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Hell & Heaven Are Real — Act Accordingly

I went to my first ever Russian Byzantine Catholic mass on Sunday, and very much enjoyed among other things the priest’s homily, which—miracle!—did not shy away from the key message of the Gospel reading.

This appears long. Looks deceive. Please read it: there is a point, even for those who still claim to be atheists (as I did for many years).

And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty.

And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.

Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.

Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee?

And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.

Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me.

Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?

Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.

And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.

In our day, the usual gloss on this is to focus on the prescriptions, which are well and good and necessary. Do this, says Jesus. And, yes, do this.

But this simple reading leaves us short, for we miss the implicit conclusions that fly by.

There are three. In order of importance: (1) Jesus claimed to be God; (2) Heaven exists; (3) Hell exists.

Peter Kreeft says many think something like this: “Yes, God doesn’t exist, but this Jesus fellow was a good man and had some good things to say on how to act.” But this utterly fails, Kreeft tells us, when we consider we have here a man who claimed to be God. A good man does not do this. A wicked or insane man might. And nobody should listen to a wicked or insane man.

Jesus told his shocked hearers that it was he, a man, who was to judge all men as King of all creation, a power reserved only to God. Jesus claimed to be God. And that is truly shocking. How could a man be God! How indeed?

Not only that, God-Jesus (and, as we later learn, Holy Ghost) said that those who loved him would gain eternal life. An entire kingdom!

Well, that part, the part about eternal reward, is believed by most nowadays, even those professing atheism. It’s only that atheists believe this kingdom will be silent as the tomb: a blissful non-existence.

But if Jesus was who he claimed to be, this quiet non-existence is not possible. You are only a sheep or a goat. And you don’t get to choose ultimately.

The goats won’t have it so good. If Jesus is who he claimed to be (and he is), then many will “go into everlasting punishment”. Everlasting is a long time. This is a promise from God Himself.

This cold reality is at variance with what many modern men preach, but these are only men. Actual men. Men who have forgotten the words of the highest authority.

Glubb in his history of Muhammad tells us a great many idol-worshiping Arabs were reduced to penitent tears upon hearing of Hell. This hard fact was responsible for more conversions than any other. You can’t help but wonder if it would be the same for us.

46 thoughts on “Hell & Heaven Are Real — Act Accordingly Leave a comment

  1. So Briggs… great and powerful passage… but you ignore the obvious theological paradox raised by the clarity of this passage from Matthew… the passage appears to make the path to heaven accessible to a person based solely on works. Specifically a handful of activities. Feeding someone, giving them water, visiting them in prison etc. It seems no faith is required…works alone… clearly there are many good atheists running around doing these activities, perhaps as part of some taxpayer funded do-gooder program… but who reject Christ… are they going to heaven? And what of the Christian who has faith in the salvific offering of Christ for his sins and who has lead many to the same promise by his testimony, but who has not fed anyone, given anyone water, or visited those in prison? Is that Christian a goat and Hell-bound? Or is this yet another trap where reading too much into the prescription of a passage that is so clear and precise gets one into the problem of failing to take the entirety of the Gospel into account? Did the homily go on to address these questions?

  2. This passage from Matthew in isolation implies that good works are sufficient to merit everlasting life, but elsewhere in the scriptures it is abundantly clear that acceptance and commitment to Jesus’ claim of divinity is primary and sufficient for salvation. Charity and mercy follow from grateful hearts.

    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Eph 2:8-10

  3. The claimed existence of Hell, on its own, makes Christianity literally unbelieveable. It simply isn’t plausible that a loving god would create a place of eternal torture for creatures he has created. Such a thing would be something you’d expect a psychopathic serial killer to construct in his basement, not something you’d expect a loving god to do, or even a not-very-loving god.

  4. “The claimed existence of Hell, on its own, makes Christianity literally unbelieveable. It simply isn’t plausible that a loving god would create a place of eternal torture for creatures he has created. ”

    Actually the existence of Hell makes Christianity plausible. The torture you describe is knowing what good and just are and being ever separated from it. A just and moral God, a being that is self consistent and the definition of good, could not have a creation that did not punish – separate itself – from that which is inconsistent with good. If God were to simply say that there is no punishment for that which denies the absolute authority and goodness of the being created it, then creation would be impossible. Either God is the absolute authority and definition of goodness for his creation or he is not… if he is not… and if there is no good… then there is also no evil… and no place or disposition for evil that is separated from good.

