Is it Just to Allow People to Go to Hell? (Part 3)

This is the third part in a series, and this post is dependent on the information given in parts 1 & 2. The series deals with common questions posed by those who disagree with people going to hell.

Question: How can a good and loving God torture people in hell?

To answer this, we must again reiterate that we are dealing with the concepts of heaven, hell, and the human condition as presented in the Bible, and not as might be imagined in the common culture. There are several answers to this question.

First, the question has a logical flaw. The question assumes that God tortures people in hell, which is not the case. Nowhere does the Bible say that anyone is tortured in hell. The Bible says that people are in agony and in torment, but nowhere does it say they are tortured. Someone can be in agony and in torment for many reasons — a drug addict can be in torment due to his addiction, or we can have an overwhelming sense of guilt that leaves us in agony. But torture implies that someone else is inflicting pain upon us. Nowhere does the Bible describe hell as torture.

Second, nowhere does it say that this torment is inflicted by God. The Bible says the people are in agony in hell, but it does not tell us that God inflicts this agony.

Third, related to the second, while it is true that God puts people in hell and keeps them there for eternity, the agony is due to the fact that hell is separated from God, not because of some condition that God created in hell. Hell is NOT like a torture chamber that God constructed that He throws people there against their will. Rather, hell is the absence of God; heaven is described as light, because God is light (Rev. 22:5), therefore when people are removed from God’s presence, they are in darkness (Matt.8:12). In heaven, Christians will be in God’s presence, where He will give comfort and wipe away every tear (Rev.21:4), so when non-Christians are removed from God’s presence, they are in agony and will weep (Matt.13:50).

Fourth, if the question is How can a good God allow people to go to hell instead of heaven? Then we must realize what heaven is like. Heaven is not sitting around in a nebulous, undefined state of bliss. Rather, people in heaven spend their time worshiping Jesus (Rev.5:11-14) and singing praises to Him. Both our experience and the bible tell us that many people on earth find worshiping Jesus to be something they hate to do (John 1:11; 3:19). Many people today cannot stand the idea of worshiping Jesus for one hour a week; what kind of a God would force them to do so, and do it all day, forever? If people wanted to do heaven-like things, they would be spending time today listening to God’s words and worshiping Him, but they hate to do these things. Instead of forcing people to go to heaven against their will, God allows them to do what they want to do, which is be separated from His presence for all eternity. Just like the drug addict who is in agony but still hangs on to his addiction, people in hell are in agony, but would hate God’s presence even more.

Fredrich Nietzsche is often quoted as saying “Better to reign in Hell than serve in heaven.”

Fifth, if God did not judge evil by destroying it, He would be an unjust God, creating still another evil act (this was dealt with previously, see here).

And yet again, we are only dealing with heaven, hell, and people as described in the Bible. If we invent some other definition of what these terms mean, we have changed the problem that generated the original set of questions.

There are more reasons, but we will include these in answers to other related questions in the next post.

 

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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13 Responses to Is it Just to Allow People to Go to Hell? (Part 3)

  1. thoughtofvg says:

    after reading this, I had one thought on the part where you write that in hell we are forever separated from God. I’m not saying it’s wrong or right, just an Idea-If Hell is a place where we are separated eternally from God, what if our world actually is Hell? The main part missing from the description would be that we aren’t here eternally, which I think is suggested in teachings about Hell (i’m no expert). I know the numbers of people who say they have felt God’s presence is huge, but the number who think they have definitely, with no doubt whatsoever, felt the presence of God is much lower, so is it possible that here in our world, we are separated from God? In a pessimistic view, our world has a striking resemblance to your description.

    • humblesmith says:

      Excellent question.

      In our world, we are indeed separated from God. We are separated because of evil things which we have done, which the Bible calls sin. So we are indeed saparate in this this world, which is why we can’t see God. But God, in His mercy, is influencing this world for good, drawing people to Himself, and offering a way to become right with Him again. But some people reject this offer from God, and desire to stay separated from God. Eventually, if we keep rejecting God, He will allow us to go out from His current influence, which is hell. This world is not hell, but we are separated due to our sin. We can be reconciled by accepting the free gift of Jesus’ substitute payment for our sin.

    • humblesmith says:

      Another thing you might find interesting…..find a little book by C. S. Lewis called “The Great Divorce.” It has nothing to do with marriage. It is an easy to read allegory of heaven and hell, and in the story this world is indeed hell. Fun and interesting reading.

  2. alphazulu99 says:

    Worshiping Jesus may get a little old after a few billion years. Will it be possible to challenge Jesus and the “virgin” Mary to the occasional game of strip volleyball?

