PDF FILE WITH OUTLINED ARGUMENT: On Hell and Punishment
PART 1: SUMMARIZED PROPONENT’S ARGUMENT
I. Ignorance, Deception & Bondage are Obstacles to Free Will
A. Thus, if I suffer from some illusion that conceals God from me, I am not truly free to reject God.
B. Thus Rm 9:16
C. Thus 2 Cor. 4:4
II. God has to be the initiator in our relationship, for God first loved us.
A. Thus, he ‘drags or compels’ us.
B. Thus Jn 6:44
C. Thus 3:11
III. Not too clear on this point. Ignorance in the role of eternal punishment?
A Thus Lk 23:34
PART 2: RESPONSE TO POINT I.
I’ll dismiss the third point because I don’t see how it relates to the freedom of man and the justice of God (and for times/writing sake). In addition, Lk 12:47-48 discusses degrees of punishment and reward. Note… the crime committed is against an infinitely good God. As such, the punishment is infinite in length. Yet that does not remove the possibility of degrees of punishment, based upon degrees of disobedience. This section of Scripture discusses such degrees, which I don’t doubt exist in Heaven and Hell. Scripture does say to ‘store your treasures in heaven.’ Lk 23:34 is mentioning God’s love and forgiveness, which doesn’t factor much for the Hell discussion either.
Instead, I’ll just focus on the first two points. I agreed to the first part of the comment. Ignorance, deception, & bondage surely are obstacles to the will! However I would reject the conclusion that you are not free because you suffer from an illusion you have freely brought upon yourself. Obstacles do not prevent freedom.
A. ANALOGY OF A BRIDGE
I approach a river. I can choose to cross the bridge, or I can try to swim across. If I try to swim, the obstacles of the water and current are now contrary to my objective: crossing. They may even sweep me away and I may drown, making my arrival to the other side impossible. However they did not make my free will impossible, for I choose to swim rather than walk. Obstacles do not make freedom impossible, but they surely do obstruct! Thus a denial of I. A. The obstacle obstructing you from God is in fact yourself. This would rather emphasize your freedom.
B. WRATH, GENERAL REVELATION, AND ROMANS 1
Notice the role of ‘wrath’ in Romans 1. “For God’s wrath is revealed against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who BY THEIR UNRIGHTEOUSNESS suppress the truth, since what can be known about God IS EVIDENT among them, because GOD has SHOWN it to them… [discussion of God’s attributes] … As a result, people are without excuse. For though THEY KNEW GOD, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead their thinking became NONSENSE, and their senseless minds were DARKENED. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Therefore GOD DELIVERED THEM OVER in the cravings of their hearts…”
Several things we discern from the pattern:
(1) God’s wrath for the present time is this: He allows us to be delivered to the sinful passions of our hearts. Although His wrath on judgment will be quite literal (see Jesus in revelation), His wrath for the time being is to allow us to destroy ourselves. He allows us to pursue the desires of our heart, and provides in Christ and the empowering Spirit the ‘way of escape.’
(2) Note the order here in Romans 1. I agree that ignorance and hardening restrict our ability to act. I believe ‘there is no one who can do good, no not one.’ I believe that ‘our good works are like menstrual rags before God’ (Isaiah). But note here the order in Romans. God has made himself known, yet our unrighteousness craves to worship ourselves. We reject God, and then enter the hardening/obstacles. Here then arrives the descent. We willingly reject God and goodness (every one of us). We all choose this. We pursue wickedness freely, and as such the wickedness conditions our hearts to desire more wickedness. It makes it ‘more difficult to see the things of God’. Noticed the three-fold “God delivered them over” in Rom 1:24, 26, 28. He is not causing within us the sin. Rather he is allowing us to be delivered to what we have freely chosen (wickedness, idolatry, etc).
Here then is the order: (a) God provides within us knowledge of his existence, (b) we all reject it, (c) we are delivered over to our cravings and wickedness, (d) our wicked cravings harden our hearts and produce within us more wickedness.
Thus your Point I.’s conclusion is to be rejected. You are free, and provided sufficient ‘evidence’ to know that God is Truth. However although you ‘knew God’ you did not glorify him. ‘Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds became darkened.’ Whence did the darkening occur? Upon our rejection of God.
