A woman asked me whether Hell and God’s harshness caused me to doubt Christianity

A long journey through the night
A long journey through the night

I was having a chat on Friday with a brilliant agnostic young lady who knew as much about Christian apologetics as I did. It was very strange because she was only in her mid-20s, but she was talking about the Cambrian explosion, the resurrection scholarship of Dale Allison and Bart Ehrman, and so on. She had seen a lot of debates, and even knew about intelligent design. Anyway, she asked me two questions that I wanted to write about. The first was whether I thought that Hell was unfair, especially because it’s determined by having correct beliefs, and the second was whether I thought that God was kind or harsh.

Regarding, I do hold to a traditional view of Hell being eternal separation from God. I don’t think that God will be actively torturing people in Hell. I’m not sure if the flames are literal or figurative. But I do know that the severity of the punishment will be proportional to the amount of sinning, in the same way that the rewards in Heaven will be proportional to good actions here on Earth. The duration is the same, but the rewards and punishments fit our actions.

I don’t have a problem with Hell because I’ve spent most of my life trying to talk to people about spiritual things. Although this young lady was very open-minded and honest and spiritual, more than most people in the church, even, I don’t think that this is normal for non-Christians. Growing up around Muslims and Hindus, and having spoken to Jews, I know that there just isn’t much curiosity about God and Jesus in these other religions. Believe me, I’ve tried to discuss spiritual things with people of all different religions, and the idea that religious beliefs should be bounded by logic and evidence is almost nowhere to be found. It’s not even to be found among most Christians, but at least we have scholars who you can find if you dig hard enough.

So, when people ask me about Hell, the first thing that comes into my mind is my experiences trying to get non-Christians to line up their beliefs about God and Jesus with logic and evidence. Although it may seem harsh to shut the door on people who don’t want to put in the work, it doesn’t seem harsh to me. I’ve had it with people who make everything except an investigation into God’s existence a priority. I have no patience for people who think they are very intelligent in their thoughts about God, but then when they get into a discussion, it is obvious they haven’t put in any effort.

Do you know what they do put a lot of effort into, though? Entertainment, fun and thrills. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to give books or debates to culturally Jewish atheists and Muslim-raised atheists and Hindus (because of family and community) in my previous jobs, and got no interest in truth whatsoever. They were too busy watching the Comedy Channel Democrats, and trying to get their kids into Ivy league schools, etc. to care about God or Jesus. And God is not going to force them into eternal life with him, they don’t want it, and they’re not going to get it. It’s important to note that to not prioritize God is a choice. We in the West all have leisure time, and to be ignorant about God after 40 years of leisure time when you have put the time in elsewhere is unacceptable. God expects us to be curious about him and to do our due diligence in investigating him using as much intellect and effort as we put into our educations, careers, marriages, etc.

Regarding her other question about whether I think God is kind or harsh, I just decided to tell her that I didn’t think that God was the kind of God who had to be nice to me so that I would like him. I explained to her that I had wanted marriage from an early age, and had prepared very hard for it, but that it had never happened. I’m not sure that God is able to cause women to freely desire the things I did to prepare for marriage, like chastity, STEM degrees, gap-less resume and savings. I’m not the smartest person in the world, and I did not have family or friends helping me to get ahead most of the time. It was very hard to get ready for marriage. But I realized very late in life that young, unmarried women tend to be interested in a man’s appearance and in having fun – not marriage-ready preparation. They do not want a man who is serious about marriage and children until their mid-30s, which is far too old for my marriage plan to work. So, there’s no point in me marrying now. So does this lack of marriage make me think that God is unkind? Not at all.

I do think that God has been kind to me with respect to health, education, career and finances. Also, I can understand from the Bible (2 Tim 2:3-4) why God might need an unmarried soldier to work for him. And this doesn’t bother me, because I’ve read the Bible, and I didn’t get the impression from it that God was my cosmic butler. Although many Western Christians think that God’s sole purpose is to make them happy, there is no way to actually get that meaning out of the text. God’s own Son has to suffer in order to love his Father self-sacrificially. So it’s clear that God is not “kind” to those who love him in the sense that most people would like him to be. In fact, I would believe in God and serve him, even if he were “harsher” with me than he is now.

