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Answers to Questions with Philip Ryken


Editor Introduction: Postmodernism, The Church, and The Future

Note from the Editors: Pastor Ryken has graciously taken time to answer questions that readers of this discussion have raised about how the church should respond to postmodernism.


Postmodernism, The Church, and The Future
A Pneuma Review discussion about how the church should respond to postmodernism

Question from reader: Why does it seem that some of the great themes of the past are fading from emphasis? What happened to Hell, lostness of sinners, and the Rapture? 

Philip Graham Ryken: I believe it is true that many important doctrines receive much less attention in the church today than they did in past eras when the church was more vital spiritually. The doctrines of Hell and the lost condition of fallen sinners would certainly fall into this category. These doctrines in particular are essential to an orthodox understanding of the Christian faith, and just as importantly, to a true saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The doctrine of sin is important because it shows our need for a Savior; the doctrine of Hell is important because it shows us the true and final consequence of our sin.

I see two main reasons why these doctrines may be less frequently taught in the church today. One is that they are both “hard teachings,” and our culture shies away from anything that is difficult or confrontational. However unwittingly, many teachers and preachers avoid saying anything that might be offensive to non-Christians, for fear of driving them away from the church (and of course teaching on sin will always be offensive to sinners). This fear is misplaced, however. However offensive it may be to some, the preaching of sin and judgment has always been one of the Holy Spirit’s primary means for showing people their need of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

The plain exposition of Scripture is less common in teaching and preaching than it ought to be.

Another reason why sin and Hell may receive less attention in the contemporary church is because the plain exposition of Scripture is less common in teaching and preaching than it ought to be. Preachers do other things instead, like tell stories about their own spiritual experiences, or else they simply spend less time doing serious teaching of the Scriptures. Any ministry that is faithful to the Scriptures will speak frequently about the doctrine of sin, which appears on virtually every page of the Bible. There is less explicit teaching on Hell; however, the Bible has a good deal to say about God’s judgment against sin, and this always bears some relationship to the Final Judgment.

The end is coming soon, and the way for us to be ready is to repent of our sins, trust in Jesus Christ, and stay busy, always doing the work of his Kingdom.

I am not sure whether or not there is less teaching on the Rapture today than there used to be. Recent terrorist attacks and popular works of fiction have kept the end times very much at the forefront of Christian thinking. As a general rule, all of our teaching about the return of Christ should be careful not to speculate about the precise calendar for the end times but should focus instead on the main practical application that Jesus made: the end is coming soon, and the way for us to be ready is to repent of our sins, trust in Jesus Christ, and stay busy, always doing the work of his Kingdom.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2008

About the Author: Philip Graham Ryken, Ph.D. (University of Oxford), is the eighth and current president of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of more than 30 books, including The Message of Salvation (InterVarsity, 2001), Art for God’s Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts (P&R, 2006), Loving the Way Jesus Loves (Crossway, 2011), and expository commentaries on Exodus, Jeremiah, Luke, and other books of the Bible.

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