No one likes the doctrine of hell. No Christian likes the doctrine of hell. If they do, they have issues. It is that simple.

I have often said that the doctrine of hell is simply the most disturbing doctrine thing known to man. If I could get rid of one of my beliefs, this would be it. Hands down. Better, I would just have God elect all people rather than some and kill two birds with one firecracker!

I have been talking to this guy whom I am pretty sure is not a believer. Let’s just say for the sake of argument he is not. He is a really great guy. While, like everyone, he has his rough edges, he is a very giving person. He has the temptation to horde, but I can see his heart break for people who are in need. He gives and gives consistently. It is hard for me to  believe that, according to my theology, he is going to spend eternity suffering in a place of unimaginable horror.

Eternal fire, outer darkness, lake of fire, bottomless pit, weeping and gnashing of teeth: These are all ways that the Bible describes this place we call hell. No matter how we might spin it, it is not good. R.C. Sproul put it this way:

“We have often heard statements such as ‘War is hell’ or ‘I went through hell.’ These expressions are, of course, not taken literally. Rather, they reflect our tendency to use the word hell as a descriptive term for the most ghastly human experience possible. Yet no human experience in this world is actually comparable to hell. If we try to imagine the worst of all possible suffering in the here and now we have not yet stretched our imaginations to reach the dreadful reality of hell.” (Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, 285).

Most people don’t realize this, but almost everything we know about Hell comes from the lips of Jesus.

Listen to the words of Christ here:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:42-48)

I don’t think it is necessary to take any of the descriptions of hell literally. It could be, but it is hard to see how darkness and fire exist together in a bottomless pit! I am not sure that the mere statement that hell is outside the presence of God does the biblical teaching any justice either. There is simply no place in all of creation that is outside of God’s presence. All of the teachings about hell are simply meant to describe a place that is worse than anything we can imagine, but probably unlike anything we have ever experienced.

While C.S. Lewis’ statement “The doors of hell are locked from the inside” does provide some valuable believers therapy in one respect (and I think it is true), it is what goes on behind those doors that is so troublesome.

It is not so much the pain that I have a problem with. As bad as the pain may be, the duration is the most terrifying. Hell is eternal. I don’t like this. I would be much more comfortable with the annihilation of all the ungodly, as some have opted for (conditional immortality). However, it takes too much doctrinal gymnastics for me to concede with the idea that hell is nothing more than the cessation of existence after a period of suffering. Again, I am well familiar with the alternative theories and I certainly understand why people bite the first chance they get when presented with an alternative, but, in the end, these amount to nothing more than “consulation heresies.”

If eternal life is everlasting, so is eternal death (Matt 25:46).

Therefore, as much as I would like to shed this doctrine and mark it up as some archaic vestige of a former and naive form of Christianity, I cannot. I live with the reality that many (perhaps most) people who have ever been created are going to an eternal place of pain and suffering.

How do I deal with it?

There are so many things that God has let us in on. There are quit a few that he has not. Sometimes he does not tell us things because we simply could not understand them. Sometimes they are yet to be revealed. Many times God withholds information that could help us to understand and be comforted. Take suffering for instance. We all go through times of trials and suffering. Most of the time we don’t know why and God is not going to tell us. Look to Job. God never told him why those terrible things happened to him. He could have. Had he, I am sure that Job would have been comforted. God simply let Job know that he knows what he is doing and he is in charge. That is it.

Concerning the doctrine of Hell, I simply must trust that God knows what he is doing. I am sure there is information and understanding that is withheld from us that might make such things more palatable, but he has obviously chosen not to reveal this to us. Belief is not always easy. Sometimes it is. Love, grace, forgiveness, hope, and the new earth are all easy to believe. Election, righteousness, judgment, and hell are not. That is why the latter is so difficult to accept and why, I believe, we have so many alternative answers continually being proposed. We simply want our faith to be more palatable rather than trust that God knows what he is doing. It is very hard to believe God sometimes.