So, why would I want to be a Christian, rather than just accept the scientific arguments for theism, and then just say that the New Testament is just not good enough historical evidence to warrant moving from theism to Christianity? Well, I did explain to her the minimal facts argument, and the historical criteria used to obtain them. And I also said that we all need to have some sort of historical explanation for the early belief in Jesus being God stepping into history, and for his rising from the dead.

But I think the real reason why I am a Christian, beyond the evidence, is just this daily experience of dealing with the lack of curiosity about God and Jesus (and sometimes outright self-delusion) that I see in so many people. I see it in uneducated people, unintelligent people, educated people, intelligent people. The willful ignorance about facts that matter, like the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, etc. It’s not even opposition to Christian specifics, it’s opposition to plain, well-supported scientific facts. I’ve just seen this in action so much with atheists and people of other religions that I have lost all sympathy for non-Christians with respect to what God decides to do with them.

It’s not that I am concerned by their immorality, or their hedonism, primarily. It’s that I am concerned with their lack of interest in puzzling out the big questions of life in a truth-centered way. The only people I really feel comfortable with are Christians who have been serious about proportioning belief to evidence, denying themselves fun and thrills if they have to, and putting their money and time into learning how to defend God’s honor when it’s called into question. A task that simply gets you nothing good from anyone in this world. I find it amazing that there are any of us, but that’s where I want to be – in a room with people like that who put God’s goals above their own desires and needs.

All of my close male friends are either virgins or married as virgins, and they’re all into apologetics. If you understood what it means to be in a room with people who have carefully chosen to live their lives in a quiet, humble way that’s respectful to God and self-sacrificial, then you would understand why there is no substitute for Christianity. In my case, I simply do not want God to lump me in with the people I talk to who have no curiosity about truth in religion. I am not going to be like them, grabbing for happiness, while deliberately shutting their eyes to anything that might cause them to have to take God seriously in a self-sacrificial, two-way relationship. I have more sympathy for God and his reputation and honor than I do for the majority of people who I have seen deliberately keeping him at arm’s length. They want the blessings he provides, but while avoiding the demands of a relationship with him. I’m just not going to be one of them, and I don’t care what people think.

10 thoughts on “A woman asked me whether Hell and God’s harshness caused me to doubt Christianity”

  1. Interesting and honest. Self identifying agnostics are often curious people searching.

    Don’t get disheartened over people who don’t research facts and watch debates. 1-they have no reason to, 2- outside of a presentation of the gospel, a debate over creation is highly unlikely to convict a person and have them call on the name of Christ.

    Mark 8:17-19
    Isaiah 42:19
    Matt 15:14
    All of romans 2

    As per your beliefs on hell, it’s not your belief that matters. It’s what Gods word says about it. An offense against a just and holy creator, no matter how minuscule it may seem to us, is a great deal.

    There is a lot of biblical evidence that there are different amounts of wrath poured out. However, the idea that there isn’t eternal punishment in hell comes from the annihilationist viewpoint, which is a heresy.

    Carm.org
    Str.org (stand to reason)
    GotQuestions.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “The first was whether I thought that Hell was unfair, especially because it’s determined by having correct beliefs, and the second was whether I thought that God was kind or harsh.”

    Hell isn’t determined by correct beliefs. It’s determined by sin, and quite simply by choice.

    Whether God is kind or harsh is “post” whether God is true or not. Therefore, it’s irrational to disbelieve in God because God is harsh (or unfair).