  3. Nate says:

    You said that Hell is never described as being a place of torture, but the verses in your first post on this subject talked about the flames of Hell. Flames inflict pain — that’s more than just inner turmoil, such as what a drug addict would face.

    You also said that God doesn’t inflict that pain upon us in Hell. But Matthew 10:28 says this about God:

    And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

    As you also understand, the Old Testament doesn’t teach the doctrine of Hell, except for the passage in Daniel 12 and the possible reference in Isaiah 66. Both of those passages come much later in Israel’s history. Why didn’t God teach the important concepts of Heaven and Hell during all periods of history? Why does the teaching only show up after the Israelites spent time under foreign influences that held similar concepts?

    I know you believe that Hell may seem distasteful, but the Bible teaches it, so we’d better believe it. I have a grudging respect for that position — it’s the same one I used to hold. And I admire your willingness to tackle these difficult and unpopular issues. However, I’ve finally realized that there are simply too many problems with the Bible and Christianity for the teachings to be true. The doctrine of Hell is a great example.

    Over the years, I’ve found that most people — Christians, Muslims, even atheists — are actually just searching for what’s true. I know of no one that would choose to follow a religion that they know is false — what would be the point? I believe that most of us are searchers who would gladly worship God if we only knew him. Just think of all the qualities ascribed to God: he embodies love, he is righteous and pursues justice, he loves mankind as children, he dispenses mercy and grace… the list goes on. Who wouldn’t want to have a relationship with such a being?

    So if Christianity is actually true and Jehovah is the one true God, then why aren’t more people Christians? It can only be because they don’t realize Christianity is true. And if they are actually searchers, as I firmly believe, then they haven’t missed Christianity because of obstinance or rebellion, but through ignorance. Would it be righteous and just to punish them because of ignorance? If a child does something they shouldn’t out of ignorance, we handle that differently than if they did something maliciously. We still correct them, but that’s really all it is — correction, not punishment.

    Hell doesn’t work that way. If I am not a Christian because I genuinely think that it’s a false religion, then I only need to be shown where I’m wrong for that to be corrected. God could simply say, “Nate, you’re on the wrong path. You should be serving my son, Jesus.” I would correct things immediately. But God doesn’t do that… he remains silent. He gives me no reason to think I’m on the wrong path. But the one time he is going to interact with me to let me know how wrong I’ve been is at the point where it’s too late? Where I get no second chances? And he shows it by putting me in a place where I will experience torment for eternity? A being that interacts with us in such a way does not love us. We don’t really have to turn phrases around and find ways to excuse such barbaric behavior. There’s no need for us to say “Hell is locked from the inside,” or “God doesn’t send people to Hell; he just gives them what they ask for.” Those are just the things we say when we can’t explain something so atrocious — when deep down, we know something is horribly wrong.

    I do appreciate what you’re trying to do in these posts. But please spend some time asking yourself how much sense a religion makes when it must rely on something like Hell. It’s not easy to consider that your beliefs may be wrong, especially when you’ve built you’re entire life around them — believe me, I know. But coming out the other side, everything makes so much more sense. Good luck to you as you continue to search after truth.

    • humblesmith says:

      You bring up a lot of topics….far to many to respond to in a reply here. Hopefully I’ll tackle some of the comments about hell in future posts. But I’ll respond to a few of your comments here.

      As for why God doesn’t teach everything in all sections of the Bible…..Hell is not the only thing. The church is not in the OT, and the law of moses is not in Genesis. Why? I think it might be because God has a plan that He is unfolding over time. But think about what you said, Except for Daniel and Isaiah, it’s not taught. How many times does He have to teach it? How about Deut. 32:22? But even if it’s not, we have no excuse today, for it is taught in the NT.

      As for Matthew 10:28, the context of the sentence is Jesus teaching his disciples where to put their allegience and trust. He’s telling them God is in control and not to be concerned with men or the devil. Then he gives the sentence you quoted. The idea is that God is the one who will make the final judgement of men’s souls, and has the power to determine their future. The passage does not tell us what criteria God uses to make this judgement….that is covered in elsewhere in the Bible. So yes, God has the power to send people to hell, but the criteria he uses is our own free will decision not to follow God’s plan. If we choose to not follow God, He respects our decision and sends us outside of heaven, to hell.