C. REGARDING 2 COR 4:4
Also note, 2 Cor 4:4 is read in several translations as lacking the word ‘Satan’, the HCSB uses ‘god of this world.’ We already know god here, if referencing Satan, does not imply him truly as a God, for there is ‘only one God’ (YHWH). It is being used rather to emphasize dominion/control (which the word for god is often used). Satan is not a God. If he is a fallen angel, he does not have the divine attributes of God. In other words, he is not omnipresent and omnipotent, which means he cannot tempt everyone at once, but can be in one spiritual or physical point at a time. Thus demons aid in accomplishing Satan’s desires. Anyways, before I go into a tangent: A principle of hermeneutics is to understand a passage in accordance to a larger and clearer passage. This one cannot imply Satan is at fault for our rejection of the Gospel, but rather he conditions and tempts, for we have clearer and larger passages that show man is guilty of his own rebellion (Mt 4, Eph 2, Rm 1). We are responsible for our rejection, and Satan & Demons help produce fruits of wickedness that grow from the soil of our unrighteousness (Rm 1). Just a few more chapters in we see Paul affirming man doing things out of freedom and not compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7). Satan is called the tempter for he does not coerce wickedness, but seeks to water and grow it (otherwise, Mt 4 and Jesus temptation would be awfully theologically tricky!). He is the Great Tempter.
(I also see some unrooted themes of a Free Will Determinist/Indeterminism/Calvinism/Arminianism in the debate, but we won’t pursue those)
PART 3: RESPONSE TO POINT II.
No one morally desires God, as evident in mans rebellion. See Ephesians 2. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to this worldly age, according to the ruler of t…he atmospheric domain, the spirit now working in the disobedient [this related to your Lk 23 passage]. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and by nature we were children under wrath, as the others were also. But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He has for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses,” (Eph 2:1-5). This text makes a stronger case in your favor, for what can a dead man do for himself? Can he even scratch his own nose, let alone save himself?
To this we approach your ‘pulling/compelling’ case. None of this is contrary to man’s free will. This all establishes an important fact, which makes God’s grace ever more admirable, and which I accept: Total depravity. Man desires not God, but himself. Every man freely chooses to pursue his flesh. This “disobedience” is conditioned further by the demonic work of Satan and the demons. We are either conditioned to “works of the flesh” (Gal 5:19-21) or “fruit of the Spirit” (5:22-26). Everyone morally chooses wickedness. But this does not remove freedom. It simply acknowledges everyone uses their freedom, because of their sinful nature, to choose wickedness. This means God is just to send everyone to Hell, for it is just (God hates wickedness) and right (God allows man to pursue his wickedness, so would he allow him eternal separation). Here then, are the wonders of Grace. God compels us. His love compels us. His Spirit convicts us. His Cross compels us. None of this is contrary to free will, as the Calvinist will affirm. Simply that man freely chooses wickedness, thus necessitating God’s wonderful rescue mission.
Everything you’ve related does not negate the theoretical argument I gave you. It merely established that man is sinful, does not desire God, and conditions himself in wickedness. Out of God’s love, he churns within humanity the salvific plan, centered on grace, as found in the Cross.
PART 4: ARGUMENTS FAVORING THE EXISTENCE OF HELL: SCRIPTURE
Scripture and Jesus affirm the existence of hell.
(A.) SCRIPTURE teaches there is a hell: Revelation 20:11-15. Everlasting separation from God (2 Thes 1:7b-9). There is a finality i…n hell (Heb 9:27).
(B.) JESUS taught the Existence of Hell: He spoke more of Hell than heaven (Mt 10:28). Those who reject Him go to Hell (Mt 13:40). He affirms a final judgment (Mt 25:41b). He warns of the seriousness of Hell (Mk 9:43). The reality is clear from vivid stories taught by Jesus (Lk 16:19-31).
PART 5: ARGUMENTS FAVORING THE EXISTENCE OF HELL: REASON
A. FREE WILL
The argument I initially offered was one merely providing an apologetic response to man’s free will and the goodness of God.
