Guymon Daily Herald
Can hell and a loving God coexist?
In order for a person to respond to the objection, “A loving God would never send anyone to Hell.”, one must consider the nature of love, the nature of God, and the original and resultant purposes of hell itself. When one considers the nature of love, one must ask oneself what love is and how that love would be expressed as well as what would be ultimately both loving and unloving. When considering the nature of love, it helps if one first defines the term. The “love” that is used to describe God is a love that is self-sacrificing and is always about what is best for the other person. This does not necessarily mean what makes them happy, but what is best for them. Another may object, “But, how is Hell best for anyone?” The answer is not quite as amazing as it may seem.
Hell is loving first and foremost because God is love. God also has provided evidence of His existence throughout all of creation, but man has not been faithful to that revelation, nor can he. Because of the sin nature with which he is born, he is incapable of living a perfect life. As man rejects the general revelation of God, he then also has a choice to reject the special revelation of God through His Word. Just as the Apostle Paul asked, “How can they believe, if they don’t hear?” Some people suggest that it is possible to get to Heaven without the blood of Christ, simply by being faithful to the revelation they have been given, but Romans 3 tells us that there are none that are righteous and none that seeks after God, so one would be wise to believe Paul instead of the cries of people that want to make Heaven seem universal.
In addition to being loving simply because God said so, it is helpful for one to consider what about God’s nature would make Hell a loving concept. First, Jesus Himself warned about Hell and actually had more to say about Hell than He did about Heaven. To speak of Hell, and then for it not to exist would violate God’s nature of truth and would hardly be loving. Additionally, God has provided Hell as a means of exercising His justice. The very people that want to object to God’s justice, have not stopped to consider that it is this justice that they count on. For instance, God does not just send rain on the just, but on the unjust as well because He is just. God does not tell one person it is okay to steal and another not to steal because He is just. We count on that even as children on the playground when we cry, “that’s not fair!” Finally, Hell is loving because God has created man for the purpose of glorifying God through relationship with Himself. To reject God’s law is to violate God’s nature and, by extension, to violate the very image of God with which we are created. To allow man to indiscriminately destroy himself with no consequences to discourage this destruction would hardly be called loving.
Dr. William Lane Craig, a noted Christian apologist, in his response to this very emotionally thorny issue, attempts to divert the issue by referring to God’s middle knowledge versus
God’s foreknowledge. The problem with Dr. Craig’s response is that it is not biblical. God, in His foreknowledge, predestined those being saved to be conformed to the image of His Son. Dr. Craig redefines this in an attempt to apologize for God, but this apology is not necessary. God can know everything and man still be accountable because of the difference between man and God. God is eternal and man is temporal. God knows the end from the beginning. That means that God knows the end of time from the beginning of time because He is not bound by time. Our problem is living in the second-by-second existence in which we find ourselves living out the daily decisions God already knew before creation we would make. To have any other view of God would require God to either learn as He goes or adjust His plans every time we zigged and He thought we should zag. This reality shows God’s loving nature in that, given He knew many (if not most) would reject the gospel, He, in His love, created a world in which they were free to choose to reject the gospel. In that same world, others would choose to accept that gospel and would enjoy His presence for eternity. For Him to refuse to create a world with a hell, He would have created a world without a heaven and no one would call that loving.
One might attempt to argue that, given the choice, the damned would choose not to be created. This line of reasoning is troublesome because, if they were not created, they would have no choice. Besides, they do not have the omnipotence nor omniscience to know what decisions they would make in all eventualities. God does. In His nature, He made a loving choice to create man and many of them have refused to acknowledge that truth. They have earned their destruction. Only those to whom the gospel has been revealed, whom the Spirit has drawn and whom have been given the faith to believe have their wages paid for by the blood of Christ and receive, instead, the free gift of eternal life. God shows His love in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Yes, Christ died for the sins of the world, and that death is sufficient for all the sins of the world, but it is only effective for those being saved.
One might think a circular argument is being made in God’s defense as follows:
1. God says He is love.
2. God always tells the truth.
3. Therefore, since God said He is love, He is love.
While this might seem to be circular, it is not, as supported by the evidence above. Actually, to attempt to stand in judgment and accuse God of being otherwise is to both show our ignorance and our refusal to accept His Word and Gospel and our misunderstanding of Who He is and who we are, what He has done and what we have done.
Having considered the nature of love and the nature of God, the final step is to consider the purpose for which Hell was created and the purpose which it serves now. Originally, Hell was created as a place to punish evil. Before the creation of man, this was for the devil and his demons (angels that followed him in the Fall). Revelation tells us God will eventually deliver Satan and his demons right there. God, in His infinite knowledge knew this would also include fallen man as He had determined, before the foundation of the world, that He would send His Son to die for the sins of the world. That was the original intent of Hell and the modern use is consistent with the original intent.
What is the intent of Hell now? First, as a warning to those that need the warning that sin will not go unpunished. The justice of
God demands sin be punished. The love of God demands sin be punished. The holiness of God demands sin be punished. But God, in His love, has chosen to let us know that Hell exists, and we should not want to go there. Second, Hell stands as a reminder of God’s presence and providence. Like the martyrs under the throne in Revelation 6, Hell is a reminder that God will not allow His people to be mistreated and murdered forever without avenging them. Additionally, Hell stands as the ultimate lesson on where our sinful choices lead, and that direction is away from God. Without seeing the roadmap, many of us would not understand the importance or seriousness of sin and would not be deterred. Lastly, Hell now stands as the reminder of just how much God loves His people. Considering its horrors, the believer is reminded of how much they have been blessed and spared and should cause each and every one of us to fall on our faces before King Jesus and proclaim that He is worthy of our worship and praise.
“Hell and a loving
God cannot coexist”, say some. “Hell and a loving God cannot NOT exist”, says God’s Word, logic, philosophy and the hearts of every believer that knows that loving God.