Hell disappeared. And no one noticed.” With that terse observation, American church historian Martin Marty summarized our attitude toward a vanishing doctrine that received careful attention in previous generations. If you are a churchgoer, ask yourself when you last heard an entire sermon or Sunday school lesson on the topic.
An article in Newsweek said, “Today, hell is theology’s H-word, a subject too trite for serious scholarship.” Gordon Kaufman of Harvard Divinity School believes we have gone through a transformation of ideas, and he says, “I don’t think there can be any future for heaven and hell.”
Admittedly, hell is an unpleasant topic. Unbelievers disbelieve in it; most Christians ignore it. Even the staunchly biblical diehards are often silent out of embarrassment. Hell, more than any doctrine of the Bible, seems to be out of step with our times.
And yet we read that in the final judgment the unbelieving dead of all the ages stand before God to be judged, “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.… And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14–15). This is but one of many descriptions of hell found in the Bible. What shall we do with this teaching? — Erwin W. Lutzer, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1997), 101–102.
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