Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Why Does God Send People to Hell?
How does a loving God send people to hell (assuming there is a God)? This is a question I’ve been pondering lately. I want to use a judicial framework in this post to get at why there’s such a thing as a hell. Let’s look at the reasons we punish people.
In the criminal justice system, we punish people for their misdeeds because there was something intrinsically wrong with their action. Now, we might be tempted to think there’s nothing so bad that an eternity spent in hell is a proportionate punishment. But that is from our view as humans, not God’s. Reading through the Bible, you find that God has really a low threshold for what constitutes a sin (at least in human eyes). Christ says that “whosoever looks at woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Divorce is also referred to as adultery. If you have any doubt about how tough God’s standards are, read through the Ten Commandments. Have you ever lied, disobeyed your parents, or been jealous? Remember that God is perfect and sinless. That means that a sinner can’t go to heaven based on his works. In other words, sinners don’t deserve to go to heaven, and the only other place for them is hell.
The logic here is similar to that above. A sinful soul would pollute heaven, which is supposed to be righteous and holy. Now an interesting wrinkle here is the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. Perhaps every soul can be purified, and then go to heaven without polluting it.
Hell might be the best deterrent ever thought up. People contemplating doing immoral things will think long and hard. Is an eternity spent burning in hell really worth committing that murder or that theft? What about things people do in private such as committing adultery, lying, or sabotaging other people? The practical result of a hell could be to improve human behavior, and make for a better, more moral society.