Southern Baptist Hell

I Mean That Literally.

Life in Hell
WHEREAS, The church has addressed this issue throughout her history, yet orthodox Christians have affirmed consistently and resoundingly the reality of a literal Hell;
The Southern Baptist Convention has adopted a resolution, titled "On The Reality Of Hell," stating that Hell is a literal (but not physical?) place of eternal damnation for all unbelievers.

The first "Whereas" references Rob Bell's book Love Wins, which has caused quite a kerfuffle among Christians since March. Bell basically adopts the old Universalist Christian doctrine of universal salvation, which is still through Jesus.1 Al Mohler, Jr., the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, didn't take too kindly to this position. A resolution of this sort was guaranteed to be passed at the Convention's convention this past June.

I'll highlight just two other "Whereas"-es:
WHEREAS, God must judge the unregenerate because He is a holy God whose judgments are altogether righteous (Psalm 96:10; Romans 2:1-5; Revelation 15:3); and

WHEREAS, The Scriptures affirm that this judgment of the unconverted is a judgment unto conscious, eternal suffering apart from the steadfast love and grace of God (Matthew 7:23; 25:46; Luke 16:22-25; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10);
Well, it certainly is clearly stated. Whether a holy and righteous God abounding in steadfast love and grace would ever condemn a person to conscious, eternal suffering is a question that hasn't been adequately answered by the SBC, any other Christian, or any Theist for that matter, in my opinion.2 I'll leave you to yours.

Whew, that's an awfully long news hook! My point is that this theology is losing in the marketplace. I would say it is losing because of this theology. Rob Bell wins.

Russ Rankin, "Southern Baptists decline in baptisms, membership, attendance", June 09, 2011.
The number of baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention in 2010 fell by nearly 5 percent, according to the Annual Church Profile (ACP) compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions.

Southern Baptist churches reported 332,321 baptisms in 2010, down from 349,737 in 2009, which represents a 4.98 percent decline. Total membership in 2010, reported at 16,136,044, represents a 0.15 percent decline from 2009 and is the fourth straight year of decline.
(h/t EvolutionBlog (h/t Huffington Post))

Lake of FireA related point is that conservative theology isn't gaining ground. Mega churches are gaining ground at the expense of all mainline denominations, regardless of theology. Now, some mega churches are pretty conservative, for example John Hagee's Cornerstone Church. However, people are not joining such churches for fire and brimstone sermons. I'm sure the SBC has plenty of those. Conservative mega churches in general believe in a literal hell, although the point is just assumed and not really talked about. Why a person will go to hell is talked about, and the benefits of being saved by Jesus are talked about even more. But figuring out why a loving god would cast people into eternal damnation is not. The cognitive dissonance is just too high.

And that leads us right back to the SBC resolution. Just what did it resolve?
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona,3 June 14-15, 2011, do hereby affirm our belief in the biblical teaching on eternal, conscious punishment of the unregenerate4 in Hell; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That out of our love for Christ and for His glory, and our love for lost people and our deep desire that they not suffer eternally in Hell, we implore Southern Baptists to proclaim faithfully the depth and gravity of sin against a holy God, the reality of Hell, and the salvation of sinners by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.
Well, thank you very much, but I'll take my chances just the same. Besides, doesn't being unregenerate sound bad ass?

1 I'm a member of a Unitarian Universalist church and an atheist. One of the pastors mentioned in the link was forced out of his Pentecostal church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He later joined his new Universalist ministry with All Souls Unitarian Church, also in Tulsa. All Souls (a definite Universalist reference and a popular name for UU churches) is a mega church by UUA standards, with 1,900 members. My church is in the top ten by both measures, by the way.

2 The advanced version.

3 The UUA scheduled its 2012 General Assembly in Phoenix, Arizona two years ago after much debate about whether to boycott Arizona in light of the recently passed, anti-immigrant SB 1070. The final decision was to hold a special Justice GA in Phoenix in 2012, with one of the major topics immigration and migrant workers. The President of the UUA, Rev. Peter Morales, was arrested a year ago for protesting SB 1070 and is back in Phoenix now to face the charges. He spoke on Democracy Now! this morning. Here is a letter and action item from Rev. Morales on the Standing on the Side of Love's webpage.

4 Be careful who you call unregenerate: You might just reap what you sow! (Galatians 6:7-8)