Clearly my title is exaggerated, but recently I have been very frustrated with this mentality of "a loving God would never do this, that, or the other thing." I have a few of my own thoughts on this, but I would like to start out with some interesting thoughts from the former president of my college, Dr. John Davis.
This summer I helped to interview Dr. Davis for a project that my boss is working on. During that interview the topic of Christian love came up and Dr. Davis pointed out the following things.
- It is not God's love that is his main characteristic; rather it is his Holiness.
- Holiness is the only attribute repeated thrice (Isaiah 6:3 is a notable occasion of this) i.e. Holy, Holy, Holy (not Just, Just, Just; Loving, Loving, Loving; or Righteous, Righteous, Righteous) and three is a very important number in the Bible (think: the Trinity).
- God does not "condemn" people to Hell because he doesn't love them, but rather they must go to Hell for the unholy cannot exist in the presence of the Holy.
Now comes for my thoughts. I understand why Christians (and people in general) have difficulty accepting the existence of Hell. Hell is terrifying! It is a place with no hope where the unsaved go to spend eternity without God!
But that's just the point. If there were no Hell, then what's the point of the Gospel? What's the point of the calling to save people from sin? If you can just live your life however you want and still get into Heaven, that whole "narrow road" idea goes out the window. If you think that Hell is just a myth that Bible-thumpers tell you to scare you into going to church, then you are really cheapening the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. What was the point of Him dying a slow, agonizing death if we don't even have to say we believe in Him to go to Heaven?!
Hell is Biblical. You can't choose not to believe in it just because you're afraid that your unsaved friend from high school is on the path that ends there. The most important thing to remember though is that God does love you and everyone else. Do you think He enjoys seeing people stuck in Hell for eternity? Do you think that is what He wants? Is your God so vindictive as that? No, God does not get pleasure from "condemning" people to Hell. He does not condemn them at all. Truly they condemn themselves for choosing to live away from Him in life and thus they must continue to in death. The unholy cannot survive in the presence of the Most Holy in Heaven. That's not the way it works.
It pains me to see love distorted the way it has been by modern evangelicalism. Rob Bell is the first person that comes to my mind unfortunately. I think he has done some great things for youth ministry, but he overstepped himself with Love Wins. That's not to say that the entire book is worthless, but my advice would be to tread carefully. The idea that "a loving God would never do this, that, or the other thing" is not just misleading, it is also putting God in a box. You are limiting God if you say He cannot do something. God can do anything.
This is the part where you turn around and say, "Hey wait a minute, if God can do anything, why can't He just turn down the Holy and let people in?" Good question. It's not as if God never showed up in the Old Testament, and the "holiness" of some of the people He appeared to is debatable. It is important to note though that God coming down to earth in a semi-physical or physical form is not the same as being in the full presence of His Holiness, and therefore the circumstances are different. Also note that that form was still so Holy that Moses had to wear a veil over his face after being in God's presence on Mount Sinai because his skin was literally shining (Exodus 34).
Why can't God just do that all the time though? God's Holiness is what makes Him God. Really, I think that to have one without the other is impossible simply because it is paradoxical, but more simply: while His Holiness is something that can be tempered for certain situations, I believe He would cease to be "God" if He were to just tone down the Holy a bit. You say, "That's blasphemous!" and I say, "Exactly!" God ceasing to be God is ludicrous, therefore it is unfeasible to posit that it would be better for Him to be less Holy in order for the unholy to go to Heaven. Don't paradoxes make your head hurt?
To cap off my argument I would like to add one more thing. God is unknowable in the big scheme of things. We don't know why He does what He does or how He does it. We certainly do not know everything about Him, the master plan for Earth, Heaven, or Hell. If we did, it wouldn't be called faith -- it would just be knowledge. Because of this, it would be foolish for me to say that I've got all the answers and everything stated above is the Truth. God's probably looking down at me and giggling at how cute my theological endeavors are.
Nonetheless, I believe the Bible in the Truth. If the Bible says that the path to Heaven is narrow, then you bet your bottom dollar I'm not going to go around saying, "The path to Heaven is wide open! Do what you want and God's love will carry you to Heaven!"
God's love certainly will carry you to Heaven, but only through Jesus. He wouldn't have said it if He didn't mean it, so regardless of whether or not my theories are to be believed, the Bible is Truth and should be heeded.
What do you think about God's love and the existence of Hell? Do the two contradict each other? What do you think about the suggestions made by some that a loving God can't or won't send people to Hell?