I’ve had several conversations with atheists and agnostics regarding the existence of the God of the Bible. After all is said and very little done, their objections almost always come down to disbelief in a character who would create moral beings knowing they would sin and then cause them to suffer eternally for sinning. They say something like, “If such a being exists, he doesn’t deserve my allegiance let alone my love.” I have to admit they have a point.
That being said, I am a believer in the God of the Bible. I will never apologize for the Being presented within the pages of Scripture. I will in no way minimize his severity or avoid a discussion of his judgments. I’m “all in” with God as revealed in holy writ. Any other god does not deserve my allegiance let alone my love.
So, what are we to do with the doctrine of Hell? Many Christian thinkers have struggled with this question. C.S. Lewis expressed in his book, The Great Divorce, the belief that those in Hell lived in an environment which reflected the misery of their choosing and could at any time choose Heaven. More recently Rob Bell mused in Love Wins that it’s likely that every created being will at some point accept the supremacy of Christ and be welcomed into the kingdom of God. I understand the motivation behind these ideas but scriptural support for them is thin at best. We mustn’t allow our personal disdain for a doctrine to push us into forging new ones. For this reason, I disagree with these two men whom I otherwise respect. The Bible teaches that Hell is a real place prepared for Satan and his angels and that those who fall under God’s wrath will be sent there as final judgment. I do not, however, believe that God will cause anyone to suffer eternally. I am under this conviction because that’s what I understand the Bible to teach.
In Matthew 10:28, after predicting that his followers would suffer persecution to the point of execution, he cautions, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Emphasis mine NAW) The word translated, “hell” is gehenna which referred to the Hinnom Valley just outside of Jerusalem. Gehenna was used as a garbage dump where trash was burned. Jesus warned that God was not only able to destroy the body but also the soul in his celestial garbage dump, Hell. Hell is not a place of eternal torture but an incinerator for the destruction of sin-spoiled souls.
Someone might protest, “But what about all those places in the New Testament which describe Hell as eternal?” Good question. Let’s look at a case in point. Mark 9:47-48 says,
“And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,where
“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’” (NIV 2011)
When he said this, Jesus was partially quoting Isaiah 66:22-24 –
“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord. “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” (NIV 2011)
So let me ask the question: Is this passage describing conscious people eternally suffering?
Jesus will return to judge all people who’ve ever lived. Some will live forever in a new heavens and new earth. Others will be cast into Hell where they will be completely destroyed as the Bible teaches. So, pertaining to God’s justice, has he not the right to destroy what he has created?
I have much more I could say about this doctrine and what the Bible says about it it but I’ve got other things to do right now. Maybe later. For an exhaustive treatment of this topic, I suggest reading The Fire that Consumes by Edward Fudge.
Privation theory. I’ve always thought that one was plausible.
Theodicies are always hard and never quite fit right to our satisfaction, but as they go privation is one that works well to defend God’s character, even if it doesn’t help the sufferer.
To be honest, the study of the afterlife/ eschatology has never been of much interest to me, unless in talking about God’s justice.
I like your theory and think it could definitely serve it’s purpose.
Interesting post. Well presented from a Biblical point of view. Thanks sacredstruggler.
As for the eternal punishment argument by atheists, it is a very good one.
If, however, that were my only objection to belief in this deity, I’d have remained in the fold. We could go on and on about (non) contradictions in this collection of writings, yet I don’t believe much (if any) headway would be made. As it were, we have each dug our own foxholes. Death lies before all of us, and the holy hand grenades of truth will fall where they may. (couldn’t resist)
I really don’t mind so much if people believe in a life after this one, as long as it doesn’t negatively affect the lives in this one. Too often, however, these words have been used as the basis for all manner of abuse. Perhaps one day, those who still wish to believe in the afterlife will do so peacefully living in this one. With all these “absolutely holy writs” lying about, it may not ever be possible, though I’m hopeful.
Hey there thanks for commenting. Of course, the atheist only have a good argument if the Bible does in fact teach eternal punishment, which it does not. In like fashion the Bible can only be demonstrated to contradict if one first understands its intended meaning such as with the doctrine of hell. Many reject it based on presumed understanding. Speaking of understanding, which belief system rightly understood and applied do you think would produce a society based on justice and mercy on personal freedom and social responsibility? Hmm.
