Eternal Damnation goes the way of a literal creation, the sanctity of marriage and different roles for men and women
I doubt there ever has been a church age since the reformation where so many ideas, which are not readily apparent in the bible, have been added to the bible. One obvious example would be the inserting of millions of years into Genesis chapter one. I mean, certainly the great expanses of time are not demanded by a straight forward reading of the verses or by good exegesis. Whether you work your years into the day’s by calling them ages, or insert a previous creation and fall caused by the Devil in a imagined gap, or use a literary designation to make the length of the days meaningless (therefore allowing your millions of years) you are still adding ideas that are arguably not there.
At the same time, we have become adept at taking away from scripture ideas that clearly are there and taught with some force, if we don’t like them.
Marriage standards went out the window in the secular world in the late 50’s and early sixties, and by the seventies and early eighties the church had caught up. It quickly became Pharisaical or unloving to mention any scripture which placed tougher standards on Christian divorce and remarriage. So those scriptures just began to be ignored. Who wants to be accused of being an unloving Pharisee?
The divorce and remarriage rate soared in the Church faster and higher than outside the church although many well meaning Christians are denying this. They point to the fact that the people who attend church every week or twice a week still have lower divorce rates then the non churched but they are missing the point. The early pre- 1960 divorce rates were not based on certain segments of the church; but simply placed all people who identified themselves as Christians in one category and unbelievers in another. At that time, the divorce rate was extremely low among the unchurched or non Christians but much lower still among professing Christians in general. If you make the same broad comparison today there is almost no difference between the two groups. My experience is that the reading of scriptures that strongly condemn divorce and that have been read consistently for almost 2000 years, is not being done. At least not as often as it was in the past.
The marriage problem is probably related both to the femininization of the American Church and the stretching of the bible to accommodate scientific theories that have their roots in atheism and we will deal with those in different chapters.
But another example of constantly allowing the culture to dictate what and how we preach would be the rapid de-emphasis on the doctrine of eternal punishment.
Hell has not been a popular topic for some time, but now we are preaching against Hell, not just passively ignoring it. In the late 18th and early 19th century many liberal protestant denominations discreetly removed the topic from the pulpit. At the same time, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists, the Armstrongers, the Branhamites and others began to actively interpret the bible in way that took the time and pain out of Hell Fire. They made it a more reasonable doctrine, because man often finds the bible quite unreasonable, particularly in a culture which is admitted to being one of the most permissive in history.
One of the problems is that the farther away a society drifts from biblical standards of right and wrong, the weaker becomes the concept of the seriousness of sin. Our standards constantly move downward, and what may have shocked us fifty years ago really doesn’t seem so bad now. In generations past the Church may have over-concentrated on eternal punishment and judgment. This was at least partly because the general population was much more sensitive to “sin” and the necessity for God to deal with it. We live in a different society now.
The “I’m okay, you’re okay” or “Don’t judge me” views absolutely dominate in the media and academia. “it’s all good” is the watchword of the day and if there is any moral absolute, it could be summed up in one word “Tolerance”. Like the Trinity, the concept of eternal punishment can be difficult to grasp and the early cults were quick to jump on that and remove or explain away the biblical passages which point to place of eternal punishment.
And now the Evangelicals are jumping on board, a day late and a dollar short maybe, but they’re getting with it. We are no longer happy with eternal hell fire either and I think the very fact that many evangelicals are not only declining from teaching it, but are openly advocating discarding the topic from the evangelical canon, is another sign of deflection from the authority of the God of Scripture.
None the less, many insist that the subject is just not that important and not worth upsetting the people in the pews over or having to take the trouble to defend it in the face of a very skeptical culture.
Well, it is in the Bible. Do evangelicals need the bible? Just to look a few of the passages that discuss judgment;
“…if anyone worships the beast and his image and receives the mark…he will also drink the wine of the wrath of God…and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the Holy Angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, they have no rest day or night.”
“…And the Devil, who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are, and they are tormented day and night forever.”
“And if anyone’s name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
“These will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
These are just a fraction of the verses in Scripture that describe a Holy God’s justice in dealing with self righteous but unholy men.
Obviously God’s view of men is quite different from the way we view ourselves. Remember we look away from our own faults, or excuse them and justify them as we try and minimize them. But as good as we are at fooling ourselves and sometimes others; we cannot expect to fool God.
And rebellion against God is not is not a small sin, no matter how subtlety your outward behavior may reflect or even disguise this mutiny. In essence, a person who has rejected God’s authority or refused to acknowledge his existence has aligned themselves with the source of all evil, even though among men they may the kindest and most law abiding of people. It becomes a question of allegiance. People don’t grow horns when they reject their creator and his morality but they may begin to support abortion, applaud homosexuality, promote anti-Semitism or endorse the ideologies that have crushed the basic human rights of people in Russia, China, Cambodia, Auschwitz, and in American abortion mills. And they may see themselves as the most enlightened and ethical of people. Not every Bolshevik, Nazi or pro-abortionist is a confessing atheist, but the founders of those movements were. All men are capable of allying themselves with evil, but those who reject God deny even the existence of evil, or any divine version of it. They call the shots. They dictate what defines good and evil, and mete out punishment to any who dare to question their discernment.
I have read accounts of peoples whose homelands were occupied by Nazi troops during the Second World War, and they were often taken aback by how well the Germans treated their horses and stock. They groomed them daily and checked their feet and gave them treats, their care was meticulous and kind. And yet these same men could set up a 50 caliber machine gun and mow down women, children and old men and throw them into shallow pits with less remorse than if the victims had been dogs. Do we really think that we are better than they were, or are made from different stuff? Would you have been willing to risk your life away by standing against Hitler in 1933 in Germany?
In the best of times man has a tendency towards evil; once God is removed from the moral conscience the tendency becomes manifest. We are often blind to the reality of what and who we really are. God isn’t.
God on the other hand must look upon every saline abortion and murder; 53 million prenatal infants aborted in America alone; 45 million adults murdered in China, 100 million murdered in Russia in less than 30 years. Not to mention, even in this modern world, the infants who are sacrificed to Satan in witchcraft and to other gods and goddesses in the third world, as well as in America. God doesn’t live in the limited bubble we do, he sees it all. I won’t go beyond a mere mention of the pride, self-centeredness, greed, hatred, adultery, pornography, child abuse, jealousy and all the rest of the often hidden side of basic human nature. Even Hitler had friends who loved him dearly and carried his picture with them to their deaths. Man is evil, though this evil is not always outwardly apparent. When God steps out of the way and no longer restrains man from evil or induces man to do good, we get worse.
We just are not capable of judging ourselves, we might be wise to let off judging God in our unrighteousness. Because if we suppress Scriptural truth, then we are guilty of what it says in Romans Chapter one, verse 18, of “Suppressing Gods truth in unrighteousness.” and making ourselves doubly worthy of His wrath.
Our churches are still full of good music, good fellowship, good food, and even uplifting messages, but dare we defy God and refuse to bring up suppressed biblical truth?
Do we let God define Himself through His Word, or do we redefine God according to our own reason and sensibilities?