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.