How Could a Loving God Send Anybody to Hell?!

being light christian no more deconstructing faith deconversion hell is god good? May 23, 2023

I've found myself bombarded by questions like this one in the most unusual of places. I'm not going to share where, exactly--just know that they were places I never imagined I'd entertain questions like these.

If God is loving, then how could He send anyone to hell?

If God is good, what's good about creating a place like hell?

If God knows that a person's going to hell, why would He let that person be born in the first place?

If we're all sinners headed for hell, before we even get to make our first choice, isn't the whole thing messed up?

If we're being asked these questions, somewhere along the way, we dropped the ball on teaching a solid doctrine of hell. And though it might be too late to teach the people asking (afterall, this might be just one of many reasons they've chosen to take the journey that deconstructs their faith); I think I'll give it a shot here in hopes of giving you what you need to find answers to these and other questions you might have about hell.

First, let me say that I enjoy a good challenge--especially one that I can meet with the written word (and google). 

I found this article when I searched, "Is Hell Real?" 

Is Hell Real? by Dane Ortlund

Ortlund shoots straight with his readers. Right off the bat, he writes this, 

Hell is awful.

Then, he tells you just how awful hell is. 

  1. Hell is experienced by the whole person.--not just your spirit and soul, but your entire body will experience hell. 
  2. Hell is painful.--"Some speak of hell as the absence of God, but hell is not the absence of God absolutely, --indeed, it is the presence of God in wrath.
  3. Hell is eternal.--"Paul refers to hell as the place of eternal destruction. (2 Thess 1:9)"
  4. Hell is both chosen and not chosen.-- "On the one hand, all who go to hell have no one to blame but themselves. They chose it. Through hardness of heart and refusal to bow the knee to Jesus, through proud insistence on saving themselves and being their own lords, they willingly stiff-arm the free offer of forgiveness to all who acknowledge they are a sinful disaster and cast themselves on Christ."
  5. Hell is for the impenitent.--Hell is not for bad people, it is for people who have chosen to reject Jesus' gift of salvation. Good and bad people go to hell. Heaven is not for good people. It is for those who were honest about themselves, acknowledging that they are sinners in need of a Savior, and that Jesus in the One who came to save them.

All of these points are saturated with biblical references, making for solid teaching. I urge you to go read this article.

The Bible teaches that hell a real place where real people will someday go. But the entire message of the Bible is that they don't have to go there! Hell is indeed a biblical place where sinners suffer for eternity; but, God sent His own Son to die by crucifixion so that none of us would have to go there. 

So the answer to the first question:

If God is so loving, how could He send anyone to hell?  He doesn't.

God sent His own Son so that people could go to heaven not hell! God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for our sins so that we could live with Him forever and ever in a place called heaven. (Maybe my next blog post will be, "Is Heaven Real?" 

BTW, did you know that far more people believe in heaven than hell?

Back to our conversation about hell. If people choose not to accept God's way out of hell--they get to make that choice. And then, they go to hell after life on this earth, based on the merits of their own decision to reject God's free gift of salvation. NOT because God is out to get them, or because He was so cruel that He kept them in the dark regarding His way out.

Suppose you were speeding toward me and I waved you down. If I were to tell you there was an unmarked cliff just down the road past my house, and that everyone who raced past me ended up going over that cliff, you would have a choice to make. You could take my word for it, stop your car at my house, turn around and go the other way. Or, you could ignore me, speed past my house, and fly over the edge of the cliff like the others did before you.

Did I send you over the cliff? Of course not! Your decision to reject my warning led to your demise.

If God is good, what's good about creating a place like hell?

This is a great question, one that we often need an answer to! Let me see if I can give you the answer in the simplest of terms. 

Who defines what is good?

Once my mom tried to give me medicine I hated. For some reason uncharacteristic of me, I decided to that medicine was not good for me, and I made a serious stand that morning against that medicine. But, my mom, being convinced that the medicine was for my good insisted I take it. Had you asked me if that medicine was good I would have shouted, NO WAY! Had you asked my mom if it was good, she would have shouted, ABSOLUTELY! 

Much to my chagrin, my mom won that battle and I took the medicine. It didn't taste good. It didn't feel good. I wasn't happy about it. But it was good.

How do we really know how to define good? Don't we need a standard of some kind? For most of us, the standard for basic good vs evil in the world today comes from Scripture and more specifically the 10 commandments. 

So God defines good.

God is good and He created a place like hell. 

Therefore the creation of hell must be good.

But let's say you think it's not good because of the horrid truth that people end up there. How is hell good?

Hell gives people a choice. We are not pre-programmed to choose God. In fact, we come with a bent toward independence and self worship. Hell is total and complete separation from God; the full realization of the independence and self worship we think we want. 

Tim Keller, in his article The Importance of Hell says this about hell and the choice it offers mankind. 

"Hell is simply one's freely chosen path going on forever. We wanted to get away from God, and God, in his infinite justice, sends us where we wanted to go."

I loved Keller's closing statement in his article; and I'm going to use it here to close mine. I'll continue this conversation and answer the remaining 2 questions:

If God knows that a person's going to hell, why would He let that person be born in the first place?

If we're all sinners headed for hell, before we even get to make our first choice, isn't the whole thing messed up? what will be part 2 of this post.

Here's Keller's statement: "The doctrine of hell is crucial-without it we can't understand our complete dependence on God, the character and danger of even the smallest sins, and the true scope of the costly love of Jesus. Nevertheless, it is possible to stress the doctrine of hell in unwise ways. Many, for fear of doctrinal compromise, want to put all the emphasis on God's active judgment, and none on the self-chosen character of hell. Ironically, as we have seen, this unBiblical imbalance often makes it less of a deterrent to non-believers rather than more of one. And some can preach hell in such a way that people reform their lives only out of a self-interested fear of avoiding consequences, not out of love and loyalty to the one who embraced and experienced hell in our place. The distinction between those two motives is all-important. The first creates a moralist, the second a born-again believer."

Let's be ready to have these conversations when we are challenged to have them. And let's not be broadsided or intimidated by the tone of our challengers. Remember, God is good. And what God does is good. And Satan knows it. He's merely trying to twist the truth to deceive people into thinking that somehow God is "out to get them," or that He's "holding out on them." The confident hope we have in the Truth of the gospel will be more powerful than any words we might exchange when we have the privilege of engaging in conversations with those who are curious enough to challenge us.

"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction."

2 Timothy 4:2


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