People can do whatever they want (this is freedom). However people want to be disobedient and rebel. Simply because this desire makes one more corrupt does not mean he is not free. Everyone is simply using their freedom to desire worldly things.
Although man by nature is sinful, free will seems quite established. This can be seen in three areas: (1) God consistently calls for people to repent (Lk 13:3, Acts 2:38), (2) calls on us to believe (Jn 3:16; 3:36; acts 16:31), as well as (3) affirms even unbelievers have the ability to response to God’s grace (Mt 23:37; Jn 7:17; Rm 7:18; 1 Cor 9:17; Philem 14; 1 Peter 5:2).
Some may say the ability to respond is not consistent with grace (Eph 2:8-9), for it seems to confirm salvation by human effort. This rejects the nature of faith. One receiving a gift of grace is not the same as working and earning it. Note where the credit is do in one receiving a gift: To the gift giver. For the one working towards it, the credit is for his work. This freedom in responding is consistent with Ephesians’ discussion of the gift of God. People don’t earn gifts, they earn paychecks. No one earns salvation, but accepts grace. God works within them through the spirit to progress in sanctification.
B. GOD’S JUSTICE DEMANDS A HELL
(NOTE: These arguments are not in proper syllogistic form, but summarized for ease of reference/understanding)
God is just (Rm 2). He is pure and does not even look upon sin (Hab 1:13). God is no respector of persons (he does not show “favoritism” Rm 2:11). God does what is right (Gn 18:25). People on earth do wicked things on earth and prosper (Ps 73:3).
P1: God hates wickedness, loves justice, does not show favoritism, and does what is right.
P2: People on earth do wicked things and prosper.
C: If God hates wickedness, loves justice, and does what is right, and people do wickedness on earth and prosper, then a place of punishment after life seems necessary to punish wickedness and maintain God’s justice. Otherwise, God fails to do what is right.
C. GOD’S LOVE DEMANDS A HELL
“God is love,” (1 Jn 4:16). Love does not act coercively but persuasively. Coercive love is called rape. Persuasive love is called romance. You cannot force someone to love you, but you can swoon and persuade. Forcing someone to love you no longer becomes love. A God of love cannot force people to love him. Paul tells us things are done freely and not by compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7). A loving being does not force himself upon others against their will. To quote C.S. Lewis: “the Irresistible and Indisputable are two weapons which the very nature of his scheme forbids him to use. Merely to override a human will… would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo.” (Lewis, Screwtape Letters, 38). This is why those who chose not to love God are allowed not to love God.
P1: God is a God of Love.
P2: Love is not coercive, but persuasive.
P3: People choose not to love God.
P4: Those who wish not to be with God must be allowed to be separate from him.
C: If God is love and love is not coercive but persuasive, and if people choose not to love God, then there must be a place where their separation can continue without coercion (Hell is this allowed separation).
D. GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY DEMANDS A HELL
Without Hell, there is no final victory over evil. Evil is what frustrates good. Wheat and tares do not grow together. A final separation is needed. Good must triumph over evil. In civil societies, punishment of evil is needed to have good prevail. This is to be extended into eternity. If good does not triumph, God, who is good, seems to fail. His sovereignty, his Absolute Power, thus suggests that good will triumph. His sovereignty demands a hell, otherwise he would not be victorious as Scripture claims he will be (1 Cor. 15:24-28; Rev 20-22).
P1: God is sovereign over all.
P2: God is all-powerful.
P3: God hates wickedness.
P4: God promises a victory of good over evil.
C: If God is sovereign and all powerful, and if God hates wickedness/evil, and if God promises victory of good over evil, then God’s sovereignty and power assure us Good will Prevail on an eternal scale (Hell being the eternal punishment affirming this victory and God’s power to accomplish it).
E. THE CROSS IMPLIES A HELL
The Cross stands at the center of history, and Christianity itself (1 Cor. 1:17-18; 15:3). There is no salvation without the Cross (Rm 4:25; Hb 10:10-14; Jn 10:1, 9-10, Acts 4:12). Jesus came into the world because the Cross is the climax of God’s salvific plan to save humanity from themselves (Mk 10:45; Lk 19:10). We are delivered from our sins only by this work of the Cross, and not the work of ourselves (Rm 3:21-26). Jesus suffered greatly because of the Cross (Hb 2:10-18; 5:7-9; Lk 22:44).
