Loftus on eternal torture

atheism Heaven and Hell

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Recently I blogged on what traditional Christian theology says about hell. I cited the examples of Tertullian, Aquinas, Jonathan Edwards and Isaac Watts, all of whom taught in one way or another (Tertullian being the most graphic) that when the saints get to heaven they will derive great happiness and enjoyment from watching the torture of the damned. My point there was that those who claim to hold the traditional Christian view of hell don’t realise that this was part of that theology, and would be less likely to state that they affirm the traditional view if they were aware of this aspect of it.

John Loftus liked what he saw, but for quite different reasons:

One belief change of mine that allowed me to pursue my doubts about Christianity was the rejection of an eternal punishment in hell. This doctrine is completely barbaric. It is the biggest stick ever invented by man to keep believers from questioning their faith. Christian philosopher Dr. Glenn Peoples rejects this doctrine too in favor of annihilation, and says why in a recent post. Reject it like he does and you’ll be freer to think about your faith.

There’s one misconception here, in that I didn’t actually offer any arguments against the traditional view and in favour of annihilationism in that post. My reasons for thinking that the traditional view is not biblical and that annihilationism are spelled out in three part a podcast series on the subject (part one is here)

The suggestion appears to be that believers are just too afraid to think critically about their faith, because they don’t want to get too sceptical and end up in hell forever. If believers stop teaching eternal torment, then the net result will be that more people will be inclined to give up their faith for lack of fear.

The evidence, however, suggests something very different from what John implies – for Christians and non-Christians, actually. First, here’s how Loftus is mistaken on how giving up the doctrine of eternal torment and embracing annihilationism affects Christians. In the first place, holding the traditional view of hell creates exegetical difficulties for a Christian. There are biblical passages and themes that don’t make sense and need to be held in tension with much of what the traditional view maintains. The biblical teaching on immortality clearly indicates that immortality belongs to God alone, and that it is not a universal human expectation, but actually waits as a gift that God will gift to his people. This is at odds with the traditional view that everybody will be immortal, and the issue is one of better housing in eternity. Secondly, the biblical message is that God will one day be victorious over evil to the extent that there is no evil anywhere, and everything that exists will exist under God’s glorious dominion. Thirdly, Scripture teaches that in some sense Jesus of Nazareth died as a substitute for others, suggesting that the fate that awaited them without salvation was not an eternity of suffering, but death. Fourthly, the way that the Bible directly speaks of the fate of evil is expressly in terms of death, perishing, destruction, being blotted out and the like. What’s more, there’s a tension between what many Christians believe about the character of God and the doctrine of eternal torment (to say nothing of the idea that God will spring for front row tickets so that we will all get a good view of the proceedings!). My experience with many Christians who have wrestled with – and finally given up – the doctrine of the eternal torment of the lost has shown me that giving that doctrine up is usually something of an intellectual and moral burden being lifted from one’s shoulders. Worshipping and serving God becomes easier, not more difficult, once such obstacles to devotion are removed. It’s like a child who stops believing that her father is a mob boss. Rather than causing her to doubt her father more than before, she trusts and loves him more than before.

Secondly, the overall influence on the Christian:non-Christian ratio that John seems to expect with the decline of the doctrine of eternal torment among Christians is not at all what he seems to indicate. This theological change is actually one that removes one of the reasons that some people have for rejecting Christianity. As someone actively involved in the promotion of atheism on the internet, John will already be familiar with the objection to Christianity that it teaches a repugnant doctrine, namely that of eternal torment in hell. Torturing people forever is evil, many unbelievers reason, and if Christianity teaches that, then so much the worse for Christianity. Of course, I’m not saying that everyone who thinks this would become a Christian once they realised that the Bible doesn’t teach the doctrine of eternal torment, but if there is any movement at all, the removal of one objection to Christianity can only move people one way – towards, rather than away from Christianity.

Wrong though he may be about outcomes, John is welcome to help spread the word on the error of the doctrine of eternal torment.

Glenn Peoples

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{ 32 comments… add one }
  • Lucia Maria January 15, 2010, 3:42 pm

    Many atheists reason that God the Father requiring His Son to die on the Cross was evil as well. Do you think getting rid of that idea might help too?