  5. @ kevin,

    “Actually the existence of Hell makes Christianity plausible.”

    It’s already completely implausible for other reasons, such as a near-total lack of evidence, or any internal consistency.

    “The torture you describe is knowing what good and just are and being ever separated from it.”

    You’re describing torture carried out by an infinitely powerful being on his creations. That is immoral.

    “If God were to simply say that there is no punishment for that which denies the absolute authority and goodness of the being created it, then creation would be impossible.”

    Why? That doesn’t follow at all. It isn’t denying the “absolute authority and goodness” of God to be unconvinced that he exists, but even if people were denying him, why should that bother an infinitely powerful God? In any case, what is the point of punishing people after they’ve died, and when they have no chance of repentance? This is a totally evil and morally bankrupt system.

    “Either God is the absolute authority and definition of goodness for his creation or he is not”

    He can’t be the definition of goodness if he’s created all evil and an eternal torture chamber.

    “and if there is no good… then there is also no evil”

    If it’s impossible for God to create good without evil, then 1) He’s not omnipotent, and 2) What is he complaining about?

  6. Eternal torment is believable. Unending torment far less so. But we lack a language to write intelligibly about eternity and so fall back on temporal analogies.

  7. If it’s impossible for God to create good without evil…

    Evil is not a thing (ousia) but a lacking or deficiency in a good. It is impossible for an evil to exist without a good, but the evil need not exist. Compare it to a hole, which is likewise a lack or emptiness. You cannot have a hole without the material in which it is dug — say, a plot of ground — but you can easily have a plot of ground without any holes in it.

    God is said to be omni-potent because, as First Cause, he is the source or origin of all powers; for example, of the power of reason or the power of motion. That you or I insist on digging holes in our lives does not take away from the omnipotency of God.

  8. What puzzles me is why Swordfish cares what Briggs (or anybody) writes. Or why he cares about anything. Because if he is right, who cares? Nothing matters, from an eternal perspective.

  9. If god is everywhere, then where can hell be? Unless god is also hell.

    Hell is a Catholic creation of the late Middle Ages to gain control over people.

  10. “If god is everywhere, then where can hell be? Unless god is also hell.”

    Wow. Amazed at the depth of the argument. We have a new Thomas Aquinas

    Luther was wrong. You start giving people the right to interpret the Scriptures by themselves and end up with people talking about everything while knowing nothing and making fools of themselves. The Dunning-Kruger effect. Today’s Internet is derived from Sola Scriptura.

  11. @ John Watkins,

    “What puzzles me is why Swordfish cares what Briggs (or anybody) writes. Or why he cares about anything. Because if he is right, who cares? Nothing matters, from an eternal perspective.”

    I don’t live my life from an eternal perspective, but from my perspective as a human being.

  12. @ Ye Olde Statistician,

    “Evil is not a thing (ousia) but a lacking or deficiency in a good.”

    Evil isn’t a thing, but then neither is good a thing. What was the good that was being made deficient when God created hell?

    “That you or I insist on digging holes in our lives does not take away from the omnipotency of God.”

    God could make it so that we don’t have the capacity to do evil. Either he doesn’t want to, or he can’t.

  13. @swordfishtrombone

    God made such creatures. Plants and animals. No free will, hence not the capability to do evil.

  14. “The goats won’t have it so good. If Jesus is who he claimed to be (and he is), then many will “go into everlasting punishment”. Everlasting is a long time. This is a promise from God Himself.”

    You are wildly inventing a theology from a highly ambiguous text.

    The text literally says that this fire is “of the ages” and that it was prepared for the devil and his angels. In the first place, just because a fire was prepared a long time ago does not mean that the fire will last forever. In the second place, the text does not specify that ordinary human sinners will stay in the fire forever.

