Hell? No??

(Hieronymous Bosch painting)

The subject of Hell has suddenly become front burner flame-on hot since little bits of news have been leaking out about Rob Bell’s new book  Love Wins. Patheos is just beginning what will be an extended conversation on the book and the issues it raises, in what it hopes will be a charitable and constructive conversation.  See here.

I have not read the book yet, but I do know the testimony of the President of Fuller Seminary, Richard Mouw, who says the book is all about Jesus and within the bounds of what could be called generous orthodoxy as opposed to stingy orthodoxy.    I will write a full review when Harper sends me my copy of it,  but in the meantime,  let’s address the basic questions—

Does the NT teach that 1) there is a Hell, and 2) some folks are going there (not necessarily in a handbasket), and 3)  they will experience eternal torment once there?

I have put the matter in three parts, because you could answer questions 1) and 2) with an emphatic yes,  and in fact say no to 3).  Indeed, there is a time-honored tradition of interpreting the NT to say that what happens to the damned is that they are consumed in Hell or Gehenna or the Lake of Fire — pick your favorite moniker — but then, since they are consumed, there is no eternal torment.  Their suffering does not go on and on forever.  And one of the possible implications of interpreting the NT this way is that when we finally get around to the last rodeo, which is to say to the new heaven and new earth, only believers in Christ are left standing on the premises.   Now this is certainly not universalism in the typical modern sense of the term; it’s not an “all dogs go to heaven” kind of universalism, or a Unitarian kind of universalism.   This is, instead, the view that except for those who willfully and knowingly refuse to have any part in Christ and his kingdom,  ‘Love Wins’.

I had a student come up to me this week who thought he had resolved the above conundrum and said we need not choose between anihilationism and eternal torment because for the person in question, the torment is forever, if by forever we mean always until he or she ceases to exist. This is an interesting spin on the old question, and worth considering especially when you actually do your homework on the Hebrew word ‘olam’  or the Greek equivalent ‘aeon’.

‘Olam’ has been loosely translated ‘forever’  but the problem with this translation, according to my esteemed colleague Bill Arnold in his 1 Samuel commentary, is twofold: 1)  in the phrase berit olam (loosely forever covenant or eternal covenant) it becomes clear that olam actually means a covenant of a definitely long but unspecified duration.  In other words, it doesn’t exactly seem to be a synonym for our word ‘eternal’  which means infinitely going on into the future.   2)  notice that we have the phrase ‘olam wu olam’  in the OT, loosely translated ‘forever and ever’.  Now the phrase ‘wu olam’ is totally unnecessary if in fact ‘olam’ by itself means ‘forever’.  In that case, the additional phrase is redundant.   And in fact we have the same issue with the word ‘aeon’ in Greek which could be rendered ‘forever’  but it could refer to a specific period of time— an age or aeon.   And sure enough we have this same redundancy with a similar Greek phrase.  For example in Heb. 13.21 (in some mss.) we have the phrase ‘unto the aeon of aeons’.  Why exactly would we need the ‘of aeons’ phrase at all, if ‘aeon’ itself means forever in the modern sense?    Inquiring minds want to know.

But what exactly does the Bible say about Hell?

Let’s start with some basic facts.  Fact One— the Old Testament says little or nothing about Hell.   What it does talk about is Sheol, the land of the dead, which in Greco-Roman thinking has been called Hades.   For example, in 1 Sam 28 we hear about Samuel’s shade or spirit being called up from Sheol to be consulted by the medium of Endor.   Samuel is none too pleased about the summons, but he is not depicted as having been in either heaven or hell.  He is simply in the land of the dead.  This concept of Sheol continued on well into the New Testament era, and may well represent what Paul believes about where people have gone who have died, but who are not in Christ.  For Christians, of course, Paul says “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”  (2 Cor. 5), but what about everyone else?

In 1 Cor. 15,  Paul says quite literally that  Jesus is raised on Easter “from out of the dead ones”, not merely raised from death, though that is true, but raised from out of the realm of dead persons.  This suggests that the dead are still out there, and have not yet been consigned to Hell.

Indeed, traditionally the Christian idea was that no one is consigned to Hell until after the Final Judgment — which, in case you’re wondering, has not yet taken place!  Paul is perfectly clear that the Final Judgment comes after Jesus returns, and there is the bema seat judgment of Christ (again 2 Cor. 5) before which we all must appear to give an account of the deeds we have done in the body.  (Yes, even Christians are accountable for such things).  Thereafter, it would appear, we are assigned to our eternal destinations.

Or consider  Revelation 20.  Though this is a highly metaphorical and apocalyptic text, it nonetheless suggests the following sequence: 1) the return of Christ; 2) the temporary confinement of Satan; 3) the resurrection of those who are in Christ who will rule with Christ during the millennium; 4) the resurrection from the dead of those not in Christ at the end of the millennium; 5) Satan released, and a final hubbub which leads to Jesus’ judgment on Satan and the nations who are sent packing off to the Lake of Fire, once and for all.  So 6) the new heaven and new earth does not emerge until after Final Judgment has been done on the earth.  And when John says “and there was no more sea” this is metaphorical but refers to there was no more chaos waters, no more Evil in the universe.  This may suggest that Hell is not forever and ever Amen.  But there is other evidence, which can be read in different ways.

Let’s be clear that the answer to the first question — Is there a Hell to be found in the New Testament — is certainly yes.  And Jesus is perhaps the one most clear about this.  He calls it Gehenna, and he says it’s rather like the stinky garbage dump in the Hinnom Valley south of the City of David, and like a garbage dump its where the worm does not die and the fire never goes out.  And there are people expected by Jesus to go there, as the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus shows in Lk 16.  Granted, this is a parable,  an extended metaphor, but it is surely referential, and it indicates the rich man is in an unpleasant place  and there is no remedy.  There is an unalterable divide between the bosom of Abraham and the place where the rich man currently resides in the after life.  The parable teaches that how we live in this life has consequences for where we end up in the afterlife, and this must be taken seriously.

A good presentation on the implications of this is C.S. Lewis’ famous work – The Great Divorce.

So far we have seen that the rather clear answer to the question is there a Hell and are some people going there is—  yes, and yes.     But consider for a moment the further implication of that parable in Luke 16.   It suggests that Abraham,  and poor Lazarus did not go to Hell,  and yet neither one of them believed in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Indeed belief in Jesus as the risen Lord doesn’t even arise amongst Jesus’ followers until Easter and thereafter.  Do we really want to say that nobody went to heaven before Jesus died and rose again?  That would be pretty bold theology, and it is a theology contradicted by OT stories (Enoch and Elijah taken up into the presence of God), and Jesus’ afterlife  parable in Lk. 16.  And then of course there is the issue of whether people are consigned to Hell because they have never heard of the existence of Jesus.  The answer to this latter question is no.