  • Glenn January 15, 2010, 3:49 pm

    Lucia, you seem to have a real fondness for attempting to get behind a person’s words and hunt out their motive. As before, you have ended up in error because of this attempt. I think it would be best if you simply gave the tactic up altogether.

    At no point did I ever reason that since atheists dislike the doctrine of eternal torment, we should give it up. Did you see me argue this way? Have I ever done so in the past? In fact I have not. Instead, I have responded to the claim, made by an atheist, that giving up that doctrine is likely to cause a move away from Christianity.

    As I have explained to you already, I advance the doctrine of annihilationism because the evidence persuades me that it is biblical. That evidence is overwhelming, and I don’t have the liberty to pick and choose something else just because it enables me to fit in better with my Christian peers. 😉

  • Lucia Maria January 15, 2010, 4:07 pm

    Glenn,

    I’m a lateral thinker with a mathematical mind. Your entire argument above could be transposed to any Christian doctrine that supposedly turns people off Christianity. Having talked to a particular atheist about his repugnance that God the Father required Jesus to die on the Cross, I could immediately see his arguments in line with yours. And really, how is eternal torment in Hell any worse than a loving Father making His Son die on the Cross when as God He had the power to do anything else that might have redeemed humanity?

    As I have explained to you already, I advance the doctrine of annihilationism because the evidence persuades me that it is biblical.

    Question then: is the evidence that you speak of only in the podcasts (sorry, they are too long for me to listen to), or do you have them written down anywhere? With Biblical references?

  • Glenn January 15, 2010, 4:19 pm

    Lucia – you refer to “Your entire argument above,” and yet you have not fairly represented the argument at all.

    You have assumed – once again I point out, incorrectly – that my argument is an argument for why we should give up the doctrine of eternal torment. This assumption on your part is not correct, and if your lateral thinking led you to think this, then it has let you down. As I have explained, all I have done is to respond to Loftus’s speculation as to what would happen if Christians stopped believing the doctrine of eternal torment.

    I’ve uploaded the text that I used for my podcast episode so you can have a copy in writing. And of course it has biblical references. I’m an evidence kinda guy. 🙂 Here’s the link.

  • Lucia Maria January 15, 2010, 4:40 pm

    Thanks, I’ll have a look.

  • John W. Loftus January 16, 2010, 12:46 am

    Actually Glenn, I DO think the reason you embrace annihilationism was stated in your original post. That’s how it works. First you find something abhorrent and then you look again at the Bible to try and make it something else. That’s how it worked for the abolitionist movement, the feminist movement, and Preterism (although with Preterism it was merely a way to save Christianity from refutation). You should surely know this because you claim that by giving up or an eternal hell will help rather than hurt the spread of Christianity.

    My experience was that once I gave up an eternal hell it was a relief to me. Claim differently all you want to. But it allowed me to consider that I might be wrong without the threat of an eternal punishment.

    And so the question remains whether annihilation will hurt or save the church. Without such a threat there is, well, no threat. It’s not quite the same as universalism but close. If all will be saved or if no one will suffer an eternal punishment then there is less motivation for missionary work or evangelism, and less of a need to preach correct doctrines rather than pop psychology which helps grow a church.

    Without an eternal hell then another problem surfaces with the atonement? Typically the substitutionary doctrine says Jesus paid our punishment on the cross, but if there is less or no punishment then why did he need to do this at all? Why die to save human beings from extinction? To cease to exist is no punishment at all and therefore nothing to save anyone from.

    I know you’ll answer these questions to your satisfaction, but these answers don’t satisfy me.

    Cheers.

  • Glenn January 16, 2010, 1:17 am

    “Actually Glenn, I DO think the reason you embrace annihilationism was stated in your original post. That’s how it works. First you find something abhorrent and then you look again at the Bible to try and make it something else.”

    Well, I’ve held an annihilationist view for over 16 years, but only started making complaints like this one for a couple of years. It’s your word against mine on what led me to this belief.

