Tim Keller Article Notes — “The Importance of Hell”

(Update: Kevin DeYoung posted a 20-page review of Love Wins.)

When I read on Kevin DeYoung’s blog about the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s promotional video for his upcoming book Love Wins, I was reminded of a Tim Keller article that I read awhile back, titled, “The Importance of Hell.” (Longer, more detailed version is located here.)

Now, remember: Keller preaches in New York City, where the topic of hell is not merely widely questioned, but widely dismissed as irrational or met with anger. Yet, for a long time, I remember “The Importance of Hell” being directly linked to from Redeemer’s home page.

Keller’s article follows this basic outline, with each point answering the question, “Why is the existence of hell important?”:

  • Because Jesus taught on it more than all other biblical authors put together.
  • Because it shows how infinitely dependent we are on God for everything.
  • Because it unveils the seriousness and danger of living life for yourself.
    • Quoting J. I. Packer: “[H]ell appears as a God’s gesture of respect for human choice. All receive what they actually chose, either to be with God forever, worshipping him, or without God forever, worshipping themselves” (Concise Theology, p.262-263)
    • Quoting C. S. Lewis: “Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others… but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God ‘sending us’ to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE Hell unless it is nipped in the bud” (The Great Divorce).
  • Because it is the only way to know how much Jesus loved us and how much he did for us.

Regardless of whether you agree with the finer details of Keller’s teachings on hell (i.e., what is hell like?), I hope pointing you to his article will help you see why this isn’t the evil trick of an evil God, but that without hell we wouldn’t have a loving God at all.


About davestuartjr
Dave Stuart Jr. is a full-time teacher who writes about becoming better, saner teachers at He is a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Crystal, and a father to Hadassah, Laura, and Marlena.

2 Responses to Tim Keller Article Notes — “The Importance of Hell”

  1. Steve Hoffmann says:

    Thanks loads for posting this! This is incredibly helpful in understanding the meaning of hell, especially in light of the controversy over Rob Bell’s forthcoming book. Is it possible that Bell himself would fundamentally agree with it? Has Keller been in dialogue with “emergent church” leaders like McLaren and Bell?

    • davestuartjr says:

      That’s a great question, Steve — from what I’ve seen and heard, Keller does not much enter into the “emergent church” discussion. I’m not sure what Bell believes and how it would compare to Keller’s article. I pray that his book will make things clearer (thank you to the publisher for moving up the release date!).

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