  15. @ Ye Olde Statistician,

    “Eternal torment is believable. Unending torment far less so. But we lack a language to write intelligibly about eternity and so fall back on temporal analogies.”

    It isn’t believable that a loving God would create a situation of torment, however long it lasts. Also, ‘eternal’ implies static. Change can only occur in time, so that means God couldn’t do anything.

  16. @ Sylvain Allard, “If god is everywhere, then where can hell be? Unless god is also hell.”

    @ imnobody00, “Wow. Amazed at the depth of the argument. We have a new Thomas Aquinas”

    So where is your answer, or don’t you have one?

  17. @ Sander van der Wal,

    “God made such creatures. Plants and animals. No free will, hence not the capability to do evil.”

    We are animals 🙂

  18. A couple of points:

    1) RE: “Luther was wrong. You start giving people the right to interpret the Scriptures by themselves and end up with people talking about everything while knowing nothing and making fools of themselves.” (see imnobody00’s comment, above)

    Set aside the religious facet & focus on the principle noted — modern society (in the US, certainly, and elsewhere we see similar trends) is becoming “anti-expert” or something similar. Here’s a good article, and the author wrote a book elaborating this point:

    http://thefederalist.com/2014/01/17/the-death-of-expertise/

    The issue discussed seems to be political-party-affiliation-neutral/agnostic. But an issue it certainly is.

    2) RE: “… the implicit conclusions that fly by. There are three. In order of importance: (1) Jesus claimed to be God; …” (from today’s essay)

    A number of religious historians, Bart Ehrman being likely most well-known hereabouts, have made a compelling analysis of the earliest known relevant works to conclude with high confidence — perhaps certainty — that ‘Jesus did NOT claim to be God’ and his followers did NOT perceive him to be God in life or at his death. If one is objective you can find all you need by Ehrman, etc., yourself. (as for #’s 2 & 3 in the story, Heaven & Hell exist, there is no objective evidence … and as another commentator noted, the Jews [including at the time of Jesus] did not have a concept of Hell)

  19. Thank goodness (if it exists) Pope Ken finally chimed in. I knew he would. Now it’s all settled and we can all relax. Thanks, Pope Ken!

  20. Nobody,

    “Wow. Amazed at the depth of the argument. We have a new Thomas Aquinas”

    What don’t you understand about everywhere? Either he is everywhere, which means he’s in hell, or he is not everywhere which means he might not be in hell.

    I believe he is everywhere, in everyone and for everyone, hence hell doesn’t exist.

    You should read “l’histoire de la peur” (history of fear). It explains how and why hell was created.

  21. “Everlasting is a long time”

    No it isn’t. At least we don’t know. What we are assured is it is the end of the story. The damned souls have no further story. This point is emphasized by CS Lewis.

    Purgatory is also imagined as a lake of fire. See Newman’s poem Dream of Gerontius.
    So it seems that a spell in this lake is likely future for most people.

  22. What was the good that was being made deficient when God created hell?

    Well, if Heaven is the beatific vision (being in the presences of God for eternity), which is the good, then obviously the good being made deficient is exclusion from the presence of God. Hence hell would be the eternal exclusion from the presence of God. The torture (or better put, torment) part, I imagine would be knowing you could have had the ultimate good, and through your own choice (as manifested through your actions) you rejected it. The difficulty for us in the here and now is trying to fathom the depth of that deprivation. Some thought experiments may help (for a crude example, your perfect little baby died because you refused to put her in a car seat and then got drunk and had an accident – i.e., no question it was your fault all around), but they are an order of magnitude deficient as 1,000 is to infinity.

  23. is becoming “anti-expert” or something similar

    True to some extent. But the “experts” themselves are largely to blame since many of them are nothing but whores for whoever funds their research, and reach opinions accordingly. And for others, their entire areas of expertise/inquiry are ridiculous.

  24. that ‘Jesus did NOT claim to be God’ and his followers did NOT perceive him to be God in life or at his death.