    Similarly, your experience on the effect that your belief about hell had on you is one thing, but all the annihilationists that I know of testify that their change of view on hell was accompanied with greater, rather than less, devotion to God. I’m sorry if you don’t find that rhetorically useful, but it’s the truth.

    Oh, one more thing: “Typically the substitutionary doctrine says Jesus paid our punishment on the cross, but if there is less or no punishment then why did he need to do this at all? Why die to save human beings from extinction?”

    John, if the punishment for sin is death (as annihilationists say), then it makes perfect sense that Jesus, in subsituting himself for us, should die. That’s an argument for annihilationism. Why die to save people from extinction? John, come on – you have a theological education. It’s called grace.

  • Ryan Peter January 16, 2010, 3:36 am

    Hey Glenn,

    I would be very interested in hearing your biblical reasons in rejecting Restorationist Universalism.

    Just interested in seeing your thought process behind it — I’ve held to annihilationism for a few years now but also think Restorationist Universalism seems to have a strong Biblical argument. What say you?

    You can email me if you’d prefer not to go into that here… thanks!

  • Matt January 16, 2010, 1:32 pm

    Actually Glenn, I DO think the reason you embrace annihilationism was stated in your original post. That’s how it works. First you find something abhorrent and then you look again at the Bible to try and make it something else.”

    No that’s how many atheists like to characterize how it works, it makes it easier to attack than addressing a straw man.

    My own adoption of preterism and anhilationism had nothing to do with “abhorence” I in fact had no abhorrence for the rival views. I simply began studying this issues out of interest and come to the conclusions that I thought had the best argument.

  • Matt January 16, 2010, 1:35 pm

    The last post should have displayed my picture not Madeleine’s, and the phrase should have been

    “addressing a straw man makes it easier to attack than addressing the evidence”

  • Glenn January 16, 2010, 1:52 pm

    Ryan, I don’t think Universalism really has much of a biblical case to speak of. I can think of maybe three texts that have an appearance of leaning towards universalism, but which (for two of them anyway) are easily just as well explained in terms of annihilationism. May main reason for not being a universalist is that the positive biblical case for annihilationism is so overwhelmingly strong.

  • Ryan Peter January 17, 2010, 1:10 am

    Thanks Glenn,

    I guess it comes down to the real meaning of the word “aionios” (eternal), which apparently can also mean an age of unknown time – but an age nevertheless (a time of beginning and end).

    Also, Jesus’ use of the word Kolasis (chastising for reconciliation) when referring to punishment builds a very strong case. Not to mention his statement that we should forgive our enemies seventy-times-seven, which means perhaps we can expect God to as well and – in light of that – if we take verses which indicate that all the nations will come to God very literally etc.

    I’m not really decided what I think of it yet, really. I’m guessing there will always be questions, but one thing seems sure: God WILL punish the wicked. He WILL be just. And he certainly WILL be loving in some way or another. I’ll be visiting your blog more 🙂

  • Glenn January 17, 2010, 1:23 am

    Thanks for your comments, Ryan. When it comes to your remarks about the one thing that is sure, I agree fully.

    Regarding aionios, I think one of the strong points made by believers in eternal torment – not a point in favour of eternal torment mind you, but an important observation nonetheless, is the way eternal life is contrasted with eternal punishment in the same context (e.g. in Matt 25). Since Christians agree that the eternal life is to live forever, the punishment (whatever it is) would have to be permanent as well.

    Regarding kolasis the problem I think is twofold: Firstly, the word itself is more general than correction, and refers to punishment generally. It might be corrective in some cases, but that can never be assumed. The New Testament uses other words that are not compatible with correction. For instance, every single time the Synoptic writers use the word apollumi to refer to the actions of one person towards another, it always refers to literal killing or destroying (not corrective at all), and yet that is the same word they use to refer to what God will do to the lost.

    The “seventy times seven” reference in Matthew refers to how ready we should be to forgive, yes, but it doesn’t say anything about preconditions for forgiveness. Luke’s presentation of the same teaching includes a little more: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:4).

