Recently, I had a debate on twitter with admin from @HellBoundMovie, which is a twitter profile promoting an upcoming documentary about, well, hell. On the Hellbound? website, the “about” page states,
Hell. The final frontier of free will. A shadowy abode choked with eggy, sulphurous fumes; the stench of blackened, bubbling flesh and screams of agony from souls trapped forever in a lake of fire, tortured by a worm that dieth not. A vision made all the more terrifying by the fact that God–the only being who could possibly save us from such a fate–is the one who consigns or abandons us there instead.
Such horrific depictions of hell have gripped humanity for centuries. And rightly so. Throughout history, people of all faiths have agonized over why God allows so much evil in the world. Their only comfort has been the hope that somehow, someday, God will make things right. Evildoers may get away with murder in this life. But in the life to come, there’ll be hell to pay.
But the traditional view of hell also presents us with a dilemma: Of course we all want to see the scales of justice balanced. But if God is our pure, all-loving Creator, can he really allow (presumably) billions of people to suffer in hell for eternity? Evil is evil, but doesn’t the traditional view of hell tip the scales too far the other way? To many people, it seems like we can have a good God or we can have the traditional view of hell, but we can’t have both…
@HellboundMovie responded to a post of mine, a quote from Blaise Pascal’s Pensees which I posted from my Kindle:
God has willed to redeem men, and to open salvation to those who seek it. But men render themselves so unworthy of it, that it is right that God should refuse to some, because of their obduracy, what He grants to others from a compassion which is not due to them.
Regular readers of my blog will not be surprised that I hold a classical Evangelical Christian worldview, including an orthodox view on hell. I’m not completely certain what @HellBoundMovie’s beliefs are, but the admin I spoke with (if not the yet-to-be-seen documentary) questions the orthodox view of hell.
Although we clearly disagreed about some things, we had a very civil discussion about hell (which I was glad of, because in my experience, most people who comment on my post who are not already followers of mine on twitter are immature twitter trolls). Here is how our conversation unfolded:
Me: Can a just God allow unbelievers to suffer in #hell? http://amzn.com/k/2EDHYGC8G0TM0 #Kindle
Hellbound?: @PastorJaredROLM To put it in perspective, would you ever reject one of your children on the basis of his or her beliefs about you?
Me: @HellboundMovie No. To put it in proper perspective, the children reject the Father, and because He loves them He allows them to live with their own choices–but not without warning them of the consequences. John 3:17-19 ESV For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
Hellbound?: @PastorJaredROLM Are you saying our will is stronger than God’s will, that we get what we want but God doesn’t? (1 Tim. 2:1-6).
Me: @HellboundMovie That’s an interesting way of putting it. Does our will have to be stronger than God’s if He gives us a choice in the matter?
Hellbound?: @PastorJaredROLM If our will prevails, then our will must be stronger. Or else he just lets us win, but how does that serve us or him?
Me: @HellboundMovie He does allow us our own free will, although I wouldn’t say this means we “win.” It just means He allows us to make our own choice to accept, reject, or ignore Him.
@HellboundMovie How does that serve Him? If we choose Him, we really choose Him. We’re not automatons. If we don’t choose to love Him, we don’t really love Him.
@HellboundMovie How does that serve us? If we love Him, we receive our eternal reward. If we don’t love Him, it doesn’t serve us well, but it’s still our choice to make.
Hellbound?: @PastorJaredROLM In other words, both God and us want the same thing–the greatest good. We are just confused on constitutes the good.
Me: @HellboundMovie On that much we are agreed.
Hellbound?: @PastorJaredROLM How free is our will, really? A loving God would intervene to free our will rather than abandon us to our bad choices.
Me: @HellboundMovie 1) Not absolutely free, but free enough 2) He did intervene. He didn’t make His way to freedom compulsory.
Hellbound?: @PastorJaredROLM But maybe we don’t choose him b/c we’ve come to believe lies about him. Or we’ve been hurt by people representing him.
Me: @HellboundMovie That happens, unfortunately. Still, the responsibility to seek out the truth lies with the each individual.
Several days later, I heard from @HellboundMovie again:
Hellbound?: @PastorJaredROLM Thanks for the mention. BTW, our interaction inspired a recent blog post: http://hellboundthemovie.com/?p=847
What do my readers think about all this?
Does hell exist?
If so, would God be just to send those who ignore or reject Him to it?
For eternity? At all?
I intend to respond to all the points of Hellbound?’s blog over the course of several posts.