Hey myrthryn, ain’t no dead people. We are eternal beings. Speculation? maybe, but there is an abundance of evidence of our spirits surviving the physical experience we call death. Our mistake is identifying with the physical instead of Consciousness/spirit which is our true nature. This life is simply a brief escapade in duality and contrast which adds dimension and definition to the bliss we will explore throughout eternity. We cannot as greatly appreciate joy without sadness, health without sickness, eternity without death, etc. It is all illusion projected for our benefit.
There is also an abundance of evidence that only Consciousness exists. There is no separation. Only oneness. Even science now confirms that everything is energy vibrating at different frequencies. There are no boundaries.
There is only Consciousness, it is intelligence, awareness, God and it is you and I. It is God expressing through “all that is”.
Mark 9:47-48 says,
“And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell”
The Bible also says;
Leviticus 20:17-21 basically states you aren’t welcome in Gods crew if you have a sight defect among other ailments. Biblical ethnic cleansing. There’s no wonder the Nazi’s embraced certain aspects of the Bible in their propaganda.
Another great piece of biblical contradiction. And of course what Christians will reply with is…. ‘What the bible is really saying is…’.
There you are. Where have you been, sir? I’ve missed you. Interesting point you make considering your own health struggles. You do agree that Jesus was being figurative there, right?
I only agree on the fact the Bible has many, many contradictions Sir, the internet is full of examples which when checked are there to read.
I’ve been taking a rest, I guess real life comes before blogging though when I get a moment I like to indulge! How have you been?
While we’re on the subject of Biblical contradictions, believability, etc. let’s revisit the Christmas story, objectively.
God is love and perfection. As such He was creating humans continually and condemning them because of their imperfection and inability to meet HIs standards. It seems they all have a sinful nature but the Bible makes no mention of who gave man his nature. Jesus seeing the tragedy of the situation volunteered to make a brief appearance in physicality and to suffer and die as a human to appease God’s frustration and anger over how His creation was turning out. It seems omniscience was surprised and disappointed.
Unless I’m missing something here, the above raises a whole bunch of questions which simply do not meet the test of reason.
How could perfection create imperfection? Wouldn’t that be an imperfect act? Some say, no, man was created perfect but God gave each freedom and they chose sin. But that makes not sense either. If man has a sinful nature, of course, he’ll choose sin. And there really is no freedom. Man’s only freedom is to accept God’s terms or be damned. That’s the kind of freedom a jealous husband gives his wife when he says, love me and I’ll share my millions or reject me and I’ll strangle you in your sleep.
How could love create sentient humans incapable of meeting its standard and condemn them for it?
Since the belief is that Jesus made the decision to sacrifice voluntarily what if he had made the other one and decided to just remain comfy with the father? God would then have been forever creating sentient humans condemned without hope.
How could a loving father put his son in such a horrible situation?
If God sees most of his creation failing why does he just keep creating more thousands each and every day?
How could love condemn those who do not believe the Bible but are just as sincere as any Christian in loving and serving God?
Love is acceptance and hate is rejection. They are opposites. How can they coexist in perfection?
The questions could go on and on but enough said to prove the fallacy of the belief by simple deductive reasoning.
By the way, I was raised in a Christian home, was a devout Southern Baptist and served as Deacon for many years. I struggled with these and many other questions for a long time. As I sought answers from church leaders they could never provide reasonable ones but only raised more questions. I finally reached the point where I realized the belief cannot possibly be true or represent what God is about. As far as I’m concerned, the belief is not only a desecration of love but God as well.
Once I finally made that decision it was like walking out of thick fog into bright sunlight.
I do not want to leave this on a negative tone because the news is not only good but wonderful and loving.
I do not believe God created a bunch of rejects and refuse or that He required suffering and the shedding of blood as payment for sin the Bible says man was created incapable of avoiding.
However, having said all that, let me hurry on to say that nothing is taken from the love and adoration due Jesus for the great sacrifice he made for mankind. Nor does it take a thing from what Christmas represents. Christmas represents love and that is the essence of the legacy Jesus taught with his sacrificial gift to mankind. Until the time of Jesus it was essentially an eye for an eye mentality under the judgment of an angry God. It was Jesus that tried to introduce love and non-resistance to a lost humanity. The sermon on the mound was totally about love and non-resistance. It was so different to the religion and lifestyle of the day, it eventually cost him his life but the impressions he left changed the world for the better to a large degree. Not to the extent hoped for but a gigantic step in a new and better direction none the less.
I believe God really is love and really did give man freedom and we have chosen to take a spin in duality and try things our way for a bit. We will eventually get our fill of it and be welcomed back home as wandering prodigal sons and daughters forever more free of negativity.
