I hope my readers remember what I said last night. I said that when we discuss Hell, we have to make sure that we are being rational and not emotional. Let’s keep that in mind as we go through.
We start with Loftus speaking of Copan’s view as an evangelical conservative. On page 232 he says, “And while it appears Copan is trying to soften the horrors of hell, if correct, such a viw of hell is still a horrible fate for a loving God to inflict upon human beings. The punishment does not fit the crime, period. No thinking person should believe this is what our so-called “sins” deserve.
Unfortunately, there is nothing rational. There is simply an appeal to emotion. Loftus wants you to feel the way he does, and this is evident especially when he speaks about “so-called sins.” Let’s consider this though with the biblical revelation in mind and having its claim of God being who he is granted for the sake of the argument.
If God is who he is, then he is the most awesome, lovely, wonderful, beautiful, holy, etc. being that there is. All sin then is a denial of who he is. It’s an attempt to take his throne. It’s saying that he is not who he claims to be and that we are the ones who deserve that place. It’s divine treason, and I’m guilty of it everyday. Unless you live a perfect life, so are you.
What is God to do with those who commit this? Just say “boys will be boys?” It’s interesting that Loftus complains about the problem of evil so much, but when it comes to God judging and punishing evil, he complains about that as well. What does he want? God’s evil when he doesn’t do something about evil. He’s evil when he does do something about evil. Sorry Loftus. Sin is not breaking an abstract law hanging out there. It’s a violation of God’s very being.
He makes this later quote about God letting us go our own way on the same page:
“However, I find this almost absurd that the Christian God blames us for living our lives as if he didn’t exist, because there simply isn’t enough reason to believe in him over any of the other gods, or no god at all, especially when we usually adopt the religion we were born into! I furthermore find it absurd that God is so upset that we don’t acknowledge him. If he is omniscient, then he knows why we do what we do and why we believe what we do, and I fail to see how such a God cannot empathize with how we live our lives. We all do the best we can do given our environment and brain matter.”
I guess that settles it.
First off, Loftus is complaining that God is unjust. At this though, he needs a moral standard of justice. Where does he get it from? The very thing he’s complaining about is dependent on the very thing that he says doesn’t exist.
Second, he speaks of us choosing the religion we were born into. Was Loftus born into naturalism? He can’t use that excuse for his own beliefs. Also, is this justification? If I am born into a belief system that says that Hell is entirely justified, what’s Loftus to say? Is he to say I should believe it just because I was born into it? No. While we may be more prone to those beliefs, we are not locked into them. I’ve disavowed many beliefs I grew up with.
Third, God does know why we do what we do and if our reasons are no good, he knows it. If there are any excuses we could use for our sins, he knows them better than we do. C.S. Lewis has a marvelous essay on this in The Weight of Glory.
Finally, we don’t all do the best. Much of the time, we all know something is wrong and we do it anyway. If one reads Loftus’s book, it’s clear that he did this. I’ve done things I’ve known are wrong before also. I’m quite certain so have you. The point for us as Christians is that we are to repent and seek forgiveness and move on. Let’s not say we are doing our best though. We’re falling dreadfully short. (That’s what makes grace just so awesome.)
Copan also speaks of the gates of Hell being locked from the inside. Loftus thinks this is absurd. Why would someone choose the anguish of Hell? Unfortunately, Sartre said he would choose the same thing. In a work of his when he and others are in Hell and a door opens, none of them go out. They choose to acknowledge the choice of their freedom.
How would Loftus know otherwise? Is he saying he would be filled with overwhelming love for God in Hell? You want to know the joys of Heaven? The joy of Heaven is God himself. If you have hatred for God himself that you’ve built up over this lifetime, why on Earth would you want to be with him? Look at how Loftus describes God all throughout this book. He suddenly thinks it’d be a joy to be near him?
Loftus thinks if people knew the truth about God with certainty, they would change their minds. Not at all. There are many things we know the truth of any way today but do them. Many of us know that it’s wrong to cheat on our taxes, but it’s done anyway. We know it’s wrong to be lazy, but we’re lazy anyway. Also, this is the time we have to repent. We’re not promised another moment.
Loftus also uses the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. This parable is not meant to tell us about the afterlife per se. It is about how circumstances are differentiated. The Jewish person would have seen the rich man as having God’s blessing and the poor man as God’s curse. It is by seeing the afterlife that we see that that is not the case. Notice though that the rich man anyway never does repent and we have a strong statement about belief. If they do not believe Moses and the prophets, a resurrection won’t convince them either.
Loftus wants to know what if Allah exists? Sure. If Allah exists, I’m in a lot of trouble. (Taking Allah to refer to the specific Muslim deity and not simply the Arabic title for God. Christian Arabs could legitimately call God “Allah.”) Loftus says that no intelligent being would demand that we believe things about him in order to get to Heaven.
Really? How come?
Loftus says that this is an age of diversity. We tolerate many opinions. (Excepting the opinion that people should go to Hell apparently and the opinion that we shouldn’t tolerate many opinions.) I find this absolutely astounding. What you tolerate is not truth. You tolerate error. If we tolerate some beliefs, then we are saying they are false. If we don’t bother to have true beliefs about the most awesome being of all, how seriously are we taking him?
The remedy also is not simply to believe the correct things. The remedy is to believe and live them out. Even the demons believe and tremble. All Christians can indeed say with James that faith without works is dead. I am not saying that works save us, but that true faith eventually produces true works.
I said at the start that we should watch for emotional appeals. We have seen several. Unfortunately, the rational aspect was lacking. So we shall see as we continue.