I ask you a mystery question

If you got to call the shots, would you make hell last forever? if no, who is more merciful, you or God? If yes, why would you wish pain forever on one of God’s children?

That would be one hell of a decision to make. I would probably back out and refuse. I’m a human, my knowledge and overall understanding of the big picture is just too limited so I would not allow myself to risk making the wrong choice. I’d say only God can set things the way they should be.

Of course not! Only some horrible egomaniac would invent “eternal” punishment - even if some punishment could be justified. But no punishment can be justified, since there is no “codified list of do’s and don’t’s”, which would spell out - clearly and unambiguously how should one behave and what should one avoid.

No wonder that the concept of hell is an insurmountable barrier in many people’s eyes to accept that God is a “loving” and “caring” being…

If I got to call the shots I would not use hell. I would make everything have a spiritual consequence. The ability to dwell within yourself would be at stake.

The corruptible shall rise to incorruptibility and there would be a spiritual consequence for someone who acted through their corruption in a way that is not good. Everyone would rise to goodness and basically they would have to live with what they did in the flesh even though they had rose to goodness.

I would give people a chance to reject me if they wanted to. One can only truly be in a loving relationship with someone else if both parties love each other voluntarily.

The reason hell is so awful is it is populated with the fallen angels and all others who have rejected grace. God will not force grace upon anybody and the only way to move towards contrition is through grace. If I’m not mistaken, those in hell wouldn’t choose anything different even if given the chance.

I would not have hell.

I would give them what they wanted…just as God does.

If a person is in hell, I believe they really cannot stand God and wish to be away from him. For they think God is wrong and stupid … it has something to do with their self pride of knowing it all, and want nothing to do with someone they can’t stand.

I am convinced that if they truly wanted heaven God would give them that. But what they want is not heaven, but rather their version of heaven which is not heaven at all.

Hell- eternal separation from God, is a choice we make due to some people’s rejection of God. I think part of what makes the eternal aspect hard for us is that here, in life, we are ever changing and if something made us miserable and we could see that something else would make us happy, we would likely change. But from everything I’ve read, once we die, we enter a kind of timeless existence where don’t make new choices. Thus, if in this life we have chosen separation from God, it is eternal.

Like some of the posters above me have mentioned, this is quite a difficult question to answer properly, however I will do the best I can.

But first, what exactly is your description of hell? Would it be too audacious of me to assume that it is the ‘classical’ version of hell? That, after death, a soul is judged by God and if their sins outweigh their virtues (or something similar to that) than they are sentenced to infinity +1 years in a cavernous pit, filled with wailing, demons, fire, and perhaps a lake of lava?

If so, I’d have to agree that this seems quite unjust. However, this is not the only conception of hell that is open to Christians. In his book “The Problem of Pain”, C.S. Lewis devotes an entire chapter to discussing hell and squaring it away with a just and loving God. I highly suggest you read that if you haven’t already, since I’m sure that Lewis will do a much better job explaining things than me. But let’s move on.

How on earth could a just and loving God condemn a soul to hell, especially for transient sins? C.S. Lewis put the problem quite succinctly: “So much mercy, and yet there is hell.” Can the Christian reconcile these apparently contradictory beliefs?
Let’s examine one of the Seven Deadly Sins: Lust. According to the church, lust is when a person desires sexual gratification from another person with no thought of the other person. No love – no desire to grow closer to that person, no desire to give – only to take. Now, let’s amplify this vice, to the point that the soul is now literally unable to view another person beyond how much pleasure that person can give them. Would it be too much of a stretch to think that this lust-consumed person would be miserable? Sure, they might experience large amounts of physical pleasure, but I highly doubt that that person would be happy – at least not in the long run. Could this state of existence, at least in some measure, be considered hell?

Here’s another example – Wrath. I’m sure many of us are familiar with a person who seems to have no control over their emotions. Someone who the slightest inconvenience – no matter how trivial - is enough to ruin their whole day. Again, let’s amplify this vice, to the point that our wrathful individual is unable to go through the slightest interaction with another person without imagining being sleighted. Someone who seeks revenge for the pettiest of grievances, and through their anger ends up alienating all family, friends, and acquaintances. Surely we wouldn’t assume that this person is happy?
So what is my point? The two examples that I gave show how a person who chooses sin will ultimately end up miserable. This is not a punishment from God, since all of the misery seems to be a natural result of these vices. Not only that, but they seem to directly result from the person’s freely chosen actions. The miseries are, in a sense, self-imposed. They are also not spatially located. In this sense, the torments that the soul experiences aren’t located to some cavern under the ground – they are simply the result of what that person is. A damned soul could no more escape their ‘damnedness’ than a human could stop being human. It is a state of existence.

There is a second thing that is required for a soul to be considered ‘damned’. This is lack of repentance. The soul not only chooses to sin, but also has no desire to change. A damned lustful soul doesn’t want to stop being lustful. A damned wrathful soul doesn’t want to stop being angry. That isn’t to mean that the soul might not hate the misery that accompanies those sins, but, as Lewis put it, they “do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good”.
You ask how God could sentence a soul to eternal torment. On this conception of hell, he doesn’t. The soul choses hell. The pains of hell are the natural result of that choice. To ask it to be any different is to ask for evil to be good.

But what about the length of the sentence? Surely no sin, however egregious, is evil enough to warrant infinite time in hell.

There are a few possible solutions to this problem. One that I’ve heard is that a damned soul continues to sin even in hell (either through action or by thought). Thus, the damned soul is continuously adding time to their ‘sentence’. I’ll admit that I’ve never found this explanation to be very satisfying.