Openobserver, thanks for your comments. I too had my experience with fundamentalism/legalism. For me, the change came when I embraced Colossians 1:27. Jesus didn’t come to condemn me but to save me in every way I needed saving. I needed saving as do many, many others. Those too proud to ackowledge this need simply are not among the called at this point. With all due respect, it seems to me that your argument is with the doctrine you were handed rather than with the message of the Bible. Your argument seems to be more with the doctrine of predestination (I’m a former Southern Baptist as well) rather than with the teaching of Scripture. Could it be that you jumped ship prematurely? You do seem to be a bit adrift.
Thanks spiritualsavant for your reply. I may be adrift but I sure don’t feel like it. I feel like those who are adrift are those who are arguing about what the message is. I guess we each just have to sort things out for ourselves. Who’s to decide who’s adrift and what is the criteria? Where does the doctrine come from if not the message of the Bible and which of the thousands of doctrines originating from it are we talking about? It’s all about interpretation which there is no end to and essentially no agreement on. That’s the point, ambiguity, meaning there has been no such crucial message equally dispersed to mankind. It’s all a bunch of gobbledygook that people come away with endless ideas about. There is no way a clear “message of the Bible” can be drawn from it. Or, at least, that’s the way it appears to me. Consequently, I conclude one is best served by observing experience coupled with his sound reasoning rather than in hand-me-dogma which is based on flagrant contradiction. In any case, Merry Christmas and thanks for sharing.
Have you checked my latest blog post? Comments welcome.
One other question, if I may. You say you needed saving. What did you need saving from?
Same thing as everyone else.
Time would fail me to quote the passages in which he plainly declares that He came to reveal the Divine truth to men, to bring the Divine life down to them, and to open their eyes to see it. He says nothing about satisfaction, about the payment of debt. He is the good Shepherd, the great Physician, the perfect Teacher, the faithful Exemplar in every work. He did come to make an atonement, to make us at one with Him and the Father who dwells within Him. He assumed a human Nature because He could not come to man in any other way. He did what a just, wise, and loving father would do. If one of your children had wandered from home, had spent all his living, was sick and dying, would you not do all in your power to save him? Would you not spend time, money, labor; would you not provide yourself with all the instrumentalities in your power that were necessary to reach him? And do you suppose that infinite love, compared with which your love is not so much as a drop of water to ,the ocean, would refuse to be reconciled to His lost and dying children until he had received full compensation for their sin; until there had been measured to Him, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe,” or an exact equivalent? It cannot be. Reason, Scripture, the perceptions of justice and mercy which the Lord has given us, and the deep, spontaneous yearnings of our own hearts, declare it to be impossible. No, the Lord did not come into the world to satisfy the demands of an inflexible and arbitrary justice. He came rather to satisfy the demands of infinite love; not to pay a debt, but to reach the dying soul, to cleanse it from its impurities; to heal its diseases; to mould it into His own image and likeness, and fill it with His own peace and blessedness.
Yes, of course, I would do anything to bring back a lost child because that is what love is. Under no circumstance would I reject or condemn my child and neither would love. Neither would I create my child incapable of meeting my standard and force it to ask my forgiveness for it. It is simply beyond me to understand how you can claim God is love and turn right around and accuse him of unloving acts that even a human would not think of.
Hey, as long as this belief makes sense to you, go for it, my friend. As far as I’m concerned it is absolute nonsense.
You say God gave man freedom and man chose wrongly. If one is given two choices, one leading to bliss and the other to destruction, that is not freedom. That is coercion. Such is not love but manipulation. That is the freedom a jealous husband gives his wife when he says, love me and I’ll share my millions or deny me and I’ll strangle you in your sleep.
You say Jesus “volunteered” to die for the sins of man. What if he had not? God was busily creating millions of humans and condemning every one up to that point, huh? Does this really make a lick of sense to you? Why would a loving perfect being create imperfect beings unacceptable to him? You say, well he gave them freedom but as mentioned above it makes no sense. Furthermore, it is impossible for man to “choose” sinless.
And I must add, love does not condemn. Love accepts, hate condemns. They are opposites and could not possibly be one.
All I can say is, my friend, those of you who believe that only Christians are accepted have a lot of waking up to do. What about all those others who are just as sincere as you but come from a different upbringing. God says, sorry, you thought you were right but guess what, you didn’t understand properly so you’ll suffer forever, goodbye. And that’s the way we define love.
