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Monday, January 17, 2011

How could a loving God send anyone to hell?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”-Matt 22:37

How could a loving God send anyone to hell?

Out of all Christian doctrines, the teaching on hell seems to be the one most dismissed by the modern world.  As Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft says, "Non-Christians ignore it, weak Christians excuse it, and anti-Christians attack it."

So why does the Catholic Church teach about hell?  Firstly, because Jesus taught that hell exists (Matt 5:22; Matt 10:28, Matt 18:9 etc etc)
I read somewhere (but I can't confirm it--maybe someone else here can?) that the person who talks most about hell in Scripture is...not St. Paul as many might think...but Jesus.  And if hell does not even really exist then Jesus was a poor teacher for talking so much about something that is nonexistent!

Secondly, the Catholic Church teaches about hell because it is a logical conclusion to its teaching on God's love, and the teaching on free will.  If we are free to choose God, then we are also free to not choose God--and that's what hell is.  God loves us too much to force his love upon us; in the end he says to us, "Your will be done, dear child."

Some might ask, "Well, who would ever not choose God in the end?"  The sad truth is we do that each and every time we sin, don't we?  We choose something else over God. 

"The fires of hell maybe made of the very love of God, experienced as torture by those who hate him: the very light of God's truth, hated and fled from in vain by those who love darkness. Imagine a man in hell—no, a ghost—endlessly chasing his own shadow, as the light of God shines endlessly behind him. If he would only turn and face the light, he would be saved. But he refuses to—forever.(again from Peter Kreeft; bold mine)

So the simple answer to "Why would a loving God send anyone to hell?" is this: essentially, we choose hell for ourselves.  God only says, "if that's what you want..." It's because he loves us that he won't force his love upon us.

Finally, one quick thing:  some criticize Catholics as being "gruesome" or "frightening" when teaching that hell exists. But as writer George MacDonald says, "As long as there are wild beasts about, it is better to be afraid than secure."  And it is kinder to warn people about the "wild animals" than to say, "We're not going to tell people about the wild animals because it might scare them." 

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Catholic Bible online

Catechism of the Catholic Church online

Catholic Answers Forums Discussion:  What is Hell?

Francis Beckwith's website (former Catholic, convert to Evangelical Christianity, re-vert to Catholicism)

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

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