I can easily be called a heretic depending on one’s standard, but I am not alone. C.S. Lewis has been called a heretic. Billy Graham has been called a heretic. Tim Keller has been called a heretic. In fact, almost all my favorite authors have been named heretics.
In our digital age, it is common to see this strange phenomoen happening again and again: when someone is doubting a certain doctrine, his or her salvation will immediately be questioned. When someone’s doctrinal belief does not align with yours, you can call him a heretic.
Lewis and Graham are known to have spoken a few times in favor of Christian Universalism, which is of course, considered as a heresy by many. While I believe Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, I am absolutely for the desire behind Christian Universalism. Even the Lord wants all to be saved, “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (1 Tim 2:3-4)
John Stott’s preference of annihilation, on the other hand, also has received many criticism. Such a faithful servant of the Lord has been called by some as a heretic or a “false teacher”. To many, annihilation may not seem the most scriptural, but Stott writes, “Emotionally, I find the concept of eternal conscious torment intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterizing their feelings or cracking under the strain. The ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment.”
To me, hell simply can mean simply a “separation from Jesus Christ”. If you have tasted the riches of Christ, you should agree that separation from Him is the most painful thing that could ever happen. I believe, however, as Stott writes, “The precise nature of hell is as much beyond our finite understanding as the precise nature of heaven”. And like Stott, I also find the concept of eternal conscious torment intolerable. Therefore, I lean heavily towards the position of annihilation. At least, this is the position that I hope will be true.
Sometimes we are tempted to draw a box to determine who is “in” and who is “out”, yet all these boundaries we have set only prove how shallow our faith is when we try to put Him in our tiny box. Our faith is a paradox, yet paradox does not bother me. My limited knowledge does not bother me. God’s mystery does not bother me. All these things have only showed me more about the infiniteness of God and the finiteness of men.
Let me end this with how Paul ends Romans 11,
“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!
For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to give him advice?
And who has given him so much
that he needs to pay it back?
For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)
- What about CS Lewis, John Stott and Hell? by Adrian Warnock
- How to Disagree by Matt Chandler, Tim Keller, Michael Horton (YouTube)
- ReGrace: The Shocking Beliefs of the Great Theologians by Frank Viola
- Read This Before You Drop the H-Bomb (“Heretic”) on a Fellow Christian by Frank Viola and Greg Boyd