However, I don’t have a vote in truth. My emotional disposition toward a doctrine has absolutely no effect on the truthfulness of the doctrine itself. As I have often said, the palatability of a doctrine does not determine its veracity. God is on the throne and he knows what he is doing. Whenever I begin to feel more righteous than him, I must remember who I am and who he is. “Will not the judge of the earth do what is right?”

  • God loves all people.
  • God is not willing that any should perish.
  • God is in control.
  • Those who don’t trust Christ will spend eternity in hell.

These seem paradoxical. Perhaps they are. But this does not mean that they are not true.

One passage of Scripture that I often think of when I begin to whine about hell is Rom. 3:4:

Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

We all have our temptations to bring divine tribunals against our Maker. We all have our temptations to call him and his word into account. We all have those times when we want to judge God. However, being a believer does not mean that we believed him once. Neither does it mean that we selectively believe him. Being a believer is a characteristic mindset that trusts God always, even when it is hard or it seems unnatural—even when our belief is going to station people we love in hell. But above this, we must believe that God knows what he is doing and he will aways do what is right and good in accordance with his perfect character.

Having said all of this, I don’t believe that God does loves hell anymore than we do.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    181 replies to "A Word About Hell"

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,
      Could God shows us the horrors of hell without actually sending anyone there? I don’t see why not (think virtual reality – by the way keep in mind that I have no problem with the traditional view of hell in an Arminian framework – I’m just asking the question because you begged it lol).

      Also how is saying that God can create eternal beings he can’t destroy anymore destructive of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty then the Arminian claim that God can create beings capable of freely acting contrary to His will?

    • Hodge

      Patrick,

      “I disagree. The pronouncment “from dust you were taken, to dust you shall return” bears a plain an obvious meaning. There is no warrant for thinking that the “dust” Adam and Eve would return to has to do with life outside of the Garden of eden among thorns and thistles.”

      Of course it does. It’s connected to the pronouncement. The day is contemporary to the punishment. Even if you erroneously think that beyom means “when” (you can read my book that’s coming out next month for a complete refutation of that idea), the adverbial expression would be contemporaneous. Every scholar I know is aware of this. So it is not the beginning of the process.

      Your analysis also ignores the sanctuary imagery of chapter 2 and the imagery of chaos/death in chapter 3 (cf. the word sadeh). Death is not physical death here. That comes with the pronouncement. You are in fact reading your modern concept of death into the text, which is why you can’t see that the comment about returning to dust is distinct from them dying (just like Eve’s childbearing happens later and is distinct from the punishment).

      What is death in the ancient Near East? Departing from the land of the living/the created and ordered world into the netherworld/the chaotic world. That is the imagery involved here. Hence, the serpent of that world is the primary foe in the narrative. He comes from that world into the sanctuary/created world. This is obvious to the ancient reader. BTW, returning to dust has to do primarily with Adam being God’s cult image. That is what happens to disgraced cult images, i.e., they are buried. I do think it has meaning toward his physical death, as I said before, but I think you are misunderstanding a whole lot of text here to fuel your theology.

    • Hodge

      “You miss my point. It’s not about whether or not God is flipping a coin. It’s about the arbitrary nature of the process.”

      Michael,

      I didn’t miss your point. This is exactly what I said you were getting at with the flipping of the coin analogy. No Calvinist I know believes that the process is arbitrary simply because the reason is not found within the human. The reason, and we all believe there is a great rhyme and reason to it, is found in God and not revealed completely to us. We just know that the choices He makes most glorify Him and convey to His people what He wishes to.

    • Hodge

      “I’m simply asserting that such a method is not just and since the God of the Bible is just such a God could not be the God of the Bible.”

      Wait, even if it were arbitrary, how is it not just? You seem to be going off of what “seems” to be just. See the comments above.

      Michael,

      God has two wills. One that He decrees as His plan that incorporates the sin of men, and one that is His moral will. What sinners have done is go outside of His moral will. He is therefore the victim. I don’t know anyone who believes that God “wills” someone to do evil. He wills to use chaotic agents and their rebellious acts for good, but He doesn’t make them do it if that’s what you mean. He also wills against it morally, but He doesn’t make them stop. So His will is what He wishes to be done morally, and since not all will be done morally, He wishes that evil acts be accomplished by Him for good. Those who used their evil acts to do evil are still sinning against Him then.

