For God So Loved the World, He Created Hell

 

Evangelical preacher Rob Bell has created quite a stir by suggesting in his recent book that there is no hell, because God loves us so much. But this is exactly backwards: There is a hell because God loves us so much. Nobody goes to hell except those who irrevocably prefer something else to God — and He, in His infinite love, allows them their choice.

All goodness comes from God, and since every created thing exists as a signpost of its Creator, a person who prefers something else to God will ultimately find no good in that thing, because he has excluded from his enjoyment of it the only thing that made it good to begin with. Once the scent of God has been eliminated, the enjoyment of the created thing itself becomes a bore. This is why a person who gets pleasure solely from sex or drink or drugs always has to “up the dose”: The thrill eventually fails to satisfy.

Those in hell are those who continue to prefer something other than God over God. They might claim that they sought, and perhaps even received, their hearts’ desires — and so to hell with the consequences. They might say that at least they were true to themselves (Sinatra’s “My Way” will be a popular tune on hell’s jukeboxes, if there are any) . . . and at least they weren’t like those ‘hypocritical ignoramuses who go to church.’ But whatever the reason, the price of surrendering to God — of relinquishing what they thought they wanted for something else — would, for them, be a bitter price. Too bitter: They will not pay it.

 

And so what if a person never repents? Never gives up preferring something else to God? If we are speaking of those who have died, then they have died to time. Time is a created thing, and they are now outside it; there is no “later” in which they might still change their minds. They have seen what God is about, and they hate it.

So they will, simply and seriously, turn and walk away from God — and in His great love for them, God will let them go. In some sense, Hell is the refuge from Himself that God provides those who reject His love. Think of that: What human lover — who loved deeply but whose love was scorned — would, out of respect for his beloved’s choice, allow her a place away from him?

God created beings who are free to love — but that also means they are free not to love, or to love the wrong thing, or to love the wrong way. Choice is what makes love possible, so God will not take that away. He did not create automatons.

Some object that no one would knowingly prefer self-destruction to eternal Joy, no matter how difficult they find the process of submitting to that Joy. But experience tells us otherwise. We know many people who simply will not do the obvious thing — the healthy and sane thing — which they and everyone around them know they ought to do. The addict will not give up the drug; the woman will not give up her abusive lover; the layabout will not give up his malingering; the wounded heart will not give up its grudge.

This could be us. We must look to the state of our own souls to find out who, through our daily choices and attitudes, we are making ourselves to be. We are created in the image of God, after all, and like Him we are each little creators. By our free will, we make ourselves — he works within us, but the decisions are still ours. It may be that after a lifetime of unwise choices, we will come to prefer something over God. If so, we could not tolerate heaven: It is full of Him.

Bell is right that God’s love is full of generosity, but wrong in the conclusion he draws from it. God loves us so much, that when this life is over, we will get what we want, even if it doesn’t include Him.

Cord Hamrick

By

Cord Hamrick is a husband and father of three, raised an evangelical Christian in Southern Baptist churches. After years of lurking, questioning, and eventually opining in the Catholic blogosphere, he was received into the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil, 2010. Cord is a sometime church musician, former praise-and-worship bandleader, frequent songwriter and arranger, occasional guitar teacher, and -- because one really must somehow pay the bills -- a developer of web-based software applications. He lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife and three kids.

  • Beth

    i agree completely with you that God honors our choices, and that those who completely reject God will go to Hell. I do pray for those who have turned away, that God will reveal Himself to them in their final moments in such a way that they are convicted of their sins by the Holy Spirit, and turn back to Him in repentance.
    One question I’ve had though is how can people in Heaven be happy if their loved ones go to Hell. Any thoughts?

    • R. J.

      Beth –

      We should not think of Heaven and Hell as parallel places. Hell is but a crack on Heaven’s floor. The blessed in Heaven will not know or be aware of the reality of Hell, for all they will know is goodness and joy in the presence of God.

  • Ben Joseph

    God did NOT create hell!!! God does not create anything evil. Man and woman, with their NO to God, created hell; or rather, hell is their refusal of God’s love.

