human dignity

The Witness to Human Dignity in the Doctrine of Hell

By Timothy Bootsveld

Israel Folau is not well known in Canada, but as one of Australia’s greatest professional rugby players he’s a household name from Hobart to Sydney to Perth, to Darwin, having established the all-time record for most tries scored, and he did it before his 30th birthday. Folau is also now an ex-player, fired by the league this past May for stating—twice in one year—that homosexuals and other sinners will go to hell if they do not repent and believe in Jesus. You can read more about his situation here.

I know it will come as cold comfort to homosexuals, but Folau’s condemnation should have been taken as a high compliment. Why? Because, as will be explained, from a Christian point of view telling someone that they deserve Hell should be considered a acknowledgment of that person’s worth and dignity.

Now before you go out and try to affirm people by telling them that they deserve to go to Hell, you should know that most people will not hear your affirmation as anything positive. In the popular imagination, the very idea of Hell is an attack on human dignity, and people who are told they deserve Hell will think themselves insulted. Furthermore, if what happened to Folau is any indication, they may insist on recantations or punishments.

In the popular imagination to say someone deserves Hell is seen as an attack on human dignity because most people simply cannot imagine that they, or anyone else, might genuinely deserve to go there. People may not know much about the Bible, but they know enough to perceive that Hell is a curse, and the final, eternal curse at that. And they are right (Matt. 25:41). Hell is the completion of God`s promise to bring an end to evil in his creation (I Cor. 15:25-28; Heb. 2:14; Rev. 21:3-5). In Hell, God delivers eternal death as a final judgment on those who refuse to end their rebellion against His righteous rule (Rev. 20:11-15).

Which raises a question. With all that awful judgment in mind, how can Christians think that Hell affirms human dignity? We find its affirmation of human dignity in this: that, out of all things that exist in this world, it is only humans that can deserve Hell. Rocks and trees cannot do anything to deserve Hell. Nor stars and planets.  Nor cats and dogs, nor even chimpanzees and orangutans. Only humans (and fallen angels) can deserve Hell. This is a dignity not afforded any other living being in this world.

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This is the dignity of bearing the image of God, the dignity that makes possible eternal fellowship with God, but that also earns eternal separation from God for those who spurn His offers of forgiveness and restoration.

Yes, of all earth’s creatures, we alone can deserve Hell because we alone have been created in the image of God. When God created humans, he irrevocably tied us to Himself. And though the image that we bear now is sadly marred by sin we bear it still (we are ruined by our own behaviour). To be human is to be a God imager, either as God really is, or else as a horrible caricature.

Moreover, being the image of God presses upon us the duties of an image. God expects to see Himself in us, just as we expect to see a reflection of ourselves in a mirror. As God does, so we ought to do. As God is, so we ought to be. This dignity imposed upon us means that what we do matters, because who we are matters—deeply. Our every act shouts something real about the One we are imaging. This is something the devil has never understood, even when God allowed the Wicked One to almost destroy Job (Job 2:6). The devil simply does not believe that either God, or man made in God’s image, can be good for goodness’ sake. But it turns out Job could do it, and so can all the other Jobs and Jobettes who are born-again believers in Christ. God allows believers to suffer in this world because part of the meaning of the image of God was revealed in Christ’s willingness to suffer on the cross for the souls of the many who hated Him. For the image of God to be restored in His followers we must all become living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), willing to suffer for His glory. This is the deepest God-imaging of all.

And this is the reason why humans who refuse to image God deserve Hell. As human beings we are so closely associated with the source of all Goodness that it only serves to condemn us when we commit even the smallest disobedience, a thing so small we likely won’t even notice, but which God calls evil. We deserve Hell because we are intended to be proxies for Goodness, and we have instead purposefully acted against goodness. Every day we attempt to deface the image of God in others and ourselves, as though His image were something worthless or contemptable! Any earthly ambassador who acted toward his country the way we act towards God (whom we similarly represent) would be charged with high treason! What dignity we are granted to be able to deserve such punishment!

And so, people need to be reminded that they deserve Hell, not because they are garbage, not because they are inconsequential, and certainly not because they are more wicked than somebody else, but rather because they have a significant and exalted role to play—one from which each of us has turned away (Isaiah 53:6).

But we must not leave the discussion there! Everyone deserves Hell, yes, but God has made a way so that He need not deliver to us the punishment we deserve. His mercy is not free, but it is paid for by someone else. Through Christ’s atoning death God opened the way for us to be restored at His expense. That’s what “He gave His Only Son” means (John 3:16). Jesus paid our sin debt for us by His suffering and death on the cross, and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).  In other words, God has done everything necessary for us to return to imaging His being. We can be what we once were—again! We can be made new and uncorrupted! And what better ambassador to communicate the goodness of his Regent than an ambassador who is a trophy, a fulsome display, of the Regent’s goodness.


