Q: If God lovingly created mankind, why would He send people to Hell?

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This question reminds me of Bertrand Russell, Why I’m not a Christian –“I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment (referring to Jesus)”. Is the very notion of hell immoral? Should we discredit someone who thinks hell exists? Is love incompatible with punishment?

Ok I need to preface this with the fact that each issue is really deep so forgive me if I appear to skim over any area, this is not my intention. Also these are theological questions so I will go to scripture for definitions and clarity.

Let’s look at the questions more closely and draw out some assumptions. Assumptions: (A1) God is loving and eternal punishment is not loving.  (A2) God happily SENDS people to Hell. (A3) God made a broken world.

(A1) 1 John 4:8 captures it well – “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” That is to say that, God’s very essence is love. Is there any conflict between God’s love and His Holiness? I define holiness simply as a separation from evil (being set apart). So to restate the assumption, can God be both loving and holy? I would argue in the affirmative. (Premise 1) Love can only exist if freewill exists. (P2) If freewill exists then evil is possible. (P3) If Evil exists then God must separate himself from Evil.  Premise 3 follows logically from premise 1 and premise 2.

Freewill finds itself in the equation; let’s look at what freewill is. Freewill is something intrinsically valuable to mankind, it’s part of what makes us human. This simply means we get a choice. Though it pains God, He cannot violate our choice to seek Him or reject him.

From freewill we also derive human freedom, and freedom is an unsuspecting sobering thing. As a child I would demand freedom from my parents, freedom to see my friends, and go where I wanted to go and do what I wanted to do. But the truth is I didn’t want freedom, I just wanted to rebel against the rules, as long as they were paying the bills that were fine, I didn’t want to end up on the street. With increased freedom comes increasing responsibility.

Scripture teaches that we are eternal beings with a finite past; therefore, the outcome of our choice has major consequences. Think of a young girl who gets pregnant, the actions from, perhaps, a single event will affect her entire future. God allows us freedom to choose, in love, but He doesn’t violate his holiness by removing the consciences of our free actions, therefore; God’s love and punishment are not opposed to one another.

(A2) The major assumption is that God SENDS people to hell, the minor is that He does so happily. Does God send people to hell? I think C.S. Lewis captured it best in the Great Divorce when he wrote:

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

God does not send people to hell against their will, people choose it. God will not force you into his presence against your freewill. God holds human freewill with high regard and will not violate our choices.

Now, on the minor point, God is not happy when we choose to separate ourselves from His love.

~Ezekiel 18:23 “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”~

That affirms our freewill and God’s holiness. It also affirms that God finds no pleasure in the matter, not even for the wicked.

(A3) God made a broken word? I would say that the world is broken; we know this from turning on the news… The scripture gives insight into the world God made, and how His intention was for personal relationship with His creation. In the Garden of Eden, all that God had made was “very good -Gen 1:31”. But when mankind rebelled against God brokenness entered the world. The point is the human heart is broken and that separated us from a Holy God. God’s restoration plan involved Jesus’ life, death and resurrection which created a bridge for mankind to know God personally once more (Romans 5:1, 1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 9:15). Eternal life is knowing Him.

John 17:3 ~Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. ~

This brings up a key point and Dallas Willard sheds light on this fundamental principle, “the aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons with God Himself at the very heart of this community as its prime Sustainer and most glorious Inhabitant”. Would you like it in heaven? What is your idea of heaven? Do we even consider that heaven is full of God’s presence? Or when confronted with the thought do we feel like Thomas Nagel in the Last Word ~ “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

In summary, if you love someone, can you make them love you? What if you love them more and more? What if you make every effort to be with them, will they love you in return? What if you died for that person, can you make them love you? If we force our love on others or force them to love us that is immoral and we would go to jail for forcing ourselves on others like that! God cannot force His love on you, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t make every effort to have a relationship with you and that He loves you immeasurably and that He even died for your love.

Therefore, God can be Holy, Loving and allow people to choose to know Him, if they so wish.

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14 thoughts on “Q: If God lovingly created mankind, why would He send people to Hell?