    • Dan

      Hell per se, is not evil. Those therein are evil, have embraced evil. But Hell can only be said to be evil because of the doings of the spirits that dwell there. Is a dungeon “evil,” was it the Chateau D’If that was evil, or was it the circumstances that cast Edmund Dantes therein, and worked to maintain him there.

      As none could say that stone and chain possess evil in themselves, for they are inanimate, so none can say that the physical/spiritual reality that is hell is evil in and of itself.

      Of course, my observations are not first hand……….. So maybe in Hell the very realm works an evil upon the souls of those so consigned.

      To be sure, it is the domain of satan, and as such evil in a way which would allow Christ to say to the rock that the “gates of hell will not prevail,” but the driving force of that evil power is satan, his demonic following.

    • R. J.

      Hell is not a product of mankind since some of the angels were first to choose themselves over God, to say “NO” to God, thus the reality of hell already existed before man.

  • bill bannon

    Beth
    On that I believe that you will see the truth of those lives and see how much help from God they turned down time and again and again. And as a result it will make sense to you. Spouses of drinkers could give you an insight into that area. They intimately see repeated returns to the bad direction ( leaving out here the sin versus sickness debate). Notice that Judas was receiving grace from God after he betrayed Christ. He wept and returned the money but the next step he did not do…..trusting in God’s foregiveness.

    • Dan

      Remember Judas didn’t grow up, mature and develop in a a world of Christian forgiveness as we did. He was very much a servant of the old testament; his world was not ours.

      His way of approaching God not ours.

      And that world had such power that Christ himself made little headway against it. Christ cured LEPERS; Christ cured ENTIRE CROWDS that came to him for healing, and yet still most Jews REJECTED him and his claims.

      • bill bannon

        Dan….Christ held him responsible. In prayer to his Father, Christ said, ” Those whom thou gavest me i guarded and not one of them perished but the son of perdition.”. This was the past tense used as prophecy since Judas had not committed suicide yet. Isaiah uses the past when prophecying Christ…” and his was as it were hidden and we esteemed him not.”
        Later in Acts 12, God kills Herod Antippas and has the angel leave his body to be eaten by worms. Again a scriptural way of letting you know Herod perished.

        • bill bannon

          “his look was as it were hidden and we esteemed him not.” correction of above.

    • Beth

      Bill, still it would be sad to know that your loved ones turned away time and again. And yet Scripture tells us that He will wipe away every tear. So somehow, someway, I guess we will be happy in Heaven, even if some of our dear ones don’t make it. I guess we just have to trust.

      • bill bannon

        But what if you saw not just the loved one falling but you also saw the helps they were often stepping on….in other words you then would see what God saw all along.
        Another piece to the hell problem is explained by Aquinas who said there are two turnings in mortal sin….a turning toward drugs let say….and a turning from God. The eternity of hell comes from the second turning not from the first. One is turning away from Him who is eternal. The first turning toward something mutable on earth determines the degree of hell….but the eternity of hell comes from the turning away from God.
        One more piece is sincere erroneous conscience which excuses. Now the Church says torture is intrinsic evil….but from 1253AD onward for centuries, Popes and saints and priests cooperated with it proximately. Are they in hell? Not likely. They had a sincere erroneous conscience about something that is not crystal clear in scripture. St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s family had slaves as did he at 18years old. Now it is held to be sin. Again…sincere erroneous conscience.

      • Fr. Frank Bass

        Beth, I agree with everything Mr. Bannon says. In addition, I’d add one thing. All our human loves have their origin and their fulfillment in God, who is Love Himself. While our human relationships of love – husband/wife, parent/child, etc. – are good in themselves insofar as they are truly love, they also point beyond themselves to their Origin. In heaven with the Lord, this love will no longer be mediated or experienced indirectly through others in the way it is here on earth. We will see Him face to face, and our joy will be full. Here on earth, the loss of a relationship brings us sorrow, and one of the reasons is that with the loss of the relationship, whether through death or other causes, we also lose something that mediated a foretaste of the very love for which we were created. We will be at peace with our loved ones’ choices because, possessing Him, we will possess the One toward Whom all our human loves were pointing us all along.

