I spend a bit of time reading and commenting at Tom Gilson’s blog at The Thinking Christian. Discussion there will possibly lead to more posts here, but for the moment I want to focus on a sentiment that is oft trumpeted by other posters there regarding God’s perfect Love. An obvious question such as, “Why does God send most of us to hell for eternal torment if He loves us all?” is answered with “He gives us the freedom to choose.” Leaving aside the problem of people dying without the information needed to make a choice, this reply makes two illogical assumptions; that an all powerful God had to create Hell as an eternal destination for sinners; and that an important part of love is allowing someone to have the freedom to harm themselves. Each of these individual statements contain an obvious contradiction.
Eternity in Hell
The bible states that sin, literally disobeying God, must be punished. As a parent of 4 children, punishment for disobedience seems reasonable to me. Rules are put in place for the child’s well being and there should be consequences when they are broken. But God has only one punishment for all disobedience, which is eternal torment in Hell. How can a child learn from their mistakes if the punishment for their first infraction is total and complete? Not to mention that if you go to the extreme with your first punishment, then you have left yourself with no where to go for infraction number two, or three, etc. Can you imagine the world if the punishment for littering or speeding was the same for rape and murder, and in all cases the punishment was death? The fact of the matter is God could choose any punishment he wanted for any and all disobedience. Even if He thought a time out in Hell was appropriate He could choose the time frame for each infraction. A loving God would not have to punish us for eternity and the Bible spells this out.
Christ died for our sins, and took our punishment on Himself. He took on all the sins of all the people who have ever, and will ever, live and as such went to Hell … for a few hours. Billions of sinners. Trillions of sins. All of which require an eternity in Hell as punishment. And yet Christ could pay the price of those trillions of eternities in Hell and be in Paradise before the day ended. Luke 23:43 God so loved the world that he sent his Son to hell for a very small amount of time and all our sins have been paid in full. This clearly illustrates that eternal suffering is not needed. Therefore God inflicts this eternal suffering on the damned needlessly. This is not the actions of a God who loves perfectly.
I have one final comment before I move on to my second point. If Christ has actually paid for all our sins then it is irrelevant if we believe in Him or not. The price has been paid and a God that loves perfectly would not ask for a second payment. I am often told that Christ’s sacrifice is a gift that I have to accept. But if I incur a fine for committing a driving violation, and someone pays the fine on my behalf, that fine is paid for. I don’t have to accept it, and nor can I really refuse it. The Dept of Transport will not accept a second payment for that violation. And if they did, it would not be looked upon as Just. Nor loving.
Freedom to Self Harm
The second point, that love is allowing your children to have total freedom, is obviously wrong. An important part of being a loving parent is protecting your children from harming themselves. Knives kept out of reach, poisons locked away, keeping them away from a hot stove or oven … the instinct to keep your children safe from harm is strong and comes from a place of love.
And it doesn’t end when they are grown, moved out and living their own lives. I would do anything in my power to keep my children safe, including my eldest daughter who has been married for two years. This is not only about keeping them safe from dangers in the world around them but about keeping them safe from themselves. I can think of any number of reasons adults harm themselves; anorexia, bulemia, drug addiction, depression; but would you respect me if I let my children continue with this self destructive behaviour under the guise of respecting their freedom to make their own choices? Would you think that was me expressing love for my children? The concept that “God lets his children choose to spend eternity in Hell”, and He does so out of love is offensive to me as a parent.
None of this is an argument that God does not operate in exactly the way the bible describes. Just that if He does, He is not a God of love. And if He is not a God of love, does He deserve to be worshipped?
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