I’ve decided to do a series on Hell.
I wanted to say a few words about the following topics, one per day:
- Why do people go to Hell?
- Why are some Christians uncomfortable with the doctrine of Hell?
- How can Christians become more comfortable with the doctrine of Hell?
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.