    • Hodge

      “Could God shows us the horrors of hell without actually sending anyone there? I don’t see why not (think virtual reality – by the way keep in mind that I have no problem with the traditional view of hell in an Arminian framework – I’m just asking the question because you begged it lol).”

      No, because this is self refuting. God cannot show us the horrors of eternally imprisoning a mass of chaotic human agents without imprisoning a mass of chaotic human agents. God cannot show us what He does not show us. No begging here. Just logic.

      “Also how is saying that God can create eternal beings he can’t destroy anymore destructive of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty then the Arminian claim that God can create beings capable of freely acting contrary to His will?”

      God can’t destroy Himself, so I guess we’re going to have to actually believe the traditional definition of omnipotence, not a self contradictory one. God cannot do things that are contradictory. So if He makes eternal beings, He cannot destroy them. Otherwise, they are not eternal. I never said that God can’t create beings capable of freely acting contrary to His will. When have you heard me say that? We live in a universe where He did. People aren’t capable of acting freely contrary to their desires. What does that have to do with God’s omnipotence?

    • Hodge

      I’ve spent too much time on this already, and I’m going to have to get some work done, so even though I know there will be quite a few postings after these, I’m going to have to bow out now. Thanks for the good discussion everyone.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,
      I get from you this.

      1. God “needs” chaotic agents to throw in Hell so that his children will be grateful to Him for what He has saved them from and glorify Him.

      2. God chooses between who will remain chaotic and who he will save in such a way as to glorify Himself.

      Thus I get this

      “God has created billions of sentient beings for the purpose of torturing them endlessly in Hell such that the chosen few will be thankful for what they were saved from and bring glory to God”.

      And the God of Calvinism isn’t a sadist how???

    • Ed Kratz

      Folks, please understand that this is not a defense of eternal hell. I know that many of you see this, but I just want to make it clear. All I was doing here was attempting to help you understand how I deal with my view of eternal punishment.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Michael T.: “Also how is saying that God can create eternal beings he can’t destroy anymore destructive of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty then the Arminian claim that God can create beings capable of freely acting contrary to His will?

      And the God of Calvinism isn’t a sadist how???”

      I infer that you’re an Arminian, a Libertarian Free Will (LFW) Arminian. Classic Arminianism affirms divine foreknowledge.

      God foreknew the Elect and the Non-Elect before he created them. And He created the Non-Elect anyways.

      The LFW Sinner in Hell says that the LFW God is a cruel, sadistic monster because the LFW God FOREKNEW that the LFW Sinner WOULD CHOOSE to reject and refuse to repent, and yet LFW God created him anyways.

      LFW Sinner in Hell: “LFW God, are you the Uncaused Cause of all things that happen?”

      LFW God: “I am the Uncaused Cause.”

      LFW Sinner in Hell: “LFW God, are you the Uncreated Creator?”

      LFW God: “I am the Uncreated Creator.”

      LFW Sinner in Hell: “LFW God, are you omniscient and know everything? There is nothing you don’t know?”

      LFW God: “I am infinitely omniscient and there is nothing I don’t know.”

      LFW Sinner in Hell: “Then you foreknew that I would reject you and that I would choose to refuse to repent. And You foreknew that I would spend eternity in hellish misery.

      There is nothing that is created or caused until You do it because You are the Uncaused Cause and the Uncreated Creator of all that happens and all that is made.”

      LFW God: “This is true.”

      LFW Sinner in Hell: “Then I wish You had never created me. I am eternally tormented because of You. I hate You LFW God. You are a sadistic, cruel, vile, hateful LFW monster.”

      LFW God: “I knew you were going to say that. I am lovingly omniscient and I knew you were going to choose Hell when I created you. And i decided to create you anyways.”

      LFW Sinner in Hell: “I hate you! I hate you! I…

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      (continued)

      LFW Sinner in Hell: “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! Oh how I hate you, you LFW monster God.”

