Week 3: ³Iım a good person; why should I be sent to Hell by a loving God?²
This is one of the most common arguments you may hear from unbelievers. To an atheist, it makes absolutely no sense that a God would create you knowing that He would send you to hell in the end. The real answer is that He does not send you to Hell, that people volunteer themselves for Hell. To understand that answer, you have to consider the nature of man, the nature of God and the doctrine of ³Free-Will.²
The Nature of Man
Non-believers commonly take the position, consciously or not, that man is the center of attention in any argument concerning religion, and frequently frame a question, such as this one, to where the answer must reflect this same focus. This is called ³humanism,² and usually stems from a position that the speaker is the good and moral person he claims to be. This is where the problem comes in, when you say, ³I am a good person,² by what standard are you using to establish your self as good? To God, all men are sinful and in need of redemption:
1John 2:16 For everything in the worldthe cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and doescomes not from the Father but from the world.
Even with those who realize their own imperfect nature, you frequently get arguments about their relative goodness, ³Well, I do not murder or rob people, so I am pretty good overall.² This is no different than saying, ³Well, I may molest small children, but at least I do not murder them!² In Godıs eyes, no-one measures up to His standards, even if their sins are not as bad as others:
Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
By Godıs standards, no-one is ³good² and all are in need of the redemptive salvation found in Jesus Christ, so talking about how relatively less evil you are in comparison to other evil people makes little sense. There are different levels of sin; scripture confirms that in several places:
- Jesus told Pilate that Judas was guilty of a ³greater sin² (John 19:11)
- Each person will be judged and rewarded according to their deeds (Rom 2:6; Rev 20:12)
However, this is related to the rewards one will receive in heaven or hell, not that which gets us into either place!
The Nature of God
God is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. This means He is ever-present everywhere, is able to do any and all things without limitation or restriction, and He knows everything that can be known, present, past and future. God is fair and loving and just, so everything he does and everything he creates must be fair and loving and just as well.
Letıs look at each one of these. God is in Heaven, and is right here at this minute. He knows everyone here, as He knows everyone He ever created and ever will create. He knows every thought, every emotion, and the state of everyoneıs heart, right now, in real time. He has created the heavens and the earth, as well as hell and the fallen angels destined to go there.
He is fair and loving and just. This means that He treats each one of us fairly, with love and with perfect justice. If we love him back by following His commandments, He responds by giving the grace and mercy of salvation through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ.
First, hell is fair on two levels, one because there must be a place for people to go who do not desire to be near God. Second, it is fair because God has given people that choice to begin with. C.S. Lewis said it best, ³The door of hell is locked from the inside.there are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, Thy will be done,ı and those to whom God says, in the end, Thy will be done. All that are in hell, choose it.²
The creation of Hell is loving because heaven would be a ³hell² for those who do not love God. Heaven is a place of constant praise and worship of God (Rev 4-5), where unbelievers who cannot stand one hour per week in a church would be in eternal torment.
Hell is perfect justice for those who are guilty of sin, and have no-one else to atone for their sins. As all of us are guilty of sins, large and small, we all should be destined for hell, if we did receive the perfect justice God has promised. But, in his loving mercy of us sinners, He already has provided for the payment of our sins to be met, through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son.
The Doctrine of Free Will
The doctrine of ³free will² holds that God created man for Himself, to love and honor God, for those purposes that God alone has intended him. You cannot force someone to love you, attempting to do so is legally called assault or kidnapping. You can only create a loving, inviting atmosphere where, you hope, the object of your love will return the same to you. God has done this, in every way possible. He supports us by clearing what He knows is the best path for our lives, uplifts us when we fall, gives us those things we need and so much more, is constantly present in our every distress, is attentive when we talk to Him, responds to our pleadings as He knows best, and has even paid the heavy price of our own transgressions, so that we can be near Him forever. Yet in all of this, He respects our own decision whether to be near Him or to reject Him.
Why did He not make the race of man such that we would automatically love Him? He certainly could have done that, remember, he is omnipotent. The simple answer is that it would have made us nothing more than robots programmed to do certain things to center inputs. Do you know the computer game ³The Sims²? It is one of the most popular simulation games on the market, and one of the reasons is that your characters do not always do what you tell them to do, they have a crude version of ³free will² built in to them. If they always responded to what you commanded them to do, the game would never have sold what would be interesting about it?
The harder answer is that this is part of the mystery of God, that we do not have the ability right now to understand. Praise God that He has given us this pure love without us having to understand it all the time!
Scripture Support for omnipresence:
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.
In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high.
Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens.
I Kings 8:27
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
I Corinthians 1:27
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? Or, Who shall descend into the deep?
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Scripture Support for omnipotence:
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.
Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:
Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?
For with God nothing shall be impossible.
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Scripture Support for omniscient:
He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.
Known to God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.
II Kings 13:19
And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.
Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand. And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me. But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the Lord, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be will unto thee, and thy soul shall live
(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickened the dead, and calleth those things which be not though as they were.
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
I Samuel 23:5-14
So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, that he came down with an ephod in his hand. And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars. And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod. Then said David, O Lord God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake. Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O Lord God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the Lord said, He will come down. Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the Lord said, They will deliver thee up. Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth. And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand.
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