July 28, 2008

Considering the Severity of God

NKJ Romans 11:22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

I have written a number of posts on the subject of hell for the following reasons:

1) Since I have posted alot on the goodness and love of God revealed to all in the gospel call, I do not want any of my readers to neglect the biblical teaching regarding his "severity." The biblical teaching on that subject teaches us about essential qualities of God as well. He is perfectly just, holy and immutable, to name a few. These properties are also worthy of our constant meditation.

2) Earlier this year I listened to Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. Richard Land (2) discussing "The Disappearance of Hell from Modern Theology." I was not impressed. Why? I am weary of hearing conservative evangelicals merely talking about the disappearance of hell while not also expounding on the subject as Jonathan Edwards did (i.e., really doing something about it). Quite frankly, I think some contemporary evangelical scholars (not necessarily Mohler and Land) are afraid to expound on it. One may run the risk of sounding like a kooky Fred Phelps sort of fundamentalist if they talk about it, and one who wants to seem intellectual cannot run that risk. One will not be as highly esteemed in academic circles if one says the sort of things Jonathan Edwards said on the subject of hell. In other words, when it comes to the doctrine of hell, some evangelical scholars are more concerned about seeming erudite than in being biblically faithful. What contemporary evangelical academician today is talking about sinners "grinding" or "gnashing their teeth" in hell, or commenting on the meaning of "their worm shall not die"? They wouldn't dare to even speak that way, much less expound on it. It's too embarrassing for one seeking intellectual status among the elite as they try to distance themselves from fundamentalist imbalances (possibly their former mentality). This is one of the reasons why there is a disappearance of the doctrine of hell, even among genuine bible scholars. They are gripped by the fear of man, and thus lack the courage of someone like Edwards.

Try blogging something in depth on the doctrine of hell and the psychology of those experiencing it as Edwards did. Does it make you timid? Does it make you even slightly embarrassed? Does it make you feel like some government official may censor your blog if you mention how they will experience the hottest hell if they do not repent? That doesn't mean you have to talk about it with no sense of compassion, or in a way that does not exhibit the other qualities of God. It may just give you an idea of how much fear is a determining factor in the disappearance of hell in modern theology.

3) I am inclined to believe that our remaining sin principles war against notions of God's severity. It's easy for us to flatter ourselves into thinking that we were never in danger of going to hell, or to think that one of our loved ones is not in danger of hell (or already there). Our flesh tends to echo the words of the ancient serpent in Genesis, i.e., "you shall surely not die!" I speculate that Edwards may have taught on the subject of hell frequently because he noticed how much the flesh tends to resist it. After all, Satan's first lie to the human race was in the denial of ultimate punishment for sin as revealed in God's word. If Jesus frequently taught on hell and warned people against it, then why aren't we taking a hint from his emphasis? If it is true that more is required of those who are more highly privileged, then many Americans will experience the greater damnation. Why isn't the church talking about this? Why aren't Christian bloggers talking about this? I do not want it to be said about me that I did not sufficiently warn those that I love of coming judgment. After all, Paul pictures Christ's coming this way:

NKJ 2 Thessalonians 1:8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Where's THAT in our gospel presentations? God is just as sincere in his gospel warnings for the unbelieving as he is in his gospel promises of life for the believing. It will not do to just talk about the disappearance of hell. That's easy. What is difficult is to actually do something about it when your job or your intellectual reputation is at risk. How long will someone last in a seminary if they become an Edwardsian-like expounder of hell? That's what I wonder. Where are the church signs advertising sermons with the title, "Wicked Men Useful in Their Destruction Only"? Without that biblical courage, it's no wonder that we are not experiencing either revival or reformation. We have not sufficiently considered the "severity of God," hence the disappearance of hell.

1 comment:

Tony Byrne said...

Update on 8-30-08: Dr. Mohler recently had an excellent broadcast on the subject of hell (click here).