      ———-

      LFW Sinner in Heaven: “I chose to repent and to worship Jesus as my Lord and Savior. That’s the difference between me and the LFW Sinner in Hell. It’s such a good thing that I did that. Otherwise, if I hadn’t done that, out of my libertarian free will, of my own free choice of my making a good and wise decision, a work that God recognizes and accrues on my behalf, earning the blood of the Lamb to cover my sins, then I would have ended up in Hell like that miserable LFW Sinner in Hell.

      Whew!! Good thing I did it when I did call out to Jesus and confessed my sins and repented.”

    • teleologist

      And the God of Calvinism isn’t a sadist how???

      And you are still asking the wrong question. The right question is why do you think that those who end up in hell do not deserve eternal punishment?

    • teleologist

      Well, maybe God could be even more merciful and save everybody.

      Or maybe God could be pure evil and allow everyone to do whatever they want without any consequences.

    • Michael T.

      TUAD,
      Actually I’ve heard that objection to the LFW Arminian position before. I admit that it is an issue but I don’t think it hold water because if God chose to not create those would reject him then LFW wouldn’t exist either. It’s an all or nothing thing. I think the analogy of a parent giving their kids money and telling them it’s theirs to use how they see fit is appropriate. If the parents either stepped in everytime the kid was going to misspend the money or simply foreknowing the kid was going to misspend the money didn’t give the kid the money it wouldn’t really be the kids money. Ultimately what you’re LFW sinner in hell is saying is “I wish you didn’t give us free will” which in turn is saying “I wish we we were all robots”.

      As to you’re LFW sinner in heaven you have a grave misunderstanding of Arminians. I have yet to find one who would say what you assert. Furthermore, speaking reasonably, who in their right mind would brag about “accepting” a hundred dollar bill from charity they did nothing to earn. Simply accepting the offer of the gift of God’s grace is not a “work” done to earn salvation and no one in their right mind would brag about such a thing. On the contrary they’d be eternally grateful for the offer of something they did nothing to deserve.

    • Michael T.

      Teleologist,

      “The right question is why do you think that those who end up in hell do not deserve eternal punishment?”

      I actually DO think those in hell deserve eternal punishment BECAUSE I am an Arminian. My objection to Hodge has to do with my knowledge from other conversations that he is a Calvinist. Me and him agree that those in hell deserve to be there, I just assert that his process of arriving at that conclusion creates a God who is a sadist.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      “Ultimately what you’re LFW sinner in hell is saying is “I wish you didn’t give us free will” which in turn is saying “I wish we we were all robots”.”

      No. The LFW Sinner in Hell is saying that he wishes he was never created by the LFW God and that the LFW God is a sadistic, vile, cruel, and monstrous Being for creating him.

      ” I just assert that his process of arriving at that conclusion creates a God who is a sadist.”

      And I assert that the Arminian process of arriving at that conclusion creates a God who is a sadist too.

    • teleologist

      Sorry Michael T. my bad. I misunderstood where you were coming from.

      I would still like to pose that question to those who opposes a hell.

      Sorry Michael Patton I didn’t mean to stray from your original intent. I can cease and desist this line of query if you want.

    • Michael T.

      TUAD,
      If God doesn’t create those who would rebel against him is this not the same as stepping in every time humanity was about to use LFW for evil purposes? God can either give LFW or not give LFW, but if He does give it He must create even those who will use LFW to rebel against him or LFW can’t exist. The very concept of LFW means that God doesn’t intervene in the choices we make using LFW. Thus I again say that you’re guy in hell is saying he wishes God didn’t create LFW (he doesn’t know he is saying this of course, but he is).

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Michael T,

      The Sinner in Hell doesn’t care about LFW. He wishes he was never born. The Sinner in Hell simply knows that LFW God is omniscient, the Uncaused Cause, and the Uncreated Creator.

      Ergo, the LFW God is a cruel sadistic God.

    • Michael T.

      TUAD,
      Wouldn’t anyone in hell whether God is an Arminian, Calvinist, or Open Theist, wish they were never born? Isn’t that the point? I mean it is punishment after all.

