Why Would God Send Good People to Hell?

I’ve been blogging recently on the existence and nature of Hell and, unsurprisingly, I’ve received tremendous response from Christians and non-Christians alike (much of it hostile). The topic polarizes believers and unbelievers. Many Christians struggle to correlate God’s mercy with a place of permanent justice, while others prefer to believe God would annihilate rebellious souls rather than assign them to Hell eternally. Non-believers often point to the apparent unfairness of God related to those who either reject Jesus or haven’t heard of Him. After all, there are millions of good people in the world who are not Christians. Is it fair for God to penalize people who are otherwise good? A good God would not send good people to Hell, would He?

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Why Would A Loving God Create A Place Like Hell?

When Rob Bell released his book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, he capitalized on the historic controversy surrounding the existence and nature of hell. Critics of Christianity have cited the hell’s existence as evidence against the loving nature of God, and Christians have sometimes struggled to respond to the objection. Why would a loving God create a place like Hell? Wouldn’t a God who would send people to a place of eternal punishment and torment be considered unloving by definition?

The God of the Bible is described as loving, gracious and merciful (this can be seen in many places, including 1 John 4:8-9, Exodus 33:19, 1 Peter 2:1-3, Exodus 34:6 and James 5:11). The Bible also describes God as holy and just, hating sin and punishing sinners (as seen in Psalm 77:13, Nehemiah 9:33, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7, Psalms 5:5-6, and Matthew 25:45-46). It’s this apparent paradox reveals something about the nature of love and the necessity of Hell:

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Will Animals Be in Heaven?

This is a broad question that is easier to answer than you might think. The Bible talks about a “new heaven” and a “new earth” (Revelation 21:1). Heaven is not just a place “out there,” but also a place “down here.” Heaven will not only be a spectacular Holy City, but also an incredible “earthly” place of astounding variety and beauty.

The book of Genesis tells us God created the heavens and the earth with an extravagance of flora and fauna (plants and animals) necessary for our survival and enjoyment. The prophet Isaiah declares, “the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). Even after the fall, God’s glory is evident, though clouded somewhat by sin. But in heaven God’s glory will once again be on full display in everything he created (Habakkuk 2:14), including animals.

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Do Dogs Go to Heaven?

Pope Francis has on various occasions reached out to those who feel alienated in one way or another from mainstream culture while not necessarily fully endorsing their lifestyle or personal choices. Now his eminence has built a bridge to an entirely new class of sentient creatures, namely our canine friends. This isn’t an insignificant group. Globally there may be upwards of a half billion dogs on the planet.

Trying to console a distraught little boy whose dog had died, Francis told him in a recent public appearance on St. Peter’s Square, “Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”

And there you have it. It may not be official Catholic doctrine, but such a statement has to be enormously comforting to hundreds of millions of dog owners and dog lovers: All dogs do go to heaven.

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Home for Christmas

Few words better capture the emotion and the attraction of Christmas than home. The simply lyrics form the song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”—originally written from the perspective of World War II soldiers—instantly inspire longing for that place in our memories (or in our dreams) where the warmth of family and the joys of the year’s most wonderful time of year come together.

The reason home has such universal appeal is simple. Home is the primary place where we are known and loved. There are no sweeter words than those you utter at the end of a long journey, especially at Christmastime: “I’m finally home.”

Yet for all its warmth and familiarity, there can be something disconcerting about home, and it’s not just the heated discussions that sometimes erupt, or the cruel words that occasionally slip out not long after we arrive. For all the charms and joys of home, something isn’t quite right. There’s a flaw that none of us have ever been able to fix. No matter how beautiful it is to go home, it’s never a place where we feel completely settled or at rest.

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Heaven on Earth

My wife and I recently bought Disneyland passes.  It was the big gift we hoped for at the top of our Christmas wish list this year.   Though she and I have had them at various times, we have never had them together in our 9 or so years of knowing each other.  I remember as a kid going to Disneyland and feeling happy.  Disneyland has this kind of happiness in spades, built from the ground up not on thrilling rides, but instead on nostalgia and environment.  Everything in the park exists to make you smile and be entertaining.  It is my child self’s version of paradise.

Yet, after visiting the park over and over again (a luxury I surely don’t mean to diminish), there are times when the tricks of the park begin to lose steam.  This is true of any number of life’s pleasures – yearly holiday traditions, visits to favorite locations, or favorite films that may initially be funny but lose charm with repeated viewings (I’m looking at you “Elf”)

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Pumpkin Spice Latte's and Assurance of Faith

Have you noticed that the Pumpkin Spice Latte returned to Starbucks this past week?

Fall may have arrived in some parts of the country, but it still seems far off here in Orange County, California. I have to admit, I enjoy the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte each fall whether the leaves change or not. In fact, one day this week I woke up thinking about the delightful latte and planned out my day around when I would get one before I even got out of bed. Clearly I was excited about the latte’s grand return!

The excitement got to my head though in unexpected ways. I started thinking about what might happen if I woke up anticipating serving others each day with the same excitement I had over a cup of pumpkin goodness? Or what my day might look like if I planned it around ways I could encourage my co-workers or be salt and light in a dry and dark world? Here’s the kicker thought I had that day: what would my life look like if every day I woke up thinking that today I would meet Jesus?!

Of course I didn’t expect to ponder such heavy thoughts while in route to a cup of sweet pumpkin joy.

Francis Chan 2009 Interview – What Hell Was I Thinking Of?

Francis Chan 2009 Interview – The Start of Great Things

 

Given that Francis is out there again fighting a great fight, I thought I would post my full interview with him from 2009.  There is a lot left on the cutting room floor from this interview, but both during the interview and in spending some time with him since my book came out, I have found Francis to be present, focused, and compassionate beyond expectation.  Of all the “big” Christian leaders I have met, he is the one that surprised me the most because he was self involved the least.

 

Whether you like Francis or not it is good that he is out there.  And as far has hell goes, to quote myself as only a jerk can do – it either hangs in the balance or we should all go home.

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Living Easter Everyday

Ten years ago, when I was a senior at Oak Hill Academy, I thought I would never attend a Christian university. But because I was young in the faith, I decided that I needed to grow. So I enrolled in a Christian university where I could grow in my knowledge of God and study the Scriptures.

Liberty University holds chapel services three times a week. I didn’t always pay attention in chapel, but I remember one particular meeting just before Easter break. Dr. Gary Habermas stood in front of thousands of students to present the historical evidence for the resurrection.

After presenting a convincing argument for our faith in the bodily resurrection, he shared a personal story of how the resurrection of Jesus got him through one of the most difficult times in his own life. Habermas told us:

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Made for another world

If you believe in an immortal and immaterial being beyond our ability to measure, it's not such a stretch to believe there is such a thing as immortaity.  To put it another way, if you have good reasons to believe that an immortal God exists, then you also have good reasons to believe that immortality exists.

The arguments from God's existence (which we considered in our last column) are great if you already believe in God.  But what if you don't buy into Christian theism?  Or what if you just have doubts about an eternal life with God in heaven beyond this mortal life?  Is there any empirical evidence for such a belief?

In their book, Beyond Death, J.P. Moreland and Gary Habermas consider several pieces of evidence, moving from experiential to philosophical to empirical evidence.  In the category of experiential evidence for immortality, Moreland and Habermas cite documented cases of near death experiences (NDEs), such as the vivid description offered by Don Piper in his book, 90 Minutes in Heaven.  Honestly, we're not big fans of this category of evidence because it's based on the experience of the person having the NDE.

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