    Did one of the earliest works Mr. Ehrman study begin with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”? Then there is Acts 7:55-57, which the Sanhedrin clearly took as a follower of Jesus claiming Jesus to be God (Right hand of the Father). Also there are passages where Jesus says the Father and I are one, before Abraham was, I am, , etc. which the Jewish elders clearly took (and Jesus never denied) as a claim to be God, and Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Son of the living God. Not to mention the Nativity narratives themselves (it’s not every day a virgin gets overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and gives birth). So clearly, there are several early sources where Jesus and His followers perceived Him to be God, maybe not as clearly as 2,000 years of study and analysis now understands, but certainly you don’t go around confessing someone to be the “Son of the living God” without some inkling of a divine nature (especially after the transfiguration). No one said that of Abraham, Moses, or any other figure. That some early followers may not have perceived it is hardly “certainty” that none did. Of course there would be confusion and discussion of what exactly it all meant early on (heck, even after 2000 years there is still confusion/discussion for many), but that is hardly enough to claim with “certainty” He and His followers did not believe or understand Jesus to claim divinity.

  25. God could make it so that we don’t have the capacity to do evil.

    Sure. Then we would have no angelic natures, and there would really be not much point to us. The whole point of making us in His image and likeness was precisely to give us free will which requires the capacity to reject God/do evil. Real love cannot exist without the capacity to choose not to love. With this free will, we can then truly love God by choice. A sexbot can not love you as a real live human spouse can.

  26. I believe he is everywhere, in everyone and for everyone, hence hell doesn’t exist.

    I guess it depends upon what the meaning of “is” is. If hell is the eternal separation from the beatific vision, it does not rule out that God sustains the existence of hell (or the souls stuck in that state). The souls cannot perceive the beatific vision, but God sustains the existence of the souls (as He sustains the existence of anything that is) without their perceiving the beatific vision just as He sustains our existence in this world without us achieving the beatific vision. Perhaps rather than a “place” it might be more useful to think of hell as a state of being (that of being deprived of the beatific vision . . . forever).

  27. @ c matt,

    “Then we would have no angelic natures, and there would really be not much point to us.”

    Why? God is unable to choose evil, yet you claim he has free will. There are an infinite number of things we can’t choose to do – such as killing people at a distance using mind powers – yet we are still supposed to have free will. A world in which we were prevented from choosing evil, but still free to choose any good (or neutral) action would be preferable to the one we inhabit.

    “The whole point of making us in His image and likeness was precisely to give us free will which requires the capacity to reject God/do evil.”

    I don’t accept that we have free will as it’s impossible by definition for something to be neither determined nor non-determined, and neither count as free will. But in any case, threatening to punish people if they don’t love you doesn’t count as being loving, nor is it a free choice.

    “Real love cannot exist without the capacity to choose not to love.”

    Nonsense. I can’t choose not to love my kids, nor did I choose to fall in love with my wife. Equally, I can’t choose to believe in the existence of something I don’t believe in.

  28. @ c matt,

    “Well, if Heaven is the beatific vision (being in the presences of God for eternity), which is the good, then obviously the good being made deficient is exclusion from the presence of God.”

    If some good was being diminished by the creation of Hell, then God was doing something evil when he created it.

  29. This is one of the things I’ve been waiting to say and I think Briggs knows it.

    A man who truly believed in hell as described by Briggs and his ilk, would conduct himself accordingly? Frankly, he’d never get out of bed and would be condemned to sever mental illness.

    So Briggs is being disingenuous but I will assume he’s just not sure how else to view this, being the way he is.

    Some, not all, Christians believe it is the only thing keeping mankind under control. How sad, how shallow. It’s something of a show to your fellows and your friends and family, I suppose. One only needs to look at what professed Christians have done to each other to see this is not an effective way to control the masses, which is politics, again. There are other ways of deterring would be offenders.

    People who truly commit to being Christians believe in God’s love, not in some divine threat of eternal punishment. They have faith in God’s ultimate wisdom and justice, engendering patience, forbearance, strength, courage, humility and understanding. Why is it so hard to understand?
    Many Atheists seem to get that.

    God does not treat us like a school master dealing with naughty boys and girls. That is Sunday school talk.

    Evil exists. God knows that. God knows you, too.

