Recently, it was brought to my attention that, supposedly, those who believe in a real Hell are evil. And so is our God.
Let me get this straight. The Son of God leaves the glories of Heaven and subjects Himself to life on planet earth—which includes (to paraphrase Shakespeare): “the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” To these and worse, Jesus voluntarily submits Himself.
Jesus lives a perfect life, and then offers Himself as a sacrifice for sins, so that those who trust in Him for eternal life will be able to go to Heaven to be with Him forever. This salvation from Hell (which is separation from the source of life, God) is by good works—His, not ours. (True belief in Him, of course, will always result in good works.)
In short, Jesus went to Hell for us on the cross, so we don’t have to. But now some people want to reject His once-and-for-all sacrifice out-right and then turn around and blame Him, should they wind up there, where they will be punished for their own sins.
They also want to deny that Hell is real (or that anyone goes there) and marginalize anybody who dares say it is. Sometimes, they even make a caricature of those who dare mention that Hell is real, so they can then easily dismiss this nut-job or malicious malefactor. Church Lady might say, “How conveeeeenient!”
Through the centuries, down to our present day, many people who believe in historical Christianity have done (and continue to do) many positive things in our world. Of course, included in the historic Christian faith would be the belief in what Jesus Himself said about Hell.
Consider just a preliminary list of men and women who through the centuries—and even today—have embraced the historic Christian faith, which includes the now politically incorrect view of the afterlife.
That list would include Peter, Paul, and Mary (not the singing group, but the saints—the original ones). Now that we’re at it, virtually all the apostles and believers dubbed as saints.
Included in that list are many great religious leaders through the centuries, including Polycarp, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Augustine, Athanasius, Ambrose, John Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, Francis of Assisi, Thomas More, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ignatius Loyola, Blaise Pascal, John Wesley, George Whitefield, D. James Kennedy, Francis Scheaffer, and Billy Graham.
Also included are many great writers, including Dante, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton, John Bunyan, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Chuck Colson, Oswald Chambers, G. K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Flannery O’Connor, and J.R.R. Tolkien.
You can add William Shakespeare. Note what he said in his Last Will and Testament: “I commend my soul into the hands of God my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing through the only merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting; and my body to the earth, whereof it is made.”
Musicians would include Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Joseph Haydn, and George Friedrich Handel. Meanwhile, who can forget the classic scene (featured in Amadeus) from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, where the unrepentant Don Juan gets cast into Hell?
The list would include many great scientists, including Johannes Kepler, Michael Faraday, Robert Boyle, Gregor Mendel, Lord Kelvin, Louis Pasteur, and Joseph Lister, along with many great political leaders and reformers, including Constantine, Justinian, Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, St. Louis (Louis IX), George Washington, Queen Victoria, and, of course, William Wilberforce.
Ten years ago I had the privilege of interviewing the international leader of the Salvation Army at the time, Gen. John Gowan. He said, “There wouldn’t be a Salvation Army without a Savior!”
He also added, “Without any question, there are millions of people today, as we’re sitting here, who are receiving something beautiful either of a physical or a spiritual kind from compassionate Christians. If there were no compassionate Christians, there would be many of those million who would not receive what they desperately need to face today.”
Even an Orthodox Rabbi, Daniel Lapin of Toward Tradition, recognizes the many good things done by those who believe in historic Christianity. He cites one example, “Every time there is a natural disaster, who is on the spot? Numerous American religious Christian-driven charities bringing relief; that is where it is coming from.”
If I needed to go the hospital, I could go to Holy Cross, Good Samaritan, St. Luke’s, or Baptist Hospital. But I won’t be going to the Madalyn Murray O’Hare Clinic any time soon, because it doesn’t exist.
Have there been Christian believers (real or fake) who have done atrocious things—even sometimes in the name of the Savior? Of course, but that’s not because of Him, but despite the One who taught us to love even our enemies.
On balance, historic Christianity has greatly benefitted humanity. About a hundred years ago, James Russell Lowell, who wrote the hymn “Once to every man and nation” (which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted when he made it to Selma) once said this: “I challenge any skeptic to find a ten square mile spot on this planet where they can live their lives in peace and safety and decency, where womanhood is honored, where infancy and old age are revered, where they can educate their children, where the Gospel of Jesus Christ has not gone first to prepare the way. If they find such a place, then I would encourage them to emigrate thither and there proclaim their unbelief.”