  • bill bannon

    Ben Joseph

    The gospel implies that God made hell:

    Mat 25:41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels

  • Dan

    “[I]nto the eternal fire prepared…,” nowhere therein is there the implication or the stated averment that it was the Almighty himself who “created” hell.

    Hell is created by those who deserve to be cast therein.

    Such as Satan for instance. Recall Christ’s comment about “I saw Satan fall like lightening…,” which was something of a double entendre, for it was a line about the return of his followers who were out preaching the word and working miracles, but it also was made by one who had indeed actually seen Satan “fall” like lightening before the creation of the world.

    Hell would be better described as a place within the order of things that is reserved for those that have rejected God, rejected the Holy Spirit, YET for all their rejection, do not cease to be, do not enter into nothingness.

    • bill bannon

      You’re ignoring the scripture.

  • Cord Hamrick

    One of the topics which I knew would be controversial in this post was the topic of whether Hell was “created” by God, or whether it was “created” by our sin.

    I think that this is one of those questions which cannot be answered in a way which will satisfy anyone, because it deals with a “place” — thus connoting a region of space with width, length, and height — which is OUTSIDE the material universe, and thus outside of space and time.

    We can say that North America was created by God because as part of the material order it has length, width, height, and duration. But to say that about Heaven and hell is to stretch the analogy of “place” from that to which it refers to a thing which it is in some ways like, and in some ways unlike.

    Take, for example, this phrasing: “Hell is the state of being separated from God without hope of restored fellowship. This state of being is really more like a state of unbeing; but because we were always intended to be, the painfulness of being separated from the source of all being is like a kind of destruction which never ends, like being burned up by a fire which continuously destroys its fuel but in which the fuel is never finished being consumed.”

    Now if that’s an accurate picture of hell (and I think it’s accurate within certain limitations) then by viewing it as a “state” one is less bothered by the notion of hell being “created” in the same way that earth and all nature are “created.”

    Likewise, I’ve seen folk try to describe hell as being in the presence of God, if one is an enemy of God; while purgatory is being in the presence of God if one is a God-loving person beset by impurities; and Heaven is being in the presence of God if one loves God and all impurity is gone. By this picture (which I think has at least some accuracy) satan’s fall from Heaven was a fall from obedience into disobedience, his torment is that he hates God and is allergic to love but can’t get away from the firey radiance of God’s outpouring glorious love, and has no hope of ever getting away. Those who are in purgatory encounter God’s firey love and they suffer as it burns away the dross leaving behind only the refined gold. And those in whom the refining process is complete feel the wonderful warmth of the love of God.

    In this picture hell is a consequence of a person’s choice and is only “created” in the sense that the lack of grace which comes into being through sin creates a new state of being never desired by God.

    But I do not insist on the orthodoxy of either picture, because I think that neither is a complete understanding. Nor do I think it a complete understanding to think that hell is a place with literal flames in the sense of things which consume material as fuel through a chemical reaction which unchains molecules and binds elements with oxygen. Clearly each of these pictures is unsatisfying on its own, but they all contribute something.

    And of course the picture of a literal place with unceasing fires and undying worms was more easily understood by the first century Jews because the valley of Gehinnom (Gehenna) was a defiled place where wicked kings had sacrificed their own children by fire to the heathen idols and which the Jews used as a trash-burning heap and waste-depository ever after because nobody wanted to live there.

    The picture of a state of being or a way of experiencing God, by contrast, is more easily understood by us because most of us do not work in a waste-incineration facility, but many of us (to our discredit) know what it is like to feel pained in the presence of someone so much better than us that our pride is rankled, or what it is like to feel pangs of loss at being separated from some good. Moreover, American civil religion and our expressions of religious concepts have strong therapeutic and psychological undercurrents; such terms and ideas were unknown in the centuries before Dr. Freud and Dr. Phil.

    A final note about hell’s “existence”: Do you notice that in Scripture hell is sometimes described as a kind of destruction with finality, and other times described as a kind of unending torment? How can it be both?

