Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Saved from Hell?

One more problematic presentation of the gospel I want to mention that occurred to me writing those recent posts is a particular manifestation of a manipulation of people when the "gospel" is preached: "You don't want to go to hell do you?" In the end, some evangelists will lean upon an appeal to fear, specifically the fear of going to hell. In the end, they communicate that the gospel is the power of God to save you from hell. That's the "salvation" part of the gospel, is that it gets you out of hell. However, scaring people into coming forward and repeating a prayer doesn't mean they are actually responding in repentance and faith. It just means ... well ... you scared them!
What does the gospel save us from? R. C. Sproul's book Saved From What? explains that the gospel saves us from the wrath of God being poured out upon us (1 Thess 1:10). That is basically a description of hell. But my concern is not that this is incorrect, but it can be like "reverse carrot stick" evangelism. Rather than attracting people to Christianity with things other than the glorious Jesus Himself, we scare people away from the alternative (by the way, I'm not suggesting Sproul did this in his book). While it is totally true that we are are saved from God's wrath, I don't believe that's the best motivation for coming to Christ, nor should it be the only motivation. We are saved "from God," that is, from God's wrath, but we are saved "for God," that is, to bring glory to God in our lives.

I still hold that the attraction should be Jesus Himself, honoring His life, death, and resurrection; that scaring people into a decision isn't a full gospel presentation; that we need to focus more on the content of the gospel and not just the responses to it (though those need to be defined carefully and correctly).

No comments: