Monday, November 21, 2011

Hell Unfair? (Part 2)

In the previous post I began a response to the claim that
It seems like an eternity spent in Hell is an unfair punishment for sins committed during 70 or 80 years in this life. The punishment doesn't seem to fit the crime.
In that post, I suggested that this claim involves several misunderstandings that render it fundamentally flawed, and identified three of those:

1) It may involve a category fallacy, since time is a created part of this universe, and eternity and Hell are portrayed as outside of this universe,

2) Even in our own judicial systems, we don't consider the time taken in committing a crime as having much to do with the appropriate duration of punishment, and

3) A factor that we do consider important is the authority or person against whom the crime is committed.

Regarding this third issue, we discussed the fact that the authority against whom our crimes are committed is the supreme Authority, the One who created all things (including the sinner himself) and the only One who could offer (and has offered) clemency. And this recognition surfaces another misunderstanding in the original claim...

4) The claim seems to imply that the crimes that send us to Hell are sins with a lower case 's,' minor indiscretions, in effect just having a little more fun than the next guy by breaking some rather arbitrary rules that God set up for unfathomable reasons of His own. That, of course, is a huge distortion of the Bible's portrayal.

[Note to reader: In many cases (when defending the Christian worldview) it is inappropriate to place much emphasis on what the Bible says. This is because the person to whom you're speaking likely doesn't consider the Bible to be authoritative. And because the Christian worldview is the uniquely accurate understanding of the universe in which we actually live, there will always be good reason and evidence available in its defense (and the Bible can be brought in later as corroborative evidence). In the case before us today (the unfairness of Hell), it is legitimate to bring in the Bible because the person against whom we're arguing did it first. That is, the idea of Hell that is being argued against comes from the Bible. It is the Christian and the biblical portrayal of Hell that the disputant finds unfair. And so it is perfectly justified for me to allow the Bible to defend itself, to demonstrate that the claim being made involves a misrepresentation of Scripture's full picture of eternal judgment.]

Instead, the biblical picture is that every human being is broken and fallen, that our crime is absolute rebellion against our Creator, and that this rebellion has led to our failing utterly to reflect His glory, the purpose for which He created us. We chronically reject His authority on our lives, we run from Him, we deny His existence, we do as we please, all of this with dire consequences for ourselves, for those around us, and for the rest of creation. Just as each individual lie that So-and-So offers is attributable to the fact that So-and-So is a chronic Liar, so our sins are attributable to the much larger fact that we are Sinners.

The crime for which people are condemned to eternity in Hell is not merely the collection of little-s sins that might bring a blush to their face if shared in public--instead, it is the bold, arrogant shaking-of-the-fist in God's face that says "I'll do it my own way; I neither thank you for creating me nor acknowledge your authority in my life!"

And this leads to the next misunderstanding...

5) The claim seems to imply that the person condemned to eternity in Hell will regret his decision, will wish he could change his mind, will himself find the punishment unfair. I see no reason or evidence--and certainly none in Scripture--that would suggest this to be the actual case.

All indications are that the person who rejects God in this life will continue to do so in the next. The person condemned by God to Hell will--despite the torments inherent there--rather remain there than to face an eternity of offering worship and praise to the God he detests.

God has already judged every human being, finding each guilty of treason and deserving of eternal punishment. But, in His great mercy, He has also offered a way of clemency, of forgiveness. He took upon Himself the punishment we deserve, and gave each of us--for all eternity--the opportunity to accept an everlasting pardon. We can either head to the eternal imprisonment we deserve, or we can walk away completely free, not to go 'back to the streets' as it were, but to a room in His house that He has specially prepared for us.

We either say to this merciful Judge "Thy will be done," and find ourselves eternally in Heaven, or He eventually says to us "Thy will be done," and we find ourselves eternally in Hell.

To put it simply, it's an everlasting fool who dares to shake his fist in the face of a Judge like that.

This brings us to a sixth, fatal misunderstanding associated with this claim that the eternality of Hell is unfair. But (since I'll have much to say about that one) I'll save it for another post.

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