In a debate of mine from this past summer my opponent brought up the problem of hell. His objection was, “There is no moral justification for sending anybody to suffer eternally in hell.” Before defending the doctrine of an eternal hell I need to make clear how far this objection actually goes. This isn’t an objection to the existence of God nor is it an objection to Christianity. This is an objection to hermeneutical principles and, possibly, in a worst case scenario, an objection to inerrancy. Should it be the case that the objection succeeds then we ought to modify our hermeneutical grid by which we understand special revelation concerning the final destination and consequences for the reprobate damned. Should the best hermeneutic affirm the doctrine of eternal hell then the objection brings inerrancy into question. However, I don’t think the objection succeeds at all and below was my response defending the doctrine of an eternal hell:
Here’s an excerpt from Travis Loller at the Huffington Post.
How can a loving God send people, even bad people, to a place of eternal torment? A new documentary struggles with questions of punishment and redemption and how culture affects and shapes Christian beliefs about God and the Bible.
Coming in the wake of controversy over Rob Bell’s 2011 hell-questioning book “Love Wins,” which put hell on the cover of Time magazine, and treading some of the same ground, filmmaker Kevin Miller believes the debate about the nature of hell is not academic.
In an interview after a Nashville screening of “Hellbound?” Miller said he believes our ideas about hell have a real-world effect on the way we live our lives and the way we relate to others.
Perhaps popular theologian Brian McLaren best expresses that thought in the movie when he says, “If I believe that a small percentage of human beings were created to enjoy bliss eternally and another group of beings were created to experience eternal conscious torment, then I look at human beings differently than if I say, `Every human being was made in the image of God. Every human being is beloved by God. God is at work to save every human being.'”read more »
As the days continue to pass since new of Bin Laden’s death my interaction with other Christians have been quite mixed. Some are more saddened that he has gone to hell and some are more joyous that he is dead. I’m careful about how I make that distinction. My continuous reflection has got me thinking, “Why am I not more appreciative of justice?”
This is how I work it out and how I believe God views mercy and justice. Antecedently, God willed and genuinely desired Bin Laden to repent and to respond to the revelation he has been given. However, consequently, because of Bin Laden’s rejection of God and infatuation with evil, God has willed that Bin Laden atone for his own sins and for there to be justice. This justice is his death and punishment in the afterlife. Why am I not taking joy in God’s justice? I believe my apprehension of justice is far removed from how God loves justice since it is ontologically based in him.
Yes, antecedently we should not joyful that Bin Laden is taking on his own punishment. However, in turn and consequently, God is receiving his glory from Bin Laden’s sins being atoned for. For the Christian, hell is a good thing, hell is the means by which God renders justice to those who have not had their sins atoned for by Jesus Christ on the cross. The important thing is to make the antecedent-consequent distinction in how we respond.