In preparation for preaching on the doctrine of Hell this coming Sunday I read Cruciform Press's latest release, The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever, by Thor Ramsey. You may not expect a book on hell to be humorous and entertaining, but this one is. Ramsey's humor disarms skeptical readers and it opens the door for his very direct dealings with the doctrine of hell. Ramsey's conviction is clear - hell glorifies God; and Christians who ignore hell, downplay hell, or dance around the issue of hell do so at their own peril. The book is concise, well written, and very potent. For a sample, here are his opening words:
Hell, the doctrine of eternal punishment, misery without end, or as it's often referred to, "mother is moving in with us," is not very popular these days. On second thought, I can't think of a time when the doctrine of eternal punishment was popular (not that i don't personally enjoy my mother-in-law's visits). In today's age of peace, love, and misinformation, the subject of hell seems to make church leaders sweat even when they're not trying to be ironic.
In response there is a swath of fashionable new preachers with a mission to clean up God's nasty reputation as a bloodthirsty old clod. Unfortunately, in the process of doing God the big favor of helping with his PR, they're reinventing the doctrine of eternal punishment with a new and improved gospel. It's gospel-riffic! Despite two thousand years of historic Christian interpretation, these new gospel hucksters are questioning whether Jesus spoke of hell as a real place of eternal suffering and torment at all. But if hell isn't real, and only a warning, the biblical authors could just as well have penned, "You better not pout, you better not cry." It becomes a hollow warning with about as much sway as a shopping-mall Santa.
"Be good kids."
"You smell like beef and cheese."
Buddy the Elf's rebuke could be applied to these new teachers of hell as well: "You sit on a throne of lies."