Apologetics Pt 4
Objection 3 – How Can A Loving God Send People To Hell?
Okay, so today is one of the trickiest topics to address – “How can a God who is supposed to be all-loving send people to Hell? Surely the punishment doesn’t fit the crime? No matter what someone has done, eternal punishment seems far too much.”
Well, as with the previous objections we’ve discussed, there needs to be two major things considered here – the intellectual problem and the emotional problem. The intellectual problem is fairly simple, and should give you confidence to hold fast to these foundational truths of Christianity. However, nearly everyone has an emotional issue with these problems, so we need to address that too.
Firstly, some thoughts on the intellectual problem of Hell –
- It is not only the extent of the crime that dictates the extent of the punishment, but who the crime was actually committed against. For example – if I lie to a friend of mine in a social setting, I have done something wrong but there is no punishment for me there – except maybe risking our friendship.But put me in a court room and I lie to a judge – now I have a problem! I have committed perjury and can go to jail. It isn’t that the act of lying was any different – it was the person I lied to that really matters.
- We drastically underestimate what sin actually is. Sin is rebellion against God. Sin is saying “I don’t want to follow God’s rules, His commands and His Word – I want to go my own way”. Now imagine saying that to the government – in most nations of the world today, that is still called Treason and is a capitol offence – worthy of the death penalty. Why should we expect God to not hold us accountable for Treason?
- We misunderstand what hell is. According to Christianity, God doesn’t send people to hell. People freely choose to go there. In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul tells us that people have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and that basically, God allows them to pursue their free choice. The person who ends up in hell chose to go there. Also, although hell is often talked about in terms of fire in the Bible, the biblical picture of Hell is more one of ‘outer darkness’ – the Bible, and Jesus, actually talk about hell being separation from God. This lines up perfectly with what Paul says in Romans 1 because people freely choose to separate themselves from God and therefore they ultimately get what they want in eternal separation from God.
So now what about the emotional problem? I think that here the challenge lies in the fact that people know of friends and family members who died without knowing Christ. This is a very difficult issue to deal with. At this point the intellectual arguments would serve only to harden the heart of the person you may be talking to about this. So we need to graciously approach them, with patience. Allow them to explain to you why they don’t like the idea of hell – allow them to vent to you – and don’t butt in! Explain to them that you understand and empathise with them, that you don’t particularly like the idea of hell either! Then you could ask a couple of questions –
Why are you so upset and/or angry about hell if you don’t think it exists?
If you could grant the idea that God may exist, do you think there would be things he would do and command that we don’t like?
In response to these questions, the goal is to try and help them see that they themselves have questions and fears about death and their eternal future. And also that if God exists it is not a question of ‘do I agree with Him or not?’ but actually, it should cause us to search more urgently for answers. And once people open up the door to that kind of thinking and seeking, it’s amazing what God can do in their heart.
Finally, if they are open to it – ensure you share the love of God with them. Help them to know that God isn’t just waiting for us to foul up so he can strike us down! He is a God of love and with that love comes justice. Ultimately God wants us to be with Him, He desires all people to be saved.
For a picture of how the love and justice of God works, read the illustration below:
“Think how we feel when we see someone we love ravaged by un-wise actions or relationships. Do we respond with benign tolerance as we might towards strangers? Far from it…. Anger isn’t the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference…. God’s wrath is not a cranky explosion, but his settled opposition to the cancer… which is eating out the insides of the human race he loves with his whole being” – Becky Pippert, Hope Has Its Reasons
There we have it, three major objections to Christianity today. By no means are these answers extensive or even flawless, but they are a good place to begin.
These responses I’ve posted play a role in what’s called ‘defensive apologetics’, basically defending against objections to Christianity. Soon, I’ll post some ‘offensive apologetics’ which play a role in actively giving people positive reasons to believe in Christianity. Will be fun!