  1. Hi, I’m also taking the thinking series online course but totally new to online stuff (not sure yet how to set website). Your site is already well developed. Wow! Do you find it is working at interacting with atheists and seekers?
    Anyway, here is a comment on Hell I hope you will reflect on.
    Christian Gauthier wordpresssite with a couple blogs – ourhope:heisrisen

    What does eternal punishment really mean? I agree people have to chose, and Hell/eternal torment is a very critical issue. In fact, think of renowned people for whom Hell was a big factor alongside Evolution and suffering (in one direction Charles Templeton -Farewell to God and Brian Baker -From Faith to Reason, and in the opposite direction ex-atheist Anthony Flew -There IS a God and Greg Boyd’s ex-skeptic father – Letters from a skeptic). Note that although the logic of Creation eventually convinced Flew, he could not believe in Jesus because of eternal conscious torment. As we can see, Hell is therefore a life and death very important subject. Although an oversimplification, please consider what is the Eternal Punishment by answering 6 questions prayerfully:
    1-How long do you believe the judging goes on in the “eternal judgment”? Heb 6:2
    A- Basically Judged & Re-Judged each & every day every moment Forever, for the rest of eternity
    B- Or finally judged just once…but last judgment is permanent, eternal, for the rest of eternity
    2-How long do you believe the saving goes on in the “eternal salvation”? Heb 5:9
    A- Basically Saved & Re-saved each & every moment Forever, for the rest of eternity
    B- Or fully/finally saved once…but it is permanent/irreversible, for the rest of eternity
    3-How long do you believe the redeeming goes on in the “eternal redemption”? Heb 9:12
    A – Basically Redeemed/re-redeemed each and every moment Forever, for the rest of eternity
    B- Or fully Redeemed once… but it is permanent, irreversible, for the rest of eternity
    4- How long do you believe the condemnation goes on in “eternal condemnation”? Mk3:29
    A – Basically Condemned/Re-Condemned each & every moment Forever, for the rest of eternity
    B- Or finally CONDEMNED ONCE… but it is permanent/irreversible/for the rest of eternity
    5- How long do you believe the punishing of Hell goes on in the “eternal punishment”? Matt 25:46
    A – Basically Punished/Re-punished each and every moment Forever, for the rest of eternity?
    B- Or finally PUNISHED ONCE… but it is permanent/irreversible/eternal/for the rest of eternity
    6- How long do you believe the destructing of Hell goes on in “eternal destruction”?2Th1:9
    A – Basically Destroyed/Re-destroyed each & every moment Forever, for the rest of eternity?
    B- Or finally DESTROYED ONCE… but it is permanent/irreversible/for the rest of eternity/eternal


    Were you consistent? Think! Unless you can answer A to #1-3 (for the just), you are inconsistent to answer A to #4-6 (for unjust) because these sentences with word “eternal” are exactly the same. So, if B to #1-3, then you should at least consider B for #4-6. If not, why not? The point of 6 questions is to show that our view and understanding of eternal comes from outside ideas/texts – not the word itself.

    Now, note powerfully that the DURATION can be exactly the same – i.e. all 6 imparted ONCE (redeemed/punished/destroyed fully once) but all permanent, irreversible, for the rest of eternity, hence all ETERNAL. WOW! It would appear that the eternal punishment can be imparted once and is not necessarily equal to eternal torment, when looked at consistently for both just & unjust. Now I think that the common atheists’ cruel monster arguments and the free will arguments both try to explain a misinterpretation of the word eternal.

    Could I attempt to prove this? Could this be the plain consistent meaning for eternal in entire scriptures including Mt 25:46 and especially for all “eternal life“ texts. I`d have to say Yes! Although we have a measure of life now, Scripture indicates that eternal life is fully GIVEN ONCE at the applicable resurrection/ judgment… when mortality is swallowed up, when we will be MADE ALIVE (finally/fully ONCE but only) at His coming (1Cor 15:22-23), when we receive (once)… in the AGE TO COME, ETERNAL LIFE (Luke 18:30). Notice that in Lk 18:30, Jesus was asked “what” to do to inherit eternal life and Jesus answered “when” – in the age to come. So let’s spell out eternal in Mt 25:46 in a more consistent manner (i.e. the same for both just/unjust).

