The Good News !   and also   The Bad News?
What will happen in Hell?  –  Will it be
eternal misery, death, or healing?

 

Are you confident that God loves you? and loves other people?   Do you believe that He will always love, both now and later, in Life and Afterlife?

I'm asking these questions because it seems to me that everyone (both Christians & non-Christians) will have rational reasons to doubt God's love,  IF we think the Bible teaches us that the final fate of most people, including many people we love, will be Eternal Misery in Hell, because this misunderstanding-about-God converts His Good News into Good News plus Bad News.*

And I (Craig Rusbult, living on a road less traveled) am writing this page to show you that this "IF" is not justified because the Bible does not teach Eternal Misery,* so you will be able to have confidence that God loves every person — both now and in their future, in their Life and Afterlife — so you will be able to totally love God and say YES to God.

I'm sad because I think some fellow Christians have been saying untrue-and-harmful things about the character of God.  I think their claim — that God wants most people to have everlasting misery, and He will cause this to happen — is not correct.  Therefore I want to tell you “no, this is not what God is like, and this isn't what He will do;  He is much better than this in His thinking and actions.”

Instead of Eternal Misery, I think the final result for unsaved people (who were not saved by God during their Life) will be either Eternal Joy (if God eventually saves them during their Afterlife, so they are reconciled with other people and with God) or everlasting non-existence (if God gives Temporary Life to all people, and then gives Eternal Afterlife to only some people).

 

* I've written another page especially for Christians who (like me) believe the Bible, and in Tips for Studying I ask why "in western societies for the past 1500 years, most people, both believers and unbelievers, have been assuming a doctrine of Eternal Misery — with God causing most people to have eternal life in hell — that the Bible doesn't seem to teach,"   and I answer that "due to the powerful inertia of tradition and societal customs, most Christians simply assume that the Bible teaches Eternal Misery, so they should believe it,"   and suggest that "instead of ASSUMING you already know what the Bible teaches, you can decide to carefully STUDY the Bible to learn what it really does teach,"   and explain how my page can help you "carefully study" more time-efficiently, so you can learn more in less time.

 

* Good News plus Bad News  —  is it Good News for a few people, but Bad News for most people?

Many people can doubt God's love IF they think God will cause Eternal Misery for most of the people He created.  This "IF" — which is a terrible threat about “what God will do to people in Hell” (instead of a wonderful hope about “what God will do for people in Hell”) — converts The Good News (The Gospel of Jesus Christ) into a combination of Good News plus Bad News.  How?

    • Good News:  A modern summary of The Gospel explains that "God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life," and you can live this plan if you say YES to God now, during your Life.  This is Good News.
    • Bad News:  But in the most common view of Hell — proposing that God has different kinds of divine love now and later — The Whole News includes Bad News that if you continue saying NO during your Life, so you die without being saved by God, then later God hates you and has a terrible plan for your Afterlife, for your zillions of years in hell, feeling misery that will never end.

 

A Pragmatic Defense of Eternal Misery

What are some effects of this Bad News?  IF a person thinks “God will cause Eternal Misery,” this idea will affect what they are thinking-and-feeling about the love of God, and it will increase their fear of God.

I.O.U. - Soon, maybe in June, I will use ideas from Practical Effects for Living to finish writing this section about love & fear, responding to a concern of Christians who propose a Pragmatic Defense of Eternal Misery by asking,

    If a currently-unsaved person doesn't fear Eternal Misery in Hell — if they think the afterlife-for-unsaved will be “Hell for only awhile” followed by experience-ending annihilation or [as I hope] glorious reconciliation — won't they think “why should I say YES to God now, instead I'll just enjoy my life of sin”?
 

This question is very important, so in "Practical Effects" I explain why...
    if an unsaved person believes that God WILL NOT cause Eternal Misery — if they think there will be an Afterlife-Hell but the hell-experience won't be Eternal Misery, instead the final result will be Annihilation or Reconciliation — their most rational response is tosay YES to God now, ASAP, because this decision (whether or not the person fears Eternal Misery in Hell) will make their Life MUCH better now, and later it will make their Afterlife MUCH better.   All Christians – including defenders of Eternal Misery – should emphasize that “saying YES now” is the most rational response, whether a person thinks Hell will be temporary or permanent, will end or will never end.  And...
    if an unsaved person believes that God WILL cause Eternal Misery, two common responses are that...

    some people are more likely to say YES due to fear, because they are terrified by the threat of living forever in terrifying hell-misery,  and some of these people only "say YES" outwardly, even though inwardly they want to continue enjoying their life of sin, so they are not truly repenting (i.e. they are not truly wanting to change the direction of their lives),* so their apparent conversion is analogous to accepting a bribe and God knows what they are truly thinking-and-feeling.  But...
    some people are more likely to say NO due to disgust, because they are feeling revulsion, they are thinking-and-feeling that God's causing of EM is unfair (it will not achieve justice) and they don't like His EM-causing character (that I don't think is His actual character) so they cannot honestly love God and trust Him, and they will not be dishonest by pretending to love God and trust Him.
 

