Why in the world would someone believe in hell? And what exactly does it mean to “believe” in hell? These are a couple of the questions we want to answer in this ten-part series of posts. We’ve looked at REASON #1 — I got saved out of a fear of hell!
REASON #2 – “Doesn’t It Make Sense?” LOGICAL
Just a few notes from several reviews of the book, Hell: The Logic of Damnation: Jerry Walls makes the point that traditional views of hell are still defensible and can be believed with intellectual and moral integrity. His approach to the topic is philosophical theology, arguing from the two truths of the divine nature and the human nature.
In light of the divine nature, Walls argues that some versions of the doctrine are compatible not only with God’s omnipotence and omniscience, but also with a strong account of His perfect goodness. It is this topic — God’s perfect goodness — that receives Walls’ special attention since the doctrine of hell is most often rejected on moral grounds. Walls also argues that human freedom does not make the doctrine of hell unintelligible, since the idea of a decisive choice of evil is a coherent one.
A reviewer writes, “If there is an eternity, it’s not something to mess with. Which brings us to hell. So much depends on whether there is a hell.”
For many centuries hell was very popular. In the last century or so “the hot grip of hell has loosened.” Bertrand Russell said in 1927, “Hell is neither so certain nor as hot as it used to be.” Culture either downright denies or at least waters down the very idea of hell. Sartre’s play “No Exit” presents damnation as a few of your rotten neighbors getting on your nerves for eternity.
And then there are the words of Jesus — “repeated and categorical and hammered home, not only to the effect that there is a hell but that it is a fiery and totally miserable place, and eternal, too.”
Many today suggest that “a really good God would find a way to let even the worst of us off the hook in the end.” He quotes one Charles Duthie, who puts the question more beguilingly: “Do you or do you not entertain the hope that somehow, in the end, all men, even the worst, will be reconciled with him?” We all want a theological happy ending.
The famous philosopher Bertrand Russell had no qualms about finding fault with Jesus Christ Himself on this point, since nobody, Russell argued, “who is profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.” For James Mill, a God who sent people to hell represented “the most perfect conception of wickedness.”
Many Christians accept the idea of hell, but don’t really believe it. Evidence that they don’t believe it is that they do not act like it. We would immediately warn our unbelieving neighbour if his house was on fire, but we seem “strangely reconciled” to his eternal fate. “Walls . . . does not think that because a culture trivializes the concept of hell it does not exist, nor does he think that belief in the existence of hell compromises belief in a good and loving God.”
Here are some logical questions that occur to me:
1. If at God’s right hand “are eternal pleasures forever more” (Ps. 16:11), what must be at His left hand?
2. Does it not make sense that the opposite of God in all His beauty and perfection is ugliness and brokenness and loss?
3. The extent to which we consider the awfulness of being separated from God forever directly flows from the wonder of being in fellowship with Him forever.
4. To reject eternal hell is to do irreparable damage to the atoning work of the Lord Jesus.
5. If man is an immortal being, he must exist somewhere, even in his lost condition.
6. If eternal hell is rejected, then is it redemptive? Purgatorial? Only hortatory?
7. What do we do with the outright, biblical statements about hell’s punishments, eternality, awfulness?
Pray with me? “Lord, I certainly don’t relish the idea of anyone suffering forever, excluded from fellowship with You. But there is a certain logic to eternal condemnation. Help me not only to accept the teaching of Scripture, but to care deeply for those who are still going to that awful place. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” (to be continued)