How can there be a hell if God is love?

Church of the Unity (Unitarian), by Herman Buc...

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Question: I have a friend I work with who told me that she doesn’t believe in hell. She said that God is love and God is everywhere so how can there be a hell? She attends a Unity Church here in town and said they do not preach if you died today do you know where you would go. She said if this earth were all there was, she would be fine with it because she wouldn’t know anything else. What do you think about this?

Answer: I think she is not doing justice to her own internal sense of justice. When she sees someone has used a child for pornographic purposes, abusing them sexually and videoing it for financial gain, what does she think love should do? I think she is not doing justice to her own internal sense that this world is not enough and that deep down she desires something better, because we were made for perfection. I think she is not doing justice to her sense of her own sinfulness, to her own capacity to do evil. Where did this come from? Did God create us this way or did we rebel from His original intent? If we rebelled, then what is the penalty for such rebellion? Does He just say, “Ah, it’s okay. I forgive you.” Then He is not very just Himself. And consequently, He is not very loving, because He lets people who have done unspeakable evil get away with hurting people who did not deserve to be hurt.

Paul says, “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God” (Romans 11:22). You are not a whole person if you do not possess both attributes. There are things worth getting mad about, and certainly things worth demonstrating kindness about. But if you are only one or the other you are neither emotionally healthy nor loving. Why would we expect God to be only one or the other?

Randall Johnson

2 thoughts on “How can there be a hell if God is love?

  1. Unfortunately, the is a wide chasm between “getting punished” and going somewhere to be tortured for eternity. Even mankind generally is much more fair than that. Other than Hitler and a few others, who could possibly deserve to be tortured for eternity? A lifetime?..100 years?…maybe. If it is as horrible as is believed and it really lasts forever, then God is cetainly more sadistic than I am willing to believe.

    Mark Ceci

    • There are two issues that I think deserve consideration, given the philosophical necessity of the Creator God who is the author of all morality.

      One is that there must be a reckoning for all that is done wrong. Can we imagine a world in which there were never any consequences for wrongdoing? But then the question is what is it that we are being given consequences for. I am quite sure that we don’t see our rebellion against God as Creator with the same severity as He does. We see ourselves as much more deserving of mercy. We might even object to 100 years of punishment, or even 1 year. We are not to be trusted with regard to how severe the punishment should be.

      Second, there are a number of good arguments for annihilationism, the view that those who go to hell are at some point completely destroyed, body, soul and spirit, so that there is a terminus to their suffering. Though I have defended the eternal punishment view in the past I must admit that this view seems quite possible as an explanation of the Biblical text. Check out this article by Glenn Peoples.

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