Steven Stark said...
3. I come back to this idea. If everyone really understood the situation, then why would anyone reject Christ? It is incoherent - the action of one who is not of sound mind, or of one who does not have all the facts before him.
I've enjoyed reading your comments. I appreciate the clarity with which you present your thoughts and the respect you demonstrate to those who have different views. Very refreshing.
Not to get into a lengthy point-by-point response to your comments (though it might be enjoyable to think through these things together), but I do have a thought on your question above. The only way in which I see it as coherent that anyone would choose hell over heaven (assuming they understood the significance of their choice, which is itself an interest point to consider) is if they would genuinely prefer hell. I'm reminded of the words of Lucifer in Milton's Paradise Lost, "It is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven."
My point is that, strange as it may sound, what if the nature of mankind is so corrupted by sin that our reason and affections are warped in such a way as to make us actually prefer to be separated from God for eternity? After all, if God is exactly as the Bible and Christian theology portrays Him, and that kind of God seems horrible and evil to those who do not know Him, would not those people perhaps actually prefer not to be around Him? Perhaps the most loving thing such a God could do with those who hate how He is and all He stands for would be to allow them to stay as far away from Him as possible.
Just a thought.
Thanks for the words, I really appreciate them!
I am familiar with the idea that perhaps some people would actually prefer Hell. It's like the idea that everyone actually goes to the same place, only some perceive it as Heaven and some perceive it as Hell. It is interesting, although it does take away from the idea that Hell is punishment.
And the person who prefers Hell, if it is an unpleasant (or sadistically horrible) punishment would be quite delusional.
Of course a Christian Universalist's idea of Hell is that fire and brimstone serve only two purposes - to change and to purify. Once again, punishment is only relevant if it instructs - if it makes better. If there is no hope of this, then punishment is pure sadism.
Given an infinite amount of "time", surely everyone would eventually come to God. And if sinners are truly delusional, then God would surely break those chains.
I don't know much about the true nature of hell (or heaven), having never been there. :) I do think they are separate places, and that there is a metaphorical aspect to descriptions of hell (such as "fire"), just as there are of heaven ("the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass" -- I've yet to see transparent gold, though I remember something called "transparent aluminum" from a Star Trek movie).
But I'm not certain that punishment is always about correction or instruction. We send murderers to jail or to death not to teach or improve them, but to exact retribution. Their punishment is not a matter of making them a better person, but of settling the score, so to speak. That is central to the concept of justice -- that things weigh out.
Also, I'm not so certain that the primary idea of hell is that of punishment, rather it seems to be more about torment. A person can be tormented by feelings of guilt, regret, remorse, hatred, revenge, etc. And a person can be tormented from within like that without desiring to change anything about themselves, but they blame all their problems and feelings on someone else.
Could a person actually prefer hell? I think this goes back to what Wade said about how big a deal sin is. If sin has so utterly corrupted human nature as to make us truly believe that what is in reality evil is good, and what is in reality good is evil, then a person would only be following their nature and ultimate desire to want to be separated from God (which is what hell is ultimately all about). No amount of time would change their true nature, and taking such a person out of hell and placing them in heaven would be to that person a greater torment, and genuinely cruel.
I must differ with you on the view of punishment. While I agree with you that punishment is about retribution, this only makes sense in the context of it being a deterrent.
If a person murdered one close to me, yet I somehow knew that there was absolutely no chance of this person committing the same act again, and I also knew that the "deterrent effect" would have zero impact on other potential murderers, then there is no reason for punishment.
If this violates something in my spirit, as it certainly would, I chalk it up to the human desire for revenge rather than for justice. Justice would be my loved one not having been murdered in the first place. But nothing changes that. And justice is not served by more suffering if there is no benefit to be derived from the suffering.
Now, you might be thinking that there is another desire at play. The desire for the murderer to realize what he has done, to repent, to find remorse. This may be true as well, but this is punishment as instruction, with the hope of change for the better - which an eternal hell would not provide.
I can understand your idea of an "utterly corrupted" human. But if a person prefers suffering to "not suffering", which we see everyday here on earth, because it is in some sense what we are used to, what is comfortable - I associate this with delusion.
I think your idea of "torment" is right on. We all know that feeling in different degrees. But when we experience that, when we blame our problems on someone else, we are delusional. It does not mean we are not accountable - we suffer for our delusions.
But I cannot see it as merciful to leave a lost human to an eternity of delusion, when God would have the power to show the person love and joy, to clear the mind, to show the true nature of reality, to break the spell of the sinful nature.
I want to see (or not see) some transparent aluminum!
very good discussion,
Good comments. I guess we'll just have to disagree about punishment -- I think that pure retribution, without regard to correction, is a valid aspect of both punishment and justice.
And sometimes the delusional are quite content with their delusions. :)
"I think that pure retribution, without regard to correction, is a valid aspect of both punishment and justice."
I am curious how you make this work alongside the Christian ideas of forgiveness and mercy.
I think "pure retribution" can only validly exist as a deterrent -in order to keep a society orderly. I am wondering what purpose "pure retribution"serves. It does not correct the initial wrong. If no positive effects are achieved through punishment, then the retribution only adds to the net wrong that has occurred. I guess this is a fancy way of saying "two wrongs don't make a right."
" And sometimes the delusional are quite content with their delusions. :)"
I suppose if you weren't, you wouldn't be delusional. But I agree, that we often choose the path of comfort over the path of greater overall happiness. The question is - if a person is delusional, does he have the power on his own to overcome the delusion? And if not, would a loving parent, or creator who certainly has the power, do something to intervene?
I am going to post our conversation on my blog. I think it is really, really interesting. Thank you again!