      As for the flames of hell, yes the Bible speaks of these. As the post suggested, hell is the absence of God. Since God is comfort and love, going to a place where God is not there is a place of agony. Thus the description of flames. I purposely avoided being more precise….but to clarify, the Bible actually makes a distinction between places of the damned. The bible says that the lake of fire was originally prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), not for humans. But due to human rebellion, it was necessary for God to judge evil, hence some humans will be cast there. Hell still cannot properly be called a torture chamber; it is the total absence of God and His loving influence. If God’s spirit is not there to be an influence for good, it is then the opposite of good. It would be the same if a king banished a prisoner outside of the kingdom; the prisoner would not enjoy any of the king’s graces. It would be different if the king created a torture chamber. Hell is torment, not torture.

      As for the rest of your comments, I think you are getting very close to the reasons why people do not follow Jesus, but missing it a bit. My purpose in this blog is to present reasons and defense of historic Christianity; in doing so, I do not believe anyone will ever become a Christian because of my arguments. People do not deny God because they do not understand Him; rather, they deny God because they want to hold on to something else. All of us have something that we love more than God; the Bible calls this sin. We hate the light because we love darkness, not because we do not understand the light. People do not believe Jesus because they do not want to believe Jesus, not because they do not understand Him. God sends his

      You’ve brought up several other issues….some I’ll get to in the near future with more posts about hell. The rest, perhaps I’ll get to them in a future post. But as briefly as I can……

      You said ” God could simply say, “Nate, you’re on the wrong path. You should be serving my son, Jesus.” I would correct things immediately. But God doesn’t do that… he remains silent. He gives me no reason to think I’m on the wrong path. But the one time he is going to interact with me to let me know how wrong I’ve been is at the point where it’s too late? Where I get no second chances?”
      Well, Nate, God has told you, and told me, and evryone else, in His word, the Bible. Plus, God sends His servants out to tell people. I am His servant, so I’ll tell you: If you’re denying Jesus, you’re on the wrong path. You have already had a second chance, and a third, and fourth….how many more chances do you think is fair? If you look at the story in Luke 16 of the man who is in hell, he wants to go warn his brothers, thinking that if someone would go warn them, they would listen. The answer? Simple: They have “moses and the prophets” (e.g., the Bible) and someone who has come back from the dead, namely, Jesus and me. You see, I was lost and directionless and without hope, as good as dead, but God rescued me and set me on the right path, and sent me out to tell people. So Nate, you now have yet another second chance. What will you do with it?

      • Nate says:

        Hi humblesmith,
        Thanks for the reply. I agree with alphzulu99 that Deut 32:22 is not talking about Hell. It’s saying that God’s wrath is so fierce, it even burns to the depths of Sheol. It’s just a figurative way of saying that God is very angry. Sheol is not the same as Hell, as you probably know. When you look at all the OT passages that deal with it, it becomes apparent that it’s a place all the dead go to — righteous and unrighteous alike.

        I was not trying to say that Hell doesn’t matter because it’s talked about so infrequently. My point was that if you had lived during the time of Moses, you would not have known that Hell existed or that Heaven was a place to which you could go. Those are very important concepts. Paul essentially said that we are just sojourners here — our true existence is the one to come. So why would God have allowed so many generations of people to live and die without knowing this important information? If the earth is only 6000 – 10,000 years old (as the Bible would suggest), then over half of human history passed before God let anyone know that eternity should be an important consideration. In other words, this is very strong evidence that the doctrines of Heaven and Hell as we know them are fabrications that came much later in Israel’s history.

        Well, Nate, God has told you, and told me, and evryone else, in His word, the Bible. Plus, God sends His servants out to tell people. I am His servant, so I’ll tell you: If you’re denying Jesus, you’re on the wrong path. You have already had a second chance, and a third, and fourth….how many more chances do you think is fair?

        But see, this isn’t really accurate. Yes, the Bible says all of this. But the Bible also gives 2 different times of death for Jesus. It gives conflicting genealogies for him. It has failed prophecies and other conflicting passages. So I’m afraid it’s simply not enough. I’ve looked very hard for answers to those issues, and there aren’t any. So you can repeat what the Bible says, but since it ultimately comes from the Bible, it’s not helpful. God, on the other hand, could easily remedy this situation by telling me what he wants. Even if he told me that the Bible’s problems should just be ignored, then I would listen. But since God hasn’t told me any of that, and I can use my “God-given” reason to see that the Bible is obviously not the work of a perfect deity, then my previous point is still true. Christianity looks false, and God isn’t telling me any different.

