Hell And A God Of Love (4)

Norris states that the fires of hell will consume all the false doctrines, the scandals and the logic of evil, but not the soul. But hell is not merely what we moderns might call a psychological experience of souls that is overwhelmingly painful. The demonic powers that have warred against God will be destroyed in hell. John Wenham spoke of ‘being more than ever persuaded that the final end of the lost was destruction in the fires of hell.

According to Copeland, death is not simply the inevitable breakdown of a highly-evolved, complex machine, but something deserved because of sin. The nature of God’s wrath against sin is most clearly seen in the cross of Christ. He died as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice. Yet he also died as a sacrifice to satisfy divine mercy. He died for you and me.

An older liberalism affirmed that the justice of God was subordinate to his love, rather than co-ordinate with it. The ultimate effect of this subordination was the complete rejection of the doctrine of retributive justice. The danger here, according to Hart, lies in the suggestion that love and justice are somehow two separable quantities within the character of God, and that the dynamics of atonement consist in some sort of power struggle between two distinct sets of claims within God himself.

The view which simply says that there is a good God in heaven and everything is all right – leaving out all the difficult and terrible doctrines about sin and hell and the devil – that view is a boyish philosophy, wrote C S Lewis. He wants us to think deeply about this and not simply jump to conclusions based on assumption and tradition. He goes on to make his position quite clear in this way.

Every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is; and thither he is bound; it is the place that justice, and God’s word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him. Copeland writes that just as it requires an eternity for finite creatures to fully know his love, so also it requires an eternity for finite creatures to experience his wrath. Those in hell enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved: just as the blessed, forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free, accord to Lewis.

We all have choices to make in life, and none more so that who or what we will worship. These choices have consequences, and love’s justice must allow these consequences to be reaped, or free will is nothing but a game in which all travellers arrive at the same place whether they wanted to or not.

God does not play games, and neither are the consequences of our choices hidden from our own eyes. God’s goodness and his justice are both eternal attributes. God’s justice and goodness are also infinite. Love and justice mean that a belief in a God of love is fully compatible with belief in hell; indeed, you can’t have one without the other.