When I got done speaking and answering questions in Boston last week and started autographing books one man walked up to me. He immediately said I was a false prophet and that I was going to go straight to hell. The reason he gave was that I taught that we are saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. He said that prior to the Reformation no one ever taught such a thing. Not only that, but he said you're saved through the Roman Catholic Church and through the Roman Catholic Church alone. If you are not part of the Roman Catholic Church you are a false prophet and you're going to go to hell. That was my first encounter.
I also encountered a man who was very sincere, an unbeliever, who is a man who believes that there are many reasons why he cannot accept the historic Christian faith but is open to reason. That's what we're looking for; people who are sincerely open to reason. This gentleman has a number of questions that I'm going to be addressing with him personally, but I thought it would be instructive to take some of those questions and deal with them in the next several blog entries. These are issues that separate people from the historic Christian faith or Christian worldview. They say it's simply irrational. "There are these unanswered questions, they nag at me, they bother me and I can't become a Christian until they're resolved." That's a problem for him and I imagine it's a problem for many other people as well.
For example, he says that the Bible teaches hell and he thinks that's a horrendously primitive and cruel concept. Or, the Bible supports slavery, or the Bible is full of contradictions, or Jesus is not qualified to be God's representative because He was mistaken about the end times - a question I've got many, many different times as I've talked to skeptics throughout the years. "I find the Bible discriminates against Gay people." Another objection, "The Bible contradicts science." Yet another, "The Bible's prophecies are unimpressive" or "I find the Bible's answer to the problem of evil unsatisfying." So we have the top ten objections here, and again, let's deal with some of them.
The first of these objections is the objection which is often raised with respect to eternal, conscious torment in hell. Why do we, as Christians, believe in hell? I've outlined this in various places, including my book Resurrection and The Bible Answer Book, Volume 1.
The first reason I believe in hell's irrevocable reality is that Christ communicated that hell was real. In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount alone He explicitly warned His followers about the dangers of hell a half a dozen or more times.
Secondly, I believe that the concept of choice demands that we believe in hell. Without hell there's no choice, and without choice heaven would not be heaven, heaven would be hell. The righteous would inherit a counterfeit heaven and the unrighteous would be incarcerated in heaven against their wills, which would be a torture worse than hell. Imagine spending a lifetime voluntarily distancing yourself from God only in the end to find yourself involuntarily dragged into His loving presence for all eternity! The alternative to hell is worse than hell itself in that it is taking humans who are made in the image of God and stripping them of freedom and forcing them to worship God against their wills.
So the first reason I believe in hell is Christ taught there was a hell and you can demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the one who spoke and the universe leapt into existence. The second reason I believe in hell is choice demands that there be a hell. Without hell there's no choice.
There's one other reason I should cite, and that is common sense dictates that there must be a hell. Without hell the wrongs of Hitler's holocaust are never going to be righted. Justice would be impugned if, after slaughtering 6 million Jews, Hitler would merely die in the comforting arms of his mistress with no eternal consequences. The ancients knew better than to think such a thing. David knew that for a time it might seem as though the wicked prosper in spite of their deeds but in the end justice would be served.
Common sense also dictates that without a hell there's no need for a Savior. Little needs to be said about the absurdity of suggesting that the Creator would suffer more than the cumulative sufferings of all of mankind if there's no hell to save us from. Without hell there's no need for salvation. Without salvation there's no need for a sacrifice, and without a sacrifice there's no need for a Savior.
As much as we might want to think that all will be saved, I think that common sense precludes the possibility. So I believe in hell first and foremost because Christ taught there was a hell. Secondly, because choice demands there be a hell. Thirdly, because common sense dictates there is a hell. I've outlined in a couple of different places: The Bible Answer Book, Volume 1 and Resurrection. We also did a feature article in the Christian Research Journal on hell.