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Jesus talked more about Hell than anyone else in the Bible. It is an incredible sin of modern-day pastors to remain silent about Hell. I fear for their souls.
    In order for Divine Justice to be satisfied, the punishment for all sins end up either at the Cross or in Hell. The degree of punishment in Hell is directly tied to the degree of sin in this lifetime. As the unrepentant sows in this lifetime, so shall he or she reap in Eternity.
    That means, for instance, that abortionists will likely be aborted over and over again for Eternity, not merely to satisfy their sins against the children they murdered, but also this horrific sin against God Himelf. Who would conduct the aborting in Hell? I don’t know. Is it carried out by demons or somehow ensured by God? I do not know the answer to this question. But, Divine Justice cannot be satisfied otherwise.
    If Hell did not exist, and all went to Heaven, then Heaven would be filled with monsters and the saved, and it would be Hell for both. I have had abortion mill deathscorts confirm to me that they would rather go to Hell than be with us and our God in Heaven. That is intellectual honesty, and Biblically supported too.
    By not talking about Hell, we Christians are saying that we despise the souls of the unsaved. What I write is harsh, because Hell is harsh, even for the “best” there. Many souls in Hell cry out “Why didn’t they tell me about this awful place?!?”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I suggest you start on a study of Job, Jonah, and then the life of Paul (read the epistles in chronological order, and try to map out his journey).
    I recommend that route for all who are suffering. 1- it makes you realize you aren’t alone, 2- you realize that those with callings will be called to suffer, 3- it will humble you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. About that lady’s question: Sure the doctrine of Hell makes people “uneasy” and for good reason… The Postmodern worldview that dominates the West HATES with a vengeance the idea that SomeOne out there might be breathing down my neck and keeping an eye on what I’m doing or saying. And part and parcel of all this, Postmoderns especially hate the idea of judgement. So Hell is out the door…

    But then think about this… Consider for a moment the postmodern concept of life after death, the postmodern non-judgemental  “paradise for all”, then fine, everyone will find themselves in the next life, where there will be no more death, no more illness, no more wars, no more natural disasters, etc…. Fine. Perfect. Great.

    But if EVERYONE goes to heaven, then think about this. It’s possible that once you’ve settled into your heavenly abode in this non-judgemental  “paradise” to the right your next-door neighbour will be Hitler and to the left Stalin will have his own mansion and across the street you’ll have the friendly neighbourhood rapist and on the second floor of your house, your manipulative mother-in-law will have her own apartment… And they will have all eternity to perfect their own particular brands of egoism and cruelty… Sounds like fun eh ? One doesn’t need a big theological degree to figure out that if there is no JUDGMENT after death, then this postmodern “paradise” will VERY quickly become a Hell… So logically the Last Judgment and Hell MUST exist, otherwise there can be no Paradise such as portrayed by Scripture.

    Some may be tempted to make a small exception, and perhaps allow for the judgment of “REALLY bad people” such as Hitler or Stalin (or pick your favourite corrupt politician)? Why not ? After all, most of us, at some time or another will secretly hope that those “really bad people” will get what they deserve. But, as to themselves, no judgement for me as after all, I’m “a pretty good person”… But the Bible tells us that in the next life God will be the judge of who is good, and Christ himself clearly said only God is good (Mark 10: 18), which basically means we’ve ALL got it coming… We ALL have a guilty verdict hanging over our heads. The Bible also declares that if God judges, he does not make exceptions and takes no bribes. All must go before the Judge, men and women, without exception and account for their lies, thefts, adulteries, murders. Inevitably the question arises: What about me? Is there a way out? Well, that’s why we need the Gospel…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Heaven is also not about what we get to do all the time in self interest. We will be there in communion with God but still as a subservient creation.

    I would say if a person spent all their life in opposition to God and has had no desire of their free will to serve him, why should they be forced for all of eternity to worship him and proclaim his name. And spend time in service to the one they despise.

    Free will allows them to choose a path of eternal separation from God. Only a small minded unloving being like humans thinks it is great to make robotic like beings forced to follow after you with no thought as to whether or not that is what they want to do or not

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A good question to ask person who thinks they are good and therefore deserving is where is the dividing line, just above Hitler, just below Mother Theresa, or just below you?

    Like

    1. It’s a really good question and one that most people reflect on.

      When I was an atheist, I always said “Just below me and a few others.” (to provide a little cushion)

      But, I was never very comfortable with that response, because I worried I might not have enough say in drawing the line in the first place. 🙂

      Like

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