The basis for judgment on anyone is the sins they actually have commited, not something they never knew.  Indeed,  Luke and Acts indicate that God has mercy and forgiveness on even Jesus’ executioners  “because they know not what they do”.  Are we really going to argue that when Jesus asked God to forgive his executioners,  God turned him down?  I don’t think so.  It would seem then that there is a place for considering the possibility that there is a wideness in God’s mercy, greater than some might think.  Rom 1.18-32, which is not about final judgment but a present temporal judgment suggests that God’s existence and power is evident to all in creation, and so no one is every condemned for not knowing God at all.  They are condemned for rejecting the light they have received,  refusing to recognize the evidence of God and his power which is everywhere.  So the answer to the ‘what about the lost person in some obscure place where the internet and Gospel has not penetrated’ is that each will be judged on the basis of what they have done with the light/revelation which they have received from God.

If you do study the life and teaching of Gandhi who  certainly did know about Jesus and his teachings you will discover that Gandhi didn’t really have much of a problem with the teaching of Jesus — he had a problem with the church.  There are a lot of people out there like that these days.  More importantly, I don’t think anyone is in the position to say that Gandhi is burning in Hell and we know this with absolute certainty (an issue raised by Rob Bell’s advance video for the book).  That is to presume to know the final destiny of someone  and where their heart was when they died, and frankly no one has such knowledge except God!  We can talk about the criteria the NT establishes for salvation in Christ, but we can’t talk about whether this or that individual definitely embraced these truths before he or she died since we are not omniscient. It is God who looks upon the heart.  These facts should cause all censorious Christians to take a chill pill when it comes to definitively consigning someone, especially some living person, to outer darkness, especially since  ‘where there is life, there is hope’.

What about texts which suggest that Hell is  a place of eternal torment?  Yes, there are such texts, and they can be interpreted that way.  Perhaps the most famous of these texts is 2 Thess 1.5-10  which should be quoted in full:

“All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.”   Note—- there is that word aeon, in this case aeonion in vs. 9, and in the NIV  translated ‘eternal’, as above.

Notice several things about this text: 1)  the point at which people are punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the Lord’s presence is  “on the day when he comes”. Not before the return of Christ,  but on the day when he returns.  This certainly suggests that while lots of people are in the land of the dead just now,   none of them are yet in Hell.  That comes after the final judgment of  Jesus.  2) what are we to make of the phrase “eternal destruction”.    This has usually been interpreted to mean eternal torment.   But note the word destruction.  The phrase seems almost an oxymoron — how can anything be eternally destroyed?  If it is destroyed, isn’t it done with, over, gone?  I agree that this phrase might be interpreted to refer to eternal torment, but this is not perfectly clear.  Eternal torment may be the implication of Jesus’ parable of the weeds which ends by saying “They will be thrown into a blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 13.43) but Jesus does not say for how long. The fact that the fire doesn’t go out in Gehenna does not tell us how long a particular person in Gehenna suffers from it.   2 Pet. 3.7, similarly talks about the judgment and destruction of the ungodly  but it also  shortly after this talks about the destruction of the old heavens and old earth, and the author seems to imply that once something is destroyed it is gone.  In this case it is replaced by a new heaven and a new earth.

What are the implications of all this?   I don’t think we can debate that the NT says there is a place we today call Hell, and that some people will end up there, because of their own choices and wickedness.  Whether they  will experience eternal torment is more debatable.   My advice however is that we abstain from pronouncing a final judgment on any human soul; that is Jesus’ job at the final judgment.  We simply don’t know the outcome of many who are not followers of Christ now.

And here is a final reason for caution — Romans 11 clearly says that when the Redeemer comes forth from Zion he will turn away the impiety of Jacob — that is,  says Paul, when Jesus comes back and the dead are raised,  “all Israel will be saved”, which at least means a lot of Jews being saved who currently do not believe in Jesus.  Perhaps what Paul means about the second coming in  Phil. 2.5-11 is that there will come a day when all will recognize Jesus as the Christ and as Lord, at the eschaton,  even though many of them don’t do that now.  But there is a difference between recognizing and embracing the truth about Jesus.  The demons recognize the truth about Jesus, but it does not transform them.

What I am more sure of than ever, is that there is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ, and that in the end ‘every knee will bow and ever knee confess’  even those humans or demons who want to have nothing to do with Jesus thereafter.  Salvation in the end is not just a matter of being forced to recognize the truth — it’s about positively embracing and trusting that truth.  And there are apparently some who will never ever do that.  To them God says  “if you insist,  have it your way”.  Hell is the place you experience the absence of the presence of God for as long as you continue to exist.  Whether there is a time when Hell will cease to exist, like the crystal sea of Revelation, equally orthodox persons can debate.  Annihilation or destruction of Satan, Hell and its inhabitants is a possible interpretation of the eschatological endgame, but it is also possible Hell will go on ‘olam wu olam wu olam‘.  If the former is true, then the last persons standing are all followers of Christ according to Revelation.  Revelation 21.8 seems pretty clear — “But as for the cowardly, the faithless…[etc.], their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death”.  Even more telling is the statement in Rev 22.15 which states that after the new heaven has landed on the new earth and the new Jerusalem  has been set up,  “outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”   It would appear from these last two text,  that Hell still has a future, even after the new heaven and new earth show up at a theater near you.  What this suggests is that love, even divine love, does not always win with everyone, not even in the end, and it breaks the heart of God as it should break ours.

In Dante’s Divine Comedy Part One  (Inferno), and in Jonathan Edward’s rightly famous sermon ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’ we find vivid depictions of Hell.   Whether or not these lurid pictures amount to ‘over-egging the pudding’ as the British would say,  it has never been the case that we should consign some idea to the dustbin of history simply because we find it troubling or even offensive.   Indeed, it may well be the hard edges of the Gospel which we most need to hear in an age in which the unholy Trinity holds sway over our culture — the wrong sort of pluralism, the wrong sort of universalism, and relativism.

Hell in the New Testament is a constant reminder that there is a final accountability for our beliefs and behaviors in this life, whatever the particulars and temperature and durability of Hell may be.  It is a reminder that this life is basically the time of decision, and the decisions we make now can indeed have eternal consequences in the afterlife.  And, frankly,  this is not bad news.  It is a part of the Good News that in the end justice as well as mercy, righteousness as well as compassion, and holiness as well as love wins.  Thanks be to God.       

