Questions Project: Would a loving God cast people into hell? (Part 1)

Hell_1Our 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:

  1. Who/ what is the God of the Bible, and what is His deepest desire?
  2. Who/ what is humanity, and what’s our part?
  3. 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.

4 thoughts on “Questions Project: Would a loving God cast people into hell? (Part 1)

  1. “That is to say, we are self-aware, able to create, to love, commune, and to exert our will.” That is untrue. We have the bible having this god constantly interfering with human action and Paul states that this god picks and chooses who can accept it. In Revelation 17 this god forces humans to work with satan. That is not free will.

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    1. Thank you for your input. The tension between an all-sovereign God and human free will has certainly sparked much philosophical debate. You offered some interesting terms: 1. God interfering- The Biblical concept is that of a Creator who is redirecting His creation back to life instead of a destiny of death, and at great cost to Himself. “Interfering” is an interesting word choice.

      2. Paul did not say God “picks and chooses”, but “predestined” whom He “foreknew.” Predestined (pro-o-rē’-zō) could certainly be construed as “picking and choosing”, but in context, the definition “decide beforehand” probably fits better. God decides beyond the bounds of time. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel qualified to pass judgment on an entity operating beyond the limits of temporal mechanics.

      3. The idea of God “forcing” humans to work with Satan seems to have missed the context as well. Perhaps James brings the basic premise into focus. James 1:13-15 which eloquently states we are dragged off by our own desires, not by any force of God, or even Satan for that matter.

      You certainly make a legitimate point in the issue of free will, but in an attempt to balance Biblical concepts, I’d have to say; the idea of free will is not that we can control everything in our lives, but we do control enough to be accountable; body, mind, and spirit.
      -Thanks again for your input.

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      1. 1. Redirecting is interfering. Free will does not allow for this god “redirecting” or interfering. If an omnipotent omniscient being changes the action of someone, or changes the result of an action, then there is no free will This god also required this destiny of death by its own desires, so it is doing nothing with great cost to itself. And how is there cost with an infinite being? This god could have stopped the whole thing by keeping satan/serpent out of its garden. Why was it so stupid or intentionally evil to let it in, Kev?

        2. Paul did say his god picks and chooses. “As it is written,“I have loved Jacob,
        but I have hated Esau.”14 What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses,“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
        16 So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.”
        It appears you did not read your bible, Kev.

        In that you can’t show your god to exist at all, there is no problem in judging an imaginary character who isn’t operating beyond the limits of temporal mechanics per the book it appears in. Nothing supports this claim, since this god is dependent on time, always needing to know what happens to act and needing time to exist for its prophecies. It’s always funny to see a Christian claim this time nonsense, since that was invented to get around this god’s failures. The bible has no “timeless” god. And all you are doing is saying I can’t question a powerful being, a morality based on might equals right.

        And I can judge this god all I want since the bible says humans understand good and evil just like this god does. That is a problem for apologists.

        So, what context changes the meaning of the claim in Revelation 17 that this god forces humans to work with Satan? I do expect an answer, not vague handwaving about “context” like so many Christians do. We might be dragged by our own desires, but that doesn’t mean that this god doesn’t force people to do what it wants (see the Pharaoh and the Egyptian people in Exodus).

        As for the verses in James, this god lies to people intentionally by sending spirits to do its bidding and lies itself: Now, therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee. 1 Kings 22:23
        Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets. 2 Chronicles 18:22
        Ah, Lord GOD! surely thou hast greatly deceived this people. Jeremiah 4:10
        O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived. Jeremiah 20:7
        And if a prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet. Ezekiel 14:9
        For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. 2 Thessalonians 2:11
        so why should anyone believe it when it claims it can’t be tempted or that humans harm themselves? Now, I’m sure you’ll say that those verses are taken out of context too. Your bible does contradict itself again and again. The verses from James also put a kink in the common Christian claim that Satan makes them do things. But Christians disagreeing is nothing new at all.

        Thank you, I do make a legitimate point about free will. It take an apologist to try to claim free will isn’t “really” free will. Free will is either entire or doesn’t happen at all. It’s like saying someone is a “little” pregnant, when you say that humans have “some” free will. Again if god stops an action, changes a result, etc then no free will.

