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Section 9B .. The Future
The Problems With The Traditional View of Hell

 

003white  Index to Section 9B... The Future     >      Index to Hell     >      Hell Part VII... Making Excuses For God

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What and Where is Hell?
Part VII ... Making Excuses For God -

How Christians Justify Their Misinterpretation of Scripture

Carol Brooks

Introduction and Index To All Chapters


ON THIS PAGE
Introduction

People "Choose" Hell
We Don't Really Think These Things Through - Do We?

One Person Is Worth More Than Another

Annihilation is Contrary to God's Nature But Apparently An Eternal Hell Isn't
One of the most cockamamie ideas I have ever come across.

Conclusion - The End of All Unbelievers is The Second Death


Introduction
Most Christians accept the traditional doctrine of hell because they believe that it is taught in the Bible. The doctrine of 'hell' as taught by the church isn't some elevated, high-minded, spiritual principle, but boils down to "God loves you, but He is quite prepared to torture you in hell forever".  

And that this is the "good news", we are supposed to share with others.

I am sure that this doctrine makes many believers very uneasy. However, because they believe that hell as a place of unending torment is Scriptural, their only option has been to come up with some justification for this doctrine. Justification for this doctrine is a euphemism for "excuses for the God they claim is loving and merciful"

That their statements and arguments are illogical, bone-headed, completely superficial, and contradict what the Bible says is, apparently beside the point. What is really sad is that they have somehow managed to talk themselves into believing their own baloney - such as,


People "Choose" Hell
One completely ridiculous statement that Christians often make goes something like this -  "Everyone makes a choice as to where they will spend eternity".

Why, oh why do we let these trite phrases roll off our tongues without thinking them through?

Most of the decisions we make in our lives boil down to making our own (or someone else's) life more comfortable. We seek the good things, not the bad... pleasure, not pain. So how likely is it that anyone in the history of the earth has ever deliberately chosen an eternity of endless torment and suffering.

Some also claim that if a person has made a conscious choice to disregard the Gospel they have, by default chosen to spend trillions of years in torment.  Again this is patently ridiculous.


One Person Is Worth More Than Another
Part 2 of Hell by Norman Geisler on the John Ankerberg site begins by saying "a denial of hell is an indication of human depravity" -  a proclamation that only serves to show how self-righteous our theologians can get.

But, if at all possible, it gets worse. Try the following on for size,

God's justice demands eternal punishment. "The heinousness of any crime must be gauged according to the worth or dignity of the person it is committed against" (Davidson, 50). Thus, a murder of a president or pope is deemed more heinous than that of a terrorist or Mafia boss. Sin against an infinite God is an infinite sin worthy of infinite punishment (Edwards, 2.83)....To punish a person eternally for what he did for a short time on earth seems at first like a gigantic case of overkill. However, on closer examination it turns out to be not only just but necessary. For one thing, only eternal punishment will suffice for sins against the eternal God. The sins may have been committed in time, but they were against the Eternal One. Furthermore, no sin can be tolerated as long as God exists, and he is eternal. Hence, punishment for sin must also be eternal. " [11]

He has apparently thrown his hat into the same ring as Jonathan Edwards, the well known Puritan theologian who said, "sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving of infinite punishment". [12]

Theologian William G. T. Shedd offered his idea as to why endless punishment makes sense

"Endless punishment is rational, because sin is an infinite evil; infinite not because committed by an infinite being, but against one....To torture a dumb beast is a crime; to torture a man is a greater crime. To steal from one's own mother is more heinous than to steal from a fellow citizen. The person who transgresses is the same in each instance; but the different worth and dignity of the objects upon whom his action terminates makes the difference in the gravity of the two offenses." [13]

These sentiments are widely quoted in spite of the fact that they not only defy all logic and common sense, but also do not have a shred of Biblical evidence to support them. Saying that the "heinousness of any crime must be gauged according to the worth or dignity of the person it is committed against" is equivalent to saying that some people have more worth than others.

