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Why are some Christians uncomfortable with the doctrine of 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 are some Christians uncomfortable with the doctrine of Hell?

Last time I explained that our number one job is to love God, and this means we have to know God first. But I also said that all of us fall short of this goal at least partly, because we all pursue selfish pleasure at least partly. Unfortunately, God requires us to be perfect in this, and the penalty for failure is death. Although God was very forgiving about this before sending Jesus to die in our place, he’s now very strict about it.

Anyone who accepts Jesus’ death as payment for not wanting to know God and to love him (sin) will avoid the punishment. Anyone who refuses Jesus’ sacrifice cannot spend eternity in the presence of God. The duration of Heaven or Hell is the same for all, but the degree of punishment depends on the specific sins you commit, with the worst sins being sins against God.

For anyone who accepts Jesus’ sacrifice, it becomes possible to have a relationship with God, which involves knowing him and following him. This is actually quite exciting although it is also very dangerous and painful. God wants people to know his character through the historical record of his Son stepping into history as the man Jesus. And then he wants people to follow Jesus’ teachings and example in their daily lives.

This is known as the gospel. But the problem is that many Christians don’t believe that refusing to know and love God is a sin worthy of death. They don’t really believe that the standard is perfect love for God. They don’t really believe that we sin by not loving God perfectly. They don’t believe that Jesus had to die in our place. They don’t believe that rejecting Christ’s sacrificial death is worthy of Hell.

In fact, they’ve decided that there is a new way to get to Heaven. The new way to go to Heaven is by pursuing happy feelings and being nice to people. You can just believe anything you want about God, and make all your decisions without knowing anything about God, and maximize your own happiness in this life. And since almost everybody does this, then almost everybody goes to Heaven, (except people who believe in sin and Hell).

Here are some of the reasons why some “Christians” invented this new way to avoid Hell:

  • They don’t believe that God exists objectively
  • They don’t believe that God has an objective personality or will for his creatures
  • They think that the purpose of religious belief and practice is to make themselves feel happy
  • They think that logic and evidence can’t be used to know about God’s existence or character
  • They don’t want to be rejected by other people for talking about sin or Hell
  • They think that God wants them to be silent about sin and Hell, so other people will be happy
  • They believe that the Bible doesn’t provide accurate information about what God is like
  • They think that purpose of reading the Bible is to affirm their own feelings and intuitions
  • They don’t want to do what the Bible plainly says because that makes them less happy
  • They think that God’s will for his creatures is that they be happy and nice to one another
  • They think that if other religions make people happy and nice, then they are paths to Heaven

Many of these people enjoy going to church and especially singing in the church.

But there is one they fear more than Superman fears Kryptonite. What could that be?

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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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