Nobody likes the idea of hell – even believers – but many unbelievers simply loathe the concept. They think punishing sinners in hell is not befitting of a supposedly loving God, and appeal to the doctrine as evidence against the truth of Christianity. Is hell truly a stain on God’s character? I don’t think so, and when the skeptic examines his own beliefs about justice a bit more carefully, I think he’ll come to agree that hell is not the egregious concept he claims it is. Here’s a tactical way to get your skeptical friend to see this point.
The next time someone tells you a loving God should not send anyone to hell, ask them if they think the government should act in the same manner they want God to act? Do they support emptying all of our jails and prisons of criminals? Should we no longer send people to prison for their crimes against humanity? I doubt anyone would agree with such an approach. If human authorities are just in punishing those who commit crimes against humans and isolating those who are a danger to society, then why the outrage over a cosmic authority who does the exact same thing? The purpose of hell is to punish people for their moral crimes against God and other humans, and to isolate them from the rest of us who want to be responsible citizens in God’s society. Unless the skeptic truly believes we should forego any and all punishment for crimes in human society, they have no principled basis for objecting to God’s punishment of humans for their moral crimes. Justice requires punishment, and hell is God’s means of meting out punishment for moral crimes.
I also find it a bit ironic that skeptics commonly complain about both the existence of evil and the existence of hell. They claim that if God exists He should do something about all of the evil in the world, but then turn around and claim God is unjust for doing something about evil (hell). For these skeptics, God is damned if He does and damned if He doesn’t. They don’t like it when God extends mercy by not punishing us immediately for our sins, and they don’t like it when God executes judgment at the end for our sins. Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.
- We Should Not be Embarrassed by the Doctrine of Hell
- Craig on God’s goodness and the existence of hell