    When we ask that question, I think we’re wrestling with the absurdities of describing the duration of something which exists outside of Time (at least, outside Linear Time). It may be that Time has no meaning in either Heaven or hell. More realistically, it may be that in Heaven, our uni-directional, uni-dimensional linear Time is expanded into a three-dimensional solidity of Time in which one can go not only forward and backward in Time, but also up and down, and left and right. Meanwhile, in hell, I imagine the opposite: Even the linearity of time is condensed down into the nothingness of a single point.

    If this picture does not mislead us, then a damned soul could experience eternal damnation because their damnation really covered every last bit of hell’s timeline because the line itself is no line, but a point. For all of hell’s existence, the person is damned. But from the outside hell looks like a finality: The person is gone, not so much that they existed up until a point and then stopped existing, but more like their prior existence was itself swallowed up in that point like light falling into a black hole, and suddenly ceased not only to be, but to have ever been. The saints do not weep, because from their perspective, there is nothing to weep for; perhaps, from their perspective, there never was.

    But this picture is perilous and is open to all kinds of objections, because (as I said before) when you talk in terms of lengths and durations and cause-effect and before-after when discussing things outside Time, you are really just talking nonsense. Beyond a certain point of speculation, you might just as well say “gramble pampf joogyboomblywob” and be done with it, because no attempt to say anything more meaningful will have much success.

    So that is why I have called all of these things “pictures,” but have not designated one of them a authoritative. They are helpful in some ways, but don’t take any of them too far.

    It is very much like the solar-system-like picture many of us have in our heads of the innards of an atom, with the electrons orbiting around the nucleus like planets around the sun. This picture is helpful, up to a point. But it is very misleading; in fact, it was abandoned as a basis for real study of quantum mechanics no later than the 1920’s. Yet diagrams of it remain in some textbooks to this day. Similarly, some people think of light quanta as particles; they think of them as little lumps of stuff. Other folk think of them as waves (while sidestepping the question of what material is “waving”). The reality is that they are neither; the particle picture is helpful in some ways because they behave in a particle-like manner under certain circumstances. And in other circumstances they behave like waves. But they’re neither. They’re actually “joogyboomblywobs”; that is to say, things that we don’t know what they are, and for which all our best analogies are at least partly misleading.

    So was hell “created?” Yes. And, no. And would it “exist” were it not for sin (ours, and the fallen angels’)? Yes. And no. The topic is too slippery to admit of a confident answer.

    Why, then, did I title the piece “For God So Loved the World, He Created Hell?”

    Easy. Three reasons:

    1. It agreed with the plain sense of Scripture speaking of “the place prepared for…” already quoted here by Bill (Matthew 25:41);

    2. It rolled off the tongue more trippingly than “For God So Loved the World, He Allowed For The Existence Of A State Of Being Which We Call Hell”;

    3. All of these pictures leave something to be desired, and if anyone brought the topic up, I knew I could leave a fantastically detailed, excruciatingly pedantic clarification sufficiently dull or bewildering to cause normal folk to lose interest.

    Having now done so, I commend anyone with the sheer determination to read this far: Kudos to you!

  • Fr. Frank Bass

    Mr. Hamrick,

    What an excellent article. I also read an exceptional response from you yesterday to an article on attrition in the Catholic Church. The causes you stated were spot-on. Seeing that you are a convert, I think your writing beautifully illustrates our belief concerning non-Catholic Christians that the truths they possess have their origin and home within the Church, and exercise a gravitational pull back to Her. I, too, grew up in a godly SBC family, spent just long enough with the Episcopalians to develop a sense of style, and then was given the grace to come home to the fulness of the Church Jesus founded. What a pleasure to have discovered your writing! I look forward to reading more of your thoughts in future articles. thank you for your passion for the Faith!

  • Cord Hamrick

    Fr. Bass:

    Thank you very much for your kind words; I’m happy you liked the piece.

    Yes, I agree that there is a sort of gravitational pull. And why not? The truth is a Person; is in fact Jesus Himself, who having been lifted up is in the process of “drawing all men to Himself.”