    There’s no problem for me with the idea that the nations will come to God. In Hebrew Scripture, “the nations” refer to those who are not Israelites. That Scripture is being fulfilled right now as we speak. I have a very optimistic eschatology (some would call it postmillennial), so yes, I do see this as something that we should expect to see in the plane of history – not after the judgement but before! But obviously, some of those in the nations did not come to God.

    I’m currently involved in a discussion with Thomas Talbott on Universalism over at the “Evangelical Universalist” website, and I have to say – with all respect to them – that I am not finding exegesis to be their strong point.

    I’m always pleased to have new regulars, and you’re most welcome. 🙂

  • Dave January 17, 2010, 4:34 am

    Ryan may have a point with “aionios,” as it can mean “belonging to an age,” and within a Jewish context, this would mean “belonging to the age to come.” This is why the Apostle’s Creed says, “We believe in the life of the world (age) to come” by which it obviously means, “eternal life.”

    This synonymity can also be seen in how the Aramaic version of the NT translates Matthew 25.

    However, by itself, this still allows for eternal torment, annihilationism, or universalism, since all views involve some sort of punishment in the age to come. (It leans more toward annihilationism or universalism, however, since “aidios” rather than “aionios” would be used to indicate endlessness.)

    As for “kolasis”: yes, it can be used for corrective justice, but there are important examples in which it is not. Ancient Greek writings refer to the endless imprisonment in Tartarus as “kolasis,” and the Greek version of 1 Enoch uses it to refer to the irreversible damnation of the evil angels. Since both these examples are dealing with postmortem judgment, we would do well to take them into account in this context.

  • Bryce January 18, 2010, 9:37 pm

    Glenn wrote:
    I’m currently involved in a discussion with Thomas Talbott on Universalism over at the “Evangelical Universalist” website, and I have to say – with all respect to them – that I am not finding exegesis to be their strong point.

    If you feel that way, may I suggest you give the book The Evangelical Universalist a read. Gregory MacDonald (a.k.a. Robin Parry) gives thorough and well thought out exegetical arguments for what he calls “evangelical universalism”, using overarching themes from the Old Testament and the New, in depth analysis of particular segments and even the book of Revelation as a whole.

    I realize, though, how tedious it can be to read through an exegetical text when you ultimately disagree with the exegesis. But if you are looking for the execellent (the best?) exegetical arguments for EU I would look no farther. And even if you find it all to be unconvincing, you should be pleased by the first section of the book, which provides very well formulated arguments against the traditional view, which in my opinion by itself makes the book worth it.

    Anyways, I really enjoyed the book and I think you would too. Also, I have been keeping up with and enjoying your discussion with Talbott. I am highly anticipating your next post and if I could be so bold like to petition you make your next post sooner rather than later. 🙂

    I realize, however, both with the book and with the Talbott discussion, that both activities are timeconsuming and you are a busy man, so its understandable if certain activities get the short end of the stick, so to speak.

  • Glenn January 18, 2010, 10:02 pm

    Bryce, the next post is on the way very soon. 🙂

  • Ryan Peter January 18, 2010, 11:17 pm

    Dave, thanks for that 🙂 Wonderful thoughts and points.

    Gonna try and find your discussion with Talbot at the Evangelical Universalist, Glenn…

  • lara January 19, 2010, 2:26 am

    Hi Glenn,

    With due respect,I think your problem is that you ignore key passages like Revelation 20:14 that says The lake of fire is the second DEATH where the beast and the false prophet are thrown and tormented day and night for ever and ever.. also where anyone [even those who have died] whose name is not found in the book of life is thrown, Passages like Daniel 12:2 that teaches the dead will be resurrected.. while some enter into everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

    While I don’t hold to the idea that saved souls will take pleasure in the torment of lost souls, I believe scripture teaches that every soul that has ever lived will be raised again to face the final judgment of the one seated on the great white throne. Those not found in the book of life will be thrown in the lake of fire to be tormented day and night for ever and ever.. which is the second death – an annihilation from God aka eternal punishment.

  • Glenn January 19, 2010, 7:45 am

    Lara, “While I don’t hold to the idea that saved souls will take pleasure in the torment of lost souls..” OK, so you agree with the point of this blog post.