  • Johnathan Pritchett

    “Indeed, Luke and Acts indicate that God has mercy and forgiveness on even Jesus’ executioners “because they know not what they do”. Are we really going to argue that when Jesus asked God to forgive his executioners, God turned him down? I don’t think so.”

    I think it is possible, so yes, I will argue it.

    When Jesus was on earth, He said things like “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” and “Yet, not as I will, but as you will”

    So, when Jesus said “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me” does anyone want to argue that God turned Him down?

    To answer this obviously loaded question with a “no, of course not, God doesn’t turn Jesus down” is to deny the cross.

    So, there is a sense in which God “turned Jesus down” during His time on earth…

    Or, was all that talk from Jesus just for a contrived showcase of Jesus’ humanity because we can go back later and add things like “of course…Jesus knew He had to do it and knew it would be all be okay, that sweating blood stuff in the garden was a cakewalk for Jesus, it wasn’t really a question or a real desire for it to pass, He was slain before the foundation of the world, He’s God the Son so He knew He would pop back up in three days, no big deal, etc. etc. etc.”?

    I didn’t think so.

    My point is that it is possible that God did not grant them forgiveness, so it is possible to argue that.

    Though, even if God forgave them for those things and granted forgiveness for those sins, there are, if they remained in unbelief, many a more sins to condemn them, because those people who are in and remain in unbelief are condemned already.

    Or are we saying here that God unconditionally elected those executioners to salvation because of Christ’s request? Does that mercy and forgiveness, if granted in those cases, necessarily mean eternal life for those executioners?

    Is the claim here that in God’s divine providence and foreknowledge God used only those people He knew would repent and believe the Gospel to execute Jesus so that Jesus’ request would be granted as one way to avoid theological pretzels like “Are we really going to argue that when Jesus asked God to forgive his executioners, God turned him down”?

    Hmm…some clarity here would be nice on exactly what that paragraph I quoted actually means…

    As much as care needs to be taken in presuming or speculating the final destiny of those departed, I would say even more important than that is the care we should take with the Scriptures and how God’s forgiveness works and is granted to people. I think it is clear on this.

    It is too easy to say there are matters we are in the dark on and can’t really speculate about…but I would add that the quoted paragraph above would have to be counted among those things if we are going to say that. I think this post at least demonstrates this.

    One last point, Jesus told people to repent and believe in Him before He died and rose again, so there is that to consider…there is also the notion to consider that people are saved by grace through faith, and that justification has always been by grace through faith (in Yahweh before Jesus’ earthly ministry it would seem), at least Paul’s interpretation of Torah (Gen. 15:6) seems to suggest.

    So a wide possibility of forgiveness and mercy.

    Yes.

    So far wide it falls outside the clear statements in Scripture?

    Nope.

    I agree with your assessment in general regarding those that never hear the Gospel from your statements concerning Rom 1:18-32 in an outworking bridged principle (as this is certainly not an exegetical argument from the passage), but I am not too hopeful on the wide mercy front from that passage…Paul speaks more of condemnation rather than giving out hope for mercy in that passage alone.

    Going by that text, Paul’s inspired opinion indicated that most people don’t do much good with that light that is “clearly seen in what He has made”, but a whole lot of evil.

    Or to put it another way, “This is of course not to say that Paul believes there is a saving knowledge of God outside Christ and special revelation. He has already told us in v. 16 that the place where saving knowledge of the righteousness of God can be found is in the gospel.” And “These things are revealed in creation, but in view of the fallen condition of human beings, they do not help us much., for without new creation fallen persons only repress such knowledge.” (p. 67, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary)

  • http://theskepticalmagician.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/a-horrific-tale-rob-bell-love-wins/#more-13 The Skeptical Magician

    @Jarrett – “You make no distinction in choosing separation of one and choosing torture.” — I don’t quite understand that sentence. If you could please clarify it for me.

    “However, people can and do choose separation. The one in hell choosing their separation from God becomes torment for them.” — Simply renaming something to make it more palatable is not a sufficient argument. It would appear that you either didn’t read my posting, or that you ignored my argument/analogy all together. Was David deserving of his punishment?

    “All the ghastly imagery in the NT doesn’t even come close to the the true torment that there will be if you are truly separated from God’s love.” — I’m assuming this information concerning the true torment is gathered somewhere other than the NT since it doesn’t describe it, and that you can provide evidence for such a claim.

    “For the unsaved/broken to be in heaven, which is a place where the saved/repaired dwell, would indeed be torment (emotional and physical distress).” — Why would it need to be torment for them? If God is supposed to dry all tears and heal all wounds then why would anyone need to remain un-repaired? Is this beyond the capability of an omnipotent being?

    “It is more just for God to place the individual away from himself, instead of forcing him to live in heaven.” — On what basis do you make the claim that this is indeed more just? What unjust measures are you comparing it to, and what evidence do you have to support that this is the most just out of all other possible actions?

  • Jarrett Cooper

    @ The Skeptical Magician,

    TSM says, “I don’t quite understand that sentence. If you could please clarify it for me.”

    You make no difference about the fact that one can choose separation from someone (in this case God) and the fact that one can choose torture. They are not one and the same. You seem not to acknowledge this and it’s important for you to do so.

    TSM says, “Simply renaming something to make it more palatable is not a sufficient argument. It would appear that you either didn’t read my posting, or that you ignored my argument/analogy all together. Was David deserving of his punishment?”

    I read your whole piece. What you confuse in your piece is not recognizing the distinction between choosing separating and choosing torture. You argue that David in telling Elizabeth (his mother) that, “You’re not my mother” that he thereby chooses torture. I don’t see how that follows (the burden is on you to show that!). You can argue that David wants separation, but you cannot argue that David wants torture. They are not the same. And no I don’t believe David deserved that type of punishment. Though, a good rebuking by the mother could have sufficed.

    TSM says, “I’m assuming this information concerning the true torment is gathered somewhere other than the NT since it doesn’t describe it, and that you can provide evidence for such a claim.”

    Do you not think the authors of the NT when writing about Hell are trying to describe just how bad it is, even though it’s impossible to capture the full picture of Hell? After all, we must remember what is Hell and why people are sent there. Hell is the absence of the presence and love of God. Just imagine how awful that is! No author could truly ever paint a picture that can fully capture just are bad a place like Hell is. I’d say the same goes for Heaven, even though some of the authors try to describe just how good it will be, no person can fully capture the magnitude of a place like Heaven or Hell.

    TSM says, “Why would it need to be torment for them? If God is supposed to dry all tears and heal all wounds then why would anyone need to remain un-repaired? Is this beyond the capability of an omnipotent being?”

