By the Numbers

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Death of Beloved Mr. Happy Goodman

            The Death of Beloved Mr. Happy Goodman

The people of Littletown were shocked at what they saw in the alleyway’s filthy slime, between the general store and the post office was the bruised, bloody body of poor old Mr. Happy Goodman, our town’s most loved citizen. Mr. Happy was always smiling, always helping anyone in need. Horrified crowds gathered and stared in unbelief. Some shook their heads and turned away in utter disgust. How could anyone brutally murder our Mr. Happy of all persons? That’s pure evil defeating good.
Tight-lipped, clinched fist, and shaking, I screamed, “that evil murdering monster deserves Hell!”My angry response shocked me. I’m a liberal minded Christian. I don’t believe in Hell. It seems heartlessly cruel and contradictory if there’s a loving God. Yes, we make mistakes, nobody’s perfect? But even the worst sinner shouldn’t be tortured forever. Besides, Hell’s scary! People don’t like to hear about it. I can’t justify Mr. Happy’s murder, but the idea of Hell seems unjust, unbearable, unreasonable even unchristian, but it is in the Bible. Maybe I need to think through the consequences. Maybe my theology destroys my Christianity.

Denying Hell Results in a Self-destructive Theology


We should base theology upon what our Creator and all-knowing Lord has made known to us, never upon our finite, fickle feelings, opinions, preferences and guesses. If human limitations and ignorance decide Christian doctrine, we can never have any doctrinal consensus or authority. If what the Bible says, God says, then that’s authority and a standard for Christian faith. Pick this and not that, or cafeteria-style theology self-destructs. It undermines authority even of the teachings we like.
The Bible’s Teachings Are a Logical Unity
To deny one Bible teaching leads to the denial and dismissal of all. Notice how this works when we want a God of permissive love and Heaven without a Hell of unending torments. A God who never punishes sin sanctions evil and cares nothing about our sufferings, screams, tears, bloodshed. That’s not love. The Bible’s God warns sinners of judgment, promises blessings for obedience, pleads with us to trust his way, and is heartbroken to have to punish us. That’s love. Justice and love are two sides of the same coin. It’s like the compassionate doctor who warns persons of disease, offers the remedy, but the patient ignores it.

So, logically, no Hell means God approves of evil and cares nothing about hurting humanity. Sin doesn’t matter. Christ was no Savior of sinners but a deceived fool who died for nothing. His disciples were duped followers of a senseless lie. His church is not a special called out body but just another good-will social club. Evangelism is a pointless waste of time. And missions are an expensive waste of money. Each doctrine implies the one following and they all stand or fall together.

God Didn’t Program Us to be Mechanical Robots

God made us persons able to respond to Him with hearts of gratitude, trust, and love who accept His way as best. And God is patient—He doesn’t beat us in the ground for every sin and mistake. In addition to a conscience to discern right from wrong, God’s Holy Spirit indwells believers to comfort, guide, and empower us. Free will honors God and dignifies us made in His likeness (Genesis 1:27; Joshua 24:15).
Some Persons Are Incorrigible and Unredeemable
Some persons reject God and his ways to the death. Unfit for God’s service, dangerous and corrupting of society, they must be contained in their own kind of place. This earthly life is our testing ground and our only opportunity for life with God (Hebrews 9:27). Our conscience is the light of moral law and of its Lawgiver. But our daily choices can suppress that light. Inexcusable self-centered rebellion earns us the loneliness, outer darkness, torments, and God’s fiery wrath of Hell forever (Gal. 6:7; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Heaven Can’t Exist Without Hell

God does not annihilate persons made in His image. Persons who prefer self to God get their choice. They are forever in Hell separated from God and His blessings while saints enjoy the Heavenly home Jesus promised and prepared for them (John 14:1-4). Sin and sinners won’t corrupt God’s perfect Heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Rev. 21:27; 22:15).

The wicked will be like despicable worms experiencing God’s fiery wrath in outer darkness, torment, weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 8:12; John 3:36; Luck 16:25-26). Sinners will be punished exactly in accord with each one’s sin, some more, some less (Matt. 11:20-24; Luke 12:47: Rom. 2:5; Heb. 10:29). 

Hell Makes Moral Sense and Gives Life Purpose

Without Hell, moral choices have no ultimate consequences. If the grave ends all, then we’re ultimately responsible to nobody and nothing. Accumulated wealth, fame, thrills lose their luster. But if a holy God watches and knows our every thought, word and deed, and rewards or punishes us eternally, then we will fear or reverence the Lord. We will use His name only in thanksgiving and praise.

We reverence or fear a holy God who watches our behavior whether good or bad and gives us our just due--that makes life meaningful. Things we do really matter. Without this fear of the Lord, society becomes sick, tired, bored, destructive, and suicidal. Increasingly, it’s happening today.

How it Applies to Life

Christians cannot reject Hell since it undermines other Bible teachings and destroys biblical authority. Non-Christians should seriously consider this crucial teaching. For without Hell, we have no hope of Heaven, no ultimate purpose for life, and no final judgment of evil. It really condones and encourages a wicked, insane, insecure world. Further, mere claims about life after death carry no authority.
Christians, however, have certain hope of Heaven since our Savior is the resurrected God-man from Heaven sent to save the lost. In His death on the cross, Jesus who knew no sin became sin for us, demonstrated His love, and arose from the grave to prove His teachings true and our hope of eternal life certain. Jesus will never leave those who put their trust in him. And believing in him includes believing all he taught is God’s truth including Hell.

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