Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Eternal judgement

One of the issues that has arisen in the discussion below is how a being that had created things might chuck them into hell for eternity. Since the conventional wisdom is simply that heaven is "nice" and hell is "horrible", and this idea shapes people's ideas about God, I wanted to add a couple of remarks about this.

Firstly, if there is a God, and somebody has chosen to reject the idea of him being there, then to spend eternity in his presence is hardly preferable to spending eternity away from his presence. There is a line of argument that separation from the God who you have chosen to reject is, in a sense, a final act of mercy.

Secondly, as I was trying to convey in what I wrote in the thread, one of the fundamental "rules" for a god has to be, I think, that the god is consistent with his/her/its own nature - without this, any possibility of meaning and coherence within and beyond the universe goes by the wayside. This means that I suspect that it is far worse for the universe as a whole for God to tolerate things that are wrong than it is for him to be prepared to separate himself from his creatures forever. And, since a price has to be paid for sin, and the Bible concept is that God has done just that for anyone who wishes to be forgiven, you can hardly argue that the Christian God hasn't done what he could to stop free people going to hell, if they choose to seek him.

Thirdly, I think that the exact nature of hell isn't clearly specified. The "burning lake" of Revelation is apocalyptic language, which uses vivid imagery to convey theological truth. Certainly it is a place of regret and separation - which over eternity isn't good. But whether we should understand it to be a place of eternal acute physical torment, I'm not so sure. Personally. Having said that, it's not the case that I have any desire to go there! "The Great Divorce" by C.S.Lewis, in a narrative style, presents a case for, and something of the nature of, the Christian idea of hell - and argues that it is a lot more to do with separation from good things, including relationships. It is worth a read, if the idea of hell bothers you. Incidentally, it is fiction, and although it is helpful, it doesn't override the Bible.

Corkscrew, I'll try and respond more specifically to your comments in that thread when I get the chance .....