How could you enjoy heaven knowing of the agony of loved ones in hell? Or the billions of strangers in hell? Christian defenders of God (God knows he can’t defend himself) hypothesize that heaven’s inmates lose their memories of them, or maybe they’re overawed by God so that hell doesn’t trouble them anymore. That’s right—heaven is so horrible that you must be anesthetized or changed into someone else to endure it. This is discussed in part 1.
How to deal with a hideous heaven, part 2
Let’s move on to another rationalization, that those in heaven will see hell clearly but come to accept that it’s actually a great plan. With this, we’re told God has insights we just haven’t thought of.
Preacher Jonathan Edwards, a key figure in the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and ’40s, rationalized the delight of those in heaven this way:
They shall see the dreadful miseries of the damned and consider that they deserved the same misery, and that it was sovereign grace, and nothing else, which made them so much to differ from the damned.
So you don’t deserve heaven and you know it, but you’re going to take delight seeing the damned who might’ve been just as moral as you. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy points out the flaw:
According to Edwards’s own theology, moreover, he was no less deserving of eternal torment himself than are those who suffer in hell. [Nineteenth-century theologian Friedrich] Schleiermacher and many others therefore find it hard to understand how those who receive special favor in this regard could be so deliriously happy in the knowledge that some of their own loved ones do not receive a similar special favor.
The clumsy rationalizations continues into our day. Let’s critique a few.
From the popular Christian site GotQuestions:
Perhaps we will have come to understand how our loved ones’ absence glorifies God.
Glorifies God? A petty tyrant might want to be glorified, but an omniscient god? (Compare God’s need for praise to Donald Trump’s here.)
You must be changed upon entering heaven
From Stand to Reason:
God is doing this as an expression of his own morally perfect nature and his judgment is just and it’s therefore good. When we are changed, we will see things the way God sees them. We will see that this action is appropriate and we will be satisfied in our hearts that goodness is done, and we will honor God for the goodness of judgment (podcast @9:35).
“When we are changed”? This is another admission that an ordinary, moral, loving human couldn’t withstand heaven’s cruelty. Apparently, it’s better to be a God-praising zombie than be forced to deal with the reality of life in heaven. And this is all given without evidence. Faith alone supports the idea that those in heaven will be comfortable with the ongoing torment of billions or even that heaven and hell exist.
And consider, “[God’s] judgment is just and it’s therefore good.” This is just an assumption with no evidence. In fact, it’s claimed in the face of strong evidence to the contrary. The last thing God’s judgment looks like is justice.
Free will is important . . . but God isn’t its champion
Let’s return to that God-praising zombie. One of Christian apologists’ many unevidenced claims is that God is the source of human free will. And why is God hidden? They tell us it’s because God respects free will so much that he wouldn’t want to impose (as if making plain his mere existence would impose, but never mind). We must give our love to God freely, not be forced out of fear or awe (as if the problem were people withholding love rather than God not deserving love, but never mind).
But why do people need to be “changed” as they get to heaven? What does it say that their natural instincts, their expressions of free will, must be overridden? So much for people in heaven freely giving their love to God.
As an aside, do Christians ever stop to think that the guy behind the idea of hell doesn’t look like the good guy anymore? I wonder if, at the end of the Christian story, there’s a plot twist at the pearly gates.
Let’s return to Christian rationalizations for hell. From Eternal Perspective Ministries:
In a sense, none of our loved ones will be in Hell—only some whom we once loved. . . . I cannot prove biblically what I’ve just stated, but I think it rings true, even if the thought is horrifying.
I know we’ve seen it many times already, but I must again highlight what this author admits. This is a Christian saying that heaven is horrifying. You can sense the strain of cognitive dissonance as they justify two opposing ideas—God is good and yet he invented hell. It’s like holding the tails of two angry bulls.
So what have we learned? Getting a ticket to heaven is unmerited, so there’s no good reason for you to be there. You must to be changed into someone else to endure heaven. Human free will is vital to God and yet he must suppress it in heaven. And the need for people to be changed—that is, for their natural instincts to be overridden so they can tolerate heaven—undercuts one of Christian apologists’ favorite arguments, that only God can ground free will.
Have you heard of better rationalizations? Or more ridiculous ones? Share them in the comments.
Wrap up these ideas: Tolerating Hell While in Heaven: 4 Lessons
“I’m doing this out of love,”
it ain’t love.
— seen on the internet