A Further Defense of Hell

A comment on my thoughts in the After-Death on Hell has spurred me to write more of a defense of this doctrine. I do plan, of course, on getting back to the topic of errors in anti-Trinitarian thought. I will be trying to blog on Christmas Eve, but I will be away from a computer on that night and if I don’t get around to it before heading back home, I don’t get around to it and my readers will have to wait til Christmas night so don’t panic if you don’t see something new on Christmas Eve. Of course, it will be a Christmas blog.

However, at the start I will say that I don’t get teary-eyed at Hell, but of course, I think the point of Moody is that this should not be a thing of joy. I’ve gone through several painful things without tears, but they are things of deep sorrow. I am not the type to express myself in that way, but I will say to my reader that I find it appalling that some will look with a knowing glint at the thought of anyone going to Hell. 

Hell has been presented as a grotesque doctrine. I will say most of our ideas from Hell come from Dante, but I don’t think Dante was making a literal description of Hell. He was writing an allegory. After all, he has mythological figures in his Hell. However, he did have degrees in there as well as the righteous pagans seemed to be living pretty good lives there. I’ll also say that I do believe in degrees of Hell that are determined by the way one lives their lives here.

Now I am told to defend God’s transformation of sinners into hideous sub-humans. I don’t believe God does such a thing. I believe God is simply giving the sinners what they’ve always wanted. Death hardens you in whatever path you’ve been walking. If you’ve been following Christ, your after-death will show that to the degree you were following him. If you weren’t, the corresponding will be true. What Hell is is actually God giving people what they want. To the degree that they want a life absent of him and in defiance of him, he gives them that.

Interesting though is being told to defend this. To defend assumes that it’s wrong for God to judge the world the way that he does and the question must be asked at this point, “Why?” I have several people who argue against the concept of Hell, and I can certainly understand it, but the question I would ask is “What do you propose God do instead?” For the sake of argument, let us grant that God is who the Bible describes him as and he has revealed himself in Christ and it’s entirely true. If that is granted, what ought God to do with those who persistently choose to deny what he has revealed?

Now I’m told that I do admit that we are separate from God in this world so why do I want it to be worse? That’s an odd question. I don’t teach the doctrine of Hell as true because I want it to be true. For instance, do I teach that people must wait to have sexual intercourse before they’re married because I really want that to be true? After years of thinking and reading on it, I do see a great beauty in that and see it as the best way, but there are many times I will definitely say, “No. I don’t want that to be true.” 

So when I speak about Hell, I am not speaking about what I want. I am speaking about what I can gather from the biblical text and my own speculation on it. I state what I state simply because I believe it to be true.

Now what of the response to God? Will some hate him? I fear they will for there are many who already do. I am not saying our questioner does, but I also think our questioner will not deny that there are some who hate him. Even if they are convinced in atheism, many people hate what they see God as representing. This would particularly be the case with morality. If my view that I am defending is true though of God being goodness, truth, beauty, love, etc., while being personal, then to reject God is ultimately to reject those in the long run. This is why I also believe that the more someone pursues those things in themselves, the more that they will get closer to the source of those things.

Why would God imagine Hell the way that it is? Well, if he is good and just and loving and perfect and all-knowing, then we can say that there was no better way to do it. 

Now our reader is right. I will ask what is his standard of good and evil. I note that none was given. However, the one given is not the one I would hold to either. It seems to assume that voluntarism is the only view of morality from a theistic perspective. For those who do not know, it would be saying rape is evil because God says it is. If he had said that rape was good, it would be good.

However, I believe that God is good since goodness is that which is desirable for its own sake. Thus, the word has content and then we find that content applies to God the most in that he is the most desirable good for its own sake. People are to desire God for the sake of God himself. In desiring him, they desire goodness itself for God is goodness. What comes from him then is also goodness. This would include being as God is being and being is good. Thus, the moral law is not something outside of God nor arbitrarily decided by God but that which reflects God himself and the way the three persons that are God act within the Trinity. In order to impugn Hell, we will need a moral standard outside of God and also a reason why that standard should be accepted if it is not rooted in something eternal and immutable.

