Recently, the media has ignited in a brimstone blaze of controversy over the question of Hell, and the idea that’s generating so much attention is that Hell isn’t real, and even if it were, a loving God wouldn’t possibly send people there. Is Hell real, or is it a concept that is misguided and out of place in today’s Christianity? Many believe the answer to this question will have profound implications on the future of the faith, and important personalities on both sides of this question are drawing lines in the sand.
Brian Jones, a pastor in suburban Philadelphia, can relate to this controversy. Jones had a secret he’d been hiding for years: He didn’t believe in Hell. In Hell Is Real (But I Hate to Admit It) (David C Cook, August 2011), Jones relates that after seminary he came to the conclusion that “the Bible’s teaching about Hell was inaccurate at best and hateful at worst. What I was taught as a child was a lie, and now that I was becoming a pastor I was sure I’d never perpetuate that ridiculous myth again.”
Drawing upon Scripture and his own experience as a pastor who didn’t believe in Hell, Jones began writing Hell Is Real with the hope that he would humorously and transparently push readers into a head-on collision with what he calls “apocalyptic urgency,” the all-consuming conviction that overtakes someone when they realize that Hell is real and it is within their power to help people avoid going there. The key to this apocalyptic urgency, according to Jones, is for Christians to realize that the largest need that faces mankind is the need to be saved from God’s wrath, which results in a real, literal Hell. Without the urgency that a belief in Hell instills, Christians “will inadvertently create the single greatest holocaust human civilization has ever seen.” In the end, Brian believes that the reason most Christians don’t tell their friends about Jesus has nothing to do with not knowing how—it’s because they don’t think they need to. “Hell Is Real is about transforming apathetic Christians into sold-out evangelists,” states Jones.
In a world eager to toss aside the distinctive beliefs of historical Christianity, voices like Brian Jones’ must be heard. It’s imperative that Christianity is represented by people who have wrestled with these relevant questions, but who’ve come to more thoughtful and traditional understandings on such crucial matters. Hell Is Real is interesting and entertaining, but it is, above all, unflinching in its endorsement of a literal, biblical Hell.
About the Author: Brian Jones is the senior pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley, an innovative community of faith in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Brian is a graduate of Cincinnati Christian University (B.A.) and Princeton Theological Seminary (M. Div.) and has served in leadership positions in churches for over twenty years. His humorous and raw style has made him a popular speaker for conferences, seminars, churches and retreats.