For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.(2 Timothy 4:2-3)
There are a growing number of evangelicals who have been denying the Christian teaching on several key doctrines, including the Christian definition of marriage, the exclusivity of the gospel, the nature of God and the final fate of the wicked.
The recent publication of the Rob Bell book “Love Wins” is only the tip of the iceberg of the steady evangelical departure from the faith. This has been going on for some time and the erosion of faith and practice has been deep.
A good many evangelicals, (including Pentecostals ) resonate with the book, already having succumbed to the presuppositions of the church growth movement, which is a market driven approach to congregational increase. It seems that emphasis on sin, judgment, Hell, and on the nature of God, are “turn offs” from a market standpoint.
The premise of Rob Bell’s book is that the Christian revelation that God is Love, is contradicted by the teaching of Hell. How is LOVE to triumph in the end, if most people who ever lived, are doomed to a fiery hell ? Bell asserts that the traditional christian teaching on hell as the fate of sinners is “toxic” and contradicts the message of Jesus.
“A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better…. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’s message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear” (from the preface-Love Wins,Rob Bell)
Many others have already been writing to refute Bell’s error.Almost all of them begin with the point that nearly everything accurate we know about Hell came from the Words of Jesus himself. So much for Bell’s assertion that warning sinners of their fate contradicts Jesus’ message!
I have been pondering why it is that so many are so ready to drop the teaching Jesus committed to us, about this subject. Why are we so ready to accommodate the world Spirit? I believe that it comes down to two reasons;
1) A downgraded presentation of the vision of God-
There is nothing as important to Christians and sinners alike, as to how the person of God is presented in the church. The people of God need a constant vision of God.The sinners need a witness to reality by the church.
We worship a Holy God! Our God is an infinitely good, utterly righteous, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, Sovereign, awesome,terrible Being. The highest use of the mind is to consider the beauty of God.
But the church doesn’t really preach all that much about God anymore. The sermons rarely present the awesome attributes of God anymore, his perfections are never held up for all to behold.
How often in church do we tremble as the minister holds forth the person of God himself ?
Are we not often supposed to be moved to holy fear and adoration,as we are made to consider subjects such as the majesty of God, the meaning of Holiness, the Mercy of God, The wrath of God, the Righteousness of God, and yes the Love of God?
But the preachers are humanistic, (in ways they don’t realize).They cater to man, as a matter of fact they are man centered.
They preach a lot about human relationships, they encourage, and bolster human confidence, they shore people up who are discouraged or who feel angst, they put salve on wounded egos, and exhibit much human empathy and compassion, but rarely is God himself the subject of their message.
That is why they simply cannot hold on to the witness of perdition.
In order to believe what Jesus said about the prospect of “Weeping and gnashing of teeth”, “outer darkness”, “a fire where worm dieth not” which it would be good to cut your own hand off in order to avoid…you would have to believe that there is a God so high, so exalted, so good, that to sin against him is to sin against goodness itself!
The “new and improved” evangelicals and those influenced by them no longer believe in such a God. They can’t conceive that there could be someone so awesome, so utterly terrible in a Holy sense, that those who transgress against are liable to an eternity of woe.
Of course they still speak of God, but when they do their speech is always of a God of “unconditional love”, ( a psychologized term, not a biblical one).
The vision of God is distorted, therefore many in this generation will deny the biblical witness to the reality of eternal conscious punishment of the unrepentant.
In the next part we will discuss the second failure which has brought about this denial of the faith.