If there is no Hell, all this suffering makes little sense. God could simply allow humanity to dwell in their sin until death, where they would either be forced in his presence, or zapped from existence. If everyone goes to heaven, the suffering and humiliation endured by Christ Jesus is robbed of power and sense. Why would the Creator take the spit and whip of the Creation, if this creation was expecting no punishment at death? Without Hell, the work of Christ Jesus on the Cross is robbed of eternal significance. The eternal sense of the cross is established by the threat of eternal separation. The Cross gains infinite power, humility, victory, grace, joy, and wonder when we see that it is the very bridge from eternal damnation to eternal communion/deliverance. Otherwise it seems senseless.
P1: There is no salvation without the cross.
P2: Jesus came into the world because of the cross.
P3: Jesus suffered great agony, separation, and humiliation because of the cross.
C: If there is no salvation without the cross, and Jesus suffered greatly because of it, then we would expect some threat in proportion to the cost of deliverance (Thus implied an eternal threat sizable to the sacrifice made: Eternal separation from God, which a Loving yet Holy God would respond to).
(Arguments on Scripture and Reason paraphrased as presented in N. Geisler’s Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics)
PART 6: CONCLUSION
In conclusion, I summarize and quote:
I. HELL IS SCRIPTURAL
A) Scripture taught about Hell. Scripture consistently affirms a literal, eternal separation from God called Hell.
B) Jesus taught about Hell. Jesus teaches Hell more than he teaches about heaven (which seems interesting given the proportion humanity seems to make of the two). Hell is important for Jesus.
II. HELL IS RATIONAL
A) Hell Makes Sense in Light of Autonomous Rational Human Creatures (Free Will)
B) God’s Justice Demands a Hell
C) God’s Love Demands a Hell
D) God’s Sovereignty Demands a Hell
E) The Cross of Christ Implies a Hell (and the Cross makes sense in light of Hell)
III. ADDITIONAL OBJECTIONS RAISED ABOUT HELL (which I will not respond to [time is rare], but simply acknowledge with foresight that they usually are raised, and admit I have responses for every one).
A) Hell as Annihilation
B) Hell as Temporal vs. Eternal
C) Hell as Reforming People
D) Hell for Temporal Sins seems Overkill
E) Hell as Absent of Redeeming Value
F) Hell as Only a Threat
G) The Impossibility of Saints Heavenly Happiness if Loved Ones are in Hell
H) Hell Can’t Help Sinners
“It is a most unreasonable thing to suppose there should be no future punishment, to suppose that God, who had made man a rational creature, able to know his duty, and sensible that he is deserving punishment when he does not; should let man alone, and let him live as he will, and never punish him for his sins, and never make any difference between the good and the bad… How unreasonable it is to suppose, that he who made the world, should leave things in such confusion, and never take any care of the governing of his creatures, and that he should never judge his reasonable creatures.” (Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2.884).
“doth it seem to thee incredible, that God should be so utterly regardless of the sinner’s welfare, as to sink him into an infinite abyss or misery? Is this shocking to thee? And is it not at all shocking to thee that thou shouldst be so utterly regardless as thou hast been to the honour and glory of the infinite God?” (Edwards, 2.82).
It would seem a rejection of Hell merely confirms our suspicion of man’s total depravity. He craves preference. It is not in accordance to his preference that such a Hell exists, for he does not desire it.
Here is the depravity: The focus is on what he prefers (pleasure, happiness, pursuit), and not what God prefers (righteousness, justice, goodness). What man prefers/desires shows what man worships, and what man worships shows whom he truly believes to be God. The rejection of Hell is usually centered on the human perspective, which is the very problem God is addressing! We usually do not approach it first from the perspective of God’s righteousness and hatred of Sin, but that we’d prefer not to go there.
This is in reality inconsistent. We are horrified at the acts of war and humanity, but we show contempt for God’s majestic righteous hatred of our sin and punishment thereof (the very God whom provides us the distinction of ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ ‘love’ and ‘wickedness).