    It need to be torment for them b/c they rejected God’s calling and thereby remain unbroken/unsaved. It would be wrong for God to force something onto one in which they reject (in this case forcing salvation onto someone).

    TSM says, “On what basis do you make the claim that this is indeed more just? What unjust measures are you comparing it to, and what evidence do you have to support that this is the most just out of all other possible actions?”

    I believe it is more just b/c God created us with free-will and with free-will comes free-choice, and if we choose to be separated from God, then it’s the proper thing for God to obey our choice than it is to force something onto us. Take this scenario: I have a child and in my future I hope he inherits my restaurant that I own and that my family has owned for several generations. However, my son does not wish to become owner of my family restaurant, but wants to work at another restaurant. Now, what is the more just thing for me to do? Force my son to work and take over my restaurant, even though he does not want to? Or to obey and accept the fact that my son chooses to work at another restaurant? The answer is obvious.

  • http://theskepticalmagician.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/a-horrific-tale-rob-bell-love-wins/#more-13 The Skeptical Magician

    @jarrett

    Torture by nature is against the will of the individual. If it wasn’t against their will, it wouldn’t be torture, therefore you cannot choose torture. It is something that is inflicted upon you.

    If you “choose separation from god” as you like to put it, you are tortured for eternity, against your will. You do not have a choice. People who chose separation could be allowed to go to some nice tropical island somewhere and hang out with other like-minded people for stimulating conversation for all eternity, but instead they are tortured, against their will, in a big cosmic bonfire. There are an infinite number of other possible options that could be taken by an omnipotent creator that would be better than roasting people for eternity. Your restaurant argument (which I think you intended to prove something else) is a good example. If your child chooses to work at a different restaurant, then so be it. Like you said, it is just for you not to force him to work in yours. However, if he chooses to work there and as his father you lock him down into a deep fryer for eternity in that restaurant, he did not choose that, and the torture you are in inflicting upon him is unjust. You would be a wicked and horrible father if you did something like that would you not?

    “You argue that David in telling Elizabeth (his mother) that, ‘You’re not my mother’ that he thereby chooses torture (the burden is on you to show that!)” — I said no such thing, is that your assertion? David did not choose his torture, it was inflicted upon him against his will, and it was unjust, just like it would be unjust if a god did it. I have no burden to prove, as I was showing exactly the opposite. I don’t really know how that could be confused.

    On heaven and hell, I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that I believe in neither. There is insufficient evidence of either such place existing, just as their is insufficient evidence of a creator. The evidence is stacked against Yahweh and Jesus strictly from Biblical errors, insertions, and contradictions. So, let’s look at this from a different perspective. What proof do you have at all, outside of the Bible, that either heaven or hell exists?

    “It need to be torment for them b/c they rejected God’s calling and thereby remain unbroken/unsaved. It would be wrong for God to force something onto one in which they reject (in this case forcing salvation onto someone).” — So it’s okay for God to force torture on them? Again, there are an infinite number of possibilities that an omnipotent creator has.

    “I believe it is more just b/c God created us with free-will and with free-will comes free-choice, and if we choose to be separated from God, then it’s the proper thing for God to obey our choice than it is to force something onto us.” — I think my above critiques address this issue pretty well. If it’s wrong for a god to force something on us, then why force a burning lake of fire upon us?

  • John I.

    2 comments:

    1) I always thought, perhaps naively, that eternal death meant dead forever. That is, no conscious/spiritual and bodily resurrection of any kind after the second death. Hence it is just as eternal as the eternal life is for Christ’s disciples. An interim period of just punishment before eternal death is entirely possible.

    However, we must remember the parable of the workers in the field. The workers who just arrived got as much pay as those who had toiled all day. Hence it does not lie in the mouth of anyone to complain if God is merciful to the evil as well as to the righteous.

    2) As to the difference between torment and separation. Jarret’s separation entails torment, but it is not clear in his example if those who choose separation know that. If they do, then aren’t they knowingly choosing torment? And if they don’t, aren’t they making their decisions on a less than informed basis? Hence I don’t find his illustration sufficiently analogical to convince me of anything.

    J.

  • Jarrett Cooper

    @ The Skeptical Magician,

    TSM says, “Torture by nature is against the will of the individual. If it wasn’t against their will, it wouldn’t be torture, therefore you cannot choose torture. It is something that is inflicted upon you.

    If you “choose separation from god” as you like to put it, you are tortured for eternity, against your will. You do not have a choice. People who chose separation could be allowed to go to some nice tropical island somewhere and hang out with other like-minded people for stimulating conversation for all eternity, but instead they are tortured, against their will, in a big cosmic bonfire. There are an infinite number of other possible options that could be taken by an omnipotent creator that would be better than roasting people for eternity.”

    I would agree that torture by nature is against the will of the individual. However, torment is not. People torment themselves daily by the actions they commit and lives they live. Have you ever seen a drug addict? Do you know their are people who suffer from depression and anxiety, but never seek treatment, b/c of their own choosing?

    You still don’t grasp the distinction. And this is it: The separation you choose from God becomes torment for you because you’re separated from all that his holy, just, and good. When you separate yourself from such a being the only logical outcome will be torment for that individual (you see, there is no other option like going to the tropics). And no, there is not torture being carried by some sadistic mad-man, like you try to portray God as. By the way, who’s to say in hell that you are not surrounded by like minded people? I would say that you are surrounded by people who live in habitual Sin. That is Hell. Continually sinning and never being redeemed. Now that is ghastly!

    TSM says, “Your restaurant argument (which I think you intended to prove something else) is a good example. If your child chooses to work at a different restaurant, then so be it. Like you said, it is just for you not to force him to work in yours. However, if he chooses to work there and as his father you lock him down into a deep fryer for eternity in that restaurant, he did not choose that, and the torture you are in inflicting upon him is unjust. You would be a wicked and horrible father if you did something like that would you not?”

    You continue to make God as some crazed lunatic who gets off on people roasting. As I said before — when you separate yourself from all that is good, the only logical outcome there can be is torment for that individual (what other outcome could there be when you separate yourself from all that is Good?). But, God being a just God and valuing our choices, will allow an individual to be separated from himself.

    TSM says, “I said no such thing, is that your assertion? David did not choose his torture, it was inflicted upon him against his will, and it was unjust, just like it would be unjust if a god did it. I have no burden to prove, as I was showing exactly the opposite. I don’t really know how that could be confused.”

    No, I’m not confused, here is what you said in your piece, “In the story, David disobeyed his mother and rejected her “saving” by saying, “You’re not my mother.” By the choice argument, David in fact did choose to be tortured.”

    No, by the choice argument David, at best, choose to be separated from his mother. Not that David actually choose torture.

