Yesterday I wrote an article using Scripture to substantiate the doctrine of hell. As painful as it is to think about people going to hell, we cannot dismiss the Bible’s many warnings about it simply because they offend our sensibilities. More broadly, we cannot interpret Scripture through the grid of human philosophies.
As we discuss hell, women preaching, Charismatic teaching or any other topic of debate, we need to look to the Word of God as the arbiter of truth. Not to C.S. Lewis or John Calvin. Not to sermons or YouTube videos. Not even to blog posts on The Outspoken TULIP. These resources may or may not be helpful if they point us to Scripture, but we must be careful not to let them have equal authority to God’s Word.
Furthermore, we must never allow ourselves to edit God’s Word to suit our personal theology. We will inevitability find things in the Bible that we dislike — the doctrine of hell being a prime example. But instead of twisting Scripture or ignoring it altogether, we must hold it as our infallible standard of truth as the Bereans did when Paul first preached the Gospel to them.
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. ~~Acts 17:10-12 (ESV)
In contrast to the Bereans, the Pharisees felt free to edit Scripture according to their selfish traditions. That manipulation of God’s Word enraged Jesus!
Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” ~~Mark 7:1-13 (ESV)
I watched a video today that appealed to C.S. Lewis, Catholic mystics like Thomas Merton, and the early Church Fathers (in their more mystical writings) to bolster the idea that hell is not a literal place. The speaker believed that heaven and hell are both the presence of God, but that God’s presence is heaven to those who love Him and hell to those who reject Him. He tried to substantiate his view by explaining how C.S. Lewis and Catholic mystics interpreted various passages about hell.
Sorry guy, but appealing to a univeralist like C.S. Lewis and Catholic mystics doesn’t exactly give me confidence in your ability to rightly divide the Word of God!
Christians have a responsibility to see Scripture as the Word of the holy God. Our fear of Him, as well as our love for Him, should make us wary of editing His Word to accommodate our philosophies and/or traditions.