Ravi Zacharias: Does Hell Prove that God is Cruel?

Ravi Zacharias: Does Hell Prove that God is Cruel? December 8, 2014

 

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13 responses to “Ravi Zacharias: Does Hell Prove that God is Cruel?”

  1. You’d have been better off just quoting Copleston, as his quote was the best part of that dog’s breakfast of a response.

    The questioner measured God with the measure that Christians claim for him and found him wanting. It is disingenuous to try and avoid that failure by trying to switch to another measure mid-question. While it is true that there is no objective morality, Christianity makes the claim for both a God and an objective morality, making it perfectly valid to compare both in assessing the internal consistency of the Christian claim.

    If perfect justice is claimed for God and if a person’s acceptance of the obligation of an objective morality based on God requires knowledge of that God, than providing a person to be judged with less than sufficient information to clearly prove God’s existence (and thus create responsibility to the objective moral standard) is an unjust act according to the very standard of justice being claimed. So God fails to act justly by the very standard of justice he is claimed to uphold.

    While this doesn’t disprove the possibility of “a” God, it does take Yahweh off the list of contenders, at least according to the traditional Christian explanation.

    • I waited for a while to see if anyone wanted to reply to this. Since no one has, I’ll say a couple of things and then back off.

      To leave the question in the film aside and deal directly with your reply, you claim that God has not given you sufficient reason to believe in Him, and thus, He is not just when He allows you the consequences of your own actions when you to choose to deny Him.

      Denying Him is a choice of the next life as well as this one, and those are the consequences that you seem to feel are unjust.

      It isn’t accurate to say that God “sends” those who reject His free offer of eternal life anywhere. They chose not to go to heaven, on their own.G od doesn’t send you to hell. You simply refuse to go to heaven.

      So, the question really should be, is God just for allowing you to refuse Him? Should He, as a matter of justice, have created you as an automaton who could not reject Him? Or perhaps He should make Himself available to do nifty little miracles on demand like a traveling carny to satisfy your requirements for “proof.”

      God is, in truth and in fact, the ultimate respecter of your dignity as a free person. You can accept Him and the salvation He offers you. Or you can reject Him and end up in hell.

      It’s not complex and it’s certainly not unjust. It is your choice. The idea that God has not given you sufficient data to believe in his existence is an incredible claim. It is incredible first of all because of its hubris, and second because of its paucity.

      We are talking about the Creator of everything, everywhere. You are in no position of “demand” anything of Him. That’s the hubris part.

      Despite this, (and most miraculously of all) God freely interacts with people every single day. He is Himself a person, and does not respond to demands for parlor tricks. The Bible says quite clearly that you shall not put God to the test. However, for those who sincerely seek Him, He is always ready to respond.

      You don’t have to believe this, of course. But it is rather arrogant to assume that the billions of people living today, as well as those many generations who have gone before, who have encountered the living Christ, are all suffering a delusion.

      As for you ending up where you freely chose to send yourself, that in no way is unjust. God may and will be found by anyone who sincerely seeks Him. You do not and no one does not, have to go to hell. Heaven is a free gift. It is your choice.

      I am aware that this discussion is not going to be convincing to you. As I said, you are free to make your own choices. But the consequences of those choice that you freely make are not unjust. They are simply the consequences which you have chosen for yourself.

      Instead of wandering around the internet, trying to drag other people down into the pit with you, please consider the gravity of your actions and begin seeking the real truth that leads to eternal life.

      Jesus Christ is the Way, and the Truth that leads to Eternal Life.

      • Thank you for a polite and detailed reply. While I can get feisty at times, I prefer a more civil discussion. Permit me a few brief comments on parts of your reply, and perhaps it will make it clearer why I don’t find evidence to be forthcoming.

        1. As for me sending myself to hell, how do you square that with the many verses (most spoken by Jesus) that have some form of “Depart from me, into everlasting fire/torment/suffering” in them? While I understand that it is easier to love a God who doesn’t send people to hell, these verses seem to contradict that view, and there’s also the fact that he creates those who reject them with full foreknowledge of their eternal destiny-that doesn’t seem like a loving act, especially not from someone identified as being all-loving.

        2. Saying that one cannot ask for evidence, and yet Gideon, Thomas, Moses, Abraham, Elijah and several others in the Bible all did specifically that and God didn’t punish them for doing so, or state that it was hubris. Likewise Jesus tells us to ask, call, knock and seek and He will answer. God also says to test Him in Malachi, so there’s a contradiction with the verse you quoted that needs to be addressed.

        3. As for considering lots of people wrong, don’t you do the same thing with your faith? Over a billion Muslims, to say nothing of those that have died, think Jesus is not God, and yet you think them wrong, along with millions of Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians and others. Yet neither of us disbelieve these claims because of being arrogant, but rather because we don’t find sufficient evidence to convince us of the claims being made.

        One cannot believe what one doesn’t find convincing, to say otherwise is to lie to one’s self and to others. That’s my point about injustice if God were true. Being omniscient, He would know what would convince others of His existence, and convinced, we would then have to choose whether to follow His laws or suffer the consequences. That would be justice as our society describes it.

