I’ve been blogging recently on the existence and nature of Hell and, unsurprisingly, I’ve received tremendous response from Christians and non-Christians alike (much of it hostile). The topic polarizes believers and unbelievers. Many Christians struggle to correlate God’s mercy with a place of permanent justice, while others prefer to believe God would annihilate rebellious souls rather than assign them to Hell eternally. Non-believers often point to the apparent unfairness of God related to those who either reject Jesus or haven’t heard of Him. After all, there are millions of good people in the world who are not Christians. Is it fair for God to penalize people who are otherwise good? A good God would not send good people to Hell, would He?
Here’s the good news: God will not send good people to Hell; of this we can be sure. But, here’s the bad news: “good” people are far rarer than most skeptics (and many Christians) are willing to admit. The Christian worldview describes the true nature of humans and the incredible sovereignty of God, and once these truths are understood, no one will expect their own “goodness” to merit Heaven:
People (By Their Very Nature) Are Not “Good”
We don’t have to teach our infants to be selfish, impatient, rude and self-serving; infants must be taught just the opposite. We don’t come into the world equipped automatically with sacrificial “goodness”. We must be taught how to love, how to think beyond our own needs and desires, how to share and how to appreciate others. The daily news headlines are filled with examples of young men and women who were not taught how to love and respect the law. When young people are not nurtured and trained in this way, they default back to their innate nature. And if we are honest with ourselves, each of us must admit we often have difficulty controlling our anger, our lust, or our pride. We are inherently fallen creatures, trying our best to constrain our fallen nature. The Bible simply recognizes the innately fallen nature of humans (as described in Romans 3:10-18).
Heaven (By Its Very Nature) Is “Perfect”
If there is a God, He is responsible for creating everything in the Universe. This means that God created matter from non-matter and life from non-life. If this is true, God has incredible, infinite, and unspeakable power. With muscle like that, God surely has the power to eliminate imperfection. This is why, as Christians, we believe that God is perfect; He has the ability to eliminate imperfection. The Christian God is not a “good God” after all. He is a “perfect God”. His standard is not “goodness”, it is “perfection”. The real question that each of us has to ask ourselves is not “Are we good?”, but “Are we perfect?” Can any of us answer in the affirmative here? Even if we reject the teaching of the Bible, but accept the possibility that there may be an all-powerful God, we must acknowledge that His standard will be perfection and that we will ultimately fall short of this standard.
God doesn’t send good people to Hell. In order to consider ourselves “good”, we typically have to overlook much of what we think about and a lot of what we have done. Conversely, God doesn’t send good people to Heaven either. “Good” is simply not “good enough” in light of Heaven’s perfection. A loving God rescues creatures who are “practically” imperfect by offering us the free gift of forgiveness (Romans 6:23). When we accept this offer, we become “positionally” perfect (Hebrews 10:14) by clothing ourselves in the perfection of Jesus.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, Christian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, God’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.