Wednesday

Why can't we agree?

The other day I read this from a religion news feed I receive:

Resolution Affirms Biblical Doctrine of Hell

"Southern Baptists approved a resolution affirming the Bible's teaching on hell during the Wednesday morning session of their annual convention. The resolution on hell, which urges faithful proclamation of the Gospel to those who face eternal suffering, was one of six passed by unanimous or nearly unanimous votes upon recommendation of the Resolutions Committee. Baptist Press reports that the resolution on hell came as part of an ongoing response to the publication earlier this year of Michigan pastor Rob Bell's book 'Love Wins.' Bell's controversial book 'called into question the church's historic teaching on the doctrine of eternal punishment of the unregenerate,' as the resolution described it. Messengers in Phoenix affirmed 'our belief in the biblical teaching on eternal, conscious punishment of the unregenerate in Hell.' The resolution also urged Southern Baptists 'to proclaim faithfully the depth and gravity of sin against a holy God, the reality of Hell, and the salvation of sinners by God's grace alone...'"

The aforementioned book is this one:



It's on my shelf. I've read the first four chapters but then I got hooked on "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" and put it down.

So far, from what I see in Bell's book, he's only trying to open a conversation. Does he challenge traditional thinking on hell like the Southern Baptists claim? Yes, but I don't see anything wrong with what Bell is writing. I'm not saying that I completely agree with him because I have not reached any conclusions on the matter. I have to finish the book. For now, I will say that his book is intriguing.

To me, Bell seems to be challenging the unloving and careless attitude that a lot of Christians have about people going to hell. This was portrayed by former governor Mike Huckabee when he welcomed Osama bin Laden to hell after the terrorist was killed by Navy Seals. We think that evil people deserve to go to hell and perhaps rightfully so, but do we mourn for their souls and care for them while they are on earth?

I've also seen this in the church: People who have been going to church all their lives are upset with death bed confessions, saying that it is not fair that they had been living the for so long and suffering so much when all a person has to do is accept Jesus on his or her death bed and get in to heaven with the same benefits. That attitude reeks of a works attitude: "Dog gone it. I deserve to go to heaven! I've given up smoking, drinking and dancing and going with girls (or boys) who do and that person did everything he or she wanted."  It's almost, as  Mike says about that attitude, "Screw you buddy, I got mine ... why should you have any of it?"

But when we compare ourselves with a holy and perfect God do any of us deserve to go to heaven? It's by God's grace, not man's grace, that souls are saved. It's clearly God's decision, not ours; it's just our job to present the gospel and let the Holy Spirit do the work.

I understand what the Southern Baptists are doing. They want to make sure that their people know that they are not letting go of their doctrine of hell as being a place of eternal, conscious punishment for those who are unregenerate. They want to make sure that they do not lose the perspective that sin against a holy God is serious business. I applaud that. Sin is serious business. It ruins our lives and the lives of people around us. It keeps us from living abundantly here on earth.

The Naked Pastor had an interesting cartoon:



This is certainly not the real attitude of our loving Christ, but it seems that many Christians must think it is, otherwise they would not act in such unloving ways.

Recently, in honor of the day G.K. Chesterton went to be with the Lord, I blew the dust off his book "Orthodoxy" and read some selections. In it he talked about George Bernard Shaw, a friend of his, with whom he disagreed on almost everything. That phrase caused me to stop reading for a few minutes. He disagreed with his friend on almost everything? That's certainly not the way things are done today. Usually we are most comfortable with the people with whom we agree. It's hard for us to even respect people who disagree with us. This is one reason why Washington can't get it together and another reason why the church is not as strong as it should be. We find it very hard to live at peace with one another (Romans 12:18). You see, it's not a new problem.

On the other hand, over in 2 Corinthians 13:11, Paul encourages us to agree with one another. It seems like he's almost begging his readers to agree so that there won't be any divisions among them (1 Corinthians 1: 10). Why? Because division stops the work of Christ and ruins the communion of the saints. Can we lead others to Jesus if we are divided? Can we enjoy each others' company when we are divided?

It is a quandary. No two humans will agree on everything. If they agree on everything then one isn't necessary (I don't remember who said that but I like it).

Good debate, even disagreement sharpens and fine tunes the soul. People are better when their views are challenged. Unfortunately, however, we tend to get angry and sullen when someone disagrees with us. When this happens we waste time affirming what we already believe rather than opening our heart and concentrating on how we can be more productive.

In the church we would be better off agreeing to disagree on some subjects; have healthy debate, avoid debate when we are angry and agree on this:

Apostles' Creed


1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
5. The third day he rose again from the dead:
6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:
9. I believe in the holy catholic* church: the communion of saints:
10. The forgiveness of sins:
1l. The resurrection of the body:
12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

*Note: this means the church universal, which includes Catholicism and Protestantism


For further reading about God's grace, check out Matthew 20: 1-16 and Ephesians 2: 8 and think about what you're reading. I'd love to hear your views in the comment section.