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We Need To Talk

Dear believers,

I think we need to talk. I’m concerned about you. I’m concerned about us.

Aren’t you?

“But what are we supposed to be concerned about?” I hear you cry. I could be referring to any of the latest calamities: the climate crisis, perhaps, or overpopulation, or Canada’s federal election. But no. I’m referring to an even deeper crisis that will destroy us in its wake if nothing is done.

It’s a societal floodwater that takes many forms—the innocuous email signature I’ve received that specifies the sender’s pronouns (she/her, in this case); the ambiguity of intimacy and sex in our kids’ sex-ed classes; the question my daughter asked me yesterday when I told her I was heading to work to talk about abortion, “Will you tell the people how sad it made the baby?”

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This crisis has many different names, including diversity and inclusion, neo-Liberal morality, the post-Sexual Revolution era, and the era of Pride and uninhibited freedom. I prefer to call it the sex crisis. By that I mean sexuality generally, including such things as the LGBTQ flood and the porn epidemic. Please allow me to share a few examples with you:

 

●      American youth are using over a hundred descriptive identities to define their sexuality, such as identifying as a ‘demisexual biromantic’ or a ‘bisexual greyromantic’

●      Recent drag queen story hours at public libraries have included stripping and eerie screaming that echoes possession

●      Pedophilic relationships are openly celebrated as seen in this photo of a 10 year old drag kid posing with a nude drag queen several times his age

●      Porn-induced injuries are skyrocketing in youth

●      Conversion therapy bans are paving the way for state monitoring of prayer and the loss of charity status for organizations who embrace Christian values

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Need I go on? The trajectory of this crisis ought to be seriously troubling, especially for we who follow Jesus Christ. Believe it or not, it is already accepted fact that the four aspects of sexuality (gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation and sexual identity) may, and often will, operate independently of each other. Despite psychology experts such as Dr. Ann Gillies and Jordan Peterson proving the falsity of this idea, public policy, education and healthcare professionals are basing culture-threatening decisions on this fundamental error. In future blogs I will unpack in more detail the many fabrications upon which the Sexual Revolution was based.

If we believers meekly allow society to adopt these damaging and false taxonomies without a fight, then we have already surrendered our souls and our children to the culture. Without the fundamental mercy and protection of Judeo-Christian standards of sex, our society will, much quicker than you think, become unrecognizable and frightening.

Because this, my dear friends, is where the Western world has arrived. We Christians have been told that the Bible’s explanation of human sexuality is incompatible with human dignity and flourishing.

Where were we while the pillars of Western society gave way?

We were working hard with our heads down, wanting to be left alone, avoiding confrontation or else hiding, feeling ill-equipped to respond.

We exchanged the Great Commission for a Great Omission, a silence we now have to fill. Now is the time to turn the tide back to God and His infinite wisdom. So, bow your heads in prayer, embrace uncomfortable conversations, and hide only in Christ, being bold and confident that He is the One who gives us words (Matt. 10:19-20).

The next time you find yourself in a quiet moment with a stranger, pray “Lord, help me now”, and push past the fear and nerves to ask them a very simple question. It could be something like this:

            Sir, I’ve been thinking about my kids’ futures lately and I would love an outsider’s opinion. Do you think I need to be concerned about what they’re taught about sex when they’re away from home?

It may seem counter-intuitive to ask such a question. But remember, it ought to be our goal to learn another’s worldview so that we can know how to love them. Asking a question such as “How did you come to that conclusion?” can keep the conversation on the right road.[1] Only when we understand their story, their experience, can we begin to pray more specifically for the conversation God has put us in. Most importantly, remember this: These conversations are God’s will for us. We must speak to people in the world, and when we talk to them, we must simultaneously pray to keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). You can think of it as always carrying on a horizontal and vertical conversation, the first with people and the second with God.

Godspeed as you get started. We are in this together! If you send an e-mail to info@faithbeyondbelief.ca that includes the words “Colette essential books,” I will send you an essentials book list on these topics.

God bless you. FBB wants to equip and prepare you for everyday conversations about Christian sexuality and many worldview topics. Book a speaker today.

[1] An amazing resource with more examples of exploratory questions is the book Tactics by Greg Koukl. (Purchase it through us and receive a discount!)


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