Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A God-Centered Defense of the Biblical Doctrine of Hell

Editor's Note: In a recent post, I pointed out that a Biblical understanding of sin takes the mystery out of the doctrine of hell and places it back in the doctrines of grace, where it belongs. The author of a book called, "Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell" took exception to my overt affirmation of the reality of hell. I was headed out of town for the weekend and could not respond to his comments, so I asked my friend Chris DeVidal to respond. And I'm glad I did. Here's the thoughtful and God-exalting response written by Chris . . .

The basis of your argument is:

* We didn't ask to be born, and yet we are damned
* Infinite punishment could not possibly be merited by a finite crime
* Jesus seemingly preached against hell in Luke 9:51-56

Editor's Note: The first assertion is the height of ingratitude. The second is inaccurate due to a low view of sin (which springs from a low view of God, as Mr. DeVidal is about to demonstrate). The third is a gross misinterpretation of Scripture that any first year Bible student could dismantle with ease. But let's allow Chris to answer, he does a better job . . .

Please allow me to answer these three points with one question:

What motivates God to do all that He does?

Why the creation? Why the cross?

You might say, "love."
And that's a good answer, but it needs more refinement.
I think you might mean, "love for humans."

Tell me, what did God (the Father) love before He created us?
I think there can only be one answer, the Son.

Who is the Son?
Deity. God.

If you don't agree with me on this point we have a different discussion. So let's assume you agree.

So what motivates God?
Love. For Himself.

Don't take my word for it. Ask yourself what motivated Him to save when you read Isaiah 48:9-11.

Or John 17:1 Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You.
Or John 14:13 ... so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.
Or John 16:14 He will bring glory to Me ...
Or Acts 12:23 ... because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down ...
Or Psalm 25:11 For the sake of Your name ... forgive my iniquity ...
Or Romans 9:17 I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed ...
Or Exodus 14:4 ... I will gain glory for Myself through Pharaoh and all his army ...
Or Isaiah 43:25 I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake ...
Or Habakkuk 2:14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord ...
Or Ezekiel 20:14 But for the sake of My name I did what would keep it from being profaned ...
Or Psalm 106:7-8 Yet He saved them for His name’s sake,to make His mighty power known.
Or Isaiah 43:6-7 ... everyone who is called by My name,whom I created for My glory ...
Or Jeremiah 13:11 ... to be my people for My renown and praise and honor.
Or 1 Samuel 12:20-22 ... For the sake of His great name the Lord will not reject his people ...
Or 1 Corinthians 10:31 ... do it all for the glory of God.
Or Ezekiel 36:22-23, 32 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes. ... I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord.
Or 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power on the day He comes to be glorified in His holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.

(Reminder, God wrote those verses about Himself.)

Want more proof?
How about the biggest book in the Bible: The Psalms.

What are the Psalms' basic content?
Praise God!
Praise God!

Praise God!


The Psalms were written by God. So what He's really saying is,
Praise Me!
Praise Me!
Praise Me!


What motivates God most is love for Himself.

By beginning with the assumption that God revolves around man, you are led down a terrible road - even to the point of inventing a different god than what is found in the Bible.

This is called idolatry.
(I don't know if you're an idolator, but the warning must be clear: assume that man comes first and you will become one.)

I'm not sure you were aware of this assumption. I know of very, very, very few people who have asked and Biblically answered the question, "What motivates God?" Not even me. But you must ask this question to rightly understand the Bible. When you see that God is motivated by love for Himself, the Bible falls into place. Your life will radically change for the better. Trust me.

So if God loves Himself above all things, how does that presuppose the doctrine of Hell?

Let me explain . . .

God is infinitely worthy.

Worthy of exaltation.
Worthy of majesty.
Worthy of respect.

Worthy of praise.
Worthy of honor.
Worthy of glory.

Worthy of song.

Worthy of all!
He is WORTHY of obeying, simply because He is worthy.


Now, what is sin?

What is sin but a rebellion against His command? What a TERRIFIC insult to His honor!!! He said "don't do it," we say, "you're not worthy of obeying." On the basis of His worth alone, He should be respected, listened to, agreed with, obeyed. He is supreme over all!

If He says jump, our only answer ought to be, "How high?" Simply because He is worthy of obedience.

David the Psalmist agreed. He sinned against Uriah and Bathsheba and his son and dragged all of Israel down into scandal, thus sinning against literally millions of people. Yet he wrote these words:

Against You, You only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in Your sight

(Psalm 51:4a ESV)

Why?

so that You may be justified in Your words
and blameless in Your judgment.

(Psalm 51:4b ESV)


Another way to consider sin is it is deeds that would be done only if He isn't really there.

If a dignitary, some royalty or ambassador, visits your house and you go about your life as if he were not there, you would greatly insult him. How would your and my life change if Jesus knocked on our door and said, "I'll be following you around from now on, listening to your thoughts, words, watching your actions and judging your fears." Would you act or think differently?

To the degree that you would change, there is unbelief that He really is watching, that He really does exist. This belittles Him. God will not tolerate belittling of His name for very long.

He is most motivated by love for His own self-worth.

Tell me, what would it communicate about His opinion of Himself if there was no punishment for those who belittled the worth of His great name, the name that He loves?

What if He did nothing to uphold the worth of His great name?

GOD WOULD BE INFINITELY BLASPHEMOUS.


If God were not to uphold the glory of God, God would deny God the glory that God deserves. God would be heaping scorn upon God. That would be blasphemous!

Let us consider even the smallest little grumbling about the weather, alone in your car on the way home from work. I was guilty of this a few weeks ago.

What are we really saying?