    So the love of God is like gravity, isn’t it? Even at the cold far-flung distant reaches of the spiritual universe, even the prideful and the lustful and the gluttonous and the slothful feel the tug, though greatly attenuated by distance. If they — it would often be fairer to say “we” or simply “I” — stop exerting force to travel in the opposite direction, mightn’t they (“we, I”) begin to drift ever so slowly towards the Center Of All Things? (I think Peter Kreeft once made a comment to that effect.)

    Anyway, thanks again for your gracious remarks.

  • Fr. Frank Bass

    Amen!

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  • Jesurgislac

    Given the association of Hell with eternal punishment, if what Catholics mean by Hell is simply “the place where God isn’t” perhaps you need a new word for it?

    Rob Bell’s argument is simply: God is love, and God loves everyone. The belief that so many Christians promote that God is evil, that God will send you to hell to be punished forever, doesn’t fit with Rob’s belief that love wins.

  • http://www.bannonoceanart.com bill bannon

    Jesirgislac,
    Rob Bell apparently hasn’t read Christ who repeatedly spoke of an everlasting hell for those He loved but who didn’t love him….Christ said in Jn15:14….”you are my friends if you do the things I command”. Do you see the “if” Jesurgislac? Rob Bell missed it. But Aquinas believed that God’s mercy continues towards those in hell by lightening what they deserve not shortening it.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Jerugislac:

    I have some sympathy with your position: If a word has over time lost its original meaning through careless misuse, perhaps it should no longer be used in its traditional correct meaning lest folk misunderstand.

    And the phrasing, “Make Him mad, and God will kick your arse into a pointlessly permanent torture chamber” does rather give the wrong impression, doesn’t it?

    But then the Church’s teachings have never been phrased so inaccurately; such phrasing is more likely to have originated as a humorous caricature in something like a Monty Python sketch, and then been mistaken for the real teaching by folk who’d never heard the real teaching from a real (knowledgeable, orthodox) Christian. (It’s amazing how many folks get impressions of what they think Catholic Christians believe from non-Catholic, even non-Christian, sources!)

    So it is, I grant, important that we believers carefully avoid misunderstandings and clarify our use of words often, for the sake of any listeners who might otherwise get the wrong idea.

    But I have a strong attachment to original meanings and original terminology, all the same.

    Partly it is because I believe the truth faces powerful organized intelligent opposition; namely, the fallen angels and the strongest of them styling himself as their chief. Humans are of course changeable and fallible creatures to start with, but it wouldn’t surprise me if, whenever it could go adequately undetected, the devils gave our culture a nudge here and a shove there with the intention of making God’s truth freshly incomprehensible to every new generation, forcing constant re-translation. This is tiring: We perhaps waste energy more fruitfully used otherwise. So maybe we’d do better not the play the devils’ word games.

    Another reason to use the traditional terms is because they often have histories by which either their use evolved or was very carefully selected over and above competing terms for correctness and clarity. (See, for example, the history of using “Theotokos” instead of “Christokos,” or “homo-ousios” instead of “homo-i-ousios”)

    Learning the traditional terms, despite the way they feel strange in modern mouths, often means we will learn the history of how terms evolved or were selected, and why the alternative terms were considered inferior. This means that we can see the weaknesses in alternative terms which we might have carelessly substituted in our own time, without grasping the deficiencies which made the new term worse even than the old.

    …continued…

  • Cord Hamrick

    …continuing…

    A final reason I like the traditional terms is that the very act of correcting misunderstandings allows us to learn the teaching of the Church better, and can have the effect of shaking us out of the complacency which can set in when we think that, at age twelve, we finished learning all that we ever need know about a faith which we find is far deeper and subtler and voluminous than Quantum Physics and Biochemistry combined, times a thousand.

    If we take the time to learn it, it never ceases to challenge us: But many of us live our lives at a level of faith which is equivalent to saying “electrons orbit the nucleus” and “cells are little spheres and blobs full of water.”

    And that’s just learning it. After that (or better yet, during the learning process) comes the even harder part: Doing it.

    Anyhow, when encountering Christian teachings which seem counterintuitive or even nonsensical, there is one adjustment we can make to our approach to them; an adjustment to how we listen.