    You say that I ignore key passages that teach eternal torment, but actually this blog post wasn’t written to combat that doctrine, so it’s understandable that I wouldn’t wade through the biblical evidence for that view, such as that found in Revelation 20.

    I do, however, address that evidence in depth elsewhere, as in the podcast series on hell. If you’re interested, the material covered in that series can be read at http://www.beretta-online.com/articles/theology/annihilationist.pdf

  • lara January 19, 2010, 8:35 am

    Thanks Glenn.. I read it and I must say its a very good presentation. Actually I am not sure I am a traditionalist or an Annihilationist. All I know is that I have great interest in this subject and I enjoy discussing it with well informed and knowledgeable theologians very much. Thanks again for your patient response.

  • Steve Meikle January 24, 2010, 4:58 pm

    “they will be tormented day and night forever” Revelation 20:10. Though this speaks of only the devil and the beast later on in verse 13 it says who will join them there.

    I am not traditionalist, i am sola scriptura, and if traditional moves from scripture it is heresy

    I am sorry but annihiliationism is not biblical. I know the carnal mind finds this repugnant, so do I, but it is the truth if christianity is worth anything

  • Glenn January 24, 2010, 10:04 pm

    Steve, you can rest assured of this: The issue here is not that annihilationists have never seen that verse before. The Bible says many times and in several different ways that God will finally destroy his enemies. Annihilationism is more clearly taught in the Bible than many other doctrines that are biblical (e.g. the virgin birth or the resurrection of the dead, both of which are clearly taught in the Bible).

    It takes more than a quick surface reading to understand all the imagery in the book of Revelation, and merely quoting it without any treatment of the context simply will not do this text justice. If you’re interested in gaining an understanding of what annihilationists say about this passage, here’s a copy of the material that I used when I presented the three part podcast series on hell.

    The doctrine of eternal torment is not a biblical one. It is born of pure tradition.

  • Brendan February 7, 2010, 9:59 am

    “The doctrine of eternal torment is not a biblical one. It is born of pure tradition.”

    I wasn’t going to join in this discussion until I read this last comment.

    It is not at all correct to state that the traditional Christian doctrine that both Heaven and Hell are eternal have no basis in Scripture, and that they are simply false inventions that have found their way Christian theology over time.

    It seems that part of the problem here isn’t just about this specific issue, it also has to do with a proper understanding of the nature of virtue – particularly the virtue of justice -, as well as a proper understanding of grace, freewill and the permissive and active will of God.

    Firstly, Scriptures such as Revelation 14:11; 19:3; 20:10; Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; John 3:36 cannot simply be dismissed as confused translations of the Greek.

    These Scriptures quite clearly give sound Scriptural grounding for the Christian doctrine of the eternal nature of Hell.

    Secondly, by turning God into the eternal executioner of souls you haven’t actually resolved anything for the atheist or the theist who struggles with the concept of an eternal Hell, and finds it a stumbling block to belief in God.

    All you’ve done is turn God into a deity who now kills people who die in a state of unrepentant mortal sin, rather than Him being a God who respects the freewill decisions of the individual and then responds accordingly, in continuity with his nature, which is eternally just.

    If someone struggles with the concept of God ALLOWING people to spend an eternity in Hell because of mortal sin, then I’m unsure why they would have any less problem with a God who actively kills people because of mortal sin.

    It seems to me that a root problem here is a confusion about justice, and the active/permissive will of God, which allows certain things without desiring them.

  • Brendan February 7, 2010, 10:19 am

    One other thing, I think it’s important to point out that Thomas Aquinas’ teaching regarding those in Heaven rejoicing regarding the fate of those in Hell is far more nuanced than what you have implied here.

    Here is exactly what he states in the Summa regarding this issue…

    Article 3. Whether the blessed rejoice in the punishment of the wicked?

    Objection 1. It would seem that the blessed do not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. For rejoicing in another’s evil pertains to hatred. But there will be no hatred in the blessed. Therefore they will not rejoice in the unhappiness of the damned.