        Finally, I know you need to believe that most people just don’t want to follow Jesus; otherwise, you are left with a very cruel God, since you believe in a literal Hell. But I hope you’ll open your mind and your eyes to the reality that’s around you. Most people who aren’t Christians honestly believe Christianity is a false religion. Just think about it. It makes no sense for someone to say: “I know that the God of Christianity exists, he’s all-good, all-loving, etc. And if I don’t worship him, I’ll spend an eternity in Hell. But I think that’s what I’ll do anyway.” That’s ridiculous. No sane person would operate that way. So the only logical conclusion is that most people who don’t believe just aren’t convinced it’s true.

        • humblesmith says:

          Nate, I’ve read many of your posts (but not all). You have some legitimate questions, which are fair to ask. But respectfully, you have mixed in a lot of what I refer to as “It seems to me…” arguments, which are opinions that neither prove nor disprove anything. see here: http://humblesmith.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/it-seems-to-me-bible-critics-dont-have-much-of-a-complaint/ In short, merely saying ‘it seems to me God should have done xyz, and didn’t’ does not make a case for anything.

          You seem to be an honest man who has searched for answers and have asked honest questions. Your most recent comment here includes a host of issues, and since this is not a discussion board, I won’t pretend to deal with all of them here. But I can legitimately say that there are honest answers to many of your questions, and your opinions do not prove anything logically. Those two items add up to over half of what I’ve read of your writings. I have dealt with some of your questions already; I’ll try to get around to the others here eventually. I have to admit I’ve not studied all of them in depth, but some I have, and there are reasonable answers.

          I guess I would challenge you to search your heart and ask yourself if you’ve applied the same level of skepticism to the atheist positions. Logically, either God exists or not, there is no middle ground. You seem to have concluded that he does not; if so, then you are forced into the atheist positions of how many things came to be: morality, consciousness, motion/causality, and others. I would challenge you to consider whether you have applied the same level of skepticism to the atheist positions. If not, then you are but one more biased critic.

          In the end, I’ve always felt that there are indeed some questions and difficulties to work out with theism and Christianity, but these pale in comparison to the massive difficulties that arise when one denies the existence of God. To be objective, you have to apply the same level of skepticism to the position of denying God.

          But as I said, you seem to be an honest man, and I trust you will honestly look at reasonable answers. I generally do not continue back and forth on issues unrelated to to OP, so…..

          …as to the OT / NT argument, I’ll see if I can add that into an upcoming post. You seem to be saying that since a teaching is not taught at all times and places then it is not true, or must have come from a source other than God. This is a non-sequitur which I will try to remember to deal with in a future post.

          Peace.

        • Nate says:

          Thanks for the reply. I, too, don’t want to get far off topic, but I want to address just two of the points you made. I do use “I think… it seems to me…” type comments quite a lot. I do it for one main reason. I think it helps my posts not sound too dogmatic or arrogant. I know that my positions are just my positions, and they could easily be wrong. However, that’s not to say they aren’t valid points. You’ve said yourself that you’re interested in logic, reason, and evidence more than emotion. I’m the same way. But logic and reason both fit into the “I think” category.

          You seem to have the position that we can’t question what the Bible says about itself or about God. You believe the Bible is God’s word, so there’s no questioning it. But what about a Muslim? He thinks the Koran is Allah’s word and the Bible has been tampered with. Should he not question anything the Koran says? If he should, why do you get to use a different standard?

          It seems to me that the only rational and intellectually honest approach is to acknowledge that the Bible is not God, but a book, even if it was really inspired by him. Our job is to test that claim of inspiration, which means everything is up for grabs. Yes, some of my points simply come from my own thought processes, but this is just using the logic and reason that you say you want to use as well. So thinking through the ramifications of Hell, for instance, or considering how logical it would be for God to go to a written message instead of speaking directly to us as he supposedly did long ago are not meaningless exercises. They can be important clues in considering the likelihood of Christianity.

          The last point I’ll make is about atheism. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in any gods. That’s not the same as claiming no gods exist. If I were to claim that, then yes, I’d have more explaining to do, and the burden of proof would lie with me. But that’s not my claim. It’s possible that there is a god, and I acknowledge that. But I’m quite certain it’s not the Christian god, and I have no problem talking through the reasons and evidence for that position. I hope that distinction makes sense. Thanks again for the conversation.

  4. Nate says:

    I hear you….

    I believed this stuff for a very long time. But as the years went by, more and more of it stopped making sense. Now, the fact that it’s just mythology so obvious that it’s hard to see how other people don’t realize it. But I know that’s just because my perspective has changed. As time goes by, I hope more and more people like humblesmith will begin to see and acknowledge the problems that run throughout it.

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