Wouldn’t a Loving God Make Sure Everyone Gets to Heaven?

The concept of Hell is daunting for many Christians. It’s not pleasant to think our unbelieving loved ones might spend eternity separated from God, regretting their decision forever. Several religious traditions seek to avoid the problem by offering a second chance to those who reject God’s gift of forgiveness. They envision a place where rebellious souls can, in the next life, reconsider their choice or earn their way toward heaven; the Catholic tradition offers “Purgatory” and Mormonism describes a “Spirit Prison”. Both seek to offer solutions to commonly asked questions: Wouldn’t a Loving God love all of His creation? Wouldn’t He make sure everyone goes to Heaven (regardless of what they might believe in this life)? A loving God would never limit Heaven to a select few and allow billions of people to suffer in Hell, would He?

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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 Is the Penalty of Hell the Same, Even Though People Are So Different?

The notion of Hell is incredibly controversial, even among Christians. Many believers struggle to reconcile the mercy and grace of God with the existence of Hell and have tried to redefine Hell in an effort to remove what they perceive as offensive. For some, Hell seems too inequitable to be possible. Would a Loving God punish everyone in the same way? Isn’t it unfair to send someone like Gandhi to Hell (simply because he was not a Christian) alongside someone like Hitler (who committed unspeakable atrocities)? A reasonable and just God would not be the source of such inequitable punishment, would He?

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Why Would God Punish Finite, Temporal Crimes in an Eternal Hell?

I was interviewed recently on a large Los Angeles radio station about the existence of Hell. One caller objected to the duration of punishment in Hell. From his perspective, the idea our temporal, finite sin on earth warrants an eternal punishment of infinite torment in Hell was troubling, at the very least. The punishment does not seem to fit the crime; in fact, the disproportionate penalty makes God seem petty and vindictive, doesn’t it? Why would God torture infinitely those who have only sinned finitely? I think it’s important to define the nature of Hell and sin before our discussion of the eternal nature of punishment can have any meaning or significance. Objections related to the eternal nature of Hell result from a misunderstanding of four principles and terms:

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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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The Brief Biblical Case for the Eternal Life of the Soul

What happens to our souls when our bodies die? Do souls “sleep” until the final resurrection and judgment? My Seventh-Day Adventist and Jehovah’s Witness friends accept a doctrine known as “Conditional Immortality”; the notion that the soul ceases to exist after the physical death of the body.  In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses call this “soul annihilation”; only those who are redeemed will have their souls recreated by God at the Second Coming of Jesus. In order to accept such a notion as someone who uses the Bible as their source of information related to the soul, people who believe in “soul sleep” must reject the following Biblical proclamations:

Souls Are Alive With God Immediately After the Death of the Body
See Luke 23:39-43 and Ecclesiastes 12:5-7

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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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Grace, Love & Murder?

Grace, Love & Murder?

May 20, 2011

Christian Buckley  

Some questions, or rather problems, are too big for my head to get around.  I try my hardest to work through and dissect them – but my mind just gives out.  It is like when you ask an old computer to do too many things at the same time and it just locks up and stares at you with indignation.  That’s what happens to me when I try to figure out something like how Grace, Love, and Murder  - a specific murder – fit together. Brain lock. 

A couple of preface notes to what follows are in order. 

--     This is a horrible post and will unsettle you – I hope – assuming you have a soul.

--      I, unlike I would venture to say 99.9999% of you, have first hand deep experience in this topic.  I go to death row in California every couple of months because I represent men there who have murdered people.  That work takes me through dark places, lives, and realities I didn’t know existed and still wish I didn’t.  That doesn’t make me special – it just gives you some background and probably gives me a different view of the topic.

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Francis Chan engages the Hell Question

This video is from YouTube and is a preview video of Chan's new book about hell.

It should be very interesting to see how he enters into the current discussion and debate.

One can't help but notice a similarity in how this is being released (with a vague intro video) to Rob Bell's recent book.  He seems to be addressing Bell in some of this, but only time will tell.  I am sure this will ignite a whole other round of discussion prior to the book in the same way as well.  

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Thinking Well About Hell

If I'm honest, I just don't know what it means to think well about hell. I've spent a great bulk of my life thinking about the doctrine of God, salvation, and figures like Jonathan Edwards, but I really don't spend an aweful lot of time meditating upon hell. To get some conversation going, let me try to draw out some thoughts about what it might mean to think well about hell.

1. Questioning hell because of God's love is absurd. 

Let me explain my brash statement. It is not surprising to find atheists taking a similiar line of logic to deny the existence of God - a loving God can't exist with the reality of this kind of world - or so the argument goes. But for Christians, we have no room to make these arguments. What we must never do is to start with a general idea - love - and then apply it to God. Rather, since God is love, we must see what God is like to know how to define love. If our God send people to hell, that has to somehow inform what a loving God is (even if we don't directly tie it to his love per se). In the same way, we must not talk about a loving God outside of talking about the cross. 

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