27 January, 2017

Cultural Hell Is Not Theological Hell

WARNING: The following are paragraphs, not individual sentences or phrases. Ignoring the whole-paragraph contexts to respond to bits and pieces of them is quote mining.

If God is loving, then why would He send you to hell for rejecting Him? This seems to be one of many key questions that nonbelievers wrestle with in our culture, and very prominent Christian apologists like Frank Turek have been presented with it. The problem, however, is that many people who raise this objection don't even know what Hell is. Some think it's just a place of divinely sanctioned torture, but is that true? There are indeed many words that the Bible uses to describe Hell, but the most basic concept is simply the separation from God. If you reject God, then you're rejecting all of His attributes — justice, order, mercy, faithfulness, humility, and selflessness — and embracing their opposites: injustice, chaos, lack of mercy, betrayal, pride, and narcissism.

Notice, however, that none of these negatives can exist unless their positive opposites are defined. You cannot have injustice if justice doesn't exist or is subjective. You cannot properly define chaos if order doesn't exist. You cannot have a lack of mercy without mercy to lack. You cannot properly define betrayal without first defining faithfulness. You cannot have pride if you don't know what humility is. You cannot have narcissism if you don't first have a standard of self-sacrifice by which to measure it. Either the good that becomes evil (in these cases) exists or it's undefined, and if good is undefined, then evil is also undefined. If evil is undefined, then can you call out any egregiously evil act as such? No, and if there were no God as atheists love to claim then all of the above would be completely undefined.

We can, in a sense, think of anarchy as a kind of hell on Earth: Without standards, without order, everyone can do anything and everything that he or she wants, including that which harms others. The result? A kind of socially Darwinistic society in which the strong become stronger, the weak become weaker, and everyone suffers. Anarchy creates chaos. It gives evil ones free reign to inflict evil on each other, creating and multiplying more evil. Instead of keeping them civilized, anarchy turns men into savages.

Now, take that anarchy and lengthen it to an eternal scale. That's what hell is: eternal anarchy. Without God's order, the result is an evil free-for-all where all inhabitants can all inflict as much evil on each other as they desire, but they only distance themselves further and further from God in the process. It's nothing like the stigma that we've given it by any means. Rather, it's simply what happens when there is absolutely no control whatsoever: inhabitants can do whatever the **** they want to each other, including the most grotesque of evils imaginable, and even including evils beyond comprehension.

In this context, we can see that the answer to the question posed in the introductory paragraph does become clear: You send yourself to hell. The assumption behind this loaded question is that God does the sending — not true at all. It's a quarantine for evil — it's where inhabitants fight evil with evil, and evil magnifies itself in an endless death spiral. If you reject God's order, you create chaos. If you reject God's love, you create hate. Hell is the creation of its inhabitants: like an inner city controlled by gangs or a country controlled by terrorist organizations, it's where eternal infighting creates eternal decay. That's what you get if you reject the gift of substitutionary atonement — the only thing that can keep us from this fate.