    Objection 2. Further, the blessed in heaven will be in the highest degree conformed to God. Now God does not rejoice in our afflictions. Therefore neither will the blessed rejoice in the afflictions of the damned.

    Objection 3. Further, that which is blameworthy in a wayfarer has no place whatever in a comprehensor. Now it is most reprehensible in a wayfarer to take pleasure in the pains of others, and most praiseworthy to grieve for them. Therefore the blessed nowise rejoice in the punishment of the damned.

    On the contrary, It is written (Psalm 57:11): “The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge.”

    Further, it is written (Isaiah 56:24): “They shall satiate [Douay: ‘They shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh.’] the sight of all flesh.” Now satiety denotes refreshment of the mind. Therefore the blessed will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked.

    I answer that, A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways. First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy. And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly.

    Reply to Objection 1. To rejoice in another’s evil as such belongs to hatred, but not to rejoice in another’s evil by reason of something annexed to it. Thus a person sometimes rejoices in his own evil as when we rejoice in our own afflictions, as helping us to merit life: “My brethren, count it all joy when you shall fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2).

    Reply to Objection 2. Although God rejoices not in punishments as such, He rejoices in them as being ordered by His justice.

    Reply to Objection 3. It is not praiseworthy in a wayfarer to rejoice in another’s afflictions as such: yet it is praiseworthy if he rejoice in them as having something annexed. However it is not the same with a wayfarer as with a comprehensor, because in a wayfarer the passions often forestall the judgment of reason, and yet sometimes such passions are praiseworthy, as indicating the good disposition of the mind, as in the case of shame pity and repentance for evil: whereas in a comprehensor there can be no passion but such as follows the judgment of reason.

  • Glenn February 7, 2010, 12:26 pm

    Brendan, listing some Bible references is not a case for eternal torment. I don’t allege that they are confused translations. I allege that they do not teach eternal torment, so your comment was a misrepresentation.

    The fact is, the Bible clearly and consistently teaches annihilationism and not eternal torment, a fact easily demonstrated to a genuinely fair minded observer.

    When you say that Aquinas’s view on the joy of the saints over the suffering of the damned is far more nuanced than what I have implied here, I suspect that you meant is something like “What Aquinas says is more nuanced than my assumption about what you must think about what Aquinas said.”

    What I said about Aquinas was true. You might think that I do not allow for Aquinas’s view to be nuanced. I do, but however nuanced it is, it will always be a view wherein the saved take joy in watching the sufferings of the damned, for whatever finely defined reasons you might care to enumerate. Any view wherein the saved take pleasure in the torment of the damned, however it is explained, is likely to give pause to a person who is asked to believe it, and for good reason.

  • Jason February 13, 2011, 12:11 pm

    Annihilationism falls on the same sword as the “eternal torment” model. There’s no proportionality.
    The spiritual equivalent of a j-walker receives the same punishment as the spiritual equivalent of Idi Amin.
    The judge of all the world must do what is right. Consequently neither annihilation, nor universalism, nor (it must be said) the popular view of hell can meet the criteria of justice.
    I think that C S Lewis’s view in The Great Divorce is closest to real justice.

  • Glenn February 13, 2011, 2:51 pm

    Jason, you are the first person in this discussion to bring up the question of proportionality. If that is a “sword,” it is not the same sword that I brought up here. The sword in this discussion has been the joyous celebration of cruelty. Other swords would include a distinct lack of biblical support. Annihilationism certainly doesn’t fall on the same sword as the traditional view in those regards.

    As for the new issue you raise, I guess what I’d like to see is an explanation of why a murderer of 20 should receive a different punishment than the punishment given to the murderer of 100, if the penalty for the murder of one person is death. Once that question is answered and we see why they should both get the same punishment, the question about annihilationism answers itself.

    What’s more, if God is the source of life, then annihilationism presents the inevitable consequence of rejecting God – quite apart from the issue of punishment.

