Sunday 17 May 2020

Fear of hell is a useless method of evangelism for Romantic Christians

Fear of hell is nowadays a useless method of evangelism for many reasons; one of which is that we already (here, now) live in a time of fear unprecedented since the 20th century world wars; and in important ways a fear greater than then, because unjustified; and without courage or hope of betterment.

But more deeply fear is useless; because I understand hell to be essentially self-chosen; therefore it is not feared by modern people.

So, to threaten modern people with hell is to threaten them with what they want.

This is a consequence of the extremity of modern corruption; as evident in widespread and officially sanction-implemented value inversion. This, because the cutting edge of modern 'morality' is an inversion of Christian values.

Now, hell is something desired...

Or if not actively desired, then at least regarded as preferable to Christian Heaven that excludes transgressive pleasures.

To the depraved modern sensibility; Heaven seems vulgar, sentimental and boring (especially when contrasted with the dark fascinations of the sexual euphoria promised by modernity - and with the consumerist fascinations, distractions, novelties and safe-adventures of virtual reality).

So fear is not an effective tool of Christian evangelism; on the contrary - hell is a thing wished-for, not a place of terror.

If not avoidance of the feared; what then should Christian evangelists do? What could we offer instead (honestly, truthfully)?

The answer is: alternative and superior good.

Modern Man needs to be inspired by a more-desirable actuality and prospect.

An example is Alcoholism and the sometimes-successful strategy of Alcoholics Anonymous.

To begin with, the addict wants nothing more than the drug - as much and as often as possible - a reliable supply.

It is only when the Alcoholic has had his life and happiness destroyed by the drug; and has been brought low - to the very bottom - that he will consider anything else.

And at that point (looking up 'from the depths' - de profundis); AA offers the vision of a creator God, a loving divine being, hope beyond the world; sustained by frequent and supportive fellowship (a 'church', in effect; with many meetings).

But this can happen only when alcohol is explicitly recognised and acknowledged to be the root of the problem ("I am an alcoholic"), and is repented and repudiated. 

Modernity will need (typically, overall) to follow a similar trajectory; and at that point Romantic Christians needs to be ready to speak of the better hope we can offer.



a_probst said...

It's always worked on me; maybe I'm not Romantic enough yet.

But to your point, I think most would be surprised (or at least incredulous) to hear that they were "choosing hell" since it is regarded as a place of eternal suffering for those who have been evil. And with the inversion of values many think that they are being very good to tolerate transgressive people, as if today were a more enlightened time than any before. Any deviance from this politically-correct position is seen as a slippery slope to inquisitions, burnings (hence the term 'faggot' for a homosexual), and blah-blah-blah.

This attitudinizing wormed its way into the consciences of religious people via social shaming and the media, creating almost a neo-Calvinism. It seemed to multiply the possible sins of intolerance year by year, as the demands for 'inclusion' mounted, and legal and social barriers to much formerly untolerated, sinful behavior were removed. "Let everyone to Hell in his own way." "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries."

"Modern Man needs to be inspired by a more-desirable actuality and prospect."
Buy the more-desirable actuality and prospect expressed in a way he understands. But I guess that's what you meant.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ap - Nowadays, evangelists have to teach the nature of sin, demonstrate that everyone is a sinner, explain how Jesus deals with this etc etc. There is no basis for it. And at the end of the day, most people want the sin at any price... because they prefer it to 'the alternative'.

('Eternal' suffer-ing... Oh those abstractions! Why do we paralyse ourselves and crush Christianity with incomprehensible ane meaningless terminology!)

Andrew C. said...

Always insightful - indeed we do see an inversion. Instead of understanding and repenting our sins, we see anger at God for not giving us more of the sin. Anger towards any restriction in our sins, a tearing down of natural restrictions. It is Satanic.

So a large part of the population is angry (if not actively hating) God and in alliance with Satan.

Shouting "you're going to Hell" at those people certainly does nothing, it just reinforces their anger and bitterness. It just reinforces they self-chosen damnation and rebellion. Imagine dealing with an angry child. Maybe in old age, or a time of illness, or major societal collapse - when they see the failures - then they might finally be open to repentance.