Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

How can a loving God send someone to hell?

This picture illustrates the ideas in this article (click to enlarge):

I think that Christianity offers what you could call a really bipolar-like view of reality (speaking as a Christian). A lot of religions will say that when you die you dwell at some kind of distance to God depending on how bad you were. So good people are closer to God and happier, and more evil people live further away from God and are less happy... or something like that. Christianity is bipolar-like in saying that either you're absolutely perfect, flawless in your moral behaviour, and happy, or you're imperfect to the slightest degree and suffering in some sense (either in a hell on earth, Rom 5:12-14, or in some other kind of hell).

I think the reason for this philosophically has to do with our soul. I think that humans have in a sense one foot on the land and one foot in the sea. The foot on land is our physical body and brain, which is what we see. The foot we have in the sea is our soul, which is something that I would say we get from God and exists in God's world. The soul I believe is responsible for generating consciousness, free will, and a moral sense, exactly like what God has.

Because our soul is the same kind of 'thing' as God and exists in His world then it's actually connected to Him in a very fundamental sense. This is what creates the notion of hell. Since God is perfect then if our soul sins God has to sever His connection to our soul, because He cannot be connected to a sinful soul. If God did stay connected to a sinful soul, then that evil would become a part of God, which He will, of course, not allow (remember the old canard, 'God will not allow sin in His presence, being a righteous God'?) This is responsible for what causes hell, because not being perfect = your soul being excluded from God = suffering (either in a hell on earth or another kind of hell). I believe this is why the Christian view of salvation is so bipolar-like.

So when Christians say 'If you remain a sinner for eternity then you will go to hell' they're really saying something like 'Don't walk in front of cars or you will be hit and potentially killed'. It's a legitimate comment because it's a warning to us of something that God cannot change - He simply cannot be connected to a soul that sins, and that equals being in hell (although I should note that the hell in this world is unjust - e.g. good people suffer but evildoers get away with evil - and that the hell in the next world will somehow be just). Souls can't be destroyed because they're made out of stuff that necessarily lives forever because the soul is made in God's image and God necessarily lives forever (Ecc 3:11).

So either we become morally perfect at some point over eternity (only having perfect intentions towards others and God) or we will always suffer.

Universalism: everyone will choose this.
Liberal exclusivism: only good people (by the world's standards) will choose this.
Orthodox Christian exclusivism: only people who accept Christ and do God's will shall choose this (and maybe some people who never got to hear about Christ).

That's the core difference between these radically opposed views (in my reading). They have to work with the basic, unchangeable fact that being a sinner for an eternity = suffering for an eternity.

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