First, we say that God doesn't know what He is doing. Don't you see that He is watering the plants to feed you? He doesn't have to. He could let you try to make plants grow all on your own, without any water at all anywhere on the earth.

Second, we say that God doesn't love His creatures to send this providence. There are literally MILLIONS of people on earth shaking their fist in His face, and He gives them a sandwich. What a tremendously loving, patient God this must be!

Third, we say that God doesn't exist. When we complain to the air about circumstances, we are effectually complaining that He sent the circumstances. We would never, never, never, never, never question His providence if He were sitting in the car next to us. This belittles His great name. God will not tolerate belittling His name for long.

Grumbling under our breath to ourselves about the rain must be an infinite affront to the majesty and authority and worth of HIS GREAT NAME.

What an amazing God, then, who visits the furious wrath deserved upon those who grumble about His rain. He visits the full fury of hell, upon His Son, who gladly volunteered for the job "for the joy that was set before him." (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

I CANNOT believe I get to worship this God!

What a God!
What a God!
What a God!

In summary, hell is a doctrine that is demanded by an understanding of the nature of the God of the Bible. Period.

If you don't agree, you have to deny the core, fundamental essense of who God is.

Ultimately, in order to escape these Biblical truths, you must create another god.

This is called idolatry.

Conclusion

* God loves Himself above all things, and does all that He does to bring glory to Himself.

* God is worthy of all, and worth giving glory to.

* Even the slightest grumble under your breath, alone by yourself where no one hears, is worth an infinite amount of punishment. (Indeed, I did not say this earlier but an infinite amount of punishment in hell really isn't enough to pay for just one of our crimes, let alone our multiplied crime upon crime. If hell didn't exist the trees and the rocks would SCREAM for justice!!)

* God would not be just to Himself if He did not mete out the just punishment on those who grumble under their breath.

* This God is amazing who visits the fury of infinite wrath upon Himself in order to show kindness to us, so that we will in turn bring Him the glory He deserves.

WHAT A GOD!
WHAT A GOD!
WHAT A GOD!

"...bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made." (Isaiah 43:6b-7 ESV)

7 comments:

  1. Hell is unending because the sinners imprisoned within it never stop sinning. It is not true that sinners commit a finite number of sins, and that only sins committed in this world count against them.

    It is also true that cultural ideas of jurisprudence don't apply to sins committed against God.

    It is also true that God does not exist for the purpose of making every individual happy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jack,

    This is a great point, that unredeemed sinners continue to oppose God even after death. It is because they refused to believe and be redeemed during their lifetime on earth that they cannot possibly stop sinning in eternity. So they abide under the wrath of God forever. It is a terrible (and terrifying) thought, but I believe God would receive more respect from people if these implications of divine justice were truly believed.

    The GOOD NEWS for believers is, the cross is the closest to hell we will ever get. It is our revelation of God's just wrath, and we accept it as the death we deserved. We see it plainly, but we experience NONE of it. Thank God for His mercy!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hell is indeed an unpleasant subject. I think you are right, though, that it has to do with the nature of God, which most of us unfortunately have quite a wrong view of.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ma,

    Thanks for visiting and thanks for your comment. I enjoyed poking around your blog a bit. Those quotes at the bottom are super! And I enjoyed the photos, along with your words of insight. Blessings, my sister!

    Derek

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for your reply. You've got a great spot here...I'll be back;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. UNCONDITIONAL DAMNATION


    The five points of Calvinism should be expressed as unconditional damnation.

    The premise of Calvinism that men have no free-will and that men can only be saved if God predetermines each person for salvation.

    Calvinism teaches that men are saved by unconditional election.

    The antithesis of unconditional election is unconditional damnation.

    THE FIVE POINTS OF CALVINISM

    1. Total Depravity: Man is totally depraved so he cannot choose or desire God.

    If total depravity is true, then unless men are unconditional elected for salvation, they are unconditionally damned to hell for all eternity.

    2. Unconditional Election: God unconditionally elects those whom He has predetermined to save.

    If unconditional election is true, then conversely all others areunconditionally damned, lost outside of Christ.

    3. Limited Atonement: Jesus died only for those who have been unconditionally elected for salvation.

    If limited atonement is a Biblical fact, then all who are not unconditionally elected for salvation will die in their sins because they will face unconditional damnation.

    4. Irresistible Grace: When God calls the elect for salvation, they cannot resist.

    Those who are not called by irresistible grace will beunconditionally damned and will spend eternity in the lake of fire.

    5. Perseverance of the Saints: Once you have been unconditionally elected for salvation you can never be lost. Once saved always saved.

    If God did not unconditionally give you the faith so you could believe and be saved, and you have no free-will to believe or reject Jesus; then you are unconditionally damned. You are once damned always damned.

    God does not unconditionally save anyone nor is anyoneUNCONDITIONALLY DAMNED.

    THERE ARE NO POINTS OF CALVINISM THAT ARE SUPPORTED BY SCRIPTURE. [Read the whole New Testament and understand God's plan for mankind]



    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http:steve-finnell.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Mr. Finnell,

    Your presentation of Calvinism is neither accurate nor charitable.

    That's not the kind of Calvinism we promote around here, nor is it the type that most Calvinists, historically, have adhered to.

    You are invited to read the articles on this blog, study history, and most importantly drink deeply of the whole Word of God from Genesis to Revelation, and be cured of the straw man.

    Have a good day.

    Derek

    ReplyDelete

Feel free to respond to anything written in the posts, or to the comments left by others. All comments are reviewed before they are published.

Please be charitable. If you disagree, do so with grace. Keep your words positive, focused, and on-topic. We don't expect everyone to agree, but we do expect everyone to treat everyone else with respect and grace, speaking the truth in love.

Thanks!
Mgmt.