March 11, 2020
To the Editor:
I feel that Alan Bean’s recent opinion column discussing Heaven and Hell and David Bentley Hart’s book, That All Shall Be Saved, deserves a response.
I am dismayed at the casual dismissal of missionary work as simply “to save souls from hell. Full stop.” A rather flippant and arrogant statement, if you ask me. Our son is a missionary with a nondenominational organization in southeast Asia. He has literally risked his life climbing in the Himalayas and fording flood-swollen rivers to share the good news of Jesus with people who have never heard his name. He has had surgery without anesthesia and “popped” leeches from his legs.
And he never talks about hell. He tells of man’s alienation from God. He shares God’s love for them and how the brokenness of humanity has been healed and redeemed through Jesus. He preaches love and reconciliation. That is all. And there are many others just like him who are preaching the same gospel. Full stop.
Bean also paints with too broad a brush when he says that the theology of hell is unbiblical. He supports his position by doing what many of us (including Bean, I suspect) criticize. He follows Hart, and cherry picks scripture. The fact is, there are numerous passages that speak specifically of hell that cannot be explained away as he has done in his examples.
I do not like the Bible’s teaching on hell. I wish the scriptures that speak of it were not there. I struggle with many of the same moral issues that Hart and Bean address. And I will be very happy should I to get to heaven and find out that Hart and Bean are right and that there isn’t a hell.
Still, to simply say that the teachings on hell are not biblical is inaccurate. It would be far better to say that according to Hart and Bean’s “interpretation” of scripture, hell is unbiblical.
Kirby D. Smith
You can find more letters here.