    TSM says, “On heaven and hell, I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that I believe in neither. There is insufficient evidence of either such place existing, just as their is insufficient evidence of a creator. The evidence is stacked against Yahweh and Jesus strictly from Biblical errors, insertions, and contradictions. So, let’s look at this from a different perspective. What proof do you have at all, outside of the Bible, that either heaven or hell exists?”

    I believe there are strong and persuasive natural theological arguments for the existence of God. (Check out the book Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.) I also think there are strong arguments that God revealed himself to the Jewish people and even further believe there are strong arguments about the historicity of the New Testament and Jesus, and yes, even strong historical arguments for the resurrection. Given this allows me to have a certain credence for the Bible, and therefore I believe in Heaven and Hell based off of those considerations. But, no, I can’t prove that heaven and hell exists. I also can’t prove that there exists an external world, that other minds exist, and that we are not just living in a simulation. However, I don’t believe I’m irrational in believing in some of things I believe

    TSM says, “So it’s okay for God to force torture on them? Again, there are an infinite number of possibilities that an omnipotent creator has.”

    Again and again, you keep using the word torture. Yes, it’s just for God to separate himself from an individual who does not want to be with God. There is not an infinite number of possibilities that an omnipotent creator has when it comes to the outcome of separating himself from another. I’ve already said, the only logical outcome for an individual when separated from all that is holy, just, and good is for that person to live in torment.

    TSM says, “I think my above critiques address this issue pretty well. If it’s wrong for a god to force something on us, then why force a burning lake of fire upon us?”

    As I said before, I don’t believe one can fully capture the magnitude of something like Heaven or Hell, and even though some of the New Testament authors try, the images they use are rhetorical devices trying to show just how bad a place like Hell will be, and how good a place like Heaven will be. I don’t believe, like you seem to believe, that Hell is a literal roasting oven that God cooks the wicked on. We are also told Hell is a pit of darkness. But if we compare pit of darkness with the other images such as a furnace and fire, we get contradictions. How can there be an utter pit of darkness when there is also nothing but fire? That’s b/c we should not read these things hyper-literally, but rather understand the point the authors are trying to make. That Hell will be a place of utter anguish.

    In all, I think it is just for God to separate himself from an individual who chooses to not want to be with God. But, unfortunately, the only logical outcome when being separated from all that is holy, just, and good is torment.

  • http://theskepticalmagician.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/a-horrific-tale-rob-bell-love-wins/#more-13 The Skeptical Magician

    J: “I would agree that torture by nature is against the will of the individual. However, torment is not.”

    TSM: The Oxford dictionary defines torment this way as a noun: “severe physical or mental suffering” and this way as a verb: “cause to experience severe mental or physical suffering”. You can basically interchange it with torture, you’d do good to abandon this line of reasoning you have going.

    J: “Do you know their are people who suffer from depression and anxiety, but never seek treatment, b/c of their own choosing?”

    TSM: Do you know there are people with depression who seek treatment that is ineffective and that medications and counseling are ineffective in a large number of cases? Did these people choose to be depressed? Is the torment from their depression their fault? The ones who don’t get treatment many times do so as a result of complex chemical imbalances in their brain that causes them not to seek treatment and to avoid social contact. To say it is their fault not only shows a lack of understanding of the complex nature of depression and mental disorders, it shows a complete lack of compassion for what those people are going through. To suggest it is their fault is in very poor taste.

    J: “you see, there is no other option like going to the tropics”

    TSM: Why not?

    J: “And no, there is not torture being carried by some sadistic mad-man, like you try to portray God as.”

    TSM: Three questions: Who created hell? Who has the power to turn on the flames (the pain)? Who has the power to turn off the flames (the pain)? Who controls the intensity of the flames (pain)? Who prevents the one in pain from having respite or sleep from the pain?

    J: (In response to the restaurant scenario) “You continue to make God as some crazed lunatic who gets off on people roasting.”

    TSM: You completely dodged the question, so I’ll ask it again: “If your son chose the other restaurant, would you not be a horrible and wicked father for locking him in a deep fryer?”

    J: “No, I’m not confused, here is what you said in your piece, “In the story, David disobeyed his mother and rejected her “saving” by saying, “You’re not my mother.” By the choice argument, David in fact did choose to be tortured.”

    TSM: Reread the paragraph, it is a refutation of the choice argument. In fact, it’s a refutation of the choice argument you’ve been trying to use this whole time.

    J: “No, by the choice argument David, at best, choose to be separated from his mother. Not that David actually choose torture. ”

    TSM: YES!!!!!! YES!!!!!!! YES!!!!!! This is the point I’ve been trying to get across to you this whole time!!!!

    J: (Concerning books and arguments for the existence of a creator) “Given this allows me to have a certain credence for the Bible, and therefore I believe in Heaven and Hell based off of those considerations.”

    TSM: Could you please list the books you’ve read that argue against a creator? For example books like: The God Delusion, The Christian Delusion, Godless, or the End of Biblical Studies as examples.

    J: “Again and again, you keep using the word torture.”

    TSM: I use it because it is applicable.

    J: “There is not an infinite number of possibilities that an omnipotent creator has when it comes to the outcome of separating himself from another.”

    TSM: If an omipotent .

    J: “I’ve already said, the only logical outcome for an individual when separated from all that is holy, just, and good is for that person to live in torment. ”

    TSM: What set of criteria do you use to judge whether the god of the Bible is just or good? How is torment the only logical outcome of separation?

    J: “I don’t believe, like you seem to believe, that Hell is a literal roasting oven that God cooks the wicked on.”

    TSM: I thought Jesus gave a pretty vivid representation with Lazarus and the rich man. Lots of fire, pain, anguish, thirst, and torment in the flames. There is also: “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matt 5:22); “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). It’s hard to get any more descriptive than that. How else could you interpret a “lake of fire” that people are thrown into?

    J: “We are also told Hell is a pit of darkness. But if we compare pit of darkness with the other images such as a furnace and fire, we get contradictions. How can there be an utter pit of darkness when there is also nothing but fire? That’s b/c we should not read these things hyper-literally, but rather understand the point the authors are trying to make.”

    TSM: In any other area of your life if someone told you conflicting and contradictory reports concerning the nature of things, you would not consider them to be a trustworthy source of information. Why does the Bible get a pass that other sources of information would not?

    J: “the only logical outcome when being separated from all that is holy, just, and good is torment.”

    TSM: If a god was truly omnipotent, it would have an infinite number of other options at it’s disposal, and logic would therefore dictate that torment is not the only possible outcome. That is if a god is truly omnipotent.