While it is true that most of us will not shed a single tear over the death of a mobster and much of the world mourns a president, is this attributable to our feelings or is the death of one really more heinous than the other? Is the murder of a homeless man less hateful than the murder of the man who lives in a three bedroom house in suburbia? Or perhaps taking the life of a school teacher is worse than taking the life of a janitor. How can stealing from one's own mother be more heinous than stealing from a fellow citizen. Which of the two thefts would we consider more despicable if one's own mother is very well to do and the other person lost their entire month's grocery money?

But what saith the Scriptures?

The law of Moses clearly taught that the person who killed another was to be put to death, a rule that equally applied to both the Israelite and the foreigner who dwelt in their midst. God's commands say nothing about a worse punishment if the victim was 'important'

    'If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him. 'Thus the one who kills an animal shall make it good, but the one who kills a man shall be put to death. 'There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native, for I am the Lord your God.'" (Leviticus 24:19-22 NASB)

Note: 'an eye for an eye' prevented excessive punishment at the hands of an avenging private party.

The New Testament also comes out strongly against any kind of favoritism

    For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? (James 2:2-4 NASB)

 As Jeremy Moritz so rightly says in his article on hell

    When people use these arguments, I'm sure their intentions are good. But by employing all of this jargon about the infiniteness of our creator, what they are doing is clouding up simple God-given logic. Sin is sin. A crime is a crime. It doesn't matter how nice and loving the victim is. Most people have no trouble understanding this because they already know it in their hearts to be true.

    Let's suppose for a moment that a kind, holy, loving man had his wallet stolen. After a day, they found the criminal and allowed the victim to choose his offender's sentence. Imagine if the kind, loving man used the argument "Because I am kind and loving, your sin against me was much worse than stealing from someone else. Therefore, the only punishment fitting for you is to spend 40 years in my torture chamber." Wouldn't that raise some doubts as to the loving nature that this man claims to have? How much more so, if the man could make the sentence 40,000,000,000,000,000 years or more? [14]


Annihilation is Contrary to God's Nature But Apparently An Eternal Hell Isn't
In his book If God, Why Evil? Norman Geisler says

    Annihilation of the wicked is contrary to both the nature of God and the nature of humans made in his image. It is not consistent with an all-loving God to snuff out those who do not do his wishes. What would we think of an earthly father who killed his children if they didn't do what he wanted them to do. [15]

And that is one of the most  cockamamie theories I have ever come across. Are we really to believe that it is contrary to the nature of God to annihilate the wicked, but it is not contrary to His nature to let people be eternally tormented.

And, I just have to ask whether Geisler's Bible contains the account of the great flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the swift annihilation of both Aaron and Eli's sons, etc. Or did he somehow manage not to read those accounts? If the Father snuffed them out once, why exactly wouldn't He do it again.

If hell is, as so many Christians believe, a place of eternal torment, then they have to know that Satan did not invent this hell - God did. And, since He could put an end to it in an instant but chooses not to, we can safely conclude that Hell is perfectly in sync with His character.

So what does this say about Him?

When believers speak of God's goodness, they are usually referring to the fact that, although none of us deserves Heaven, He loves us enough to send His Son to die in our place so that we would not have to. That He has granted us this wonderful opportunity to live in a new world in which there will be no death, no tears, "no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain " (Revelation 21:4).

Unfortunately, not good enough.

     In speaking of the compassion of God, we can point to all of the nice things He is doing for the saved race, but how can we ignore what is going on in Hell? What if Adolf Hitler was responsible for donating millions of dollars to charitable causes? What if he, between periods of overseeing his concentration camps, spent his Saturday afternoons working at a homeless shelter? What if he was a generous father and a loving family man? Would that make up for his treatment of the Jews? How much good would Hitler have to do to be considered a sympathetic, loving, caring man in spite of the millions of the decent people he enslaved, tortured, and put to death? Surely there is no amount of good that can account for that!  [16]

This concept of hell actually places this 'loving' God far beyond the league of the most notorious human beings that have ever lived. What Hitler did to some six million Jews will seem like a walk in the park compared to the never ending suffering of billions of people - for countless zillions of years. Under what pretext can we still call Him loving or merciful?