    That adjustment is: If something seems outrageous or absurd, remember that (a.) a lot of extremely intelligent and humble and generous and compassionate folk have not only believed this thing, but sometimes died to defend it, living in all kinds of settings and ages, cosmopolitan and rural, ancient and modern; and, (b.) some of them found it outrageous and absurd, until they had adequate time to listen, ruminate, and absorb what was being said…after which they agreed with it and sometimes were martyred for it. If our first impression of the thing leads us to dismiss it contemptuously, we have to exert humility and patience and realize that that first impression is likely mistaken.

    To put it differently: If a teaching makes God, at first glance, look evil or stupid, then either our vision isn’t very good or we just don’t get the teaching. But we have to approach what He’s revealing to us with patience rather than suspicion.

    After all, a wooden table looks like a simple, solid thing. But then you learn it’s made of atoms, each of which is mostly empty space surrounded by a probabilistic buzzing of electrons of which only the electrical charge prevents our plate of food from falling right through to the floor. So a simple table is mysterious beyond imagination: One might be tempted to write off the whole universe as absurd!

    But with adequate patience and careful thinking, we can over time grasp some of those mysteries, and find beauty in it. As with the table, so with God.

  • Jesurgislac

    “And the phrasing, “Make Him mad, and God will kick your arse into a pointlessly permanent torture chamber” does rather give the wrong impression, doesn’t it?”

    Well, it depends if you believe in Hell or not. If you believe in Hell, that’s what you believe God is – the ultimate Head Torturer.

    If you disbelieve in Hell, as Rob does, then it is the wrong impression.

    2That adjustment is: If something seems outrageous or absurd, remember that (a.) a lot of extremely intelligent and humble and generous and compassionate folk have not only believed this thing, but sometimes died to defend it, living in all kinds of settings and ages, cosmopolitan and rural, ancient and modern; and, (b.) some of them found it outrageous and absurd, until they had adequate time to listen, ruminate, and absorb what was being said…after which they agreed with it and sometimes were martyred for it. ”

    Agreed! That applies, as strongly, to the belief that God is love, and love wins: that there is no such thing as Hell. There is no evidence that St Paul believed in Hell: Jesus references Hell only in the context of a handful of stories about generosity and love. Jesus’s message in the stories which include texts that mention Hell is invariably: Be generous and kind to one another. Yet believers in Hell are rarely those that advocate generosity and kindness.

    So why is it that the belief that God is love, and Hell is empty, is being dismissed contemptuously? Why are you not able to take your own advice, exert humility and patience, and realize that your first impression is mistaken?

  • Cord Hamrick

    Jer:

    Waitaminute, I thought you followed what I said in my piece?

    I mean, it sounds as if you were saying that using the term “hell” was problematic because of the pop-culture caricatures and misreadings which had accrued around it over time, but that if THAT (the content of my piece and my earlier comment) was the way I viewed hell, then perhaps I’d be better served to use another term, in order to avoid confusion.

    Isn’t that what you meant?

    I ask because now it seems like you’re taking my understanding of hell and saying that it, too, amounts to placing God in the position of “head torturer.”

    But it doesn’t: Not in the least.

    Again, my position is that hell — the option to reject all our highest good forever — is a logical requirement of believing that God loves even our free will (which He gave us in order to make love possible, but at the risk of making un-love possible). He will not turn us into automatons, because automatons cannot love. He will not force us, because love is by definition unforced.

    He will permit us to prefer hell over Him, because He loves us so much that He would rather be forever separated from us than destroy the free, choosing part of us that is the true us. And yet, since He is the source of all being, by separating ourselves from Him, we separate ourselves from all that gives us the ability to say “I am,” the ability to be. It is like a suicide, a self-destruction.

    So in a sense, He is trapped: He cannot override our free will without our ceasing to “be” as beings capable of love; but because He does not override our free will, the refusal of some of us to cease abusing our free will causes us to cease to be beings capable of love (or of anything else other than, perhaps, the experience of ongoing self-willed self-annihilation).

    God apparently thought this Catch-22 was “worth it” in order to create what He wanted: Beings who could opt to love Him and one another, or not…who in the end opted to love Him and each other.