  • http://theskepticalmagician.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/a-horrific-tale-rob-bell-love-wins/#more-13 The Skeptical Magician

    “If an omipotent . ” above should read: “Then he is not omnipotent.” I’m not sure how that got messed up.

  • Jarrett Cooper

    @ The Skeptical Magacian,

    TSM says, “The Oxford dictionary defines torment this way as a noun: “severe physical or mental suffering” and this way as a verb: “cause to experience severe mental or physical suffering”. You can basically interchange it with torture, you’d do good to abandon this line of reasoning you have going.”

    As you yourself noted we don’t choose torture, but we can choose to torment ourselves. This can be done by the lives we live. One example I gave are people who are drug addicts. You didn’t even acknowledge this poignant fact. There is a distinction between torture and torment.

    TSM says, “Do you know there are people with depression who seek treatment that is ineffective and that medications and counseling are ineffective in a large number of cases? Did these people choose to be depressed? Is the torment from their depression their fault? The ones who don’t get treatment many times do so as a result of complex chemical imbalances in their brain that causes them not to seek treatment and to avoid social contact. To say it is their fault not only shows a lack of understanding of the complex nature of depression and mental disorders, it shows a complete lack of compassion for what those people are going through. To suggest it is their fault is in very poor taste.”

    The torment would be on their behalf when they choose not to seek treatment. Just like the torment on those who are drug addicts is on their behalf, when they continue to abuse such substances without getting help. I’m fully aware of mental disorders, so to try and say I’m not showing compassion and suggesting that I’m saying it’s their fault — is not called for.

    TSM says, “Why not?”

    B/c the only logical outcome is to live in your sins, completely separate from all that is Good, and therefore you live in torment. Just like the only logical outcome when you separate yourself from light is to live in darkness. There is not other possible outcome.

    TSM says, “Three questions: Who created hell? Who has the power to turn on the flames (the pain)? Who has the power to turn off the flames (the pain)? Who controls the intensity of the flames (pain)? Who prevents the one in pain from having respite or sleep from the pain?”

    God is the creator of Hell (only because there are those who want nothing to do with God). The pain and torment is brought on by the individual because they choose to separate themselves from God. I believe you control the intensity of the pain. There are arguments that say there are moral improvements while in hell (though never moral perfection), and given this — would decrease your torment. The individual prevents themselves from ceasing to experience pain. There’s Bible verses that say the ones in Hell only curse God all the more and still don’t repent from their ways (cf. Rev 16:11).

    TSM says, “You completely dodged the question, so I’ll ask it again: “If your son chose the other restaurant, would you not be a horrible and wicked father for locking him in a deep fryer?””

    The point of the analogy with my son and my wanting him to inherit my family restaurant was to only serve the point that it is more just for one to obey and respect someones’ choice then to force something onto someone. Do you agree that it is more just for God to obey your choice and separate himself from you, than it is for him to force you to dwell with him?

    You in return changed my analogy into a disanalogy. But yes, the father would be wicked if he locked his son into a deep fryer. However, the father would not be wicked if he knew his son would be in anguish for making the choice that he made (not inheriting the father’s restaurant).

    TSM says, “Reread the paragraph, it is a refutation of the choice argument. In fact, it’s a refutation of the choice argument you’ve been trying to use this whole time.”

    It is not a refutation of the choice argument because one can willingly choose something that has devastating consequence, even though the individual does not actually choose the devastating consequences themselves. This is what you’re having a problem understanding.

    TSM says, “YES!!!!!! YES!!!!!!! YES!!!!!! This is the point I’ve been trying to get across to you this whole time!!!!”

    Yes, read my above piece! And the point I’ve been trying to make to you is that one can choose something that has bad consequences even though the individual doesn’t actually choose the bad consequences. There’s people that choose to do drugs and to cheat on their spouse. However, most don’t choose to die of a drug overdose or to end up divorced.

    TSM says, “Could you please list the books you’ve read that argue against a creator? For example books like: The God Delusion, The Christian Delusion, Godless, or the End of Biblical Studies as examples.”

    If you want people to think atheism is intelligent, quote authors like Jordan Howard Sobel, Graham Oppy, Michael Ruse, and J.L Mackie. Dawkins is not a philosopher and admitted to John Lennox in there debate that it is rational to believe in God. I’d recommend you to watch the debate between William Lane Craig and Hector Avalos.

    TSM says, “What set of criteria do you use to judge whether the god of the Bible is just or good? How is torment the only logical outcome of separation?”

    I think Aquinas’ argument from Goodness helps show that God is ‘the Good.’ (I would also say for God to send his only begotten Son do die for our sins, makes him pretty just and good to me :-)) You ask how is torment the only logical outcome of separation. This is so, just like separating yourself from light can only possibly leave you with darkness. When you separate yourself from the the just, holy, and good, then your left with the obvious (torment).

    TSM says, “I thought Jesus gave a pretty vivid representation with Lazarus and the rich man. Lots of fire, pain, anguish, thirst, and torment in the flames. There is also: “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matt 5:22); “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). It’s hard to get any more descriptive than that. How else could you interpret a “lake of fire” that people are thrown into?

    In any other area of your life if someone told you conflicting and contradictory reports concerning the nature of things, you would not consider them to be a trustworthy source of information. Why does the Bible get a pass that other sources of information would not?”

    They are only conflicting when you take them hyper-literally, meaning at face value. I don’t take those passages hyper-literally, but I do take them very seriously. It seems obvious to me that the authors of the NT are making the point that Hell will be a place of severe anguish. We need to remember that the Bible uses all types of literally devices and we should use literally criticism. If we are to understand the Bible we need to use literally criticism.

    TSM says, “If a god was truly omnipotent, it would have an infinite number of other options at it’s disposal, and logic would therefore dictate that torment is not the only possible outcome. That is if a god is truly omnipotent.”

    Not even God can do the impossible. So when one separates themselves from light, the only logical outcome is for that individual to live in darkness. Not even an omnipotent being can not make this so!

  • http://theskepticalmagician.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/a-horrific-tale-rob-bell-love-wins/#more-13 The Skeptical Magician

    @-Jarret –

    J: “As you yourself noted we don’t choose torture, but we can choose to torment ourselves. This can be done by the lives we live. One example I gave are people who are drug addicts. You didn’t even acknowledge this poignant fact. There is a distinction between torture and torment.”

    TSM: Are you serious? Any number of things can torment a person including themselves, but that doesn’t negate the fact that a god can both torture and torment someone in hell. Here you are committing the equivocation logical fallacy. i.e. a person can torment themselves, therefore it is not god who torments them in hell, but themselves.

