Can we seriously preach hell in a tolerant age?
Only if we also communicate the true sacrifice of the cross, says Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. His article is condensed from Leadership journal, one of a dozen periodicals published by Christianity Today International,
The young man in my office was an Ivy League mba, successful in the financial world. He had lived in three countries before age 30. Raised in a family with only the loosest connections to a mainline church, he had little understanding of Christianity.
I was therefore gratified to learn of his intense spiritual interest, recently piqued as he attended our church. He said he was ready to embrace the gospel. But there was a final obstacle: hell.
"I work with some fine people who are Muslim, Jewish, or agnostic," he said. "I cannot believe they are going to hell just because they don't believe in Jesus. In fact, I cannot reconcile the very idea of hell with a loving God—even if he is holy too."
This young man expressed what may be the main objection contemporary secular people make to the Christian message. Moderns reject the idea of final judgment and hell.
When preaching hell to people of this mindset (who tend to be younger, from nominal Catholic or nonreligious Jewish backgrounds, from liberal mainline Protestant backgrounds, and from the western and northeastern U.S. and Europe), I've found I must clearly communicate the following four points:
Sin is slavery. I do not define sin as just breaking the rules, but also as "making something besides God our ultimate value and worth." These good things, which become gods, will drive us relentlessly, enslaving us mentally and spiritually, even to hell forever if we let them.
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