    When THAT happens — when people become saints — it is His great victory. He has achieved this many times and is continuing to achieve it: For I believe that the ranks of the saints in Heaven (both the few who are officially canonized and the many who are obscure and unknown) continue to swell, despite the best efforts of the world, the flesh, and the devil to lead them to another end.

    But I fear that not all manage to achieve Purgatory. I have excellent reason to fear this: It agrees perfectly with the teaching of Jesus (far better, indeed, than Rob Bell’s view); it agrees with the interpretation of that teaching espoused by the early Christian writers who personally knew Jesus (the Apostles and other New Testament writers); and it agrees with the interpretation of the New Testament books espoused by the early Christian writers who personally knew the Apostles and the other New Testament authors.

    Rob’s view, then, is either that he knows better than Jesus, or that everyone who knew Jesus best (and who were born and raised within the same culture that the Son of God chose for His ministry) got Him wrong all these years, and that it took a 21st century American Gentile to best understand the words given by God Himself to a 1st century mostly-Jewish audience.

    I mean, honestly: What’re the odds?

    And whether it is because Rob underestimates God’s love…,

    or whether it is because he doesn’t see that the part of us that chooses freely is the part that is most centrally ourselves…,

    or whether it is because he hasn’t considered that love must always be voluntary or it isn’t love…,

    or whether it is because he hasn’t looked carefully enough at himself and his fellow men to notice how often we knowingly choose what will hurt us over what will help us…,

    …for whatever reason, Rob hasn’t thought this thing through clearly, if he is confident that hell is empty. The logic of Christian belief (of Christian anthropology, if nothing else!) will simply not allow that view to survive careful scrutiny.

    And Rob’s an adult, and presents himself as capable of teaching Christianity to Christians. He ought to be able to think at least that well — or, if he personally lacks the critical thinking skills, he ought to have the humility to rely on the testimony of the holiest of the saints over the last two thousand years.

    Jer, that’s why I feel confident, despite knowing how fallible I myself am, that the traditional thinking of the Church about hell (not the caricature, but the sad willingness to face facts about sin and self-determination) must be given assent.

    To disagree with Rob is not necessarily a sign of arrogance in me, any more than Rob disagreeing with me is a sign of arrogance in him.

    But Jesus and the Apostles and the saints and martyrs and confessors and doctors of the church for two thousand years? Given the choice between THAT august testimony and an innovative spin announced by a talented public speaker rather late in the day which doesn’t, on examination, seem really to hold together logically anyway?

    Call me crazy, but I think my odds are better in the Barque of St. Peter.

    I, like Rob Bell, believe that Love Wins. But I hold that he has not thought clearly about what that means, with respect to free-willed persons; and I hold that he would have known he was in error, had he checked himself against Scripture, the sensus fidelium, and the teaching of the Church over the centuries.

    One other note: You state,
    [quote]Yet believers in Hell are rarely those that advocate generosity and kindness.[/quote]
    Surely you don’t believe THAT.

    They’re the very ones who are, statistically speaking, the kindest and most generous members of our society! Look around you. Look at the names on the hospitals. Ask who donated the money to start most of the colleges. Who’s giving 5-10% of their pretax income to the poor? Who’s leaving lucrative jobs to go installing wells and teaching schools and operating orphanages in third-world countries? Who’s giving blood and serving in soup kitchens? Who’s having children (a very generous undertaking) and adopting children (even sick ones) from third-world countries? The stats are in, and they’re not ambiguous: It’s all those traditionally religious right-wing red-staters who do these things, and at double the rates of the American less-traditionally-religious political left.

    Now neither group is homogenous, but in general, you show me a guy who donates more than 5% of his annual pretax income and who volunteers in the community, and I’ll show you a guy who hopes no one will go to hell, but believes some folks will.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Ah, look at that.

    In the new system,

    [quote]text text text[/quote]

    …is apparently no longer how one makes a block quotation.

    Let me try some things, here….

    Perhaps this is how it’s done?

  • Cord Hamrick

    Ah. That was it. And now I know how to handle boldface, italics, and the like under the new system. Normal HTML markup, rather than the square-brackets. Very good.

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