RFG 5: How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?

Discuss in ILovePhilosophy.com: RFG: FIVE: How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?

 Tim Keller’s The Reason for God Book Discussion – Part 1: The Leap of Doubt

FIVE: How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?

Before I even begin I want to insert an idea I remembered from a philosophy chat room discussion while discussing chapter two with my mom: it is not that God punishes you for all the crap He knew you would do before you were even born – it is that God forgave you for it before you were even born – but He will not force love from you against your will.

Two questions from Penguin, found here:
http://download.redeemer.com/sermons/Penguin%20Reader%20Guide.pdf

“What about the Bible’s portrayal of a God of love who also judges his enemies? In chapter 5, Keller defends belief in a God of love who also is a God of wrath and judgment. If God loves his creation, it’s understandable that God would oppose anything that does harm to his creation (see p. 73). Do you agree that God is big enough to encompass mercy and love, as well as judgment and wrath? Discuss your responses.” – Penguin My thought on the matter is that anyone who claims to love good, but allows evil to go unchecked, is indifferent to evil, is lying. Loving good includes hating evil. Love and hate are not opposites (when the ‘object’ of that hate is ‘evil’ – not that ‘evil’ is an ‘object’ – I still agree with Becky Pippert on page 73). I also think God’s judgment is an expression of love – having experienced it myself. He disciplines those He loves, like any good, loving father should.

“On the question of a loving God sending people to hell, Keller writes that God gives people free choice in the matter. “In short, hell is simply one’s freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory into infinity” (p. 78). In other words, those who end up in hell chose that destination by rejecting God. How do you respond to such an assertion?” – Penguin

What do you think of this quote: “The only means of prohibiting all recourse to violence by ourselves is to insist that violence is legitimate only when it comes from God,” (74)? Does it seem like a double-standard to you? To me, it doesn’t, because I can see that humans can resort to violence for the wrong reasons, and that God will never resort to violence for the wrong reasons. Some consider a case of justified violence to be defense, for example, of one’s country or a country with which one’s country is allied. Is Keller implying we should not defend in any case whatsoever, but let God “eventually put all things right”? I don’t think so. I think the original quote may be referring to a particular type of violence. For example, I don’t think Keller would say “let’s do away with the justice system and let God ‘eventually put all things right.’” I do however think we should definitely slow down and check our motives and seek God’s guidance in every case that triggers a defensive impulse. What do you think about the thought that loss of belief in God’s judgment leads to less inhibition (an opiate) to violence?

What do you think about the fact that the Bible is the only source of a belief in a God of pure love, who forgives everyone and allows those who reject His love to choose hell?

“For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Christianity is not the product of any one culture but is actually the transcultural truth of God. If that were the case we would expect that it would contradict and offend every human culture at some point, because human cultures are ever-changing and imperfect. If Christianity were the truth it would have to be offending and correcting your thinking at some place,” (72-73). What do you think?

*******
Notes on Keller’s sermon for this chapter:

Download sermon: http://sermons.redeemer.com/store/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_ID=29

Hell Luke 16:19-31 (Rich Man and Lazarus)

Doubt: A judge who consigns people to hell-how can He be a loving God?

–the biblical imagery of hellfire is metaphoric-for something infinitely worse than fire
–crucial for understanding your own heart, living in peace with the world, and for knowing the love of God

1. Crucial for understanding your own heart.

Only parable in which the character has a proper name-the poor man-Lazarus
The rich man believed in God, but did not follow Him, is in hell without a name
Status and wealth was the rich man’s identity-now that it’s gone-he’s gone
Kierkegaard’s “Sickness Unto Death” sin: building your identity on anything but God (grace) Rom 6
–Pharisees follow the law but are lost, because their identity is not built on God but on their moral performance
When you build your identity on anything but God, it leads to disintegration, isolation, blaming others (denial to see what’s really happening)-consequences of addiction-(fire)
–Iron Giant: souls don’t die, souls can’t die (movie)
Iron Giant + Kierkegaard = eternal disintegration
“hell begins with a grumbling mood”
God doesn’t “send” us to hell-there is something in us which will “be” hell unless we build our identity on God. “the doors of hell are locked from the inside” …like folks who don’t want to get out of addiction, though they hate being in it. All who are in hell, choose it.
Rich man: still ordering Lazarus around in hell…doesn’t try to get out of hell…just tries to Lazarus in to help him out…blames God for not giving him enough information…
Who are you? Nameless? On what is your identity grounded? This doctrine calls you to look deep into your own heart.

2. Crucial for living in peace with the world.

Doubt: “Hell” translates into oppressing people. Inherently divisive. How can believers treat unbelievers equally if you think we’re damned?
v.25-Abraham calls the rich man “son”. A sense of sadness (pathos), tragedy.
Volf: cycle of retaliation fueled by lack of belief in a God of justice (who will right all wrongs)
–Marx “opiate” objection answered by MLKJr. Already
Jesus died for His enemies-His sacrifice means nothing if you don’t believe in hell.

3. Crucial for knowing the love of God.

Rich Man wants God to send Lazarus back to talk to his brothers. Abraham says that won’t work-even if they believe Lazarus, fear of hell won’t change anything.
Being good to avoid hell is more hell-not “good for goodness’ sake”-using God-just turning up the flames.
Jesus rising from the dead is not enough-have to know “why”-which is explained in Moses and the Prophets: love.
The only thing that will put out the flame is love.
Unless you believe in hell, you will never know what Jesus communicated in His sacrifice.

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About Maryann

Maryann Spikes is the past President of the Christian Apologetics Alliance. She blogs at Ichthus77, and loves apologetics and philosophy. In particular she loves to study all things Euthyphro Dilemma and Golden Rule. A para-educator (autism) for five years, she holds a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an AA in Humanities via Modesto Junior College, and moonlights as a freelancer. You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Keller's Reason for God, Problem of Evil & Hell, Reviews and Interviews. Bookmark the permalink.

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