The web site for Redeemer Presbyterian Church (New York, New York) posted an article on “The Importance of Hell“. In this article Tim Keller gives 4 reasons why the Biblical doctrine of hell is important:
It is important because Jesus taught about it more than all other Biblical authors put together.
“If Jesus, the Lord of Love and Author of Grace spoke about hell more often, and in a more vivid, blood-curdling manner than anyone else, it must be a crucial truth”.
It is important because it shows how infinitely dependent we are on God for everything.
“In the teaching of Jesus the ultimate condemnation from the mouth of God is ‘depart from me.’ That is remarkable–to simply be away from God is the worst thing that can happen to us! Why? We were originally created to walk in God’s immediate presence…”
It is important because it unveils the seriousness and danger of living life for yourself.
“What is hell, then? It is God actively giving us up to what we have freely chosen-to go our own way, be our own “the master of our fate, the captain of our soul,” to get away from him and his control. It is God banishing us to regions we have desperately tried to get into all our lives.”
- 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.
Before continuing, let’s remind everyone that Presbyterian Churches, by definition, are Calvinistic and to varying degrees hold to the Westminster Standards. In short, this means they believe that God is completely sovereign in all things, that He ordains
whatsoever comes to past,
that he has predestined and chosen his people before the beginning of time, and that if you are chosen you cannot resist his grace and you will come to Christ. Given this theology, does anyone find Keller’s 4 reasons for the importance of hell just a little bit disingenuous?
Let’s assume for the moment that the Bible is true. What do we have? God creates man with curiosity, a desire to seek knowledge and an innocence of right vs. wrong. He then places them in a garden and gives them a test – Do not eat of the fruit of this tree. He then tempts them through a talking snake! Since God is sovereign and he ordains whatsoever comes to past, Adam and Eve were “setup”. He knew they would fail because they would act as He Himself created them! In fact, they had no choice but to fail. This God then punishes them for behaving just as He had created them and He not only punishes them, but every single descendant of theirs. For what crime are they punished? The crime of disobedience! What? Eternal punishment for disobeying a command that He knew they couldn’t keep? Is this Justice? I think not. (Just think about your own family or children. Would you really punish them forever for a single case of disobedience? If you said yes, then you are either a liar or your have disowned all of your children.)
The Islamic sage and heretic Ibn al-Rawandi (9th century) said the following: “A God who inflicts illness upon his slaves cannot be counted as one who treats them wisely, nor can he be said to be looking after them or to be compassionate toward them. The same is true concerning he who inflicts upon them poverty and misery. Also unwise is he who demands obedience from a person who he knows will disobey him. And he who punishes the infidel and disobedient in eternal fire is a fool.”
As bad as this is, it’s just the beginning. God waits 4000 years or so (if you are a 6 day creationist and believe the world is 6000 years old) and condemns every man, woman and child born during this timeframe to hell without any chance of redemption except for a small desert tribe to which he chose to revel himself. Unfortunately, even these people are not safe and they constantly irritate their creator. Finally, he sends his son, Jesus, to redeem his chosen people or anyone who believes in him (which are only those he has chosen according to Calvinistic theology).
Somehow this shows God’s great love for us? If anything, this shows a capricious God. He condemns to hell people that He created that act exactly according to His programming. Furthermore, they cannot overcome this “programming” (again Calvinistic theology) unless God gives them a new heart and “forces them” (turns them) to Christ. Even though, He can do this for all people He only chooses some and no one knows how He does that. This loving, merciful, caring God lets the majority of all mankind be punished forever when He has in His power to save everyone. I say, if such a deity does exist, he is a sadistic monster.
So what is the real reason for this mythical hell? Keller has point #3 correct. Christianity, indeed all religions, must prevent people from thinking for themselves. Such thought leads to rebellion. You can regain control and power over your own life or turn over that control to a theological authority (just a man or woman like you). Choose wisely.