I’m sure this has been asked time and time again… but I couldn’t find it in this forum.
So here’s my question…
How do you answer sincere Atheists who are asking:
How can an infinitely Loving God, send people to eternal torture in hell? Are there limits to his love if he can torture people simply for not believing?
I’ve heard the typical answers of: “he doesn’t send you, you choose hell” But the key here is that he is infinitely loving so why would he allow anyone go to Hell.
To quote 1 of these Atheists… " God acts is the equivalent of a boyfriend torturing his girlfriend when she rejects him"
I don’t know where to start because the person has so many misconceptions and assumptions and is looking at things so simplistically as in “merely believe or be dammed to hell” which is NOT what Christianity truly teaches…but how some modern Christians have packaged things. How pop-Christianity has distilled theology down to. “believe or suffer”
So how do you answer someone who is portraying God as a jealous jilted lover or a sadistic father who beats his kids ???
Any suggestions on where to start would be appreciated
God doesn’t send us to hell. In our sin and rebellion against God, we have made the choice to be separated from and this separation is what hell is.
If I place a candle in front of us and I tell you not to touch the flame or else you will get hurt. Now, you proceeded to touch the flame and got hurt, can you blame me for you getting hurt? God tells us not to sin or else we will get hurt. He is not threatening us, he’s warning us. If we go and do it anyway, we get hurt because who chose that path, not because God sent us there.
Now, don’t forget that God is also infinitely just. He will let us live with the consequences of our actions. Also, God gave us free will. If he forces us to come to Him even if we don’t want to, or our actions are clearly against His very nature, then it makes us less of a human. God wants a perfect relationship with us, and a perfect relationship is something not forced. It has to be a free choice, because thats what love is.
Does he offer these things in this life or after you die? Because if it is in this life it would be like an invisible father that offers you everything, but there is no empirical evidence that this invisible father exists, and he never technically promises anything to you but people tell you that he is promising you something…but no one really knows for sure.
John, I think the problem here is that your friend doesn’t know what love is. Most people in our culture don’t. Really. Sorry to say, but it’s true. They equate love with a “good feeling” or “being nice.” That has nothing to do with it, except as a by product sometimes.
The ultimate act of love was Jesus Christ, Son of God, allowing Himself to be crucified for our sins. There were no “warm fuzzies” or “niceties” involved in that act. It was an act of the will by Jesus FOR the us and our salvation.
In other words, love is an act of the will for the good of another. It need not feel good at all.
Here’s a good talk by the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen on “Knowing and Loving” and the difference between the two (it’s a free .mp3 audio file):
God gives us what we love most when we die. If it’s Him, then we get Him. That’s heaven. If it’s something else, then it’s not Him, and that’s hell. One of the greatest parts of suffering in hell is that those there KNOW it’s fully their fault. No one is in hell by accident or because they were invincibly ignorant of God. There are some, though, that are there because they were culpably ignorant, i.e., they COULD have known and love and followed the will of God, but by an act of their will, chose not to do so. So, God gave them what they loved most when they died, and that was not Him. Without Him, we suffer horribly, because all good comes from Him.
I personally believe in some sort of universal salvation that is compatible with free will. I believe that hell exists as a theoretical possibility or as tougher purgatory, but that no one actually goes there forever.
I have considered the arguments for eternal torture, and it makes me tremendously angry at God. There have been many threads on this issue, and I have yet to see someone reconcile free will, a loving God, and eternal hell, in a way which gives me peace about the matter.
I fear I will continue to struggle with this for years. Hell is a tremendous terror. You do now know the odds, you have no assurance if you’d go to heaven if you died right now.
I like this quote from the lead singer of bad religion.
“Our faith should be expressed in working toward a better planet for our children and not the selfish, juvenile hope for a better afterlife for ourselves. I don’t think anyone is going to Hell because it only exists in the minds of people who wish ill-will on others.”
That’s like a parent letting a 5-year-old drive; the 5-year-old isn’t making a fully-informed decision, so the parent would be negligent in allowing it.
I’ve seen this in a lot of posts here, the idea that at judgment a person finally realizes how badly they’ve sinned and wants punishment due to an innate desire for justice. Why on earth would God have this happen only when the person can’t do anything about it? Makes no sense.
…except in my previous post, I alluded to other posters who claim that, once a sinner reaches final judgment, then they are made fully aware of the gravity of their sins, and hate themselves for it. To that I say: it does not make sense for a merciful God not to do that sooner.
All I can think about is this:
*Aperture Science, we do what we must because we can
for the good of all of us, except the ones who are dead
but there’s no sense crying over every mistake
and you keep on trying till you run out of cake *