    J: “I’m fully aware of mental disorders, so to try and say I’m not showing compassion and suggesting that I’m saying it’s their fault — is not called for.”

    TSM: If you can’t understand that mental disorders themselves are the cause for people not seeking help in many situations, I don’t know what to tell you.

    J: “B/c the only logical outcome is to live in your sins, completely separate from all that is Good, and therefore you live in torment. Just like the only logical outcome when you separate yourself from light is to live in darkness. There is not other possible outcome.”

    TSM: Here we have the false dilemma fallacy. An omnipotent being would by being omnipotent, not be limited to one or two possible courses of action. That being would have an infinite number of possible courses to choose from being there is not limit to its power or capabilities. More on that later…

    J: “God is the creator of Hell (only because there are those who want nothing to do with God).”

    TSM: Again a false dilemma logical fallacy. An omnipotent being has infinite possible courses of action.

    J: “The pain and torment is brought on by the individual because they choose to separate themselves from God.”

    TSM: Here we have the Post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. The pain and torment are brought on because the god inflicts the pain on the person. Without his say-so, the pain would not occur.

    J: “I believe you control the intensity of the pain.”

    TSM: Just because you believe somethings doesn’t make it so, and if that was the case, I’m sure everyone would turn the pain off and get together for drinks. Something tells me that scenario wouldn’t fly.

    J: “Do you agree that it is more just for God to obey your choice and separate himself from you, than it is for him to force you to dwell with him? ”

    TSM: If said being existed sure, but its decision to throw me into an oven is not just.

    J: “You in return changed my analogy into a disanalogy. But yes, the father would be wicked if he locked his son into a deep fryer. However, the father would not be wicked if he knew his son would be in anguish for making the choice that he made (not inheriting the father’s restaurant). ”

    TSM: You’ve got to be kidding me. I can’t be the only one in here beating his head against the wall. I’m not even going to bother unpacking that. I think it speaks for itself.

    J: “It is not a refutation of the choice argument because one can willingly choose something that has devastating consequence, even though the individual does not actually choose the devastating consequences themselves. This is what you’re having a problem understanding.”

    TSM: No, I’m not having a difficult time understanding this. See false dilemma logical fallacy as mentioned above.

    J: “Yes, read my above piece! And the point I’ve been trying to make to you is that one can choose something that has bad consequences even though the individual doesn’t actually choose the bad consequences. There’s people that choose to do drugs and to cheat on their spouse. However, most don’t choose to die of a drug overdose or to end up divorced. ”

    TSM: Again, false dilemma logical fallacy when applying this to an omnipotent being that would have an infinite number of actions in which to choose from.

    J: “If you want people to think atheism is intelligent, quote authors like Jordan Howard Sobel, Graham Oppy, Michael Ruse, and J.L Mackie. Dawkins is not a philosopher and admitted to John Lennox in there debate that it is rational to believe in God. I’d recommend you to watch the debate between William Lane Craig and Hector Avalos.”

    TSM: If I want people to think atheism is intelligent I’ll quote those authors? Give me a break. Now have you read the books of those authors, or are you just dropping names out? I didn’t ask who I should quote, I asked who you have read. I’ll take the deflection to mean that you haven’t read any serious books casting a skeptical eye towards your religion. Dawkins admitted that it would possibly be rational to believe in a deistic god, which is basically the same as no god, because it’s a god who sets things in motion to create a universe, evolution, etc. and then it takes off to bigger and better things, and has no interaction with anyone. So no, Dawkins did not admit it was rational to believe in a theistic god as you would like to assert here. And what does Dawkins not being a philosopher have to do with anything? I’ve watched a few debates with William Lane Craig. I’m not impressed.

    J: “When you separate yourself from the the just, holy, and good, then your left with the obvious (torment).”

    TSM: Again, omnipotent god = infinite possibilities.

    J: “I don’t take those passages hyper-literally, but I do take them very seriously.”

    TSM: I don’t know how you can take “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” any way other than literally.

    J: “Not even God can do the impossible.”

    TSM: So I guess that whole thing where Jesus said, “All things are possible with God” he was just blowing smoke then. If he can’t do the impossible (which I can’t believe you actually said that) then he isn’t omnipotent.

    I think this has gone on long enough. You’ve obviously drank the Kool-Aid and more than enough time has been wasted on your circular reasoning. If you can’t see the error in what you call logic, then there is nothing else I can do.

  • Jarrett Cooper

    @ The Skeptical Magician,

    TSM says, “Are you serious? Any number of things can torment a person including themselves, but that doesn’t negate the fact that a god can both torture and torment someone in hell. Here you are committing the equivocation logical fallacy. i.e. a person can torment themselves, therefore it is not god who torments them in hell, but themselves.”

    God does not torture, though he can punish. Not only can God punish, but he can respect one’s decision to be separated from himself, and for such persons who choose to be separated from God–will experience anguish.

    You are confusing justice and punishment with torment. My argument is not fallacious. We agree there can be distinctions drawn between torment and torture.

    TSM says, “If you can’t understand that mental disorders themselves are the cause for people not seeking help in many situations, I don’t know what to tell you.”

    That is simply false. Granted, there can are cases where the above is true, but to apply your sentence for all cases is blatantly false. I, unfortunately, have first hand experience, I’m diagnosed with panic disorder along with GAD.

    TSM says, “Here we have the false dilemma fallacy. An omnipotent being would by being omnipotent, not be limited to one or two possible courses of action. That being would have an infinite number of possible courses to choose from being there is not limit to its power or capabilities. More on that later…”

    As said before, if you choose to be separated from light, then the only logical outcome is to live in darkness. Not even an omnipotent being can change this.

    TSM says, “Again a false dilemma logical fallacy. An omnipotent being has infinite possible courses of action.”

    See above.

    TSM says, “Here we have the Post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. The pain and torment are brought on because the god inflicts the pain on the person. Without his say-so, the pain would not occur.”

    I’m actually opened to the idea of God literally inflicting physical pain on the individual for punishment, and/or [then] lets the individual live in habitual sin and for this to be their torment, or if God reveals himself in such a fashion that it causes the person anguish. (God’s glory can be so overwhelming that the unredeemed can only help but to feel anguish.) I’m opened to any of these.

    Either way, I first want to say we need to make a distinction between pain and torment. They are not one and the same. It could very well be the case that God can and does inflict pain, but that doesn’t follow that he tortures. It can be the case that God does cause pain for punishment, but after a finite amount of time allows you to live eternally in your sins, to never be redeemed, and separated from God — and this would be your torment.

    TSM says, “Just because you believe somethings doesn’t make it so, and if that was the case, I’m sure everyone would turn the pain off and get together for drinks. Something tells me that scenario wouldn’t fly.”

