What Are Your Feelings About Hellfire and Brimstone Preaching?
The following is an edited transcript of the audio.
What are your feelings about hellfire and brimstone preaching?
O that I knew what preaching they had in mind. Because I can conceive of hellfire and brimstone preaching that I would feel very angry about, and I can imagine hellfire and brimstone preaching that I would feel very thankful for and want to do more of myself.
So what would be the difference? Maybe that would be a helpful thing to say.
I have gone to churches—better not say where or when. There aren't many of them left, I don't think, or maybe there are more than I know—where the pastor spoke of hell with a couple of things:
1) He spoke as though it didn't really reflect the majestic glory of God and his justice, but was just vindictive.
2) He spoke as though there were no grief in it for the loss of human beings who go there.
Paul said, "My heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they might be saved." He said that about the Jews on whom the hardening of God had come. And he himself said, "I wish I could be damned in your place." The flavor of that was missing.
3) The emotional over-the-top-ness of the anger wasn't compensated for by a similar kind of sweet, wonderful, affectionate emotion for forgiveness and for the gospel and for the cross.
You got the impression that this man is not well. He's imbalanced in a real unhealthy way. He seems really mad at sinners and not thankful that he was saved! There doesn't seem to be in him the broken-hearted confession, "And I should be there!" and so a tenderness towards those who are on their way there.
The kind of thing that needs to happen is that we do need to talk about hell! We do need to warn people about hell! We do need to show that God is a God of justice. If we only talk about soft, light, and tender things because they are more compelling in certain people's minds, we will distort the gospel, which is so horrible that you can't account for it any other way.
The atonement will vanish where hell vanishes, because Christ bore the wrath of hell at the cross. And if you don't believe in hell then you have to turn the cross into something else, and it usually becomes sentimental.
And so hellfire preaching is necessary for the sake of the gospel and the glory of God.