No thank you. I believe God really is love and I am happy to not accept a belief that desecrates both God and Love.
Everyone? Do you think every inhabitant of this planet knows that? Do they all have equal opportunity? I’m curious as to what your idea of salvation is. Accepting Jesus? Is it the same for every person regardless of culture? Thanks for sharing.
You ask a big question and one that I have contemplated for quite some time. How about this, I’ll answer you in another post with a link over to your site. Sound fair? Let me get through this miserable, syncretized, commercialized time of the year first though, okay?
Certainly Spiritualsavant, at you convenience. Maybe best is we respond directly and privately. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Holidays. Larry
i alway’s believed serving the lord is a way of life, not some empty ritual,it’s the quality of life we lived that we must answer to, when we reach the other side, no one will ask what your religion was, all religions serve a connection to god,and the whole purpose of religion is to do good to wish the neighbor well, and really mean it,amen. god bless…ONE’S HEART SPEAK’S LOUDER THEN ONE’S INTELLECT,,WITHOUT THE RICH HEART WEALTH IS AN UGLY BEGGER.
What is the significance of this? This is far-reaching. To have spiritual freedom is the greatest and most precious of life’s treasures. We can compare it only to having natural freedom a much less important gift. Yet we prize our natural freedom. We fight for freedom and may be willing to die for it. The ability to choose what we shall do, where we shall live, and how we shall live is important to us. How much more should we prize the inner freedom that allows us to know what is true and right and to love what is good and useful. It was such a gift that Solomon, the king, chose when the Lord said: “Ask! What shall I give you?” And he said, ” … give to Your servant an understanding heart … that I may discern between good and evil … ” (I Kings 3:5-9).
Spiritual freedom involves being free from false ideas, seductive theories and perverted thinking. Spiritual freedom involves the ability to discern evil affections, destructive loves and selfish motives. To discern and identify these allows us the freedom to decide whether or not we will be swept up by them and carried away by them to certain unhappiness and slavery.
Spiritual freedom was what the Lord meant when He said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word … you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31, 32). He added: “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (Ibid. 34).
YOU ASSUMING TO MUCH MY FRIEND, ON MY BEHALF,MY COMMENT WAS STRAIGHT FORWARD,THAT GOD IS DIVINE LOVE.
Spiritualsavant, Non Duality is what I have found as non contradictory Truth. In case you have interest I suggest Eckhard Tolle “A New Earth” or am including a link of some of Nisargadatta Maharaj highlights. As I have stated in previous posts, Christianity does not pass the basic test of reason although that is where I spent the first half of my life.
I’m not interested. Just a brief reading leaves me thinking nonduality is a hot mess of “lift yourself by your bootstraps” eastern mysticism. You say, Christianity does not pass the test of basic reason but I contend you simply do not understand God. He understands you, however, Rom. 1:18-21, 2 Cor. 11:1-4.
You obviously do not understand non duality. And while you say I do not understand God you cannot begin to explain the contradictions and convolutions of the Christian belief. You simply skip over them as with those I have already presented here. Like the other Christians you brush it off by saying we cannot expect to explain the infinite and that is true but we can expect love and perfection to be consistent and without contradiction. Consequently, we can state unequivocally that the belief is false. You prefer to remain with the indoctrinated blind leading the blind. As the saying goes, the teacher will appear when the student is ready. In the meantime, happy sailing, my friend.
You’re right, I do not understand non duality. I doubt if very many people do. One reason I believe the gospel is because of it’s profound simplicity. It is a simple story which can be understood by a 5 year old and yet continue to confound the minds of the “great.” It transcends cultures and enriches them. When I say you do not understand God I do not mean that he is incomprehensible, I mean you have chosen an a priori assumption that when a thing at first fails to fit your expectations you reject it as illogical. My experience tells me that when I find intellectual difficulties with Scripture or the faith once delivered, the problem lies with me. Never have I pushed on the truth that it didn’t withstand my inquiry. You assume I am naive because I disagree with you. You have yet to contemplate when I believe. Take my post on hell as a for instance. You may have rejected God because you believed that love would never torture the beloved forever but such a thing is not what the Bible teaches. I’m sure we won’t agree. Best to you as well.
Reblogged this on spiritualsavant and commented:
This post is timely in light of the upcoming premier in my area of “Hell and Mr. Fudge.” https://www.facebook.com/#!/HellAndMrFudgeRogersTowneCenter