    Given the fact that you can make actions in hell, then I’m justified in saying that you can make moral improvements and therefore decrease your sin and consequences thereof, and in effect reduce the intensity the suffering that comes from your sin. There are good arguments for this. It is not just me believing without an argument. Unfortunately, this is more than likely not the case that you make moral improvements and therefore only intensify your anguish all the more.

    TSM says, “If said being existed sure, but its decision to throw me into an oven is not just.”

    We’re in agreement on that (God adhering to our choices is just). Furthermore, we need to note that it makes no difference if the consequences of God adhering to your choice to be separated from himself results in something that seems so bad that it is compared to being in a fiery furnace, tied hand-and-feet and being thrown into utter darkness, and etc.

    TSM says, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I can’t be the only one in here beating his head against the wall. I’m not even going to bother unpacking that. I think it speaks for itself.”

    You need to unpack it for me. I agreed that the father would be wrong to force his will onto his son. But also acknowledged the fact that if the father knew (say with foreknowledge) that his son in choosing to work at another restaurant would result in anguish for the son, that the father would not be wicked in still respecting his son’s choice.

    TSM says, “No, I’m not having a difficult time understanding this. See false dilemma logical fallacy as mentioned above.”

    Again, if you choose to be separated from light, the only logical outcome is to live in darkness. Not even an omnipotent being can change this.

    TSM says, “Again, false dilemma logical fallacy when applying this to an omnipotent being that would have an infinite number of actions in which to choose from.”

    See above.

    TSM says, “If I want people to think atheism is intelligent I’ll quote those authors? Give me a break. Now have you read the books of those authors, or are you just dropping names out? I didn’t ask who I should quote, I asked who you have read. I’ll take the deflection to mean that you haven’t read any serious books casting a skeptical eye towards your religion. Dawkins admitted that it would possibly be rational to believe in a deistic god, which is basically the same as no god, because it’s a god who sets things in motion to create a universe, evolution, etc. and then it takes off to bigger and better things, and has no interaction with anyone. So no, Dawkins did not admit it was rational to believe in a theistic god as you would like to assert here. And what does Dawkins not being a philosopher have to do with anything? I’ve watched a few debates with William Lane Craig. I’m not impressed.”

    Yes, if you want more people to really come and to accept atheism as a more respectable philosophical position then I’d quote/use other guys who are actually philosophers of religion. I don’t believe people like Richard Dawkins and Hector Avalos are the ones to go to when making philosophical arguments for the existence, or lack thereof about God.

    For example, Dawkins called his book ‘The God Delusion’ (notice he did not call his book ‘The Christian Delusion’ like John Loftus did). So, for Dawkins to say belief in God, and yes even a deistic God, is rational says a lot. For his book is called ‘The God Delusion’, and not the Abrahamic God Delusion or Theistic God Delusion (in the book Dawkins critiques Aquinas’ cosmological argument, which only argues for a deistic God, for example). For a non-philosopher to make a book that deals with such heavy philosophical issues makes it where I would discourage, rather than encourage, people from reading Dawkins to get their philosophy of religion insights. I did like his ‘The Selfish Gene’ book. :)

    I’m aware of J.L. Mackie’s logical problem of evil and William Rowe evidential problem of Evil. I’m aware of Richard Carrier and the case against the historicity of the Gospels, and know about John Loftus’ ‘Outsider Test of Faith.’ I’ve read papers about the problem of ‘Divine Hiddenness’, which next to the problem of evil is suppose to be the big objection to theism. So forth and so on. The best one can do is follow the philosophy papers that argue for and against the aforementioned.

    But yes, if you think The God Delusion and the The End of Biblical Studies, and the like are the tour de force for atheism, then I should be reading them!

    However, all of this is beside the point. We were arguing about the torment experienced in Hell (that you brought up in your link), but I thought all of this was being argued based on presuppositions–like God existing there being a place as Hell–for the sake of the argument. You then wanted proof for the existence of Heaven and Hell, and I gave reasons why I believe they exist.

    TSM says, “Again, omnipotent god = infinite possibilities.”

    That is simply false. When you wish to be separated from light, the only possibility left is for you to live in darkness. Not even an omnipotent being can change this fact. Not even God can do the logically impossible!

    TSM, “I don’t know how you can take “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” any way other than literally.”

    That’s because the Lake of Fire is taken from the book of Revelation. The most metaphorical book in the Bible. You know the book that emphatically mentions the seven-headed beast, and all of the other overly metaphorical language! I don’t take all of that hyper-literally, but do take it seriously. I also don’t believe come judgement there is a literal book and God (or any other person) searching through it looking for our names. I hope no one has the same name and a mistake happens!

    TSM says, “So I guess that whole thing where Jesus said, “All things are possible with God” he was just blowing smoke then. If he can’t do the impossible (which I can’t believe you actually said that) then he isn’t omnipotent.

    I think this has gone on long enough. You’ve obviously drank the Kool-Aid and more than enough time has been wasted on your circular reasoning. If you can’t see the error in what you call logic, then there is nothing else I can do.”

    Yes, not even God can do the impossible — that is the logically impossible. God can’t make a squared circle, a married bachelor, make 2 + 2 = 5, and etc. There’s several things that God can’t do. For not even an omnipotent being can do what is logically impossible. This goes for someone who separates themselves from light, and thereby lives in darkness. Not even God can change this, for where there is light there is no longer darkness, so it’s logically impossible to be separated from light, and not live in darkness!

    God can’t even terminate his own existence! As a necessary being, it’s logically impossible for God to not exist!

    In short, not even an omnipotent can do a formal contradiction = logically impossible.

  • http://www.scottruss.blogspot.com/ Scott Russ

    Wow! Excellent post. Leave it to a United Methodist prof to find a “middle way” using scripture, reason, tradition and experience to bring a well balanced understanding to this whole debate.

    Thanks!

    Scott Russ

  • Kevin

    If there is no Eternal Conscious Torment, why are we even told that the fire will never go out? I suspect God isn’t going to be perpetually stoking it with lost souls throughout all time.

  • LMcGinnis

    Ben,

    Why did you use the phrase “never ever” (“apparently some who will never ever do that”) in your original post? Obviously, it wasn’t necessary. Should we assume “never” doesn’t mean “never” unless paired with “ever?”

    Why does everyone keep referring to Luke 16 as a parable? If it is a parable, it is the only one where Jesus provides names.

    Isn’t Acts 2:27 (using “hades”) a quote from Ps which uses Sheol? Why does Luke tie these two words together if, as you claim, they aren’t synonymous?

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