  30. So Joy, what’s the alternative then?

    Ok so you reject the notion of an eternal hell in some form or another. But then what is going to happen in the afterlife for very malicious people that don’t care about God or moral conscience like a murderer or corrupt politician?

    Is God going to annihilate these wicked people in the afterlife? Or, is he going to purify them in a time limited hell or “purgatory” and eventually move these people towards heaven kind of like Origen’s “restoration of all things” position?

    I just wonder how you would answer the theological issue of when there’s a person that’s very persistent in making evil choices and how God would deal with that situation in the afterlife. And if an eternal hell doesn’t quite work here then how is the wicked person held accountable? Either way there seems that there has to be some form of moral accountability in the afterlife.

    I’m curious to hear how you would answer that question.

  31. Still seems to me if you don’t know something is wrong you shouldn’t be punished for it. To be sent to Hell you’d have to acknowledge your actioms will end there but you do them anyway.

    And who does that?

  32. DG, firstly, I’m not an atheist. If I were, I would say so.

    God is going to be utterly fair, on everybody, not just to those who believe in him, which as Dav rightly mentioned, he does not blame people for what they do not know or cannot know.

    The word Justice in my comment was not an accidental insertion.

    It’s always the murderers and the really bad people who are used as examples in such arguments, for understandable reasons. I think it needs more careful consideration than that.

    Ask yourself what God does with really good people? How about average ordinary ones? Do you think it is in yours or any human power to work this out? It is not that it can’t be discussed or mused over, concluded, as people do, it’s the strange certainty in the hell fire and the desire to wave it about which puzzles me. Being cynical, I note the same usual suspects who do the waving, without checking the facts from which such assertions are made, on such a final and important matter!

    My ultimate faith is something I can’t do anything about. I believe this is something true of Atheists and many Christians alike. I just don’t throw people out the way some egomaniac Christians do. Suddenly they’ve found a club and want it to be exclusive. God is not so petty.
    God CAN do as he pleases. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t let me go yet.

  33. @swordfish

    I think we are operating under very different definitions of free will. The free will that I am speaking of is the ability to choose course A or B (or C, etc), which exist (i.e. are real), not the freedom to choose between course A (which exists) and B (which is an impossibility – i.e., does not exist). Thus claiming we have no free will because we can’t do something impossible such as killing people at a distance using mind powers is a different concept of free will, and one that I find somewhat nonsensical. Because I cannot ride a unicorn since they do not exist does not somehow prevent me from choosing between riding either a horse or a donkey. But, if you want to argue under your definition of free will, then sure, I agree that your type of free will does not exist. Neither do unicorns.

  34. If some good was being diminished by the creation of Hell, then God was doing something evil when he created it.

    There is quite a bit to unpack here, and I am purely a layman with only a Google University theology degree. Nevertheless, my understanding:

    I guess the first place to start is creation of hell. Is Hell an exercise of God’s active will, or permissive will? An argument can be made that it is permissive will, in that Hell (the state of separation from God) is a voluntary act by the person. Thus, in a sense, the person voluntarily separating himself is the immediate cause of Hell, God only permits it. Thus, He was not “doing” something evil, simply allowing an evil to occur. Why? Because freely choosing to love God is a greater good than demanding or requiring it, just as following a superior’s orders out of respect, admiration, loyalty, etc. is a greater good than following out of compulsion, threat, coercion, etc. God wants sons, not slaves. But in order to have sons, rather than slaves, He has to allow for the real possibility of being rejected. Certainly, watching a highwire act with no safety net is more thrilling than one where there is no danger. In a sense, the one with no safety net is more real.

    As for “choosing” or not to fall in love, you are referring to eros which is based upon physical and psychological attraction and one of the passions, not agape, which is the form of love (better referred to as charity) which is an act of will. Again, seems we are talking about different things.

  35. God is unable to choose evil, yet you claim he has free will.

    Yes. Because of three things (1) He is pure and absolute Good (that is his nature) and (2) He is perfect, and therefore does not go against His nature, and (3) being absolute Good and Perfect, his will acts in perfect freedom to follow His nature.