    “And these shall go away into eternal punishment (a just complete permanent horrific destruction imparted once at the just judgment of God – as per example of judgment of wicked at flood and at Sodom), but the righteous into eternal life” (a permanent life also imparted once at His coming, in the age to come).

    Again, WOW! Once it is understood that the gift of eternal life is basically imparted ONCE in the age to come (per John 6:40 … at last day when raised to life from the dead), we can see that the eternal punishment is also a last day everlasting destruction actually FROM GOD’s CONSUMING APPEARING IN GLORY, a second death, a permanent/eternal destruction to ashes.
    With the above I have shown that eternal conscious torment is not necessarily found in Mt 25:46 (#1 verse quoted in support of eternal torment), unless we want the meaning of eternal to be inconsistent between the just and unjust, based on outside inputs, or verses, most of which are quite figurative (worms, Rev).

    In closing, since Hell is such a big issue for many people like Flew and atheists, I think we Christians should make sure it is fully re-studied with a proper understanding of the word eternal, starting with studying the 6 questions above to fully see our inconsistencies.

    Finally, let’s think about justice: Just like before Flood, evil and injustice is now everywhere (downtown, ISIS, Boca Haram, famines, abuses, war, etc), and our Creator will have once again to restrain evil by cleansing this earth and make it completely new, where there will be no more pain, suffering, evil, death, sin, and especially no sinners writing in pain in Hell, as fully destroyed once. Earth will be re-created “very good”, just like it was in Eden with no traces of evil, death or sufferings, or Hell once the punishment is complete. Just like the ark, there is again only one way to live on. The wages of every sin (big or small) is death. The choice is ours: repent & life in Christ or permanent death. Choose to live – it’s pretty simple – love your neighbor (created in His image) and love Jesus Christ the Creator and Savior.

    Blessings, Christian

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    1. Hi Christian, I started the blog only in preparation for the course. I have had some interaction with skeptics and seekers but it has been limited. Publishing the articles on FB really allows people to engage, thats where the dialog has been most engaging.I have spent some time customizing themes but I can honestly say it doesn’t take much time at all. What is needed is just being familiar with WordPress, this will come with time. Thank you for engaging with this widely misunderstood and volatile subject. I think you bring some fantastic points to the surface. In all honesty this entire blog was part of a previous discussion on Facebook in which I attempted to address the question with a former Christian. My study in theology is limited and I knew that I might be missing significant pieces of the puzzle with regards to understanding the eternality of hell (note the disclaimer at the very beginning). I think your comment is really helpful in breaking down the areas that people(myself) flounder on the subject and since I’m blogging in pursuit of truth I welcome your insights. From the time I first published this piece till now, I have been taking a closer look at the prospect of amending this blog; however, I think this dialog is of greater benefit to show the development of understanding of core doctrines. My hope is that we can work together to present the culture with a unified position on core doctrines. Something I need much assistance in. =) Your insights into the finality of existence aka “Second death” is a very clear interpretation. Thanks again

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  2. I think you would be well advised to fully research the Christian Doctrine of Hell, and especially the etymology of the word.

    Like Original Sin it is an alien concept to the character, Jesus of Nazareth.

    The Christian church , which is largely built upon Pauline theology, has managed to obfuscate a great deal of what the character Jesus, actually taught.

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    1. Paul never teaches about an eternal hell – only destruction of the wicked.

      The view that Paul was a fundamentalist hard liner and Jesus was a liberal is childishly simplistic.

      Jesus condemned divorce (except for adultery), said hatred and lust are as bad a murder and adultery, said people should love him more than family/posessions.
      Paul on the other hand allowed divorce for other reasons (1 cor 7), said OT law no longer applied and never taught about an eternal firey hell. So who sounds like the hard liner?

      I agree though that a lot of christian doctrine would be alien concepts for Jesus the 1st century jewish apocalyptic preacher.

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  3. Hello Arkenaten,
    Your right, I am a lay person when it comes to the Doctrine of Hell and I have much to learn. Now, regarding your claim that original sin had no purchase on Jesus, would you agree that he was tempted according to scripture?

