But it doesn't follow from this that all of a person's sins taken together as a whole deserve only a finite punishment. If a person commits an infinite number of sins, then the sum total of all such sins deserves infinite punishment. Now, of course, nobody commits an infinite number of sins in the earthly life. But what about in the afterlife? Insofar as the inhabitants of hell continue to hate God and reject Him, they continue to sin and so accrue to themselves more guilt and more punishment. In a real sense, then, hell is self-perpetuating. In such a case, every sin has a finite punishment, but because sinning goes on forever, so does the punishment.
We could agree that sins like theft, lying, adultery, and so forth, are only of finite consequence and so only deserve a finite punishment. But, in a sense, these sins are not what serves to separate someone from God.
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For Christ has died for those sins. The penalty for those sins has been paid. One has only to accept Christ as Savior to be completely free and clean of those sins. But the refusal to accept Christ and his sacrifice seems to be a sin of a different order altogether. For this sin decisively separates one from God and His salvation. To reject Christ is to reject God Himself. And this is a sin of infinite gravity and proportion and therefore deserves infinite punishment. We ought not, therefore, to think of hell primarily as punishment for the array of sins of finite consequence which we have committed, but as the just due for a sin of infinite consequence, namely the rejection of God Himself.
It is possible that persons in hell grow only more implacable in their hatred of God as time goes on. Rather than repent and ask God for forgiveness, they continue to curse Him and reject Him. God thus has no choice but to leave them where they are. In such a case, the door to hell is locked, as John Paul Sartre said, from the inside. The damned thus choose eternal separation from God. So, again, so as long as any of these scenarios is even possible, it invalidates the objection that God's perfect justice is incompatible with everlasting separation from God.
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But perhaps at this point the opponent of the doctrine of hell could try one last objection. Granted that it is neither unloving nor unjust of God to create a world in which some people freely reject Him forever, what about the fate of those who have never heard about Christ? How can God condemn people who through no fault of their own never had the opportunity to receive Christ as their Savior?
A person's salvation or damnation thus appears to be the result of historical and geographical accident, which is incompatible with an all-loving God. This objection is, however, fallacious, because it assumes that those who have never heard about Christ are judged on the same basis as those who have. But the Bible says that the unreached will be judged on a quite different basis than those who have heard the gospel. God will judge the unreached on the basis of their response to His self-revelation in nature and conscience.
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The Bible says that from the created order alone, all persons can know that a Creator God exists and that God has implanted His moral law in the hearts of all persons so that they are held morally accountable to God Rom. The Bible promises salvation to anyone who responds affirmatively to this self-revelation of God Rom. Now this does not mean that they can be saved apart from Christ. Rather it means that the benefits of Christ's sacrifice can be applied to them without their conscious knowledge of Christ.
Can a Loving God Send People to Hell? The Craig-Bradley Debate
They would be like people in the Old Testament before Jesus came who had no conscious knowledge of Christ but who were saved on the basis of his sacrifice through their response to the information that God had revealed to them. And, thus, salvation is truly available to all persons at all times. It all depends upon our free response. No Christian likes the doctrine of hell.
I truly wish with all my heart that universal salvation were true. But to pretend that people are not sinful and in need of salvation would be as cruel and deceptive as pretending that somebody was healthy even though you knew that he had a fatal disease for which you knew the cure. The issue before us today is not therefore whether we like the doctrine of hell; the issue is whether the doctrine is possibly true.
I've argued that no inconsistency exists between the Christian conceptions of God and hell. If Dr. Bradley is to maintain that they are inconsistent, then the burden of proof rests upon his shoulders. Thank you, Dr. We will now turn things over to Dr. Bradley for his opening remarks. Bradley: Dr. Craig likes to talk about hell in such soothing terms as everlasting separation from God. This a favorite dodge of Christians. It makes our question sound rather like "Can a loving God send some of His children to Hawaii? Why not, if that is where some of them choose to go?
Now some Christians do in fact think of the question euphemistically in these terms, and some like to go further and think that when the children find that Hawaii's a little bit like hell because it's a bit too hot and the permanent locals are giving them a hard time, Father will relent and welcome them to His mansions on high. Such Christians are known as universalists. They believe that a time will come when God will actualize a perfect world, known as heaven, in which all of us will live with God in a state of joyous freedom and eternal happiness.
Can a Loving God Send People to Hell? The Craig-Bradley Debate | Reasonable Faith
Now I see nothing logically impossible about this idea of heaven, and presumably neither does Dr. Yet Dr. Craig rejects the universalist's doctrine because the Bible tells us that the majority of God's children will be excluded from heaven and be sentenced then to hell. And here he is right. The Bible, we both agree, is exclusivist, not universalist. Keeping Dr. Craig's biblical conservatism in mind, then, let's ask "How should we think of God's sending people to hell? It ought not even to be thought of as like Hitler sending people to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. For both of these are tame in comparison with the horror of being sent to hell.
At least Auschwitz, Belsen, and the rest were death camps, finite in duration both for those who died and for those who survived. Hell, however, offers no such finality to those of us who are to fill its chambers. None will emerge from its torment, and its tortures will continue forever and ever. You may think I am exaggerating. But let me then quote from what the "Good Book" has to say about the fate of those who will be eternally separated from God.
I quote from Revelation: "He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the Holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever" Rev. Note that the so-called Lamb who features so prominently in these divine spectator sports is Jesus himself. He plays much the same sort of role as that of the subsequently sainted Pope Pius V in this illustration, torturing a dissenting priest. No fuzzy talk of eternal separation from him! On a quick count I found 20 or so passages in the gospel of Matthew alone in which Jesus threatens unbelievers with what he calls fiery hell, that is, with eternal punishment, in an eternal fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
What should Christians say about such passages? They are faced with a devastating trilemma. To renounce them as untrue, because patently malevolent, would be to suppose that God or Jesus was either mistaken or misreported. But if Jesus was mistaken, he can't be divine. And if Jesus was misreported, then the Bible can't be the true word of God. The believer has no option, then, but to accept the doctrine of hell-fire in all its obscenities.
Now let's ask who will escape the tortures of hell? Saint Paul tells us that only those who have been sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. He was, of course, only echoing Jesus himself, who repeatedly tells us that only those who believe in him will go the heaven. Neither good works nor generous donations will get you there.
The legions of the damned, according to Jesus, include all those who don't have the right belief, the belief that he, Jesus, is Lord and Savior. In short, those who will be sent to hell include all those who, as the evangelicals put it, have not been born again. Dr Craig is commendably firm on this. There is no other name, he says, whereby we may be saved.
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On his view, even the most saintly believers of other religions are lost and dying without Christ. Craig, like Jesus, is an exclusivist. But isn't the real problem here simply the necessary condition of believing in the name of Jesus that you both heard his name and understood its significance?
No one can be saved from hell if they haven't been evangelized. What, then, of those who have lived in times or places in which the name of Jesus is unknown or ill-understood? Are we then to suppose that a loving God will send to hell all those who can't believe either because they have never heard or because, like me, they have heard but still find it impossible to believe?
Once more, Dr. Craig bites the bullet. Yes, he says, that's the way it is.
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