Our question for this article is: Would a loving God cast people into hell? (Part 1)
This is a very large question. To answer it thoroughly would involve a good deal of history, theology, and Scripture. Even a decent short response entails more than a short article can hold, so we’ll divide it into two articles.
In PART 1 this week, let’s just qualify a few concepts that the question demands:
- Who/ what is the God of the Bible, and what is His deepest desire?
- Who/ what is humanity, and what’s our part?
- What is the most foundational element that makes hell, hell and heaven, heaven?
There are additional questions we could ask, but let’s limit ourselves to these.
Since God is at the center of the question, let’s start there. How does the Bible describe God? In a nutshell, here are a few truths the Bible claims about God: He is spirit, He is called the designer, creator and sustainer of all creation. He is light and life. He is perfect; He is perfect in understanding, love, and justice. He cannot become imperfect in one virtue in order to satisfy another. That raises an interesting dilemma, doesn’t it? What happens if perfect love and perfect justice come into conflict?
Is that possible? Let’s take a look at God’s deepest desire according to Scripture. The entire Bible is a love story. It is the story of creation’s fall from God’s design because of man, and God’s plan to restore both. From the first page to the last, Scripture is God’s story of restoration. In a restoration to perfect innocence, love and justice are in such opposition that only God can resolve them.
So what does the Bible say about humanity? We were made in the image of God. That is to say, we are self-aware, able to create, to love, commune, and to exert our will. The Bible says humanity fell from God’s design. The divine image wasn’t totally lost but distorted by the fall. We are ALL distorted images of our intended selves. That is the essence of sin. Sin is to be distanced from God, and since God is life, there can be only one outcome to sin, all things remaining the same- the final outcome will be the absence of life. (“The wages of sin is death.” Ro. 6:23, Gen. 2:17; Prov. 10:16; Eze 18:4)
Man is a three-fold being; body, mind, and spirit (or soul). Our destiny is set by all three. We are mortal, yet we have an eternal destiny. The soul is the seat of conscience and human will. We know our willpower can’t control everything, but we have enough free-will to choose. We don’t know everything, yet we know enough to be held accountable for our choices.
And finally, since God is spirit and we are spirit, there is a means by which we can connect with God… if we so choose.
If we can process these realities about God and about ourselves, we’ll be in a place we can appreciate the most basic realities of hell and heaven which we’ll cover next week. But I will share this spoiler; the most basic essence of hell and heaven is not punishment and reward, it is something far more profound.
In part 2, the perfection of God meets the imperfection of us all. That’s where we’ll resolve this question of a loving God and a horrific hell. Hope to see you then as we complete this food for thought.