The only thing that makes this doctrine of unending punishment worse, is that there are those that actually believe that God, from the foundations of the earth, personally chose those who would be saved. The remaining majority were either chosen to be forever punished in hell, or will find themselves there by default.

From such a God spare us.

And no, this is not blaspheming the God of the Bible, but the monstrous caricature invented by humans.


Conclusion - The End of All Unbelievers is Second Death
Sadly all the unbiblical ideas about hell as a place of eternal torment have done untold damage to the message of salvation. Who can blame people for being completely incredulous when they hear conflicting messages... God loves them, but has no problem with them being forever tormented in hell.

Many of them have (understandably) come to the conclusion that Christians are a gullible and rather stupid bunch, and the God they serve is a horrendous monster, light years away from being "loving".

Let us at least try and stick to the message taught by the Scriptures. Those who disbelieve or continue to ignore God's offer of salvation - counter it with what they consider 'clever' arguments and live their short lives on earth as though there was nothing beyond it will all find that is exactly what they will get. God is not going to let anyone into His kingdom who has not chosen to be in His kingdom.

See The Message of the Bible   and The Warning of The Bible

At the end of their lives they will be consigned to Sheol/Hades until the first thousand years of Christ's rule are over. It is, by the way, during this period that the weeping and gnashing of teeth takes place. After the millennium, they will be raised to face a formal judgment for their sins which were not atoned for by Christ's death on the cross. This means that since the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23), they will have to pay this price themselves. This the Bible calls the "second death" which is exactly what it is.

Hades itself, having outlived its purpose will be done away with.

And no, we cannot complain that God did not warn us that our sin would cost us our lives because He did... over and over again. This includes those people who call themselves Christians, but refuse to become disciples of Christ and follow the path of holiness. They focus instead on what their God can do for them and live their lives exactly as they please, falsely assured that their one time profession of faith will save them.

See Salvation and

Holiness and The Myth of Faith Alone on THIS Page 

Idolatry is singled out in the Bible as the most abominable of sins. Very strongly worded warnings about idols extend from one end of the Bible to the other, starting with the first two commandments. Therefore, people who worship idols and/or walk down occult paths, have to consider themselves lucky that the popular version of hell does not exist. Because if it did, they would forever be at the mercy of the demons they chose to venerate.

See Idol Worship... The Spirits Behind The Idols   and Literal Doctrines of Demons in the Church

One Question: All of which leaves us with one unanswered question - While one can imagine how it is possible that saints will be rewarded "according to their individual deeds." it is not equally clear how one will receive greater condemnation than another at the judgment. For example, Christ speaking to the cities Chorazin and Bethsaida, said ..

    "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. "Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. (Matthew 11:21-22 NASB)

In the parable of the wicked servant, Jesus said

    "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. (Luke 12:47-48 NASB)

There are some things we simply do not know. However, the fact that only individuals will be judged not entire cities inclines me to think that these statements were not literally true, but also made to illustrate a point.

 

End Notes

[11] Norman Geisler Hell/Part 2. Norman Geisler. The John Ankerberg Show.  https://www.jashow.org/articles/general/hellpart-2/

[12] Jonathan Edwards. The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners. http://www.biblebb.com/files/edwards/je-justice.htm

[13] William G. T. Shedd. W. G. T. Shedd, The Doctrine of Endless Punishment (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1886; reprint, Minneapolis: Klock and Klock, 1980).

[14] Jeremy K. Moritz  HELL: Eternal Torment or Complete Annihilation? http://jeremyandchristine.com/articles/eternal.php

[15] Norman Geisler. If God, Why Evil? Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (February 1, 2011) Pg. 106..

[16] Jeremy K. Moritz. HELL: Eternal Torment or Complete Annihilation? http://www.jeremyandchristine.com/articles/eternal.php

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