Recently, National Geographic posted an article on their website entitled The Campaign to Eliminate Hell (May 15, 2016).
It’s really not a new notion or original attempt to overturn centuries of theology based on clear scriptural references. I’ve seen this periodically over the years, usually in conjunction with a new wave of “I’m okay-your okay” efforts to deny the existence of hell and sin in order to justify some loosening of social values, morals, and/or commonly held beliefs. Considering the push by the progressive left to take advantage of their current dominance of the political stage to ram through initiatives that fly in the face of Judean/Christian traditional thought, I’m not surprised that this speculative tromping of dogma has raised its head again for a gulp of air. After all, if hell doesn’t exist, why tussle with sin in the first place. I must say, it does make you wonder how many times Jesus had to warn of banishment to “the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” before we get it. (I’ll let you do your own count, but a quick search puts it at a minimum of seven).
Of course, the whole business plays right into the hands of atheists who laugh at the whole premise of religion and claim that it’s all “fantasy and fairytales” for adults who are too weak to deal with their take on reality. That’s understandable. I mean, how many times have you listened to the confused blathering of an opponent on some issue and exclaimed, “Look at ‘em! They can’t even get their own stories straight!” When supposed experts on theology pull experimental doctrines out of their…hats…and parade them around, it can’t help but take a swipe at religious credibility and support the atheist’s proposition that it’s all play-pretend open to the vagaries of whatever pompous ass claims to be in charge.
Subsequently, the anarchist steps in and starts preaching revolution against the bourgeois status quo and liberation of the human spirit oppressed by the ruling class…whichever one is the target of their angst that day.
“Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite!” (Karl Marx)
Yeah, yeah. Any of us who have studied political science or history have heard this sort of rebellious musing a thousand times from a thousand mouths. But how many lives have been lost by those who took it to heart? That’s why I have always been careful to examine causes carefully before I jumped in—it pays to look for a false bottom.
I once knew a young police officer who was so committed to his own egocentric point of view that he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, listen to reason. He was intelligent, but woefully incapable of accepting constructive criticism. Multiple supervisors made multiple efforts to correct his deficiencies and help bring him into the fold. He finally ended up “on the carpet” before one of the most respected veteran lieutenants on the department who decided to give it a shot. The lieutenant told him his sergeants were like lifeguards who were tired of continually having to swim out and pull him back behind the safety buoys. He pleaded with the young officer to “stay close to the beach” until he got a little more experience under his belt. The officer nodded his understanding and left the office with a newfound spring in his step. When asked later how things went, he responded, “Great! The lieutenant praised me for going outside the swim buoys with the guts to go after the really big fish!” He was so committed to the delusion of his own competence, that he was incapable making the corrections necessary to be successful.
No matter how good it sounds to our own ears, self-proclaimed truths have a way of biting us in our own posteriors if we ignore objective reality. We can deny the sun and the moon, but that doesn’t remove them from the sky. If we choose, we can deny God. We can refuse to accept Jesus Christ as his son and savior of the world. We can deny sin and the existence of hell. And we can renounce religion across the board and strike out into the world leaning solely on our independent views. But, at what cost?
Let’s face it, religion is nothing more than the outgrowth of man’s enlightenment in acknowledging a reality not readily discernable to our physical senses. Theology, dogmas, doctrines, creeds, and canons are meaningless unless there is some objective reality at their base. Any belief system founded on our casual reflections may be entertaining, but is obviously inadequate if our salvation is dependent upon it. That is the strength behind the principle of sola scriptura (Latin for “by Scripture alone”). It is the Christian doctrine that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice. But, even that is pointless without faith:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. -Hebrews 11:1
Faith is a scratchy thing for the skeptic, because it is not the product of our own efforts:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. -Ephesians 2:8-9
So faith can be lost on us without God’s prompting and evangelism can be an exercise in futility. That can make us wonder if our struggles to uphold our traditional beliefs are worth the effort. It can make surrender for the sake of avoiding the inevitable conflict and rejecting the existence of hell to get along with those committed to sin appealing.
But, can we handle the heat if we’re wrong?