Wednesday, October 8, 2014

God Our Author: When Love Tortures?

Random: I still love this movie.
    The idea of hell never used to bother me. Like any good Christian child, I knew it was a necessary evil, something Jesus spoke about more often than heaven.
    Then I went to college. And met more and more people who didn't believe in God, or Jesus.
    My heart and my head and my stomach pounded, twisted, vomited, at the thought of them in hell.
    I would go to hell in place of them, were it possible. Perhaps that meant I didn't have a proper view of the glory of God, but I couldn't let my loved ones suffer for eternity (a theory called Eternal Conscious Torment).
     If they were in hell because, for whatever reason - be it suffering, confusion, unanswered prayer, lack of belief - they didn't follow Jesus, there was no heaven. Not for me. Either God would have to brainwash me to forget them, or His glory would simply outshine everything else.
    But forgetting someone you love? Ceasing to love them?
    I felt even queasier.
    They were people, created by God. In that sense, can not loving people can be a way of loving God? How could ceasing to love them be moral?
    My morality is depraved and confused.
    Now, I don't deny that this is true. My thoughts towards, say, ISIS at the moment involve quite a bit of F-bombs and murder (sorry).
    But how is torturing people alive (be it through actual fire or the lack of His presence) for a few years, for a vapor, of evil, justice?
    My morality is intact enough to know that it's wrong for me to, say, kidnap a terrorist and torture them for the rest of their life. So how is it good for God to do that for eternity?
    I don't grasp the evil of sin.
    Since I still mock and hate and gossip and lust like many people, yeah, clearly I don't.
    But I know, good heavens, God has to be just, because justice is good and God is good.
    So is hell justice for a crime I can't even see?
    I'm not convinced. Because what if justice is mercy, and mercy, justice? What if they are, pardon the cliche, two sides to the same coin? (For instance, for a murderer, maybe punishment in prison is a mercy because they now face the reality, at least physically, that what they did was wrong).
    So is hell a mercy?
    I don't know. I don't think so, honestly. Prison is really not the same as eternal torture.
    Now I fully realize we're all trapped in this world and, yes, it's true that we don't grasp the depravity of our sin. But because of this, we also don't grasp how good God is.
    I'm unconvinced that I can be more merciful than God. I don't deny that I'm a worse sinner than I know, but I'm not sure my conscience is wrong for being too sensitive, too good.
    Because I'm not sure God can ever be too good. It truly bothers me that the same people arguing for our inability to discern how evil is really good for God, are often the same people arguing that our consciences prove His existence. I know their argument is that only a semblance of conscience remains, but ... it doesn't sit well with me.
    The Bible says God is Our Author.
    As a writer, I love my characters after a fashion. I delight in them, the good and the bad. My heart sometimes aches when they make wrong decisions and do terrible deeds. My ire awakes, and by the end of the story, at the very least some sense of hope must remain.
    I cannot imagine creating a character, even a deplorable one, and writing about their eternal torture forever and ever. I even have sympathy for the villains I'm writing about now - so many factors, good and bad, have influenced their decisions.
     What kind of sadist would I have to be to write about a bad person for a chapter, say I love them, and then revoke my love (because Love Does Not Torture) and describe their hideous, beyond repugnant agony for the remainder of the book? (With an epilogue saying "the anguish will never end. Glory be!").
    Hey, it might sell nowadays, who knows. But that's kinda sick.
    God isn't sick.
    And so this is why I am very, very uncomfortable with "Eternal Conscious Torment" theory.
    Do you believe in hell, and if so, why? What are your thoughts, questions, sentiments?
    Eternity is kinda a topic I like looking into, even though it's impossible to know. But I do think it can have a negative or positive effect on human relationships, so I will talking about it on this blog for the next few entries.
    As for annihilationism and Christian universalism, stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 of us exploring eternity from the perspective of God being Our Author (but, spoiler alert: don't hold out hope for a conclusion).



  1. The evil God permits in this life defies human understanding too. Yet it is. Why should we apply to hell a standard of His love that we cannot even apply to this world? If you're going to argue your way out of there being a hell, why not argue your way out of there being an earth … or a God, I suppose. Or is eternity the sticking point? That is, vast and inexplicable suffering of all manner of creatures is OK … as long as it will end one day? You'll accept that much about God, that for a limited time He lets the ones He loves suffer in ways none of us can really justify as being permitted out of love, but, if the hell becomes eternal, then you'll say, God would never do that?

  2. Why are you spoiling the only conclusion I had on the matter. Why, Virgil.

    Personally, I would not even try to argue out of there being a hell (hence multiple posts). I think there's room for questions and doubts, obviously, but I'm...not God (hehe) I don't know.

    And why don't I know? Wellllll... because trying to grasp something eternal requires using my finite mind. Like you say, we still can't completely solve the problem of evil on earth, so how can I think I know enough to rule out anything?

    The only thing I can believe about eternity is that Jesus is God and Jesus is good and Jesus is life. Whether that means there's eternal hell, purgatory, annihilation, everyone is in heaven, or whatever other theories you can imagine (though I definitely doubt some theories more than others), I don't have the capacity to say.

  3. Gee whiz. And I thought I was just leaving a kind of depressing comment. Well, I got a cute kitten, so the reward was far greater than I could have dreamed.

  4. I struggle with this too. And I especially struggle with the idea that God somehow "can't do anything" to fix this situation, if it pains him that much that some of his children end up in hell. Not only that, if hell is a real threat, why is the existence of God as a whole not more obvious to the whole world? Why is the bible so difficult to interpret? I feel like I could have written this post :/

  5. I agree. Sometimes I'm like "please just put a sign in the sky, Jesus, thanks." And then I wonder if I'm missing something beautiful about the gentleness and subtlety of God's presence in the world.
    I don't really know what God's going to do in the end (although C.S. Lewis's Calormen analogy comes to mind). But I do take comfort thinking it has to be good, truly good.
    It's good to know I'm not alone. :/

  6. "And then I wonder if I'm missing something beautiful about the gentleness and subtlety of God's presence in the world"

    Considering there are an awful lot of atheists in the world, whatever subtle presence there is clearly isn't convincing enough.