  • Michael May 19, 2011, 6:06 am

    Hi Glenn, good post.
    Was wondering, do you think that it would be morally wrong of God to cast unbelievers into eternal torment? That is to say, if someone debunked all the arguments in favour of annhilationism would you still withhold from believing in hell because of it being morally unjustified?
    Atm i would say I tentatively do believe in a hell, though I am very open minded about it. I would add though that i do certainly think it is morally justified for God to cast unbelievers into hell, that’s because I know what I’d be like if God hadn’t saved me.

  • Glenn May 19, 2011, 5:48 pm

    Hey Michael – nice to see you enjoying the blog! I don’t think that God has any moral duties at all, because I think moral duty is all about obeying God.

    However, I do not believe that it would be (in a non moral sense) good for God to have people tormented forever, and I do not believe that it is compatible with God’s nature (which really just means here his personality).

  • Liz February 18, 2014, 5:45 am

    Hello Glenn- I really enjoy your posts and incite into the idea of ” hell- fire.” I used to believe in hell because I didn’t know who the true God was. I firmly believe for one that ” God is love” meaning he’s the essence of love. He wants us to grow in love and have a godly fear of him and hurting his feelings not feel so scared and in fear of him that we don’t want to enjoy the life that he has given us because life IS a gift! He created us from his love BECAUSE he is LOVE! Jesus himself said the greatest of all the commandments is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. He didn’t come to condemn but to save and show LOVE and how to love through his actions. So when many so called ” Christians” profess and teach hell doctrine we ignore the greatest of all the commandments that Jesus himself taught! Even when he was dying he said ” forgive them for they know not what they do.” Yes of course he taught we will be judged according to our OWN deeds which is NOT to receive everlasting life but complete everlasting death- the second death which if you think about it means the opposite of life! Also Jesus stated in John 11:11 that his friend Lazarus was asleep. The doctrine of hellfire draws us away instead of closer to our heavenly loving Father not towards! Yes of course the wicked, evil and faithless will be punished with death! The opposite of life without the rewar of life because life everlasting is a rewar for the righteous. For one to believe in hellfire means you believe we are already immortal when immortality again is a gift and a reward for those that give their lives to truth and the true everlasting God Almighty! Also in John 15:13- no one has greater love than this that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends. One of my favorites that shows the strength of love and God is in Song of Solomon 8:6-7- love is as strong as death is insistence on exclusive devotion is as unyielding as Sheol is. It’s blazing a are the blazing a of a fire the brightest kind of flame. Many waters themselves are not able to extinguish love not can rivers themselves wash it away. If a man would give all the valuable things of his house for love persons would positively despise them. This shows how strong His love is for His creation and WHY he made man which he made in his own image. The meaning in his image is that we love or should show love. If a person chooses from his own God given free will not to love God and neighbor he will die in his own sins , choosing death, nothingness because apart from God Almighty we are nothing. He never even had to create us! He created us because he’s the very essence of love itself and with love is giving and sharing! He wanted to share love and life with us! Otherwise He would be a selfish cold and lonely God. The point is that man made doctrines or should I say purely evil doctrines keep man in the “dark” no pun intended about who the true God Almighty is! The god of this world knows he only has a short period of time and because of his utter darkness and selfishness he wants to drag Gods beautiful creation down with him! I could go on and on and quote so many more beautiful holy scriptures that came from Gods holy mouth but I think or hope that covers most of what I was trying to say. If man would concentrate on Gods love and who is the very essence of love and the precious gift if life through his only begotten son the messiah and NOT take His beautiful love for granted we would not even be having this discussion.

  • Tyler Ramey November 11, 2015, 12:47 pm

    A grand error is that torture and torment are the same thing. The notion of torture, I think, drives many motivated by emotions and moral objections to annihilations and conditional immortality. I will grant that torture would settle me on the idea of God being a moral monster, yet torment is a different matter altogether.

    Torment is self inflicted, chosen freely by the hell bound in this mortal life. Torture is inflicted by external agent. God, in his omnibenevolence, cannot torture; hence, the everlasting conscious torment of a non-fired hell is permissible morally, “rescues” God from moral charges, and assists the theology of everlasting conscious torment, which must be eternal. It was must be eternal because of the eternal nature of the guilt uncovered by the infinite sacrifice of Christ . . . granting an absence of repentance.

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