reply to post by freedom7
I've wrestled with the concept of Hell for a long time as well. I have to say first that if you're coming at this from a Christian perspective,
it's pretty hard, if not impossible, to deny the existence of Hell.
I'll take a few of your points, that I have thought of in the past, and give my take for the sake of discussion:
1. If there really is such a thing as Hell then how is loving God anything other than an act done under duress?
Well, this begs the question doesn't it? If there is no such thing as Hell and everyone goes to heaven no matter what, then free will is still not a
factor and, in fact, even less of a factor than if Hell exists. This is true whether Hell is some kind of soul death, vague separation from God or the
literal burning lake of fire.
2. The imagery of Hell cannot be literal, the Bible obviously is trying to convey greater concepts when it describes Hell.
This also doesn't get us very far. Of course the descriptions of fire, etc, are symbolic, just as descriptions of Heaven are symbolic. Whatever lies
beyond our physical universe is almost by definition beyond our comprehension right now. But the fact that we can all agree that the wording isn't
literal doesn't mean that any interpretation that is closer to the literal interpretation is automatically wrong the minute you dream up something
that is plausible but further.
It says "fire" and you say "that's obviously symbolic so it's probably soul death." Well...why? Why not some kind of unimaginable eternal
torment that's akin to fire, but still indescribable without metaphor? I can easily go further than you and say "soul death? now you're just using
imagery from our finite life on earth, clearly it has to be something EVEN FURTHER from the metaphors used...like...reincarnation!!!"
See, you can't eliminate the whole category of eternal torture just because we agree that the imagery it uses to describe the eternal torture are not
literal. The idea can still be literal.
Besides, the idea that just being extinguished from existence is more merciful than eternal suffering is purely speculative. You and I cannot
comprehend either one of those two concepts fully. Surely, if you believed in no afterlife, you could admit that living here on Earth in less than
optimal conditions might be preferable to death. It all depends on what the eternal suffering is.
3. Adam and Eve and 11th Century Chinese people didn't go to Hell
This just asks the question, "How can a God that allows these people to go to Hell be just? Be the true God?" Well, what does that have to do with
the existence of Hell? Maybe these people didn't go to Hell. Maybe there are mechanisms for salvation that we are not considering. Maybe God is
infinitely just and the only reason you consider them as damned to Hell in the world view you're criticizing is because you and I, as people with
knowledge, will never understand the ways that God can reveal himself to people who are absent the knowledge we possess.
And considering my point #2, your solution "Hell is ceasing to exist" is little better. Why should all those cavemen and Plato cease to exist the
same as Hitler just because of when they were born? Doesn't seem anymore just to me than Hell.
You're raising a good point about who gets to GO TO HEAVEN, but that question doesn't really inform us on the nature of what happens to those who
don't go to heaven.
4. Now here's my big reveal
I actually agree with your conclusion. That Hell is ceasing to exist. I argue with you because I am entirely unconvinced of what I believe. I believe
that I believe this only because it deeply frightens me that I could for the rest of time and beyond.
Good post. Hope you reply.