Who Really Believes in Hell? (Not Who You Would Think)
People are concerned enough about their own or others’ destiny after death that they will study and discuss it at length. This is a recurring topic on many Christian or other blogs (including this one).
Today it has popped up on the popular Christian (and relatively Evangelical, but not rigidly so) blog called Jesus Creed, by Scot McKnight. Kind of an interesting angle, in that it involves the major Evangelical figure, widely respected, the late John R. Stott (British). Here was my contribution to the discussion there, which I think is an important “stand-alone” point, regardless whether you go to McKnight’s post or not:
I was thoroughly Evangelical, including on eternal punishment and substitutionary atonement from high school, through Biola Univ., Talbot Sch. of Theol., Christian Res. Inst. (with Walter Martin) and beyond, to well over age 40. But ongoing, deeper study changed that eventually.
With a different view of the authority of Scripture now, I can see more clearly how people “operate” in terms of difficult doctrines and general belief systems. Seems pretty clear to me that, regardless of which view is truly “biblical”, the vast majority of even conservative Evangelicals do not actually believe in either annihilation OR eternal punishment, whatever their stated belief.
The evidence? That very few people actually ACT like they do. That is, they do not witness continually (or probably much at all), even to friends or family who “don’t know the Lord”, let alone all the other “lost” people they encounter daily. Some may pray more consistently but even they usually won’t pursue every direct means of getting the Gospel across to people, as would be expected for every person transformed and infused by the love of God who ALSO believes most other people around them are bound either for eternal suffering or extinction.
I have some guesses but am not quite sure why we allow ourselves to be so self-deluded (as I once was also) as to really believing in hell or annihilationism. So we do all these intellectual “explorations” or study to supposedly come to the “right” or biblical view… all the time disbelieving, really (and thankfully, as I see it) in the whole hell concept.