Sun, 22 Jan|
Confronting Christianity - January Sermon Series
Five confronting questions for the Christian faith.
Time & Location
22 Jan 2023, 8:00 am – 29 Jan 2023, 5:00 pm
Gymea, 131 Gymea Bay Rd, Gymea NSW 2227, Australia
About the event
At this year's Weekend Away some of us picked up Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin. It really is a book for our time, and we commend it whole-heartedly. The book gives solid Biblical answers to “12 Hard Questions For The World’s Largest Religion.” This summer, Andy, Aaron Craig and Dave others are going to present the book as a preaching series.
At Gymea in the month of January, we won’t have time to cover all 12 issues, and our Confronting Christianity series is probably best described as loosely based on the book. But we trust that the 5 topics we’ll be covering on Sundays, will help you to think Christianly and biblically about these questions. And we hope that they will aid you in engaging in helpful ways with your friends, family members, colleagues and neighbours, so that in every way you commend Christ to them.
This week's question is “How Could A Loving God Send People To Hell?”. It’s a doozy. Near the beginning of her final chapter, McLaughlin writes: “In this chapter, we will explore the hardest question in this book. Every other question pales in comparison” (210).
What Is Hell?
In Jerusalem, Hell (or Gehenna as it was known), was the place where the dead bodies were thrown. In Jesus’ day it was a huge rubbish tip where you burnt up all your garbage. Think of it like Lucas Heights. More than that, before King David conquered Jerusalem, the Canaanites who were living there sacrificed their children in that valley. There’s even an Old Testament prophecy about God coming in his burning judgement on Gehenna because he knew what had been happening to those kids. As you might be beginning to realise, there’s something important in all this background about the way we should think about Hell - it’s an image. Gehenna is what you refer to when you’re saying there’s a terrible place that you might go, that God could judge you, and that you could end up in that kind of state. Gehenna describes what it’s like to be judged (but the final judgement of the world is not literally going to take place in a rubbish dump outside Jerusalem). Nevertheless, artists in the Middle Ages made it literal. In Dante’s Inferno for instance, or in paintings by the likes of Hieronymus Bosch, there’s often a clear, kind-of pictorial view of what hell is like - you can see the bodies, and you can see the flames. These artists took the New Testament imagery (which is imagery) and put it on canvas. While that has not always been helpful, let’s not forget that there is something real that these biblical images refer to. We don’t take them literally, but they are real. The reason that they’re so powerful, and so affecting, is that judgement is real. We are right to remind ourselves each week “He will Come Again to Judge the Living and the Dead” - it might be the best and wisest thing we can ever do!
The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever, by Thor Ramsey
Avoiding the caricatures of God as either a Frankenstein out to crush you or a Santa Claus ready to grant your every wish (as long as you’ve been really, really good), Thor Ramsey asks, “What changes about God if this traditional understanding of the doctrine of hell changes?” As it turns out, everything changes. If you think a God without hell is more loving, this book will surprise you.