A North Carolina megachurch pastor has started a blog series on the doctrine of hell, a topic that once almost caused him to lose his faith.
“For years I’ve felt that if you were to give me a Bible, a divine eraser, and ten minutes, I would take hell out of the Bible,” J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., writes in the first of a five-part series.
“As a young Christian, when I began to learn about hell and its implications, I almost lost my faith. It was that disturbing,” he says on “Between the Times,” the official blog of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Hell is a difficult reality, but it is something that the Bible teaches, and we can’t fully understand God and his world unless we grapple with it.”
Greear kicks off the series with seven truths about hell.
The first, he shares, is that hell is what hell is because God is who God is. “Hell should make our mouths stand agape at the righteous and just holiness of God,” he says. “It should make us tremble before His majesty and grandeur.”
The second is that Jesus spoke about hell more than anyone else in Scripture. He notes: “If we want to avoid the idea of hell, we can’t ignore the problem by just focusing on ‘meek and mild Jesus.’ ”
The third truth is that the reality of hell shows us the extent of God’s love in saving us. “Hell magnifies for us the love of God by showing us how far God went, and how much he went through, to save us,” he explains.
Fourth, people are eternal. Greear shares, “C.S. Lewis once noted that hell is a necessary conclusion from the Christian belief that human beings were created to live forever.”
His fifth point is that we send ourselves to hell. “When you tell God you don’t want Him as the Lord and Center of your lives, eventually you get your wish, and with God go all of His gifts,” Greear writes. He adds, “We have two options: live with God, or live without God.”
Sixth is that in another sense, God does send people to hell. “Isaiah reminds us that all who are currently ‘incensed against God’ will come before him in the last day and be ashamed, not vindicated (Isaiah 45:24),” Greear says, “because they will then realize just how perfect God’s ways are.”
The pastor’s seventh point is that it’s not enough for God to take us out of hell; He must take hell out of us. “If you don’t love the Father, then living in the Father’s house feels like slavery,” he explains.
“The only way you’ll enjoy heaven is when you learn to love and trust God again. Only an experience of the love of God can rearrange the fundamental structure of your heart to create a love and trust of God.”
In the second part of the series, Greear deals with the apologetic problems of hell. He lists four of the most common apologetic objections:
- God is too loving to send someone to hell.
- Hell is too extreme of a punishment for the crime.
- I’m basically a decent person.
- In the end, God’s wisdom is far above our own.
He concludes by writing: “The point here is not that the answers to the hard questions do not exist, or that we should not seek them. They do and we should. But a lot of our apologetic questions might disappear if we ever reckoned with how large God is. There comes a point where the mouth must stop and the knee must bow.”
Greear’s third installment, posted Tuesday, deals with the idea of religious exclusivity.
“Closely related to the doctrine of hell is the idea of religious exclusivity: as Christians, we believe that the only way to be saved is through conscious faith in Jesus. This is, of course, a terribly unpopular position, and one I hear objections to almost daily,” he explains, following with four attempts to answer some of those questions.