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What does hell accomplish?

Postby Very Sure » Thu Mar 29, 2018 2:52 pm

What does hell accomplish?
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Re: What does hell accomplish?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Mar 29, 2018 2:55 pm

In one sense, hell is the place people choose to go who have no desire to share eternity with God. The Bible portrays it as a black and white thing: If you don't want God, the only other possibility is the absence of God. If you don't want life (since God is life), the only other possibility is death (the absence of life). If you don't want relationship with God, the only other possibility is separation from him (the absence of relationship). Hell isn't fire, which is just an image of its awfulness, but being separated from the presence of God. What it accomplishes, then, is allowing you to exercise your free will.

In another sense, hell is retributional. If there is no afterlife, a monster like Adolph Hitler kills himself and gets away with his horrific destruction of millions of people. There's no justice, anywhere, ever. Without hell, life becomes the ultimate in meaninglessness, because anyone's goodness or badness is just a choice with no consequences. Let's say, um, a Mafia boss, can murder, cheat, steal, and get rich and comfortable. But the good people that get murdered and stolen from—well, who cares? None of it means anything. If there is no hell, we should all just "look out for number one," regardless of what kind of violence or immorality that requires, because, in the end, it's who gets to the end of life with the most toys and the most joys.

Hell brings a sense of justice and accountability to us all. Hitler may have suicided rather than face Nuremberg, but he has another judge to face from whom he can't escape. Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin—they will all face the judge for what they have done. And the oppressed and cheated, as well as the good people of this world, will one day stand before a righteous judge who will know exactly what is fair in how to treat them.

The Bible makes quite clear that God didn't create a place of endless suffering for certain humans to go. Mt. 25.41 says that hell was specifically created solely for the devil and his angels. There was never intent on God's part that any human should go there. So your first statement reveals a misunderstanding and a false premise for your conclusions.

The Bible makes clear that God is just, and frankly, any God worth his salt would have to be. A cop who lets the criminals do what they want is not a cop at all, and then society just becomes anarchic. A courtroom judge who lets everyone go free, regardless of what they've done, has no clue what justice is. In the same way, a God who ignores wrong-doing is a monster, not a deity.

I also don't believe that hell is fire. Hell is not "One Fire Tortures All." Fire is just the image of untold suffering, which is what one will experience when separated from God. We have strong hints that there are different degrees of punishment in hell (totally unlike the different levels of hell as in Dante's Divine Comedy, which is not Scripture).

- Matthew 11.22-24 & Luke 10.12: Jesus says it will be “more tolerable” for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah than for the people of Capernaum. That would indicate to me a more harsh punishment and a less harsh punishment.
- Matthew 23.14: Jesus tells the Pharisees they will be punished more severely for the way they are deceiving the people and living as hypocrites.
- Revelation 20.13: Each is going to be judged according to what he has done. Since that is the case, then the punishments and rewards can’t be the same for everybody.
- and finally, Luke 12.47-48 (workers are punished with more or fewer blows). There are degrees of punishment, and even sins of ignorance are treated differently than sins
of intention.

Why I bother to point this out is because often those who consider hell to be unfair are picturing the same punishment for all, which is most likely not the case, and infinite punishment for finite crimes, which may also not be the case. People will be punished according to the works they have done (2 Corinthians 5.10).

C.S. Lewis makes some interesting observations about hell. I'll reword them and summarize some of them here: You object to the doctrine of hell. What are you asking God to do? To wipe out past sins at all costs and to give anyone who wants it a fresh start, smoothing difficulties and offering help? But He has DONE that. That's what his death and resurrection were all about. OK, then, are you asking God to forgive you? It's a RELATIONSHIP. He will forgive anyone who wants it, and cannot forgive those who choose not to be forgiven. To leave you alone then? Well, I'm afraid that's what hell is. If a game is played, it must be possible to lose it. If there is a way that must be found by the will, and by love, then it must be possible to refuse it. If the happiness of a person is honestly the result of self-surrender, then no one can make that decision except himself, and he may refuse. I would love to say everyone will be saved. But then I'd have to ask, "Will they be saved against their will, or with it?" If I say "against their will," I'm in the middle of a contradiction; how can self-surrender and love be involuntary? But if the answer is "With their will," it begs the question: "What if they will not give in?"

So, with all that has been said, and with all the disagreements, even from Christians, about hell, I can conclude with confidence with this statement: Those who turn away from God will be separated from the life of God. Though we can’t be sure about the form or duration of that separation, this we can be sure of: it will be a horrible experience, and God will be fair about the form and duration of it. If you reject God, you take your chances.
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Re: What does hell accomplish?

Postby Very Sure » Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:15 pm

> If you reject God, you take your chances.

Are you equating people unconvinced that god exists with people rejecting god?
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Re: What does hell accomplish?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:15 pm

That's a good question. If someone is unconvinced that the world is spherical and maintains that the world is flat (https://www.tfes.org), would you equate that with rejecting science?

If someone is unconvinced that global warming is a reality (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_wa ... acy_theory), are they rejecting reason?

Since there's solid evidence that the world is spherical, and strong evidence that the earth is warmer than it used to be (though the cause of that is much debated), I think it's fair to say that where the evidence is strong and the conclusion reasonable, that someone who remains unconvinced is rejecting the proposition at hand.

So I would answer "yes" to your question.
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Re: What does hell accomplish?

Postby Very Sure » Mon Apr 02, 2018 2:57 pm

To your first example, you're confusing not believing something with believing in a specific alternative.

But in general, I think the distinction exists between believing something isn't true and not believing it's true.

Case in point: I don't believe that there are at least twice as many people called Jane as there are called Shara, but I also don't know enough to say that I believe there are less than twice as many, I don't know either way. I'm not rejecting it, I'm just reserving judgment until I have reason to believe either way.

I'm not sure how you're defining reasonable.

But if you want to make this about the evidence I'd question what you consider to be good evidence in this case.
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Re: What does hell accomplish?

Postby jimwalton » Mon Apr 16, 2018 7:06 am

The question was, "Are you equating people unconvinced that god exists with people rejecting god?" I think the arguments for the existence of God far outweigh the arguments against His existence. I think the weight of people's experiences with the supernatural outweigh those who deny there is such a thing. I think the arguments for naturalism are self-defeating. I think the arguments for design and purpose have more credibility than the arguments for random processes.

Since there is a distinction between believing something isn't true and not believing it's true, I think that you cannot create a credible case for believing God is not true, since arguing from a negative is always weak. Therefore, I would guess that you are not believing it's true against all evidence to the contrary, so I would answer "yes" to your question.


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