Religious Rebuttal: Southern Baptists Resolve That Hell Is Real

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At their convention in Phoenix this past week, Southern Baptists issued a resolution asserting their “belief in the biblical teaching on eternal, conscious punishment of the unregenerate in Hell.” … Or, as the resolution’s title succinctly puts it, “On The Reality Of Hell.”

The document’s raison d’etre is cited in its very first line: Evangelical pastor Rob Bell’s best-seller, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, “called into question the church’s historical teaching on the doctrine of eternal punishment of the unregenerate.” The Southern Baptists didn’t exactly like the book.

(PHOTOS: A Brief History of Hell)

Their resolution hardly came out of the blue. In April, Jon Meacham explored the controversy surrounding Bell in TIME’s cover story, “What If There’s No Hell?” He quoted R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as saying that Love Wins is “theologically disastrous. Any of us should be concerned when a matter of theological importance is played with in a subversive way.”

The new proclamation not only affirms the existence of “a literal Hell” for non-believers, it also calls on Southern Baptists to — “out of our love for Christ … and our love for lost people and our deep desire that they not suffer eternally in Hell” — spread the bad good news.

And then there’s Bell. “When we get to what happens when we die, we don’t have any video footage,” he says in the TIME story.  “So let’s at least be honest that we are speculating, because we are.”

In his article, Meacham also notes that “the dominant view of the righteous in heaven and the damned in hell owes more to the artistic legacy of the West, from Michelangelo to Dante to Blake, than it does to history or to unambiguous biblical teaching.” Michelangelo, Dante, and Blake did not, however, receive any shout-outs in the resolution.

MORE: What If There Is No Hell?