Now my stance in the Smallville parallel has been brought up and I understand it. However, the first objection I raise is that I have made a slur against the majority of people who have ever lived. I would like to know how my readers knows the majority of people who have ever lived are lost. I find it quite unlikely considering texts from Rev. 7 for instance about a great multitude no one can number.

However, I said that this is what I think Hell is like and I am willing to admit of degrees of Hell for I do believe there is some goodness to Hell as there is ontological goodness of people and of even fallen angels for they are good insofar as they have being. Unfortunately, the more one goes against their being, the less good they become. It doesn’t mean one becomes  a rapist or an anarchist, but it does mean that one is going against what they were meant to be. Christians are told that we are being conformed to the image of the Son and that’s the only image that can get into Heaven. The question is not if someone will be conformed. Everyone will be. The question is, “Into what kind of image?”

Now someone might object that they are living a good life. They just choose to deny Christ. This is also where we are told our righteousness is as filthy rags. If Christianity is true, then to deny Christ is not a mild act, but the worst kind of evil that can be done. Do we see the figure in the gospels of Christ as a liar or not? Of course, if someone wants to deny the historicity of the gospels, which I’m sure they do in some sense to be non-Christian, then I will be prepared to go there. 

Again though, granted the Christian framework, if Jesus is who he said he was, and one denies that, then they are saying that Christ is a liar. He was not who he claimed to be. Note I am saying that based on the historicity of the gospels. If one wishes to accept Christianity as true for the sake of argument, then it would follow that to deny Christ is the worst sin one can do.

Ultimately, it becomes the sin of saying “I see a way has been provided, but I will not accept the sacrifice of the Son of God. I will go my own way.” God has established the way to him though. He has established one. To deny that one way is ultimately to call him a liar as well. When Christ says no one comes to the Father but through him, I believe him. Apart from the agency of Christ, no one will see God. 

It must be noted in all of this also that to say we believe it to be true does not mean we like it. It means we believe it to be true. We believe it to be just, but that does not mean we delight in the justice. I can even believe some things are good and not like them. I can believe it good that an ailing loved one has gone home to be with Christ, but from my perspective, still not see that as good. I think of my friend who passed away recently who has gone home to be with Christ. I’m sure his family realizes that it is good for him now, but that they are suffering as well. I think they should be. We all lost much when he passed away. The point is that something being right or wrong does not depend on whether we like the something or not.

Well, there’s my further defense of Hell, and I hope it helps.

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3 Responses to “A Further Defense of Hell”

  1. sanabituranima Says:

    ‘There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.”‘ C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters

  2. Leonhard Says:

    I thank Nick for answering my questions, I will reply in kind. I stand corrected on many points, and I’m happy for this.

    I take back what I said about Nick slandering. This was not what he was doing, I recognize this and I apologize for claiming that he did so. It seemed to me at the time that he was claiming that all nonbelievers were growing completely evil with utter depravity. As I understand it now Nick merely claimed that nonbelievers rebel against God, and by extension remove themselves from what they ought to be. I mischaracterized his argument, because there seemed to be no degrees in the depravity of the unbelievers. I stand corrected on this.

    Nick stated that Dante was allegorical, and I agree, having read a little of him, though I suffer the sin of having not read his magnificent work The Divine Comedy in its full length. I included it among the different visions of hell, because it actually is a prevailing vision among many Christian. In the great church in my town there are large paintings depicting the horrid torture of pagans by demons with cloven hoofs and split tails. They’re surrounded by fire and burn forever. Its the vision of hell as a house of endless physical torture. I agree this is preposterous to even think of, and I will agree with Nick that there are good scriptural reasons to assume that this is not what it is speaking about. So I will not judge hell in this vision.

    I included it next to visions like that of C.S Lewis, to try to sum up the different ways people depict hell. Its how hell is most often sold to nonbelievers, and is by far the most popular rendering of it. However C.S Lewis for instance have completely different renderings.

