A reader has a Question about Hell

A reader has a Question about Hell November 29, 2016

She writes:

My brother is still struggling with belief in God, and one thing he said to me that I had trouble answering was “God creates us without our consent, and then we have to follow all his rules or else go to Hell. How is that fair? I didn’t ask to be created.”

Do you have any words of wisdom I could pass on to him? He is searching, he just needs good, solid answers that I can’t give him myself. I thought you would be a good one to ask.

Also do you know of any books or video resources I could give him that could help him through his problems with God? He said he is willing to read something, which I take as a good sign.

Salvation is not so much a matter of following rules but of love and the desire for life. The trouble with your brother’s complaint is that it is, like all objections to God, an attempt to saw off the branch one is sitting on. His appeal to fairness is an appeal to justice. And justice is of God, since God is the Good from which all our love of goodness (including the goodness of Justice) flows. Hell is not some dungeon God sticks us in for failing to obey “the rules”. It is nothing other than the loss of the Goodness we desire (who is God)–and it is self-inflicted.

God makes us for love because he is love. And we desire love. The trouble is that we can wind up choosing to put second things first: loving creatures more than the Creator from which the creature gets all its goodness. This leads to eternal sadness if we persist in it, because no creature is capable of satisfying our desire for the goodness we seek. Plus, it is cruel to the creature we idolize since it can never measure up to our infinite demand for goodness, truth, and beauty. Hell is, in short, not God’s refusal to love us for keeping some arbitrary “rules”. It is our choice to refuse God’s love in the absurd pursuit of something else to make us happy. Typically, that something else is money, pleasure, power, or honor, none of which can satisfy us. The gates of hell are not closed by God, but by us–and from the inside. God is on record as the one bringing a battering ram to them. That’s what the promise to Peter that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” means. The “it” in question is the Church. And precisely the idea is that Christ means to rescue us from, not leave us to, the powers of hell. Whatever that is, it’s not indicative of God’s eager desire to send anybody to hell. God did not put himself through crucifixion because he is eager to send anybody to hell.

As to reading ideas, I’m not sure what your brother’s issues/questions may be beyond the subject of hell, but a good book on a related issue is Peter Kreeft’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Heaven But Never Dreamed of Asking.

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