Nov 1, 2017
For the last twenty-five years, the moral landscape of our country has been changing. More and more people argue against the death penalty as a legitimate form of justice. Some strenuously argue that every individual has the right to determine when and how to end their life. Divorce has become more common. Many now accept cohabitation before marriage as an acceptable preparation for marriage. And, activist groups have been able to alter our laws to reflect their agendas on family, human life and the very notion of the human person.
In such an environment, it is no surprise that more and more people are no longer comfortable with the idea of hell. Actions and choices that once were accepted as sins are now presented as morally good. When sin is no longer seen as sin, any consequence for sinful acts is sidelined, most especially any punishment beyond the grave. As a result, only about half of Americans believe that hell is the fate of those who live morally evil lives.
Fifty years ago, when the distinctions between good and evil were sharper, it was certainly much easier for preachers to speak of the eternal consequences of serious sin. But, ever since the moral teaching of Christians has been blunted in some theological circles, preachers have consistently steered away from ever mentioning from the pulpit any doctrine that makes people uncomfortable in the pews. Religion, for some, has become a therapeutic moralism for happy living.
Involvement in social issues, good in itself, has moved center stage and has gradually diminished the spotlight on individual sin. Some preachers across the lines of church affiliation concentrate their teaching solely on the love of God. This truth can never be emphasized enough. But the whole preaching of Jesus cannot be limited to one truth. The sheer number of recent bestsellers on heaven and hell reveal a keen interest in the afterlife on the part of many.