        I hope that provides a bit more perspective on why some of us are unconvinced. It isn’t pride or one of the other 7 Deadly Sins, it’s simply the gap between what is claimed about God by the faithful and what actually happens. Without a good explanation for that gap, I simply can’t believe, and I don’t think it helpful to have others encouraged to believe without good evidence as well. Thanks for the discussion.

        • I’ll take this in two parts, since it’s so long. The Scripture you are referencing is about the second coming of Christ and the second judgement. It is sobering, particularly for this who think that they can profess Christ and then live as if He does not exist. Elsewhere, the Scriptures say that even the devils in hell know that Christ is Lord.

          In this particular parable, Jesus is speaking to those who have professed Christ as Lord and who then have ignored the suffering of those around them. He tells them, in no uncertain terms, that whatever they do to those who are helpless and in need, they do to Him.

          Mother Teresa used a different analogy to say that same thing when she said that the saw the Jesus in the poorest of the poor.

          Again, these people, who are professing Christians, are not ignorant of the Gospels, have made their own choices. Love of neighbor is a choice. Cruelty to others is a choice. That they have been taught what their actions mean is right here, in the Scripture you quote, as well as many others.

          I think this particular Scripture should give today’s Christians pause when they consider abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, corporatism and the plight of immigrants.

          It is not addressing those who have chosen to deny Christ. Their choice is much more fundamental, but just as deadly.

          Here it is in full:

          31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy[c] angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

          37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

          41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

          44 “Then they also will answer Him,[d] saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

          • I did not say that we could not ask for evidence. I have myself prayed more than once when God gave me an answer I didn’t want. What’s interesting, I not only got the same answer, but it came back stronger.

            As for the people you cite, they were not asking God to perform parlor tricks to “prove” to them that He exists. They were people He was directly calling and empowering for a great and dangerous task. They were’t saying I’m going to ignore you and then say you didn’t do what i asked. They were saying — in the case of Moses and Eijah — I’m scared to do what you’re asking. Only Gideon asked for several “proofs.” Moses just tried to get out of it. Abraham just asked details and bargained. Elijah simply said, I can’t take this anymore. I’ve failed.

            In each case you mention, there is no question of putting God to the test. This is simple human weakness, which based on my experiences of Him, He understands and treats very gently and lovingly. In fact, it was Moses who wrote “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” This was repeated by Jesus when Satan urged Him to test God during His 40 days in the wilderness.

            If you turn to Him with honesty and a genuine need for Him, you will discover immediately that He is not only real, He is love and His mercy is unfathomable. I know. I’ve done it.

            • “If you turn to Him with honesty and a genuine need for Him, you will discover immediately that He is not only real, He is love and His mercy is unfathomable. I know. I’ve done it.”

              You have made a powerful claim here — but you have done so in a way that is unfalsifiable.

              I can tell you that I have sought the God of Catholicism many times over the years. And I can tell you that in no way, shape, or form, have I EVER discovered (much less “immediately”) that he is real. But you will not accept this.

              You will tell me I have not done so “with honesty and a genuine need for Him.” I will reply that, to the best of my knowledge, I absolutely have — and around and around we will go. You will simply continue telling me that unless and until your supposed God reveals his supposed Truth to me, I haven’t done it “right.”

              Why would you waste everyone’s time with such a claim?

              • Because I have found it to be true, and because many other people have, as well. I don’t have the knowledge of either you or your situation to have any thoughts on what your spiritual situation might be. I can only assure you that God is real and that He answers when you come to Him in honesty and humility. I know, I just threw myself at Him with no hope of any reaction at all. And He was there, big time. I will add you to my prayers, Bryce. Blessings.

                • I sincerely appreciate your thoughts and prayers. Nonetheless, I feel you’re dodging the issue.

                  If God is there, why has he not revealed himself to me “big time”? Why has he not revealed himself to the countless others who have similarly thrown themselves on his supposed mercy?

                  If you pray for something, and it doesn’t come, then we are told it means that God is saying no. But if he says “no” to this critical, core, basic thing, then it negates everything that follows. If he says “no” to someone asking simply for his grace to help them believe in his very existence, then what can be done? Ultimately, I can’t help but take that “no” at its face. If God tells me “no,” then that is what I will hear.

                  Will I continue to seek truth? Of course I will. And if your thoughts and prayers can somehow help me on that journey, I certainly welcome them. But so far, each day that passes just finds me further and further from the Catholicism, and even the Christianity, that I was raised in. I’m not really holding my breath any more.

                  • I’m not dodging the issue. God is a person with a mind of His own. Ask Him, not me. If you aren’t playing games or trying to test Him, in other words, if you are sincere, He will answer.

  2. Rebecca,

    As you no doubt know, I am the Secular Humanist and I just wanted to see if you were going to delete my comments if I posted under a different name. Sorry.

    I’m going back to my name and see if you will cut me some slack. I enjoy your articles and the discussions I have with you and the others. I just feel that you see my name and don’t give me a chance to voice my opinion. In a small microcosm way, you are acting like a leader who does not give people freedom of speech in his country.

    • Bill I didn’t pay attention at first so it got past me for a while. But after a bit, I knew it was you. I delete your comments because you say the same things over and over. I had decided to start deleting some of them late yesterday, for that reason. You are very welcome to be here, just don’t drop forty comments saying the same thing over and over and over. It kills conversation.

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