Forgiveness and Hell: the Ultimate Inconsistency

Forgiveness and Hell: the Ultimate Inconsistency August 21, 2016

Let’s look at what Luke has to say:

19 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. 20 And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. 22 When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ 25 Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. 26 Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ 27 He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16:19-31

There appears to be no travelling from one side to the other. Torment seems to be eternal no matter what you do in hell to try to escape. Ain’t no forgiving some things. Well, a lot of things, it seems (since getting into heaven is harder than getting into hell).

Daniel 9:9 states:

9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;

Micah 7:18-19:

18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

You might be led to believe that unconditional forgiveness is a divine characteristic. Eternal hell and torment are definitely the very antithesis of forgiveness, and the inability to move from hell to heaven shows that no matter what happens in that hellish context, the perpetrator will remain there forever. And that’s a long time. Hell and forgiveness are ultimately mutually exclusive concepts.

What is pertinent to note is that New Testament forgiveness is very much conditional.

Matthew 6:14-15:

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

1 John 1:9:

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Acts 3:19:

19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

Ephesians 1:7:

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace

And others…

There is an awful lot of conditional talk concerning forgiveness. Turn the other cheek becomes something you do in order that your own sins are forgiven by God. The is the case for God. God will only turn his cheek if the person in question has turned theirs. Otherwise, eternity in hell.

Navy Blue Stripes flickr.com https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
Navy Blue Stripes flickr.com https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

It’s a bit like the idea I talked about previously, that moral action to get into heaven is very instrumental – a means to an end rather than a good thing in and of itself. This kind of moral activity goes against what Christians claim of morality. People cannot get away from the notion of doing good in order to get into heaven, or forgiving in order to be forgiven, rather than doing those things for their own goods, or for other, less egoistic reasons.

I do not get the impression that God is the most forgiving of deities. His forgiveness comes with attachments, and these attachments are not often communicated effectively by the believers who praise such ideals.


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