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  2. Well, no question you’ve put some thought into this and certainly have an opinion. However I don’t know how constructive a wordy response would be. That being said, I apologize for being more wordy than I intended.

    I’ll humbly offer a few items. Starting with “interfering.”
    Illustration: I’m writing this email to you. I wish to be as accurate as possible, so I have edited and redirected language and words. Since I have changed it; to say I’ve interfered in my own letter would be neither logical or in context.

    Infinite being.
    Why would we think that an infinite being couldn’t pay a sacrificial cost? To be infinite simply means that such a being couldn’t be completely expended.

    “Time nonsense.”
    Sorry if you cannot accept the non-temporal aspect of God, but from the first Hebrew name of God, self-existent and eternal are inherent to the nature of God. It is illogical to deny the divine by rejecting the very definition of divine.

    Satan in the garden.
    The idea of Satan in the garden can only be understood by the fact that God saw all (another attribute of God- omniscient) the beginning to the end of the human story. To allow evil to unfold knowing the ultimate outcome is not in itself evil or stupid.
    This is grossly oversimplified, but here goes: If Satan was not allowed to influence man, where’s the free choice there? If man was not allowed to choose, where is the free will? If there is no free will, there is no love. If there is no love, there is no divine plan. Hence, Satan must be allowed free will.
    If there is to be free will, it must be for all creation all the time. The sovereignty of God is that He can simply overcome evil, it is that even evil bends to His ultimate good. God gave free will- humanity chose evil- God gives choice to remain evil or choose a single perfect way out- humanity chooses one way or the other- those who choose God are there by choice. Again, choice is an essential component of love. It is all in the context of the foreknowledge of God.

    Reference to Jacob and Esau. (Romans 9:13, Malachi I:3)
    This is a challenge to respond because there is a radical shift in topic and context. Your original comment dealt with the overarching saving action of God. i.e. Predestination and election. Now we have shifted to Paul speaking as a Jew to a Jewish audience. It would be understood, among other things that we are now talking about two individuals as the metaphor of two types of living found historically in the ancient Hebrew culture. Esau is the mindset of contempt for YHWH, while Jacob, in this instance, is flawed but reverent to the covenant with God.

    Without going deeper into the Jewish mindset, I’ll just say Paul is simply reminding them in their own way of speaking that they have no righteousness of their own, they have a history of bad choice, and God is the ultimate authority of right and wrong. Things they would readily agree with. There seemed to be a serious mixing of apples and oranges in your references, although kudos to you for trying to develop a big picture approach.

    “Timeless nonsense.” –Again.
    Well, in a sense you’re right, you won’t find the term “timeless God” in the Bible. However, we can find verses like:
    Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. (1 Tim 1:17)
    “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (John 17:5)

    The very name YHWH, means “self-existent” one. Which means existence without causality outside of the entity itself.

    God is before time, God is after time, that is the Biblical meaning of eternity. God is transcendent, which is only logical if He is the causal agent of creation. Time is a product of creation. It basic logic that God exists above and beyond time, as mind-bending as that is. You may deny it, you may consider it a human invention, you may even think it’s “funny” but that is simply an attribute of God… sorry.

    You can judge God’s morality.
    Yes, you ( or I) can judge God’s morality, and you can also judge the sun in the sky for being too hot, but I doubt our judgment will amount to much. The sun will still be hot and God will still be God, and you, or I will just get a burn.

    “Your god” is simply a failure of terms I’m afraid. There is no “your god.” God, from the context we’ve started from is either universal or He is not at all. “Your god” smacks of relative and preferential truth. I would like to think that neither of us are so cowardly as to go there.

    And finally my friend: Since you seemed to appreciate the Apostle Paul, you won’t mind if I take his advice to in this matter:
    Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.(2 Tim 2:23)
    But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. (Titus 3:9)

    I don’t wish to draw you into a protracted unprofitable or useless argument, so I’ll simply conclude with a sincere blessing-
    Blessings, and may your search for truth be rewarded in the fullest sense. Take care.

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