Sunday, October 19, 2014

Atheists, evangelism and a rant


(Excerpt from the post "The Character of God")

I have had many conversations with agnostics and atheists alike. The one argument they never fail to bring up is this idea of forever torment in hell for those who decide not to believe in God. Way back when, before I studied the subject thoroughly in the Bible, I would do my best to defend the doctrine and water it down like everyone does these days. I would say, "Well, God doesn't send anyone to hell - they choose to go there themselves." You know, those kind of cop-out statements.

Another example of this soft-pedaling arrived in my inbox from "Focus on the Family". They wrote:
"At its core, hell is about being in a wrong relationship to the Source of all Love, Goodness and Life... As the writer of Hebrews puts it, "Our God is a consuming fire". We can be warmed and comforted, or we can be scorched and burned."

Lord Jesus forgive me, but that is the one of the most stupid things I have ever read! I can't tell you how that makes my blood pressure rise.

What you mean is your loving Father will throw multitudes of people into a torturous lake of fire and keep them alive - without end - so that they can suffer and be conscious of their suffering for eternity - while the folks at Focus on the Family live in the eternal comfort and joy of heaven! Warmed and comforted... Scorched and burned! What a joke. They believe in this fiery torment and they can't even say it. They are embarrassed and ashamed of the traditional doctrine of hell - and they should be.

The truth is if they just look at the Bible verses they use to teach others, they will learn the nature of God's wrath and final punishment. "God is a consuming fire." Consuming. He is not a tormenting fire - His Judgment will either refine or consume.
"...Your enemies...Your foes... You will burn them up as in a blazing furnace. The LORD will swallow them up in His wrath, and His fire will consume them..." - Psalm 21:8-9
"His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."  - Matt. 3:12, Luke 3:17 (remember that 'unquenchable' means that no one can put out or resist the fire, it does not mean that the chaff will be burning forever.)
 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned." - Jesus (John 15:6)
"... a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God's enemies."  - Hebrews 10:27
Still, the wrath of God is not a pretty picture. It is heart-breaking and frightening and final. Final = eternal. However, in my opinion it is a far cry from painting our Creator as an everlasting tormentor. Complete destruction of evil and God's enemies lines up with a righteous and just Judge who will not dwell with sin.

I would venture that even the atheists could recognize the justice of the Owner cleaning His own house.

2 comments:

  1. Clark H. Pinnock states with boldness:

    "Let me say at the outset that I consider the concept of hell as endless torment in body and mind an outrageous doctrine, a theological and moral enormity, a bad doctrine of the tradition which needs to be changed. How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness whose ways include inflicting everlasting torture upon His creatures, however sinful they may have been? Surely a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God, at least by any ordinary moral standards, and by the gospel itself. How can we possibly preach that God has so arranged things that a number of his creatures (perhaps a large number predestined to that fate) will undergo (in a state of complete consciousness) physical and mental agony through unending time? Is this not a most disturbing concept which needs some second thoughts?"

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I understand this is a difficult subject and there are different views from folks who all value God's inspired word. I value your feedback, corrections and questions. Please leave a comment!