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Why Would A Loving God Create A Place Like Hell?

261When Rob Bell released his book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, he capitalized on the historic controversy surrounding the existence and nature of hell. Critics of Christianity have cited the hell’s existence as evidence against the loving nature of God, and Christians have sometimes struggled to respond to the objection. Why would a loving God create a place like Hell? Wouldn’t a God who would send people to a place of eternal punishment and torment be considered unloving by definition?

The God of the Bible is described as loving, gracious and merciful (this can be seen in many places, including 1 John 4:8-9, Exodus 33:19, 1 Peter 2:1-3, Exodus 34:6 and James 5:11). The Bible also describes God as holy and just, hating sin and punishing sinners (as seen in Psalm 77:13, Nehemiah 9:33, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7, Psalms 5:5-6, and Matthew 25:45-46). It’s this apparent paradox reveals something about the nature of love and the necessity of Hell:

Mercy Requires Justice
When a judge pardons an unrepentant rapist without warrant, we don’t typically see this as an act of love, particularly when we consider the rights of the victim (and the safety of potential future victims). Mercy without justice is reckless, meaningless and dangerous. True love cares enough to punish wrongdoing. For this reason, a God of love must also be a God of justice, recognizing, separating and punishing wrongdoers. Hell is the place where God’s loving justice is realized and executed.

Freedom Requires Consequence
True love cannot be coerced. Humans must have freedom in order to love, and this includes the freedom to reject God altogether. Those who do not want to love God must be allowed to reject him without coercion. Those who don’t want to be in God’s presence must be allowed to separate themselves from Him if their “free will” is to be respected. God’s love requires the provision of human freedom, and human “free will” necessitates a consequence. Hell is the place where humans who freely reject God experience the consequence of their choice.

Victory Requires Punishment
All of us struggle to understand why evil exists in the world. If there is an all-powerful and all-loving God, this God (by His very nature) has the power and opportunity to conquer and punish evil. If God is both powerful and loving, He will eventually be victorious. God’s victory over evil will be achieved in mortality or eternity. God has provided a mechanism though which evil will be permanently conquered and punished in the next life. Hell is the place where an all-loving and all-powerful God will ultimately defeat and punish evil.

The loving nature of God requires justice if it is to be meaningful, and the justice of God requires punishment if it is to be fair. At the same time, human freedom must result in a consequence if it is to be significant, and the consequence for evil actions must ultimately be appropriate if God is to be just. Finally, the power of God necessitates victory, and eternal victory requires an eternal mode of punishment. The paradox of God’s love and justice necessitates the existence of Hell. God’s love does not compel Him to eliminate the necessary punishment and consequence for sin, but instead compels Him to offer us a way to avoid this consequence altogether. By offering forgiveness through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (who took our punishment), God demonstrated His love for us. It cannot be said that a loving God would never create a place like Hell if that same God has provided us with a way to avoid it.

For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case ChristianityGod’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.

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J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker and best-selling author. He continues to consult on cold-case investigations while serving as a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He is also an Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and a faculty member at Summit Ministries. He holds a BA in Design (from CSULB), an MA in Architecture (from UCLA), and an MA in Theological Studies (from Gateway Seminary).

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Pingback: SiftingPoint | Why Would A Loving God Create A Place Like Hell?

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  11. Cory Gasparich

    March 5, 2022 at 2:56 pm

    Years ago I listened to a singer named Don Francisco. In his song “Adam where are you?” Francisco pointed out the reason why Adam hid from God. It was that Adam could not “abide in his presence.”

    Isaiah chapter 6 gives us another insight. The Lord filled the temple and Isaiah gives his account. He gives the spacial description of the event, but, more importantly, when Isaiah comes himself, he shows his own reaction. God did not say a word to him. God didn’t accuse him. God didn’t even condemn him. The pure Presence of God caused Isaiah to accuse and judge himself. “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips…”
    Isaiah couldn’t abide in God’s presence. Thankfully, Isaiah’s sin was purged by a coal upon which the blood of the sacrifice had fallen, and his mindset was released by his belief in the words of the angel who told him his sin had been purged.

    Fast-forward to Jesus, the incarnate Word. He is approached by a man filled with unclean spirits. They knew who He was. They ask Jesus if He had come to torment them before their time. They then asked if they can flee into the swine, because they could not abide in His presence. They then fled from His presence.

    The answer to me is very simple. God sends people to outer darkness because they cannot abide in His light. But when we accept the sacrifice of Christ and take it into ourselves and we believe it to be sufficient (Important! We have to believe for a reason.) We are cleansed from all unrighteousness, and our belief releases our minds from the bondage of our sin. Then we can abide in His presence.
    Heaven and hell have never been about the everlasting, pure state of God, but the state of our selves, while in His presence; Either in the acceptance of His atonement or the condemnation of ourselves by our unbelief.

    God shows His love for those who cannot abide in His presence by sending them out of His presence.

    If you find a theological error in this way of thinking, please share it with me. It is always somewhere in my mind, and I’m always looking for something to temper and refine it or even scrap it if the argument against this line is strong enough. Nothing has yet come to mind.

  12. Julian

    April 15, 2022 at 11:20 pm

    it does not makes sense that god hates sin, because he is love, he can’t hate, also he create us in first place, why he would send us there? if he create us he should punish himself too because he is in part responsible, i love god, i hope to don’t be disrespectful but, the idea he can create a hell is something that i don’t belive is true.

  13. Julian

    April 15, 2022 at 11:26 pm

    also it is not justice, because it is not just that if we make a sin in this short life we should pay for eternity, is like if you borrow 1 million and then you have to pay back an infinite amount, that is not just. it should be a correspondence between the sin and the punishment, but in this in case the punishment is totally disproportionate

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