The Irrelevance of Hell

For the majority of people within our urbane culture, hell is the sort of topic that is not discussed in the local coffee shop nor is it the center of attention in most Sunday sermons.

Hell is irrelevant to a people who focus merely upon the “God of love” and see him as the New Testament meek and mild God of acceptance. Not only is that a gross misrepresentation of God, it’s a tragic neglect of God’s character to suggest that we must separate hell from the God who is love. In fact, God loves his holiness so much that he created hell. The love of God for sinners is demonstrated in a hellish assault upon his own Son on the cross in order to satisfy the holy demands of the law and to pay for our sin (Rom. 5:8; 8:1-41 Peter 2:24; Is. 53:10).


In our postmodern culture that plays by the tolerance rules of modern times, we have been taught to be “nice” and to pursue happiness at all costs. After all, if we can’t say anything nice, we shouldn’t say anything at all. For the majority of people within our urbane culture, hell is the sort of topic that is not discussed in the local coffee shop nor is it the center of attention in most Sunday sermons. Let’s face it—hell is not relevant to a sophisticated culture. But, why has hell become irrelevant?

Our Culture Loves Itself To Death

It is not excuse that our culture is filled with self-love. We enjoy making much of our amusements and entertainment is almost viewed as a basic human right in our culture. We have trivia shows, all sorts of game shows, and even shows that spotlight other people’s funny videos designed to keep us laughing. Neil Postman, in his classic work, Amusing Ourselves To Death, observes the following:

Everything in our background has prepared us to know and resist a prison when the gates begin to close around us . . . But what if there are no cries of anguish to be heard? Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements? To whom do we complain, and when, and in what tone of voice, when serious discourse dissolves into giggles? What is the antidote to a culture’s being drained by laughter? [1]

Just fifty years ago, funeral directors anticipated lengthy mourning periods for family gatherings at the funeral home. Today, the typical funeral is over from start to finish within a couple of hours. Historically speaking, after the death of a loved one, families would mourn for days or weeks, but today’s culture is quick to acknowledge the death—but families are quick to jump right back into the typical fast-paced ruts of life immediately afterwards. Nothing can stop entertainment—not even death!

Within a culture of entertainment, not very much is going to be said about hell. In fact, even when people die who weren’t religious and didn’t have a life committed to Christ—it’s common to hear their close friends and family reassuring everyone that their loved one is in a better place now. Heaven is real, but hell has been relegated to a mythological land fit for the story books. The culture that loves entertainment hates hell and such a culture supports the idea of universalism—where everyone dies and goes to the great Disney World in the sky. For that reason, hell has become irrelevant within our entertainment saturated culture.

Preachers Fear Man

The trap of many ministers is the fear of man. We live in an age of success where pastors have been relegated to the position of campaign manager or evangelical fundraiser for the success of ministries and expansion projects for the church campus. Therefore, sermons filled with the intense heat of a literal hell don’t exactly fit the profile of a man who is looking to raise funds for ministry incentives. Ministers who approach the pulpit with that mindset will likely avoid sequential expository preaching which would force them to deal with the doctrine of hell. For that reason, hell is irrelevant in most local church ministries.

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