Another solution is that there is a point of no return for a soul – a sort of moral event horizon. That there is a point where a soul can be so corrupted that it is now irredeemable. That it doesn’t want to be redeemed. Again, I also don’t find this to be very satisfying.

A third solution is found by differentiating between ‘infinity’ and ‘eternity’. If hell was simply a prolongation of time, where you could measure your time there in years, then I would agree with you that it is excessive. But that’s not what eternity is. Eternity is best described as the eternal present. As all moments being present in one. Thus, if a soul is unrepentant at one point in eternity, then by definition they are unrepentant at all points in eternity. And, as we saw above, asking for an evil unrepentant soul to be good would not only violate their free will, but logic as well.

The problem (and solution) of hell lies in free will. If a soul is to truly have free will, than nobody can make their decision for them. The soul needs to freely choose repentance and redemption. They have to freely choose to give up evil. To ask for a soul to be freely saved against their will is a contradiction.

(continued below)

(continued from above - man I hate character limits!)

Some might object to this. “I thought God was supposed to be omnipotent? If God can do anything, than surely he can force someone to freely choose repentance.” This objection is based upon confusion of what Christians mean when they say that God is omnipotent. Yes, God can do anything, but that comes with a caveat. He is able to do anything that it is possible to do. This implies that he is unable to do that which is intrinsically impossible. I think that actualizing a contradictory state of affairs would fall under intrinsically impossible. As St. Thomas Aquinas said, “Nothing which implies contradiction falls under the omnipotence of God.”

This version of hell – at least for me – answers many of the questions that people usually have concerning hell. How could a loving God sentence someone to hell? He doesn’t – the soul does. Why does God punish them with tortuous pain? He doesn’t – the misery is a natural result of sin. Why can’t damned souls repent? Because hell exists in eternity – meaning that the soul always chooses to remain unrepentant.

Now, this certainly isn’t meant to make hell pleasant – it’s most certainly not. But I think it does solve the ‘moral’ problem of hell.

First, let’s get the facts straight. Hell was not created for men, but for Satan and his angels. God must put them some place out of the way forever. Okay I know you’re going to ask why then do men go there? The answer to this puzzle begins with how the spiritual world is structured. In it there are only 2 Kingdoms, God’s and Satan’s. Every person belongs toone kingdom or the other. There is no neutral ground. Everyone who is born into the world is born in sin and thus belongs to the kingdom of this world and to the ruler of this world, i.e. Satan. So then when someone dies, the kingdom that owns them will come to claim them and escort them to their respective home. Unbelievers are a prize for the devils.They will waste no time in mocking you forever for believing their lies.
And it has to last forever because the soul lasts forever. It won’t break down like the body.

Its really just this simple. God made it bad because He doesn’t want YOU to choose to go there.

If I was calling the shots, the devil wouldn’t exist and we’d all go to heaven.

But he does.

God is more merciful than I am. He put His Son on the cross to give us the chance to be with Him forever. I don’t think I could ever do that.

I would, too.

I have encountered people who say they cannot stand God and want nothing to do with him. I think those people have made the choice to live eternally in hell.

If we all went to heaven and there was no hell, what would be the use in being a good person, sometimes under difficult circumstances? There would be no justice. I have encountered people who say believing God is stupid, Christians are stupid sheep, and anyone who believes in God must be nuts. I believe those people are choosing hell, so I would let them have it. To admit them to heaven would be a slap in the face of the saints.

I’m not following along, but your post came up.

Do you not believe that there is intrinsic value in being “good”?

You think we’re only good so we don’t end up in hell?

Only for those who lack the Faith to trust our All Knowing, All Loving, All Merciful and All Just, Heavenly Father that gives every one of us a chance to go to Heaven. If one ends up in Hell. it is their own choice, NOT God’s. God Bless, Memaw

Yes, I do. But a lot of people don’t.

No, I don’t, but most people I know do.

There are plenty of people who think otherwise. What would be the point of someone not indulging his every whim if he knew he was going to be rewarded equally with those who love God and their fellow man? God is just. Where is the justice is rewarding the sinner equally with the saint? Should one of the Paris bombers be rewarded equally with St. JP II? I don’t think so. Hell is something people choose. I would not take away a person’s free will to reject God and choose hell. And, as I said, if I did, it would be a slap in the face to all those who tried, under very difficult circumstances, to love God and live a good life.

Mercy is fine, but it is meaningless without justice.

I think God knows best, and hell exists for those who know about him and yet still reject him. I would not change what God instituted.

So you’d reward a mass murderer just as you would St. JP II? Makes no sense to me.

Satan does exist. Evil does exist. So you would reward those who choose Satan the same as those who rejected him and chose God? :shrug:

I am glad you are not in charge!

It’s kind of sad to think that one would be good just so as to avoid hell. This means they don’t really KNOW God.

Most christians don’t " indulge their every whim " because they desire to serve the Lord.

Even if hell didn’t exist, I think they’d be exactly the same.

I agree with everything else you said, about God being a just God.
Just to clarify for our readers. That we are not good only to avoid hell, I mean.


Hmmmm. I think you didn’t understand what I meant…

Not everyone is Christian. Many people are atheists, others believe in God, but choose to reject him. Some who do know him make the choice to turn their back on him so they can pursue greed, lust, etc. If they didn’t, the world wouldn’t be so filled with evil. They turn their back on even getting to know him.

No, I do not try to live a good life to avoid hell. I try to live a good life because I love God. However, I do know people who avoid sin only to avoid hell.

What does the bolded sentence mean? Do you think great sinners and great saints are the same and will receive the same reward? That would mean God is not just, and God is just.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.