|photo credit: Mr. Theklan via photopin cc|
The other day I sat down to watch a debate with my favorite Christian apologist Dr. William Lane Craig. I have to tell you, if you have never heard Dr. Craig before the guy is amazing. God has gifted him with a wisdom that astounds me each and every time. Now back to the debate I saw. Dr. Craig is a dangerous guy to debate because of his logical, rational arguments and his philosophical soundness. However, there is one place where Dr. Craig's philosophy, logic, and rationality fail to provide defense - the issue of an eternal burning hell. No matter how you put it, argue it, spin it, or rationalize it the thinking mind will always recoil at the very concept of an eternally burning hell where sinners are tortured without end forever and ever. I mean, just think about it. Try 15 seconds of imagining what it would be like to be tortured for ever and ever and ever without end throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. One-trillion years pass and you haven't even begun yet.
I have noticed that whenever a Christian apologist debates an atheist eternal hell always comes up and they are unable to defend it no matter how hard they try. I believe that the root of most atheism is the concept of eternal hell fire. Who in their right mind would even begin to think that you can reconcile a loving God with a God who punishes for all eternity? Some might argue that God doesn't send anyone to hell but that everyone there is there by their own choice. While this may seem to exonerate God at first, in reality it doesn't because God, who is the source of all things, is still responsible for creating hell and a system where such a possibility exists. To say that God didn't create hell is to say that hell exists eternally without beginning or end like God does. However, we all know that God was before there was anything including the universe. Therefore hell cannot be eternal as God is. So if hell is real and it is not eternally present as God is then there must by necessity have been a moment in which God specifically and actively chose to create a place where sinners would burn forever and ever and ever without end. What was God thinking as He spoke this place into existence? What was the look on His face as He said, "Let there be fire"? Did He have the smile of a sadist? Or was He sad that He had to create such a place? If we say yes to the first then God is more sadistic than Hitler himself! And if we say yes to the other one then God is an impotent being who is and ever will be incapable of eliminating sin and its consequences from the universe. So saying that God doesn't send anyone to hell does not exonerate Him at all because He is still responsible for its existence and He is also responsible for creating a system in which the possibility of ending up in hell exists.
The reality is that there is no way to reconcile the God of the Bible with the doctrine of eternal torment. Think back for a moment to election day in America. Say on the day Obama was elected president he gave a speech (which he did). Now suppose in that speech Obama said, "Now that I am president I am ordering the construction of fire chambers. Anyone who disobeys my orders or rebels against my government will be thrown into the fire chambers where they will burn." What would you think? Be honest. You would think this guy is nuts. How could he even think of such a thing? And yet in this scenario Obama would be much nicer than God, for at least his victims would die quickly. God's, on the other hand, suffer forever without end. Not only is this concept of eternal hell philosophically, ethically, morally, logically, and rationally absurd but as we will see in the next post it is also theologically unfounded. For these reasons I maintain that hell can't be real.