Dan Popp
Hell is good
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By Dan Popp
June 12, 2017

In my previous essay I affirmed, against heretics like William Paul Young, that Hell is separation. Now I'd like to explain why Hell is good. That won't be as difficult as it seems.

Hell is good because hell is just, and justice is good. Those who imagine themselves nicer than God would actually give us an unjust universe. This rot goes back to a 2nd-century heretic named Marcion who didn't like the righteous God of the Bible, so he invented another, "good" god to go alongside Him. But Christians mocked Marcion [1] by showing that a god without justice can't be good.

I believe the reason people have a false view of hell is that they have a false view of humans. Of course God would be a monster to throw people into hell – if by "God" we mean the God of the Bible, and if by "hell" we mean the hell of the Bible, but if by "people" we mean something other than as described in the Bible! That's changing terms in the middle of your argument.

The new Marcionites want us to imagine that sinners are like rowdy teenagers knocking over a few mailboxes on a Saturday night. "How could you throw your own children into hell?" they howl. Their premise is a lie. Though everyone is a creature of God, not everyone is a child of God. "You are of your father, the devil," Jesus told earlier religious posers. John wrote, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name...." (John 1:12, NAS95)

Those outside of Christ aren't "children" of God, but "enemies" of God (Romans 5:10a). We were, and they are, "alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds" (Colossians 1:21). Like the devil himself these are "the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2b). God wants to adopt enemies as sons – that's the amazing grace we sing about – but if we won't lay down our arms against Him, He will treat us as what we are, not what we flatter ourselves to be.

Just as heretics have mistaken the nature of human beings, they misunderstand the nature of death and what comes after. Do you remember this strange passage from Genesis?
    Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" – therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. (Genesis 3:22-23, NKJV)
Adam and Eve could have eaten of the tree of life before this. We will eat of the tree of life later – it's mentioned in Revelation 22. What unthinkable thing would have happened if man had eaten of the tree of life then, in his fallen condition? Maybe he would have been "alive" permanently – in his dead and alienated state! Maybe this step into immortality would have made redemption impossible.

There's no hint in the Bible that those on the other side of death can change or be changed one iota, for better or for worse.

We think of eternity as being just like time, only longer. But what if stepping out of the stream of time means that "now" and "then" are no longer meaningful concepts; that to inhabit eternity is to experience all moments simultaneously? In that case the fires of hell can't be a refining process, as Young would have you believe, because a process requires the forward movement of time.

God has created a solution to evil; it's called "hell." And He has given us an escape from hell in the death of His Son on the Cross. There is no third option.

NOTES:

[1]  Moreover, it would be a more unworthy course for God to spare the evil-doer than to punish him, especially in the most good and holy God, who is not otherwise fully good than as the enemy of evil, and that to such a degree as to display His love of good by the hatred of evil, and to fulfil His defence of the former by the extirpation of the latter.

Again, [Marcion's god] plainly judges evil by not willing it, and condemns it by prohibiting it; while, on the other hand, he acquits it by not avenging it, and lets it go free by not punishing it. What a prevaricator of truth is such a god! What a dissembler with his own decision! Afraid to condemn what he really condemns, afraid to hate what he does not love, permitting that to be done which he does not allow, choosing to indicate what he dislikes rather than deeply examine it! This will turn out an imaginary goodness, a phantom of discipline, perfunctory in duty, careless in sin. Listen, ye sinners; and ye who have not yet come to this, hear, that you may attain to such a pass! A better god has been discovered, who never takes offence, is never angry, never inflicts punishment, who has prepared no fire in hell, no gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness! He is purely and simply good. He indeed forbids all delinquency, but only in word. He is in you, if you are willing to pay him homage, for the sake of appearances, that you may seem to honour God; for your fear he does not want. And so satisfied are the Marcionites with such pretences, that they have no fear of their god at all. They say it is only a bad man who will be feared, a good man will be loved. Foolish man, do you say that he whom you call Lord ought not to be feared, whilst the very title you give him indicates a power which must itself be feared? – Tertullian Against Marcion, Book I, portions of Chapters XXV and XXVI

© Dan Popp

 

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