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Blog-o-Brisbane » Hell of a time…
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Blog-o-Brisbane

June 18, 2007

Hell of a time…

Filed under: Reflections, General — Scott @ 2:28 pm

I have been reflecting upon the theological concept of hell. What is the hell? Why does hell exist? If you don’t believe in God, then hell is probably an extremely absurd concept to you. I am not going to try to convince anyone here that a hell does in fact exist, rather I want to simply reason about whether hell is a reasonable concept, what it is, and why it would exist given a Theistic conception of God and the afterlife. I simply desire to provide a logical understanding of “hell” void of Scripture, albeit I believe such an understanding to be consistent with Scripture. So lets first set the stage:

Conceive for a moment that an all-powering being, such as the God conceived of in Christianity and major Theistic religions like Judaism and Islam, created the world that we live in. All the physical laws which govern and structure the universe, the values we see and agree are good and bad, all the galaxies, stars and planets, all of life and everything else within is derived from God.

Now God, rather than wanting the be the focus of the universe, decides to back away a bit. My reasoning being that God does not want the world and everyone within to revolve around Himself (male gender used due to language limitations). For if God is loving and he loves us, love is not self-centred but rather giving. So in his selflessness, he removes Himself from centre stage and instead designs us to be dependant upon relationship with one another, with a desire for us to love and look after each other. Thus, God builds humanity for relationship, creating male and female counterparts where two need to come together in order to procreate and raise a family.

What does this have to do with hell you ask? Well, let us accept for the moment all that I have said in the previous two paragraphs are true. With God in the background, and each of us allowed to live a life in relationship to each other, God can easily be ignored and left in the background if we so desire. This leaves us with two groups of people:

1) Those who acknowledge God’s existence as our Creator, who want to know God, who He is and what He is like, and so seek after Him; and

2) Those who want to leave God in the background while living out their lives, raising a family, making money, owning a nice house, and experience life without ever really caring or being concerned about God even though He created the structure to allow them to live life with the freedom to be who they want to be.

Here we can see two distinct groups. One group acknowledge and care to know God, while the other just want to live their own lives without being bothered by God. Now lets for the moment also accept a common conception of the afterlife, that is, when our physical bodies die we still live on with a spiritual body. When we die and come into contact with God, given that some want to know God while others don’t, God needs to make a decision about what to do with each. What is God to do with the person who is eager and wants to know Him (group 1), or the person who does not care to know or have Him infringe upon their life (group 2)? The decision seems quite straight-forward when put on these terms. With the first group, it makes sense a loving God would take such persons under His wing to participate in a loving relationship with Himself. As for the second, it makes sense God would not impose Himself upon such persons, but rather let them continue living as they desire in a world where He intervenes as little as is possible.

As such, God sets up an alternate world where He needs to impose upon as little as possible to keep it going. This means the structures like the physical laws and matter we find in our own world (which presumably work on God’s sustaining providence) do not exist. The moral fabric built which comes from God’s character which we feel obliged to uphold does not matter. Any restrictions placed on evil in a world such as our physical one to reduce evil are no longer sustained. For example, one positive element to physical death is that it ironically places restrictions upon the evil in our world which can be committed. For an evil dictator’s reign must come to an end at their death, or a person who is being tortured can no longer be physically harmed by evil people once dead. As grim as death can be, peace can be found in death. Yet, without God placing any restrictions upon evil, a way to escape evil, evil can go on and on unrestricted in a world set up where God does not intervene.

It could be said that God gives people of group 2 over to their own desires, by setting them up in such a world where He imposes as little as possible. Hell may not be a place of fire and brimstone with corpses everywhere, but certainly with evil left unchecked and no structures enforced by God, such pictures symbolise what such a place might be like.

The final question is, do we want God in our lives, or don’t we. If God exists, then there is no middle ground. If we don’t, then while God may want to lovingly take us under His wing, he will allow us to have our own way by withdrawing as much as possible from us, and allowing us to live in a world without Him (as much as is possible). I think God will allow people to choose their cake in this life without infringing upon their decision, and will make them eat it in the next.

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