Why “Christian Apologetics”? — Hell

“Christian Apologetics” Cover

One of the ways in which the damned will be condemned is that they will see themselves condemned by their own reason, by which they claimed to condemn the Christian religion. — Blaise Pascal. Penses. ed. and trans. A. Krailsheimer (New York: Penguin, 1966), 175/563, p. 84.

In To skim or not to skim: A ‘case’ study of “Christian Apologetics”, I share my initial response to Douglas Groothuis‘ newly released 752 page casebound Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for the Biblical Faith (IVP. 2011). As we begin a new term and jump into the daily grind, some readers may wrestle with the question of “why apologetics?” Although the Chapter 2 (The Biblical Basis for Apologetics) quotes included in my previous post address this concern, what I came across in GroothuisAppendix 1: Hell on Trial also deserves attention.  Please join me in taking a few minutes to prayerfully consider and respond to some of the material in Appendix 1: Hell on Trial. 

Groothuis opens the section with the above quote from Pascal and by stating “Christianity is the highest-stakes proposition imaginable” (653). After looking at Jesus and Hell (with significant attention to Bertrand Russell) and The Logic of Hell over the course nine pages, he concludes with these compelling words:

An apologetic that denies or shies away from the doctrine of hell is not a truly Christian apologetic. Yet this teaching must be done with compassion and tears. Such was exemplified by Francis Schaeffer, a man who believed in eternal punishment and who gave his life to rescue people from it and to lead them into the abundant life that only Jesus Christ delivers (John 10:10). When asked why he continued to defend and proclaim the gospel, even while afflicted with what would become terminal cancer, he replied that it was “sorrow for all the lost” that drove him to be a faithful witness, “regardless of the cost.” To believe in the “eternal lostness of the lost without tears would be a cold and dead orthodoxy, indeed.” Since each lost person is one of our kind, it would be “totally ugly and opposed to the biblical message” if we did not give our all to this task of evangelizing them. — Appendix 1: Hell on Trial, 661. Note: Schaeffer’s quotes come from a letter to the Rev. David H. Bryson, January 14, 1983, quoted in Peterson, Hell on Trial, p.55.

IFES Reaching College Students Around the World

In response, I encourage you to join me and the PSU-Hershey Christian Medical Society (CMS)/CMDA to aside time today to

  • affirm our call to love God with head, heart and hands as part of the people of God on campus and to the ends of the earth. Note: Did you know, 1 out of 300 students in the world are part of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (of which InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA is a member)?
  • love others, including our fellow students in our labs, classes, halls, living quarters, and campus activities who do not yet embrace the Way, the Truth, and Life found in Christ alone. Ask for the grace to humbly share the Gospel in tears with head, heart and hands as part of the people of God on campus and to the ends of the earth.

In my next post, I dig into Mary Poplin’s Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service. But I encourage you

  • take a peek at Christian Apologetics via Google preview.
  • post what you think are the most significant pros/cons regarding the practice of Christian apologetics.
  • post what questions regarding the faith most require attention on campus as we seek to humbly invite/call others to consider the Way, the Truth, and Life found in Christ alone.

Updated: 11/2/2011. 10:49 AM.

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Tom Grosh IV

Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the South Central PA Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). The Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine is the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!

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  • dantwalker@bellsouth.net'
    Dan Walker commented on October 1, 2011 Reply

    I spend a lot less time on apologetics on hell since I believe that the Bible does NOT teach eternal hellfire for the lost. I believe it teaches eternal destruction – not eternal torment. I have to agree with atheists like Christopher Hitchens – it’s hard to believe that God is love if he is going to torment immortal souls in hell for eternity.

  • Glenn_Shrom_2000@hotmail.com'
    Glenn Shrom commented on October 22, 2012 Reply

    Luke 16:23-24 says “in hell, in torment” and “because I am in agony in this fire”. If God’s love is compelling enough of a reason that the torment could not be eternal, why isn’t God’s love compelling enough to convince us that there is no torment at all? What would be the point of someone being in agony for a time, if all that is going to happen in the end is annihilation? Would that be loving? Would that make sense?

    To believe in hell at all makes it just as easy to believe that hell – or some sort of existence in separation from God and His goodness (in the lake of fire, for instance, if not hell)- is eternal. In His love, God does not force those who despise Him to be in His presence. What is left is agony and torment, but at least without the relational punishment of being in the presence of a God you hate and from whose presence is poured out active consuming wrath. See for instance II Thessalonians 1:9 in several translations, including those which render “from the presence of the Lord” as the source origin from which the punishment flows.

    If we are going to compromise one way or the other, what makes one choose to water down the idea of eternal hell, rather than watering down the idea of God’s love? If we can’t accept all that Scripture teaches, it is just as logical to believe in eternal hell and compromise on the understanding of his loving nature, as it is to believe in God’s loving nature and compromise on the eternal nature of the agony.

  • Glenn_Shrom_2000@hotmail.com'
    Glenn Shrom commented on October 22, 2012 Reply

    If we understand Schaeffer’s “eternal lostness of the lost” as annihilation, does that permit our orthodoxy to be without tears? Or are we still compelled by our soft and living hearts to cry for the lost and be active in evangelism like Schaeffer says? Isn’t there room to spend time on apologetics on the topic of hell just because Jesus and the Apostles saw it as important to the Gospel?

  • judelyod@yahoo.com'
    Judy Cochran commented on September 20, 2013 Reply

    If hell was not a place of eternal suffering would Christ have chosen to accept the agony of the cross? Why not just reason his way to salvation? I believe Christ knew about the torments of hell and had that in mind when he looked at the people with such compassion. That’s why he said it was more important to have sins forgiven than bodies healed. Hell is a place of perpetual punishment ordained by God. His ways are not our ways but are we to say he is not correct? Then we fall into place with Job. His love blazes like molten gold when seen in this perspective. Jesus suffered horribly to keep us out of hell, no quick electric chair or lethal injection but a slow, torturous, barbaric death. Why would Christ endure that if argument would have gained us all entry?

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