The proper fear of God plays a large role in the doctrine of Orthodox Christianity. This fear is the real motivate behind seeking salvation. That motivation is often hidden behind a claim that we respond to God’s love in accepting salvation, but the ever present threat of eternal punishment is the real force behind the church’s so called good news. As many preachers readily admit- Take away the threat of hell and the church is out of business.
When Jonathan Edwards preached his infamous “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, he dramatically threw the God of hellfire right in the faces of his listeners. A great many apparently cringed in unholy terror at the telling. Is this the proper reaction of a rational human being created in the image of God? What about saying, “Wait a minute, that can’t possibly be the way a righteous God operates.” Why blindly accept a proposed reality which defies any concept of love, benevolence, justice, or righteousness?
When mankind must be coerced by the most horrendous threat possible to align with God’s plan for humanity, something is obviously amiss. This has been true for the entire history of evangelical Christianity. Instead of cringing in the pew whenever hell is mentioned, either out of revulsion or terror, Christians would be better served if they did a serious re-evaluation of how and why the doctrine of eternal punishment ever became the driving force behind salvation.