    Once again, perhaps we are talking about two different things when we say freedom/free will. The best explanation of the freedom I am talking about (the freedom to be perfect good) came from Peter Kreeft iirc (he may have gotten somewhere else). He likened freedom to being able to play the piano – who is more free to play music, someone who simply bangs around at random on the keys, or someone with the talent/ability to execute chords, notes, etc. in accordance with proper harmonics, melodies, etc. (kind of guessing at the musical terms)? Seems obvious to me the real musician is the one who actually plays music – the other is just making noise. The one who performs in accord with the nature of music is the one who is truly free to play music. The other one is limited (i.e., not free) by his lack of ability, and unless he learns, trains etc. to play in accord with the nature of music, he will never be free to play music (may not stop him from stubbornly banging at random on the keys).

    Of course, under this definition, God has perfect freedom of will, and the rest of us enjoy free will to varying lesser degrees because our will is compromised by our inability to control our intellect and passions perfectly. It is this concept of freedom that forms the basis of scriptural passages likening sin to slavery and Christ’s grace freeing us from this slavery.

    If you want much better explanations, I suggest you check out Ed Feser’s works (lots of meat, and yet readily digestible for those without formal philosophical training).

  36. @ c matt,

    “Because I cannot ride a unicorn since they do not exist does not somehow prevent me from choosing between riding either a horse or a donkey. But, if you want to argue under your definition of free will, then sure, I agree that your type of free will does not exist. Neither do unicorns.”

    You didn’t follow my argument, but you’re agreeing with me anyway. Our choices are limited, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t got free will. Therefore, God could limit our choices so that we couldn’t choose evil actions, yet we’d still have free will. This means that our requiring free will can’t be used to justify the existence of Evil.

    (Disclaimer: I don’t believe we have free will, I’m speaking hypothetically.)

  37. @ c matt,

    “Thus, in a sense, the person voluntarily separating himself is the immediate cause of Hell, God only permits it.”

    What about people brought up in other religions, such as Hinduism? They aren’t “voluntarily separating themselves” from God, they may not have ever heard of God or Jesus. (I won’t even mention the people living in the 100,000+ years before Jesus bothered to show up.) In any case, the proximate cause of Hell existing is that God created it.

    “God only permits it. Thus, He was not “doing” something evil, simply allowing an evil to occur.”

    It’s quite funny watching you tie yourself in knots trying to justify eternal torture.

    “Because freely choosing to love God is a greater good than demanding or requiring it”

    Threatening people with eternal torture isn’t demanding or requiring their love?

    “He has to allow for the real possibility of being rejected.”

    Why would an omnipotent being be bothered by being rejected by beings he has created, especially when he has expressly made them so that they can reject him? This makes no sense, and doesn’t provide even the slightest justification for creating an eternal torture chamber for those who don’t believe in him.

  38. @ c matt,

    [God is unable to choose evil, yet you claim he has free will.]

    “Yes. Because of three things (1) He is pure and absolute Good (that is his nature)”

    This is part of the same misunderstanding as earlier. I’m not arguing that being limited and free are incompatible. However, God is clearly not “absolute Good” according to his depiction in the Old Testament, his allowing human and animal suffering on an epic scale, or his creation of an infinite torture chamber.

    Also, there’s the problem of how ‘good’ is defined: if it’s simply God’s nature, then anything that God does is good, so good is meaningless. If it’s according to a standard other than God, then God isn’t needed. (Euthyphro dilemma)

    “Once again, perhaps we are talking about two different things when we say freedom/free will.”

    I am referring to libertarian free will. I’m not clear what Peter Kreeft is talking about as he seems to think a pianola has free will 🙂

  39. “Still seems to me if you don’t know something is wrong you shouldn’t be punished for it.”

    “God is going to be utterly fair, on everybody, not just to those who believe in him, which as Dav rightly mentioned, he does not blame people for what they do not know or cannot know.”

    Yeh and perhaps to your surprise Dav and Joy, I would agree with all that. Don’t know where you got the idea that I thought that the Deity punishes people for simply being ignorant on matters.

    “DG, firstly, I’m not an atheist. If I were, I would say so.”

