Erasing Hell

Written by Drew on May 15th, 2006

Throughout most of Christianity’s history, the force of its apologetics has been aimed at the threat of atheism. Doubtless, atheism presents a serious threat to Christians, but even today sociologists agree that 95 percent of adults believe in God or a Universal Spirit. Christians must be careful about moving all their forces to the atheistic front. If they’re not careful, a more powerful enemy may encroach at their flank and wipe them out.

In my opinion this is just what is happening with a dangerous doctrine called universalism. Simply put, universalism states that “all people will eventually be saved.” In the postmodern world of political correctness and relativistic thinking, universalism seems to be picking up steam. In fact, it is becoming one of the most popular ideas in religion today.

One example of universalism’s broadening appeal is Eric Metaxas’s new book, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask). Metaxas is a popular humorist and author, best known for his writing on the show VeggieTales. In a recent interview with Godspy Metaxas summarizes his chapter on hell saying, in order to go to Hell you must really want to go there. In other words, sins of weakness won’t bar you from the Pearly Gates, as long as you’re not proud of them. This is not exactly the doctrine of universalism, but it gets pretty close. And it’s this kind of thinking that appeals to religious people today–thinking that erases the truth about hell.

Now it is creeping into the churches of Christ. See F. Lagard Smith’s After Life, Edward Fudge’s The Fire That Consumes, or Homer Hailey’s God’s Judgements & Punishments–Nations and Individuals. These works do not promote universalism per se; rather, they take an “annihilationist” approach to hell, saying the wicked will suffer some punishment but afterwards will perish in hell so as to become extinct. In other words, immortality is only for the righteous.

Two biblical points can be made to refute ideas like universalism, which naively offers every soul eternal bliss, and the annihilationist view of Hell, which spares the lost the torture of everlasting punishment.

1. According to the Scriptures, the majority of the human race will be lost eternally. Universalism teaches there is but on path to the afterlife, and it leads to eternal life. But Jesus painted a different picture: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt. 7:13-14). Again, He instructed us not to “fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt. 10:28). Hell is a place of eternal separation from God, reserved for those who “do not know God” and “who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thes. 1:7-9).

2. According to Scripture, salvation is conditional in nature. Indeed, Christ died for the entire human race (Jn. 3:16; Heb. 2:9; 1 Jn. 2:2). However, this does not mean the whole world accepts the gracious gift of salvation. God wants man to come to Him on certain terms: hearing (Rom. 10:17; 1 Tim. 2:3-4), faith (Heb. 11:6), repentance (Lk. 13:3), confession (Rom. 10:10), and baptism (Mk. 16:16). When man refuses these terms God has no choice but to punish him.

I realize that “hellfire and brimstone” is not a very effective evangelistic measure in the 21st century. But I also know appeasement and whitewashing truth isn’t, either. In between these two extremes rests a strategy that “speaks the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). It is possible to tell a person the truth about his soul while at the same time leading him to salvation through love.


5 Comments so far ↓

  1. Ike says:

    You left out Conversations with God, by Neale Donald Walsch. It’s down with that same hippie “I’m okay, you’re okay” vibe.

    It is an entertaining read, as long as you don’t confuse it with theology.

  2. Drew Kizer says:

    There is also a sequel: Conversations with God for Teens. This little gem has God telling a lesbian to “celebrate her differences,” reassuring a girl living with her boyfriend that she’s doing nothing wrong, and claiming there is no such thing as right or wrong.

    Another warning sign is that the forward is written by Alanis Morissette.

    I heard about the book through Adam Faughn.

  3. The Berean Examiner says:

    It turns out that you know who also have an annihilationist view of Hell

  4. Oun Kwon says:

    What Metaxas, a mushy Christian (can we call a universalist a Christian?) is saying “In order to go to Hell you must really want to go there” sounds like coming from the serpent as in Garden of Eden, though some seem really want to go to Hell nowadays (almost hell-bent, I should say.)

    What a difference from a quotation: “You do not have to go. But, you must choose not to go” (Does anyone happen to know its source?)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm… are refuting the “annihilationist view of Hell” by quoting from a passage that speaks of the soul being “destroyed.” You may want to take another run at this.

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