, he knew the plane could not be allowed to continue on possibly endangering even more innocent people. By the way, in the case of the 911 tragedy, the jets were spared their morbid duty due to some very heroic civilians on the plane. As I said, it is a flawed analogy, but it does possibly provide a glimpse of the dilemma faced by dealing with our sin problem. How? Let me explain. As you already know, you and I are born sinners. No fun, but it’s reality. Unfortunately, this goes far beyond just our thoughts and actions. Sin is literally a part of the very fabric of our being even down to the very DNA that is the blueprint of who we are. Trying to separate us from sin would be like trying to separate light from the sun. Humanly, it is an impossible task. Again, sin isn’t just something we do or think, but rather it is an integral part of who and what we are. In short, it is a part of every part of our being, and it’s not easily dealt with. As a matter of fact, nothing short of a miracle could ever do the job. Now we all know the bible teaches us that God hates sin. That is clearly seen throughout the scriptures. Yet, we also see how much He loves mankind. So much in fact, that He indeed sent His only son to free us from sin and its power over our lives. Receiving pardon for one’s sin is a gift. The bible tells us to call on the name of the Lord that we might be saved. I’m not going to get into a huge discussion here on how that whole process takes place due to the various thoughts on the subject. Still, I think most would have to agree that if you want to be saved, you can be, but it is only through Jesus that sin can be forgiven and its power broken. The flip side of that is the fact that you are free to refuse God’s free gift of forgiveness and salvation. I know you’ve probably seen or heard the saying “Know Jesus. Know peace. No Jesus. No peace”. This is true, but may I add to that line of thinking, “No Jesus. No forgiveness, salvation, or separation from sin. “Know Jesus. Know forgiveness, salvation, and separation from sin!” As I stated earlier, the problem of sin can only be rectified through a miracle. The good news is that God has provided that miracle through the great sacrifice of His only begotten son. A decision to refuse that gift is a decision to keep one’s sin and experience the full wrath of God against sin. You see, God has made it clear “No sin shall enter in to Heaven”. Yet, if a person refuses God’s cure for sin (Jesus), that person’s fate is intertwined with that of sin. Sin will be done away with and unfortunately we are one with sin. Are you starting to see the problem? Just like the president could do nothing to separate those passengers from the hijacked plane, so also God can do nothing to separate a person from sin if he or she does not desire to be seperated. The result: death, judgment, and eternal damnation. Why? Is it that God hates these people? Of course not! We know he loves people. The bible says He himself knit us together in our mother’s womb. But, sin must be dealt with and as long as a person is inseparably intertwined with sin, he or she will face the same fate as the sin that clings to their being. God wants “all” to be saved, but he has given us a freedom to choose or refuse His love, grace, and provision. Bottom line: God hates sin and must deal with it, but unfortunately that same fate will include the souls of all that refuse to be separated from their sins. With that said, there is one thought that has always troubled me. It is the idea that a person is doomed to an eternity in Hell. Not just 10, 100, or even 1,000 years, but eternity. For years I have considered the punishment to far exceed the crime. I mean can’t God just at some point say “okay, they get it!” It just seems that “eternal” punishment seems a bit much for 100 years or less of sin. Why would a loving God deem it necessary to leave these souls in such a place “forever”? Again, we have to understand the nature of sin in mankind. Remember, sin isn’t just an act, thought, or a series of bad decisions. It is a part of every part of our being. Once a person enters eternity, the window of opportunity to receive pardon from God through Jesus is shut forever. Is it that God gives up and washes His hands of these “dirty sinners”? No! Unfortunately, these souls have moved beyond their ability to receive pardon. I will offer a very inadequate illustration, but it may help. If a person is diagnosed with a disease, it is important to act quickly and seek out treatment for the disease as soon as possible. Most doctors would agree that in most cases “catching” a disease early in its progression is usually very beneficial in terms of experiencing a full recovery. Such is the case with many types of cancer. To ignore the disease and pretend it’s not there is to doom oneself to a sure death. At some point in the disease process, you will pass the point of no return. It is at this point that no amount of medicine can help. The disease has taken over and the cure is without benefit to the patient. When a person enters eternity, they pass the point of no return. They have entered a realm where sin cannot be “cured”. If “no sin” can enter into Heaven, a person is left with only one destination to spend eternity. That of course being Hell. Sin is of this world and its cure must also be received in this world. That’s why Jesus entered this life as a man and was sacrificed in this life as a man. Sin had to be dealt with in “this life” because it is “this life” in which sin came into being due to man’s rebellion. It is a product of those who dwell in this world and can only be “cured” while in this world. So, does God have a mean streak and seek revenge against those who refuse Him? Not at all, rather He mourns the loss of even one soul to Hell. He has done all He can possibly do to separate the human soul from sin. It is left to us to receive or refuse His cure for sin through His son Jesus. Again, you can check out the video just below this post. If you have trouble, just check it out on "You Tube".