I can automatically tell if I should be in a church based off of how they talk about hell.
Here’s why I say this…
Some churches preach about hell by speaking about Lazarus needing just a drop of water from a finger tip or about the gnashing of teeth, eternity in the lake of fire and the burning of flesh.
I think this way of teaching about hell is inherently coercive and ultimately counterintuitive. It’s a scare tactic that attempts to frighten you into a belief system. The goal here is to prevent your self-destruction. Therefore, this view centers your own comfort in your faith experience.
Other churches preach about hell being a place where God is not or a place where he is far from. They preach that you should want to be so close to God and his love, that you would never want to be in a place where his love doesn’t reach you. This perspective centers love and a relationship/proximity with The Divine rather than a punitive/penal approach.
I think that the ways we talk about hell to bring new believers into the faith is so important. It’s important to teach people that the fear of God is more so deference rather than dread, trepidation or painful admiration. The foundation of the faith is love (1 Corinthians 13) and one of the most important goals is liberation of the oppressed ( Isaiah 58:6).
The point of this post is to talk about the ways that some churches talk about hell. It definitely should be discussed but not in a coercive manner. Whoever is teaching about it should be mindful of their audience because scaring people into a faith is not the goal. Love is ultimately the goal.
This post is rooted in 1 John 4:18 which says: “There is no fear in love… for fear has to do with punishment and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”