    The character of Jesus is not contingent on the behaviour of the church. And as a member of the church I know that there has been past events that have happened that are counter to the teachings of Jesus. But we don’t judge Christianity by its abuse we judge it by its proper use. Furthermore, I think that is evidence that mankind is depraved and in desperate need of a saviour, the Christians already admit they are imperfect by being Christian and confessing that through repentance before God. Now does the context of the situation or the person like Paul effect the truth claims they make? Can the method used to convey a truth claim negate the claim itself. I would say, no. Therefore regardless of how Christians come to believe a truth claim, the truth claim itself is not effected by its vehicle. If Paul speaks the truth and reviews the truth ( as I believe He does) then its an appeal to genetic fallacy to try and discredit the truth claims purly based on how they come about.

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    1. Ah… and so we begin to tread the Theological Two Step.
      I try to approach things in a simple uncluttered fashion, and as Luke Skywalker once said: ”Stay on target …’

      So, before wandering down Semantic Alley I will reign you in and try to refocus on the thrust of the original statement.

      According to the Gospels, Jesus was a Jew. He taught from the Torah. He taught Jews. His message was for Jews.
      The is no Christian Hell in the Torah, thus, Jesus was ignorant of it and would not have taught it.
      I reiterate, it is a church construct, and we can trace its historical and etymological roots.

      If you wish to deny this, fine. But it’s only fair to me ( or anyone else who may disagree) you demonstrate that you have the evidence to back such a claim and rather than me fire off all barrels, I will allow you the opportunity to actually do some research and hope you come back a little wiser and not so – excuse my turn of phrase – indoctrinated. 😉

      By the way, where in SA are you originally from?
      I am in Jo’burg.

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    2. Speaking of core doctrines, you seem to build a lot of yours around human free will. You seem to equate free will will with free choice. Is that true? I would like to suggest that our wills are so brohen by the fall we have minds in complete’opposition to God. We re by nature God haters who are unable to choose God because we cannot please God. Watch out for Ark. He’s an atheist troll, my friend.

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  4. Hi Ark, the Aramaic word synonymous with the Greek word “hell” is “Sheol.” This represents a separation of good and evil in the afterlife. Now, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah reflect the judgment to come the Torah says. Jesus would be familiar with this and I would argue the best evidence for God’s separation and punishment of sin would be Jesus public crucifixion. Jesus calls out “father why have you forsaken me” as he was in his final moments of agony. Now it is plausible that after witnessing this traumatic experience the apostles were able to better understand this concept. I agree that there is more reference to Hell after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Let’s say that Paul’s letter to the Romans was written in +/- 60 AD, that’s roughly 30 years after the crucifixion, there would have been people alive that witnessed Jesus teaching compared to Paul’s teaching. The shocking message of Christianity is not that there is a hell, it is that God became flesh and dwelt among mankind and that we killed him and he rose to life again.

    Regarding the original sin question, Jesus began his ministry by saying “repent and believe in the good news.” If original sin as not an issue why would he preach repentance?

    I’m from Pretoria boet! Lived in Durb’s for a few years and Swaziland for a few more then back up to Nelspruit before we left. I just hope that the Japanese don’t figure out how to play cricket you know! Shame! I hope to take my wife and kids to SA soon, they have never been. But I can say this, the Canadians LOVE my homemade boereworse and biltong! LEKKER!

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    1. Missed this reply,
      You are not actually addressing the meat of my initial comment and this is:
      There is no ”Christian Hell” ( eternal torture etc), it is simply a church construct.

      So failure to believe in Jesus has zero consequences.

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      1. I think your right that the idea of hell has been described in more detail by Paul and Jesus compared to the OT. I would also agree that the Christian view of hell wouldn’t necessarily be found in the Jewish OT.

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        1. The christian view of Hell is a church construct. Jesus did not talk about the hell which incorporates eternal damnation and torture.

          It sounds as if you are unfamiliar familiar with the etymology of the words used in the Old and New Testament?

          Let me be succinct.
          The character ,Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew, and taught the Law of Moses and therefore would not have has any idea or concept of an eternal Hell as Christianity describes.
          In other word, this doctrine is simply a fabrication.
          I hope this is clear enough?

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    1. Not physically in our lifetime perhaps, but when a Christian realizes that Jesus was the just ransom for our actions now, then yes retroactively my sin is what Jesus came to remove and a personal relationship with God became possible. Possibly just semantics.

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