      The question you raise is a philosophical one about what’s possible (similar to Hodges example about God not being able to destroy eternal beings). Thus the issue you raise is can LFW exist if God creates only the beings He foreknows will follow him? I submit that it cannot.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      As to you’re LFW sinner in heaven you have a grave misunderstanding of Arminians.

      Odd how frequently an Arminian says that of a non-Arminian. It would be appropriate to say in return that you likely have a grave misunderstanding of Calvinism.

      I have yet to find one who would say what you assert.

      So. They might think it and believe it. I’ve met a number of prideful and arrogant Arminians.

      Furthermore, speaking reasonably, who in their right mind would brag about “accepting” a hundred dollar bill from charity they did nothing to earn.

      I think there are people who do that. Whether you want to say that they’re in their “right mind” or not… is up to your judgmental spirit.

      Simply accepting the offer of the gift of God’s grace is not a “work” done to earn salvation and no one in their right mind would brag about such a thing.

      What’s the difference between the LFW Sinner in Hell and the LFW Sinner in Heaven?

      On the contrary they’d be eternally grateful for the offer of something they did nothing to deserve.

      Now you’re starting to talk like a Reform guy or a Calvinist. There’s hope for you yet.

    • TDC

      Hey teleologist (point 92),

      “If I understand you correctly, you are saying that there is no hell and if there is a hell then the Christian God does not exist.”

      I would say, rather, that a populated eternal hell seems inconsistent with an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and perfectly loving God in a Calvinistic . I do not consider it a knock down argument against Christianity (partly because what seems to be morally repugnant may not be in fact), but I consider it to be evidence against it.

      The main objection I think we have zeroed in on in this discussion is not that hell itself is unjust (which we could argue about as well), but the fact that God could have saved everyone (in Calvinism) and yet didn’t. Not that He is obligated to, but that it seems a good God would do it if He could. God could have His reasons, but none of the reasons seem to make it any better.

      God didn’t save them all for His own glory? Seems strange that God would get more glory from saving a small percentage than saving all His creation.

      For Arminian theology, I think TUAD already brought up the problem for them.

      “Then let me ask you this, what makes hell unjust? On what basis do you make such a determination? What would be a just reward for those who commit what you consider as evil acts?”

      I don’t think I have any new objections. I have trouble seeing why it must be eternal. I realize I need to do a bit more thinking on this, if you have any forum/website/book recommendations for Calvinist/Arminian/Molinist/Thomist positions.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I know I’m supposed to be doing some work now, but I do have just one burning question:

      How does the creation of person A give LFW to person B? Or are you suggesting that God must create every possible human being that could exist in order to ensure that LFW is given to everyone? I’m not quite understanding. Others did not need to be created with Adam and Eve. God gave them free will without creating other human beings with them. Why could He not simply create the ones that would accept Him, having given them free will to choose, since He only needs to introduce the devil into the world and choices like those in the garden, and not create those potential humans He knows would reject Him and be tormented in hell?

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      “For Arminian theology, I think TUAD already brought up the problem for them.”

      Glad to help my Arminian brothers. It was a pleasure.

      As they were digging a hole for the Calvinists to fall into, lo and behold, they fell into the very hole they were digging!

      The Calvinist God is a sadist? The LFW God is a sadist too!

    • TDC

      Hodge (point 99),

      I’m going to bow out at this point as well. Sorry, CMP, didn’t mean to get things off topic. Thank you guys for taking the time to take on my objections. What’s a good forum to bring this up?

      Before I go tho… let me respond to a couple things

      You’re right. If I trust the Bible on my own depravity/heart, then I need to believe that my own sense of morality is so out of whack that I can’t tell true goodness when I see it. But if your response is that we can’t tell true goodness/justice because we are depraved, we can’t go much further in the discussion. I could make up a theology and say to your objections “you don’t know or understand because you’re depraved and in darkness, but I know because God enlightened me. You need to trust God and stop trusting in your own mind.” You wouldn’t be able to prove me wrong, but that wouldn’t prove my position strong, consistent, or convincing.

