Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reconciling God and Hell

Visiting with a Christian friend a few years ago, he pointed out that one of the most difficult concepts of Christianity is reconciling a loving God with the concept of hell. There are many aspects of hell that people find disturbing in trying to understand why God would have such a place. What are some of the arguments individuals have problems with and how can these arguments be resolved?

1. Why hell in the first place, this seems contrary to God's nature?
  • Hell exists because of sin. Sin literally means to miss the mark, but it is better understood as rebellion toward God. God cannot tolerate sin and, therefore, hell exists.
  • Concerning God's nature, being a God of love is just one aspect of His nature. God also has the nature of being a just God.
  • Is there justice in allowing the actions of Hitler to go unpunished? Being an unjust God would also mean that God is not loving and unworthy of worship. God's love and justice go hand in hand.
2. Why are people punished in hell?
  • People are punished in hell, because they freely choose to rebel against a holy God. In essence, the punishment of being eternally separated from God is self-inflicted.
  • God does not torture individuals. The suffering is due to an individual's eternal rebellious nature and the separation that exists from a holy God.
  • God wants no individuals to go to hell (2 Peter 3:9).
3. Why can't God direct the actions of individuals? Why can't He keep them from sin?
  • God will not violate a person's free will.
  • Merely to override a human will...would be for Him (God) useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. [1]
  • Forced love is not love; it is rape. A loving being always gives 'space' to others. He does not force himself upon them against their will. [2]

4. Why doesn't God allow second chances?

  • The bible is clear that there are no second chances, "Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27)."
  • Everyday God gives second chances for individuals to accept Jesus.
5. Why is hell eternal? How do you reconcile finite sins with an infinite hell?
  • First, God's word implies the eternal nature of hell.
  • Second, We were created to live for eternity (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
  • Third, God does not want to destroy (annihilate) beings that were created in His image.
  • Concerning finite sins with an eternal hell, finite crimes on earth are given life sentences. What is God to do for those who incessantly rebel against their Creator, except to confine them for all eternity away from Himself.
  • To think that a person could go through their whole life constantly ignoring him (God), constantly mocking him by the way they choose to live without him, saying, 'I couldn't care less about what you put me here to do. I couldn't care less about your values or your Son's death for me. I'm going to ignore all of that' - that's the ultimate sin. And the only punishment worthy of that is the ultimate punishment, which is everlasting separation from God. [3]
6. Isn't there a better way God could have taken instead of sending people to hell?
  • Again, God does not send individuals to hell, they freely choose to go there by rejecting God.
  • No other options exist without God violating man's free will. Without free will man does not have the capacity to love God. God desires our love, but respects our right to reject Him.
  • For those who reject God, "There is an increasing isolation, denial, delusion, and self-absorption. When you lose all humility you are out of touch with reality. No one ever asks to leave hell. The very idea of heaven seems to them a sham." [4]
  • The better way is found in the person of Jesus. No one has to go to hell, for God has opened the door to heaven for all who accept the free gift of Christ (Revelation 3:20).

[1] Lewis, C.S., The Screwtape Letters, p. 38

[2] Geisler, Norm, Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p. 311

[3] J.P. Moreland quoted in The Case for Faith, p.252

[4] Keller, Timothy, The Reason for God, p. 78

1 comment:

bee said...

As always you have some really challenging posts. Thanks for sharing.