    As for God transforming people into hideous subhumans, that is exactly what we see in many renderings of hell. In The Great Divorce by C.S Lewis, hell is the place where people are only shadows of themselves. We meet many characters who have lost their sanity for lack of a better description, not quite able to reason anymore or have any joy, when they come to heaven they’re nothing but weak shadows that blur in the wind, that can barely stand to walk across grass because the weight of their soul is nothing compared to those little leafs. There’s a comical depiction of a man from hell who can’t even lift the tiniest little fruit in heaven because he’s not strong enough. In his Space Trilogy and Screwtape letters, hell is even worse. Here all souls that end in hell are the playthings of the demons that devour and merge with them endlessly. In Perelandra we get a glimpse into that world from a character who’s soul is pulled from his body into hell, and briefly returned. Few nightmares are worse than what he describe, and it makes Dante’s seventh circle pretty desirable in comparison. Nick also stated that what you are in hell, is a minimalistic version of you. If that’s not a transformation into worse version by God, I don’t understand what is. Have I again misunderstood something? If nothing else, this is the one question I want answered by Nick. Its the only part of his vision of hell that I find truly despicable. I do wonder what Nick means when he then says “He’s simple giving them what he wants” I might be hearing merely what I want to hear, however I can state all my objections as a simple question:

    Will God call back from the dead the nonbelievers as they were in life, albiet immortal, or as something worse? Does he change their minds, bodies and souls? Making them into even worse creatures.

    You say he does not transform them into hideous subhuman shadow creatures, but I want clarity on it. What do you mean?

    Nick asks what I would do if I were in God’s position. Personally I don’t understand why he even have to call back the unbelievers from the dead. However granting that I would have to do that, I’d simple separate the unbelievers into a universe, probably much like the one they lived and died in. However the universe would never wear down, they would never die there either by having a body that could not be destroyed or by virtue of them continually being reanimated. I wouldn’t make them any worse. Their torment would be created by their own depravity… thereby creating different levels of it. They would live there, with the sting of shame that would never be forgiven, and with the knowledge that they had forever set themselves aside from true joy.

    I don’t understand why this vision, which is pretty stark already, have to be augmented by removing… the ability to reason, produce beauty of any kind from the people. Reducing them to shades or shadows of themselves. Isn’t it enough that they are separated to the despair of eternal existence separate from God? If there are no scriptural reasons for painting hell like this, why do Nick include it. Again there’s a chance I misunderstood him.

    Is there any scripture to back up God stripping people of such things as creativity, the ability to fashion beautiful things, the abillity to sing, dance or reason or any of the other wonderful things in human nature.

    It is not hell in itself I find grotesque, it is certain visions of Hell. Nick, in a chat with me, once quoted Billy Graham “If Hell isn’t a raging inferno, it’s worse.” Which is what I found sickening. I understand now, that this might not be what Nick had in mind with it. However when I am presented with that statement, I try to envision what could be more horrible than endless nightmarish torture, if that doesn’t sicken anyone I pity them. However again I understand that Nick was not making such a statement.

    Finally I will admit I have no objective standard to judge these things from. All of this is just the outrage I feel. When I try to square the image of Jesus and the idea of the benign supernatural and awesome creator of the universe… I have a hard time seeing, God the creator taking a person and stripping that persons soul down into a subhuman shadow creature. I can understand it if he leaves a person to do that to themselves, but not if he is the one doing it.

    ‘‘There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.”‘ C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters’

    A worn down quote, and to C.S Lewis I would have asked “That’s what I’ll say to God if I stood before him, whether I believe in him in this life or not, and mean it. Does that mean I’m saved?” Ponder on that sanabituranima.

  3. ConfesSword Says:

    C. S. Lewis was not saying that God transformed the damned into shadows of themselves for their punishment, but that they had done it to themselves throughout their lives, through their selfishness and rejection of love. Rejecting what (and whom) it is that we need will keep us dying, and in the end we are what we have made ourselves into. If you read The Great Divorce carefully, you will see this so clearly it will shock you that you didn’t see it before.

    The sad truth is that in sinning we starve our souls to death, and at the end of all things we will see the damage we have done to ourselves. We will also see that at the end of it all, God still desires our love, our salvation, and our repentance. How we respond (with love or hatred) is in one sense, a choice to be made then, but it is also very much a choice to be made now.

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