Hopefully now able to respond (re: hell and all that)

Hopefully now able to respond (re: hell and all that) July 29, 2011

This morning I wasn’t able to respond to all of the comments.  Hopefully now I can. 

Someone suggested that a person who refuses God’s love, preferring hell, would not be free but insane.  In that case, he suggested, a God of love would save the person without his or her consent.  My response is that even an insane person has free will.  As a society we do not force insane people into institutions to be “cured.”  (See C. S. Lewis’ defense of that in an essay in God in the Dock.  He was very sensitive to the whole issue of governments deciding who is and who is not insane and to forceful treatment of those deemed insane.)  If a person who refuses God’s love is insane, it’s an odd kind of insanity that we may simply be  attributing to him or her because we don’t understand their choices.  I don’t think God is obligated by his love to force his grace on anyone against their will.  Also, we need to keep in mind the difference between free will and true freedom.  I’ve discussed that important distinction here before.  The only person who is truly free is one who is all that God intends for him or her to be.  But free will is the gift God gives us with which to move toward or away from that real freedom.  Real freedom is ours to lose; misusing free will is how we lose it.  God graciously extends to all the possibility of realizing true freedom IF we meet a certain condition–acknowledge our dependence on him and his grace and cease our own efforts to achieve it apart from God.  The only alternative would be for God to force true freedom on us which seems oxymoronic. 

The only way I see to avoid universalism (which I cannot accept because of my belief in free will and God’s respect of our personhood and desire for our free, uncoerced acceptance of his grace) and Calvinism’s view of hell as God’s horrible decree (which makes God a monster) is to view hell as our choice–not God’s.  Hell is real, but only because we insist on making it real.  As C. S. Lewis said, in the end there are only two kinds of people–those who say to God “Not my will but thine be done” and those to whom God says “Not my will but thine be done.”

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