Why do people go to Hell?

I’ve decided to do a series on Hell.

I wanted to say a few words about the following topics, one per day:

Now, I am no theologian, but I am going to take a crack at answering these questions from a layman’s point of view, and the more experienced people can correct me where I am mistaken. I am answering all these questions from an Wesleyan Protestant point of view. These are just my opinions, so please seek the advice of the Bible and more qualified theologians. And leave your corrections in the comments.

Why do people go to Hell?

Everyone has a moral obligation to use their free will in the time during which they are alive to investigate whether God exists and what his character is like. Once they discover the answers to those questions, they are morally obligated to use their free will to love God – as he really is – using all their capabilities. Loving God also means obeying the moral law, but I think there is a lot more to loving God than just obeying rules.

Each person is also obligated to engage in and support enterprises that help others to know God as he really is. If a person fails to use their free will to love God, then that person is sinning. Notice that on my view, being nice to your neighbor is relatively unimportant compared to being nice to God. Jesus’ first commandment is to love God, and that vertical dimension is much more important than horizontal dimension.

The pre-condition to loving God is knowing what he is really like. Most people are born into a certain religion or learn it from their parents or their culture and they either adopt it without thinking or they reject it without thinking. But on the Christian view, the best thing you can possibly do with your time is to investigate whether God is real, and what he is like. It’s wrong to say that investigating doesn’t matter or that all religions are the same.

I think that the result of any honest investigation is going to be that the Christian religion is going to be found to be more true in its major claims than any other religion. I.e. – people who conduct an honest investigation are going to find that the Christian claims about the universe coming into being out of nothing, and of Jesus rising from the dead, etc. will be validated by the progress of science and historical inquiry.

But since people have a natural tendency to focus on making themselves happy, not many investigations occur. They know that if Christianity is true, they would have to engage in radical self-denial and self-sacrificial love. They know they would have to sober, be chaste, be different, and not be liked because of their exclusive view. And people don’t want to do that, so an honest investigation never even gets started.

Instead, what you find atheists doing is hoping in speculations to justify their flight from the demands of the God who is there. They’ll talk about the multiverse, unobservable aliens seeding the planet with life, not yet found precursor fossils, etc. Atheism is about one thing and one thing only – using freedom to seek pleasure instead of truth and goodness.

One of the problems that Christians have today is that they do not really understand what sin is. They think that sin is about hurting other people or making other people feel bad. But actually, the sinfulness of a person has little to do with that, and much more to do with how we respond to God. We have a moral obligation to know God and to include God in all of our decision making. Hell is the penalty for failure to meet this obligation.

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5 thoughts on “Why do people go to Hell?”

  1. I think you’re on the right track as far as defining sin and also the extremely important need for understanding God and His nature. I find that some wish to lessen part of how God is revealed to us through Scripture because they can’t deal with Him having a wrathful or vengeful nature, that He is a jealous God. One opponent rejects anything that has to do with God’s leading the tribes of Israel to annihilate towns and villages on their way to the Promised Land. The utter destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah seem so “un-God-like” to them. They judge Him on human terms and can’t separate what is mandated for us with what is well within His Will to do as He sees fit. It is no wonder that they can then have trouble accepting a concept of a hell, an eternal punishment for denying Him.

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    1. Good commment.

      I think “They judge Him on human terms and can’t separate what is mandated for us with what is well within His Will to do as He sees fit” is especially pertinent. It’s very useful to go back and look at the first sin. It reverberates throughout human history.

      “Eat and be like God, knowing good and evil.” The attraction to define what is good and what is evil is just so irresistable to us uppity humans. We don’t share God’s ontology, but he has given us something of His image in our creation. We take that, turn it, and decide that we can define what parts of God are good and what not.

      Ultimately it is simply rebellion.

      The first step to wisdom, is really understanding how awesome and infinite God is, and how finite and feeble we are.

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  2. hey brother – my two cents:
    John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

    John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

    Two Truths, all who come to Christ will never be cast aside, (the universal call both inward; our conscience and outward; preaching the Gospel) and all who come have beed drawn by God (by the grace of God, no human merit allowed) will go to heaven. Man has no excuse, and yet it is still God’s grace that any are saved.

    I am still mulling around here – but you have some excellent stuff here – thank you!

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