    Yes and I figured that too from your past comments Joy. And I’ve never stated that you were one.

    And so I guess Joy what I get from your answer is that you don’t have an idea of how God deals with malicious individuals – which is fine. I was just curious because a lot of people that reject the notion of an everlasting hell and that believe in an afterlife often advocate another position on how the “wicked” are dealt with like Origen’s view or the annihilationist view.

    “To be sent to Hell you’d have to acknowledge your actioms will end there but you do them anyway.

    And who does that?”

    Well Dav, if you’re looking for an example maybe Saul Alinsky would be the example. Apparently he said in an interview that he preferred to go to hell if there was an afterlife. Look him up on wikipedia. Yeh, go figure.

  40. DG, sorry, you said something about ‘two atheists’ here, or overleaf. It seemed there was only one present.
    It all boils down to what is meant by ‘ignorant on matters’. Only God knows what you know and what I know, our true capacity. Reading the Gospels gives a very mixed interpretation. Mine is closest to the mainstream view though you wouldn’t know it around here. Particularly amongst those who haven’t read the bible but claim Christian moral superiority. “all things are possible with God.”
    Some people switch or confuse Heaven and Earth. With Heaven and Hell. Always, it seems, the ones who have lost faith in truth and goodness over evil.

    “on Earth as it is in Heaven”. is The Prayer, not the other way around.
    “ what I get from your answer is that you don’t have an idea of how God deals with malicious individuals – which is fine.“
    “I was just curious because a lot of people that reject the notion of an everlasting hell and that believe in an afterlife often advocate another position on how the “wicked” are dealt with like Origen’s view or the annihilationist view.”
    You get me wrong.
    (the latter is rather obviously not everlasting hell. I would have said. Just death. Then there’s the fact that some people don’t want to live forever. For all sorts of reasons that might be dull to explain. So if annihilation was the answer, God would not be serving justice, rather giving them what they want. Maybe he does that. I doubt it. I know telling children and young or vulnerable adults they’re going to hell or those they love will go to hell is wicked. Believers fret for the ones they love. Non believers are immune to such threats, obviously.
    I’m determined, why wouldn’t God be? He wouldn’t give up on people. Humans would. Then, there’s this:
    If ‘malicious’ people don’t matter, they’r not worth holding on to, burning for ever? Which is eternal vengeance, not justice. Then there’s ‘rewards’: Don’t know about you, but I don’t want them. Heaven is just as much a puzzle.
    I have a lot of ideas and don’t decide. It seems wrong and grotesque to state categorically on the mechanics of God’s justice as opposed to his love. Preposterous and silly, too. It seems most likely that nobody will reject God’s love at the end. Beyond that, is really too far. I don’t believe salvation rests at the hands or with the words of a latter day inquisitor. Maybe those who have caused pain to others will have to carry that burden until such time as they have found forgiveness from others in heaven. If everything is revealed then that means sins kept secret, too! Another reason I don’t believe in the confession box. Maybe that doesn’t take an eternity in every case. As we judge so we will be judged.
    What will matter after death must be very different. There is some knowledge or power beyond death and around death. I believe that is God’s Holy Spirit, not the departed but because of the departed. Just enough to know that death is not the end and that significant (to the observer) power exists in the universe to move living things, may be just matter, to convey this message, if only to the one who knows what they predicted and asks the question. ‘Christianity of the bible’ is about hope, not threats. God also has a sense of humour, if I’m right.

    However, some good that came from this spat:
    I asked my favourite atheist (one of them) if he thinks there’s such a thing as hell. He said,
    No there isn’t. It’s just one of the things people have invented to keep control or power over the masses…”.
    “God wouldn’t dare send you there.” (he’s biased, he thinks I’m just worried about me!)
    “Oh yes he would” said I,
    Then over his shoulder as I walked upstairs,
    “No, God wouldn’t do such a thing, only humans do things like that!”
    Tacit admission! He knows all about God. He just doesn’t think he’s there. It made me smile. He was defending God’s goodness and rejecting human cruelty.

  41. John 12,
    46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
    47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
    48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
    49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.
    50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

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