I’m fairly certain that if it wasn’t for the fact that I believe in baptism by immersion I’d totally be a Presbyterian… Seriously. Baptists have so much in common with them, but let’s be honest, they are a lot “cooler.” They like wine, liturgy, and they aren’t known for being judgmental. Baptists on the other hand… well… We’re working on it. (Yes these are broad and dramatic stereotypes, but still… the point is… I like presbys.)
One Presbyterian church leader that I really admire is Tim Keller. I love his view on women serving in the church (click on the link and scroll down) and in light of the recent Rob Bell – Hell issue, I think his thoughts on Hell are extremely helpful. So I thought I would post a few of his main points here, but let me highly encourage you to read his thoughts thoroughly on Redeemer’s website (click here for the entire article).
In 2003 a research group discovered 64% of Americans expect to go to heaven when they die, but less than 1% think they might go to hell. Not only are there plenty of people today who don’t believe in the Bible’s teaching on everlasting punishment, even those who do find it an unreal and a remote concept. Nevertheless, it is a very important part of the Christian faith, for several reasons.
1. It is important because Jesus taught about it more than all other Biblical authors put together.
2. It is important because it shows how infinitely dependent we are on God for everything.
3. It is important because it unveils the seriousness and danger of living life for yourself.
4. The doctrine of hell is important because it is the only way to know how much Jesus loved us and how much he did for us.
Conclusion The doctrine of hell is crucial-without it we can’t understand our complete dependence on God, the character and danger of even the smallest sins, and the true scope of the costly love of Jesus. Nevertheless, it is possible to stress the doctrine of hell in unwise ways. Many, for fear of doctrinal compromise, want to put all the emphasis on God’s active judgment, and none on the self-chosen character of hell. Ironically, as we have seen, this unBiblical imbalance often makes it less of a deterrent to non-believers rather than more of one. And some can preach hell in such a way that people reform their lives only out of a self-interested fear of avoiding consequences, not out of love and loyalty to the one who embraced and experienced hell in our place. The distinction between those two motives is all-important. The first creates a moralist, the second a born-again believer.
We must come to grips with the fact that Jesus said more about hell than Daniel, Isaiah, Paul, John, Peter put together. Before we dismiss this, we have to realize we are saying to Jesus, the pre-eminent teacher of love and grace in history, “I am less barbaric than you, Jesus–I am more compassionate and wiser than you.” Surely that should give us pause! Indeed, upon reflection, it is because of the doctrine of judgment and hell that Jesus’ proclamations of grace and love are so astounding.
This isn’t an attack on Rob Bell or his new book, I haven’t read it yet. But in light of the discussion on the existence of hell, I think Keller’s thoughts serve as a helpful reminder.