How could a loving God send people to hell?


This is a very fair question!

My first point is that God doesn’t send anyone to hell; people send themselves there. God has revealed himself decisively in Jesus of Nazareth, via the biblical record, and in the physical world. Likewise God has installed a moral compass in all of us which bears witness to his existence. The Apostle Paul says that “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them” (Romans 2:15). And since God’s power is so decisively demonstrated in the physical universe we are without excuse:

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

Ultimately we all know that God exists; some try to deny it while others look for God in the wrong places. In other words, people freely send themselves to hell for rejecting God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

My second point would be that for some people it would be the most loving thing for God to do. Why? Because many people who freely reject God don’t actually want to be with God. If they did not want God here on Earth then they certainly won’t want him for eternity in heaven. Would they be happy if God forced them into his presence? No, they wouldn’t & God would violate their freewill. In that way it would be God honouring their decision to reject him. Remember that hell is not a place where God tortures unbelievers; instead it is eternal separation from him.

A third point is that justice demands it. Would we consider it just of God to not punish those who have inflicted the most heinous of crimes on others in history? Hitler? Stalin? Rapists? Paedophiles? Terrorists? Should they just get off free? Surely not; if God just ignored the acts of such people (acts we all know ought to face punishment) would that be at all loving of him? No, it wouldn’t.

What we all need to take out of this is that Jesus Christ stands at the very center of history demonstrating God’s love for us. It was through Jesus that God “gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Through Jesus, God has made salvation possible for all those who will believe (John 14:6). Do not doubt. Believe (John 20:29).


6 responses to “How could a loving God send people to hell?

  1. James, Christian universalism makes greater logical and moral sense than eternal damnation.

    As George MacDonald (C. S. Lewis’s spiritual mentor) pointed out…

    “I believe that justice and mercy are simply one and the same thing; without justice to the full there can be no mercy, and without mercy to the full there can be no justice; that such is the mercy of God that he will hold his children in the consuming fire of his distance until they pay the uttermost farthing, until they drop the purse of selfishness with all the dross that is in it, and rush home to the Father and the Son, and the many brethren–rush inside the center of the life-giving fire whose outer circles burn. I believe that no hell will be lacking which would help the just mercy of God to redeem his children.

    “[Will we be set free from the command to love our neighbors in the world to come? Will such a command be limited to heaven alone?] On [heaven’s] battlements of safety, will [we] regard hell from afar, and say to each other, “Hark! Listen to their moans. But do not weep, for they are our neighbors no more.

    “Who… would not, upheld by the love of Christ, and with a dim hope that in the far-off time there might be some help for him, arise from the company of the blessed, and walk down into the dismal regions of despair, to sit with the last, the only unredeemed, the Judas of his race, and be himself more blessed in the pains of hell, than in the glories of heaven?

    Wouldn’t those in heaven, some at least, still seek to love enemies and seek those who were lost and venture down into people’s personal hells in the afterlife just as some do in this life, to seek to save what was lost? Or is the spirit of Christ extinguished once one reaches heaven?

    Love will and must reach out by definition and seek to maintain contact, continue to seek that which is lost, to love not only neighbors but enemies, to heal, to bring together. As it says in 1 Cor. 13, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Read that description again and try to imagine that kind of love being compatible with allowing the eternal suffering of those it loves.

    The just penalty for crimes committed during a couple decades life on earth cannot be infinite punishment without chance of further love, teaching, or repentance. Only love can be infinite since only love never fails. It says so in 1 Cor. 13.

    I seem to recall a church father who said that Jesus remains on the cross so long as a single soul remains in hell.

    Does evil have an armored shell so hard and so absent of even the smallest opening or chink as to keep out every last ray of hope, love or truth that may seek to penetrate it? The damned are mere finite beings, even Satan. While God is infinite and knows what can inspire and move us and teach us in the most subtle ways. So can mere finite beings defy the piercing wise eyes and healing hands of goodness for eternity? Would they learn nothing in the end?

    God has infinite resources at his disposal and infinite time to train and heal souls, no?

    And if God is a loving healer who can even create a place called heaven where none will ever choose to do evil again, how can this same God also create a place called hell where none may ever chose to repent or do good ever again? Where none may ever learn just how illusory and unreal evil is, since there is no such thing in God, who is the father of all being.

    Surely only an evil Being would come up with a system whereby people slowly continued to lose their capacity to receive love, change their minds, and repent. If God has infinite healing capacities he can heal hearts and minds damaged during a few decades of life on earth, a mere sliver of eternity.

    Related question… And what about all the dead zygotes, babies and children throughout human history that far outnumber the living in each generation, even today, since half or more of all zygotes perish without leading to children being born. They weren’t given a chance to make a rational mature choice when it came to how to behave or what to believe in matters of faith.

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