      “Finally, I grow tired of this omnipotence argument, as though God can show us without showing us. No, God can’t make square circles. That’s not what omnipotence means. God is not illogical. So God can’t show us eternally without showing us eternally.”

      I don’t think anyone said God could show us without showing us. We just think he’s capable of showing us through some other means than actually damning others (let alone the majority of the population). On this point, I think we’re at an impasse. It is pretty obvious to me that an omnipotent God could do this, and it seems pretty obvious to you that He could not. Guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree here.

      Thanks to you all for the enjoyable discussion. It helped me alot. I’ll continue thinking about this, so please say a quick prayer for me if you can.

    • TDC

      Before I go(sorry, this is my truly true last post),

      Anyone see the William Lane Craig vs Ray Bradley debate on hell? Craig’s Molinist defense of hell and Bradley’s critique of it seem to parallel the dialogue between Michael T., Hodge, and TUAD.

    • Ned

      Hodge:

      Just to be clear: Is your claim that whenever NT authors use words like “death”, “destroy”, “perish”, and “consume”, a modern reader can’t simply consult a lexicon and the context to determine the meaning of the word, but instead must be privy to so called “Second Temple interpretations” of those terms?

      If so, kindly provide a list of Second Temple sources that the Christian must be familiar with in order to properly interpret the New Testament.

      I personally see this as blatantly ad hoc, and my hunch is that not one other person on this board, no matter what their view on final judgment actually holds this view.

      But I could be wrong.

    • mbaker

      “I’ve met a number of prideful and arrogant Arminians.”

      Where is it written in scripture that we get to decide whether we are to have the choice to accept Christ, or John Calvin or Arminianism? That’s why I don’t get this big divide in the church. Seems to me it hurts our cause more than helps it.

      What is the big deal? I simply do not get it.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,
      It depends on one’s beliefs about the extent of God’s control over things. If God is in meticulous control then your objection holds. However if male A and female B have sex resulting in a child of their own free will the question is will God intervene and prevent the creation of this child because he knows that said child will use LFW to rebel. The issue is that if LFW really exists God is no longer the sole actor in determining the characteristics of each individual whether it be genetically (God is not meticulously controlling who gets together and has children) or nurture (God is not meticulously controlling how the parents will raise the child). Thus ultimately (I believe) the Calvinistic objection that LFW undermines God’s sovereignty is true in at least some sense. I’m just OK with this since it is God Himself who has chosen for it to be this way.

      I’m sure this opens a whole can of worms, but since it is off topic and I have a fishing trip to prepare for it is time for me to bow out of this one as well.

    • Hodge

      So your answer is essentially that children are created apart from God by materialistic natural means that the parents decide to use. The person’s existence is due to biological functions, not God’s decision to make them. Hence, people exist because God did not intervene and stop them from being created by biological processes. Hence, LFW reigns supreme . . . in an naturalistic universe that functions on its own as the Creator just watches and reacts to it, but doesn’t cause it in any sustainable sense.

      My primary objection is that God, according to the Bible, is the one who makes children through the sexual act. So He is deciding to make each individual, knowing that they will be damned. He doesn’t have to make these children simply because people had sex. Children aren’t created BTW simply because Male A and Female B get together and have sex. In the Christian view, God is needed. Hence, your argument bypasses this in favor of a naturalistic understanding of human existence. This makes God only the indirect Creator of all men in that He just created the first humans and these humans are just the fortunate or unfortunate result of their parents decisions.

    • Hodge

      We’ll have to pick it up some other time then. Good fishing.

    • DEK

      “Then let me ask you this, what makes hell unjust?”
      No amount or manner of sinning within infinitesimal 70 years of human life, which in the end will always, obviously and in any case be of a strictly limited proportion, can be equated with everlasting, un-limited and incessant torture.

      “On what basis do you make such a determination?”
      On the basis of what the Bible plainly teaches about grave and oblivion being the final reward of the wicked and unbelievers.

      “What would be a just reward for those who commit what you consider as evil acts?”
      Their exclusion from the Kingom of God as the punishment for their disobedience, their names and deeds forgotten and their memory made to perish.

