I usually don’t post about the concept of Hell because I’d much rather post about ideas that I have a higher chance of changing my mind on. But it’s a concept that should be talked about because many people still believe in the idea and many are haunted by it (most of them believers – at least the ones that are humble enough to realize that they could be wrong about their worldview, or humble enough to realize that because they are human it’s possible that their sincerity of belief may not be pure enough to surpass the level they imagine required).
There are a growing number of believers who have more nuanced versions of Hell which aren’t really all that bad. Some say that Hell is just a description of what life on earth could be like when we don’t act in kind and loving ways. The Universalists say that Hell is a place that will be empty because all roads, no matter what, lead to a God who loves and cares for all of his created beings. A growing number of intelligent, well-studied believers who hold strongly to a high view of scripture have found that annihilationism is strongly supported after a proper in-depth study of the original language and context of the bible (my own view related to the bible is shown in the comments that Travis and I wrote on this post.) And some believe that everyone will always be able to choose love/heaven, even after death, and that the only people who will be left in Hell are the ones who eternally want to remain completely hateful and don’t want anything to do with love.
But there are still some who believe in the idea of eternal torment for all who don’t choose a certain belief before death. The concept of Hell comes in different forms – real fire, some kind of physical pain, or just the complete lack of love – all things which are horrific ideas. I can’t make any sense of an all-powerful being who creates creatures and loves all of them yet will allow any of them to be in a place like that (and who even knew that would happen before creating them). There is another idea that I can’t make sense of – the idea that even though this type of Hell is real, we shouldn’t think about it, and we should only concentrate on the fact that a God exists who loves us and wants us to be with him.
Imagine if I had proposed to my wife like this:
Me: Honey I love and care about you so much and I want for the two of us to be together forever. Will you marry me?
Potential wife: Um, why is there a man pointing a gun at me?
Me: Oh honey, why are you concentrating on insignificant side issues like that? All you need to do is concentrate on how much I love and care about you. The choice is completely yours – will you marry me?
Potential wife: No seriously, what’s the guy with the gun for?
Me: It’s totally not important, but if you really want to know – he will kill you if you say no. But again it’s so insignificant when you realize how incredibly strong my love is for you and how much I care about you and wish the best for you. Will you marry me?
Potential wife: Um, uh… oh, I just realized I forgot something really important in the car outside – I’ll be right back to answer your question after I get it.
I think the story speaks for itself.
I feared the idea of eternal sadness for many years: when I was first introduced to it by my friend in high school, while I was a Christian with doubts, and many years afterward. If you still fear this idea I recommend this post, as well as Charles’ post. The first link is a more general post related to angst about ultimate questions, but Charles’ post goes into specifics of the Hell concept. His post and all of the comments there are very instructional and helpful, and you can learn more about my own thoughts on the concept of Hell by reading my own comments there.
(image credit: fineartamerica.com)