Al Mohler has written a good piece on the doctrine of hell. He details the steps by which the doctrine has become liberalized in many churches:
- It ceases to be discussed
- It is revised and retained in a reduced form
- It is subject to ridicule
- The doctrine is reformulated (annihilationism, etc.)
I would add a possible fifth step as well: The doctrine is denied.
This same pattern can be applied to the liberalization of any Biblical doctrine. We must be on guard so as not to follow this pattern. The best way to guard against it is to preach and teach on the full spectrum of Biblical doctrines, rather than focusing on a handful and ignoring others. In general, what ceases to be taught ceases to be believed.
Mohler also had some challenging words on the tendency to lament, or apologize for the doctrine of hell. As Mohler describes it, there are Bible believing Christians who will affirm that the Bible teaches the doctrine of hell, but admit they do not like the doctrine and wish it were not true. I think we’ve all been there, and understandably so. But Mohler raises some good points against this disposition:
What does this say about God? What does this imply about God’s truth? Can a truth clearly revealed in the Bible be anything less than good for us? … Apologizing for a doctrine is tantamount to impugning the character of God. Do we believe that hell is a part of the perfection of God’s justice? If not, we have far greater theological problems than those localized to hell.
Indeed. As Dennis Prager once noted, it would be the epitome of injustice if the evil had the same fate as the righteous. If we love God, then we will love righteousness and justice. And if we love righteousness and justice, then the existence of hell is not something we should lament.