      Those are doubtless very concise answers, but in general I take Wrested Scriptures by R.Abel as one of the most enlightening, logical and consistent works on Hell (or rather its absence, for that case).

    • Lynn

      Hodge,

      You stated above, “The gospel is not good news when there is no bad news.”

      Although you’re probably tons smarter than me, I think your statement demonstrates what I had said: I think some people would be truly disappointed to find out there isn’t a hell.

      And no, I don’t think people deserve hell.

    • Bree Anderson

      Once one is born again it doesn’t matter about hell, it’s for the adversary/devil to deal with. Roman 10:9&10 ‘get’ you born again and nothing can remove that SON status. In the Old testament they could lose the ‘spirit upon’, it was by works. Now, believing God raised us Jesus from the dead and confessing he is our Saviour is what it takes to get ‘into heaven’. The works aspect determines how abundant of a live we get to enjoy. Hell doesn’t scare me for one itty bitty second. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am born again of God’s spirit. That is the message- the devil wants us to dwell on hell and neglect God’s abundant life as Jesus proclaimed in John 10:10. There is a reason for all Jesus went through…
      I do agree, if we can forget about it the freedom to enjoy the life we are called to enjoy may be more ‘real’ and achievable. Thanks to Sarah Mae for tweeting thing.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Lynn: “And no, I don’t think people deserve hell.”

      For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

      Lynn, choose to repent and submit yourself to Christ Jesus our Lord and receive the Gift of eternal life from God.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Jesus: “But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell.* Yes, he’s the one to fear.” (Luke 12:5)

      Lynn: “And no, I don’t think people deserve hell.”

      CMP: “However, I don’t have a vote in truth. My emotional disposition toward a doctrine has absolutely no effect on the truthfulness of the doctrine itself. As I have often said, the palatability of a doctrine does not determine its veracity.”

      CMP has the right approach.

    • Lynn

      CMP is correct. How we feel about something has nothing to do with whether it’s true or not.

      I was giving my opinion.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Lynn: “I was giving my opinion.”

      Unfortunately, some people’s opinions have landed them in Hell.

    • Lynn

      Well, I’m no longer afraid to voice my opinion. I don’t plan on returning to the fear and confusion I felt in Christianity.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Don’t conflate fear of voicing an opinion with the fear that Jesus speaks of in Luke 12:5 “But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell.* Yes, he’s the one to fear.”

    • Lynn

      I’m also commanded to love this person who can kill me and throw me into hell.

      People can be made to fear, but they cannot be made to respect or love.

    • EricW

      139. Lynn on 20 May 2010 at 9:46 am #
      .
      I’m also commanded to love this person who can kill me and throw me into hell.
      .
      People can be made to fear, but they cannot be made to respect or love.

      Have you ever seen the movie The Rapture with Mimi Rogers?

    • Lynn

      No, haven’t seen that one.

    • Ed Kratz

      I don’t believe that one sin sends people to hell for eternity. I think that there is much more to it than this. I wrote this not too long ago about the subject: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/05/will-one-sin-really-will-send-you-to-hell-for-all-eternity-or-why-is-hell-eternal/

    • Hodge

      Lynn,

      “And no, I don’t think people deserve hell.”

      This is the crux of the problem and we are at an impasse because of it. If you think people are basically good then hell can never seem just to you.

      Let me suggest to you, as one who was a pastor and saw it quite often, that your description of fear and confusion indicates that you never came to grips with your sin in surrender to the grace of Christ. Only those who want to think they are good and can merit something before God are afraid and confused by Christianity. I see this a lot. The problem isn’t that you were once in submission to it. The problem is that you were always in rebellion toward it by thinking that you could attain something and then being told that you couldn’t. So you wouldn’t be going back to it, Lynn. You were never there. I would suggest you contemplate the nature of evil in the world a little more deeply, as this world of good people seems a fairytale to me.

    • EricW

      Lynn:

      I mentioned the movie The Rapture because it addresses the point you’re making, i.e., can or should God command us to love Him, and what are we to do if, for various reasons, we don’t have it within ourselves to love this God?

