This post is — once again — by RJS, and we are all looking forward to Scot’s return. As usual – personal reflections are mine – I don’t know Scot’s position.
Now we come to a topic where I anticipate great conversation. Chapter 5 of The Reason for Godis entitled “How can a loving God send people to hell?” This puts it on the line for many who comment here — how can a God of Love also be a God of Judgment?
I admit, and this is probably my failing, but I have never worried much about hell – the concept is too distant and too abstract – “fire insurance” was never a convincing motivation for Christian faith. I would rather worry more about how we should live and less about heaven or hell.
Is Hell actually an important concept?
Ok – I know this is an important topic in our Church and our world for some. Keller has some interesting observations here – taking his cue largely from C. S. Lewis. First, lets dispel the common perception, both from the outside, and sometimes within the church itself:
Modern people inevitably think that hell works like this: God gives us time, but if we haven’t made the right choices by the end of our lives, he casts our souls into hell for all eternity. As the souls fall through space, they cry out for mercy, but God says “Too late! You had your chance, now you will suffer!” (p. 76)
… it is a travesty to picture God casting people into a pit who are crying “I’m sorry! Let me out!”(p. 79).
In the view of both Keller and Lewis hell is the result of God giving people up to their desire including their desire for freedom from God himself. It is a self chosen eternal consequence of failure to follow God.
The issue of judgment is even more important: A God of Love must also be a God of Judgment. How could it be otherwise? Think about it. If there is no judgment there is no victory over evil and there is no basis for morality. Nothing in the present world matters – injustice will not be put to right, evil will never be punished. There is no real justification for statements of right or wrong. What difference does it make?
But… The Bible says that God’s wrath flows from his love and delight in his creation. He is angry at evil and injustice because it is destroying its peace and integrity. (p. 73) There is a God who will right all wrongs and settle all accounts, who has won the victory over evil, over pain and suffering. On this we rest – no need for vengeance and retaliation.
I must admit that Keller’s description of hell and judgment here was not what I expected. Judgment is an essential element of the faith …
But what is Hell?
And… what about those who have never heard? Shouldn’t judgment be just?