      FYI, the movie is rated R. You may have to get it via Netflix, as it’s not widely available.

    • Lynn

      Hodge,

      I do not think that people are basically good. I can’t argue on some high intellectual plane-I start to get confused. But I can speak plainly as just a regular person.

      I think people are just people. They seem to be a combination of wonderful, horrid, and everything inbetween. There are many factors that go into all this.

      It just makes no sense to me that the nice, decent people of the world who don’t believe in Jesus as their savior are gonna be eternally damned along with those who’ve murdered little children. What if you’re very altruistic yet simply can’t bring yourself to believe the gospel? I guess it’s tough stuff for you.

      I understand what the Bible says about all this-I was brought up on it. And yes, I did come to grips with my sin. I certainly saw how selfish, conniving, etc. I could be. It always amazed me that other Christians didn’t seem to really see how selfish THEY were.

      So you are wrong in thinking that I think I have merit before God. I’m no better or worse than anybody else. Where I was born, who I was born to, my upbringing, my experiences, my temperament all play a part as with everybody.

      I was not frustrated by thinking I was good and hearing that I wasn’t. I was in full agreement with being an unworthy sinner.

      What brought me confusion within Christianity was trying to match the real world to what I was taught. It didn’t match. The world seemed way more complex than that. People didn’t really fit neatly into saved/unsaved. Christians didn’t seem to be any different than regular people-just more judgemental. It didn’t add up. I was supposed to have joy, etc.-the fruits of the spirit. I didn’t have those. I was certainly sincere, prayed “the sinner’s prayer” very sincerely many times.

      Then I was introduced to Calvinism. My first thought-other than how cruel it seemed-was that I probably was having all this trouble because I simply wasn’t of the elect.

    • Lynn

      Then I decided I had jumped to that unhappy conclusion because of my personality type, and that I should just relax and trust. That didn’t really work either.

      So here I am. You’re telling me I was never the real deal, and you coud be right. But it’s not for lack of sincerely trying. And it’s certainly not because I thought I was good.

      So if I’m not the real deal, it seems even more cruel that God would allow me to be born into conservative Christianity, knowing that I was a very sensitive, very serious child and would worry about it all for many years.

      Whatever will be, will be. I’m just me and being honest. I entertain the thot that it could all be nonsense to begin with. Or it could all be true. God-if there is one-will do with me as he pleases.

    • Lynn

      Eric W,

      Thanks. I will try to get that movie.

    • Hodge

      Eric,

      That movie deals with the question from an atheistic perspective. It’s trying to show the evil of Christianity. I would not recommend its warped perspective.

      Lynn,

      I hope this isn’t too speculative for you, but I think your reasoning that people didn’t “match up” to what Christianity was saying about them being sinners deserving of hell indicates that your concept of good and evil were/are warped. Evil is evil in relation to God. You can’t have people apart from worshiping God as good people. So my conclusion that you did not understand your own sin is due to the fact that you do not understand other people’s sin. You can’t have good people who reject the only source of good, i.e., God. You can only have good people if you judge them in relation to yourself. And you can only think that they are good if you somehow view yourself as the standard for that judgment. The Bible indicates that most people who claim to be Christian aren’t, so maybe you missed that part, but rejecting it based on bad “Christians” is bogus to anyone who knows the Scripture’s views on this. It’s also bogus because Christians sin as well. Hence, the need for grace and repentance.
      It seems to me that from your statements you are looking around at people and judging them, whether for good or evil, and then concluding that those you judge to be good don’t deserve hell. Ergo, God is unjust if He sends them there. Ergo, Christianity is false, since God would accord with my sense of justice.
      Here’s the person who really submits to Christianity: God is good and the source of good, people reject God and glorify themselves instead, people are evil, God who is good hates evil, God punishes the evil. Christ saves by being punished for them. Those who do not accept the salvation of Christ who is punished for them must accept their own punishment. So I would say again that you never submitted to Christianity and the Christian perspective of these things. So I ask you to…

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