Evidently, stubbornly persevering sinners think life without God is the best way to live.  For evangelism, God (with the help of Christians) needs to persuade unsaved non-Christians that life with God is better than life without God.  How?  There are two basic evangelistic strategies:  we can try to persuade an unsaved person about The Love of God and/or The Revenge of God.  A Pragmatic Defense of Eternal Misery is based on an assumption that The Love of God provides insufficient motivation, so we need to heavily emphasize The Revenge of God so we can “scare” people into conversion.  And the bigger the scare, the better.  If suffering in Afterlife-hell is temporary because it ends with annihilation or reconciliation, this isn't scary enough.  The suffering must be permanent, with Eternal Misery.   {but... currently, most defenders of Eternal Misery don't propose literal hellfire and unimaginably horrible tormenting, so are they being ineffective by softening the horrors of hell? are they violating their pragmatic principle that "the bigger the scare, the better"?}

 

Defenders of EM claim that if we want to persuade more effectively for evangelism, instead of just trying to show unsaved sinners why-and-how (with our logic-and-loving) a life with God is better due to The Love of God, we also must scare them by persuading them that if they live without God during Life, He will get Divine Revenge by causing them to have an Afterlife of Eternal Misery.  The foundation of this Pragmatic Defense is a belief that, it's not sufficient to just tell people about The Love of God, and how He actualizes His Love with divine actions during Life & Afterlife.  ust be supplemented with threats about The Revenge of God (actualized by divine actions during Afterlife), and The Revenge will Cause Eternal Misery.

 

more, in related sections:  What are some effects of love and fear, for conversion-plus-discipleship during Life, for salvation & sanctification?  and  Why is it acceptable for a Christian to have thoughts-and-feelings about the love of God (using the logic of If/Because,...) and about the character of God?

 


 

Now-and-Later  (does the love of God change?)

This page begins by asking, "Are you confident that God loves?"  One answer — according to a view of Life-and-Afterlife (of Now-and-Later) that unfortunately is currently the most common view in evangelical Christianity — is “yes, but God loves only for awhile for most people.”  This view, with divine love that is different Now (in Life) and Later (in Afterlife), is described in a popular book by a prominent pastor.

    Now — First we see, in pages 69-71, God's love for all people during Life:  "Each of us is loved by God, and loved in a way that is different – and better – than the way of human love. ...  God's love is different.  God's love is permanent and unchanging. ...  While others may love you today and abandon you tomorrow, God's love never changes. ...  Nothing can separate us from God's love. ...  Why would God love you?  Because that's who God is:  he's love."
    Later — The author also describes, in pages 199-201, God's love for most people during Afterlife:  "God has created a universe with a heaven – and a hell. ...   Hell is a place of unspeakable suffering. ...  In hell, there will be complete separation from God and people. ...  Imagine the physical pain of endless suffering, the emotional void of hurting without anyone to comfort you, and the knowledge that you'll suffer alone with no relief coming – ever."  But is this "love" really love?  is this the wonderful "permanent and unchanging" love we see in pages 69-71?
 

According to this Now-and-Later view, Now (during Life) "God's love is permanent and unchanging" but Later (in Afterlife) He will cause Eternal Misery (with "unspeakable suffering... endless suffering... alone with no relief coming, ever") for most people, for all but the "few" who follow the narrow path so they are saved-by-God now, during their Life.  By contrast, although I agree that "each of us is loved by God... in a way that is... better than the way of human love," I have concluded (why?) that God's love will not cause "unspeakable suffering... endless suffering" for any person.

 

It seems to me that IF God will cause Eternal Misery, then for unsaved people...

    His divine Now-love is wonderful (this is a very good kind of love) during Life, but
    His divine Later-love is horrible (this is more like hate than love)* during Afterlife,
    so – if God will cause Eternal Misery – The Whole News is Very Good News combined with Very Bad News.

* When I say that "this [causing miserable suffering that will never end] is more like hate" I'm not criticizing God.  Why not?  Instead, what am I criticizing?

 

Is a Now-and-Later view consistent with the Bible-based claim in this hymn?

    Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
    there is no shadow of turning with Thee;
    Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
    as Thou has been, Thou forever will be.

For a Christian who believes that God will cause Eternal Misery, is it possible to also believe the compassions of God will "fail not" because what God "has been" and is Now during Life, He "forever will be" Later during Afterlife?   or, at the moment of death for most people (for all except "the few" who will escape Eternal Misery), will God's temporary short-term forgiving (Now) change into permanent long-term unforgiving (Later)?

 

{for unsaved people, instead of choosing either love OR justice, God can do love-AND-justice}

I.O.U. - Here are some ideas that might be used in "Now-and-Later" above:  if EM is true and it will happen, does this indicate that God has Two Kinds of Divine Love, because His loving is wonderful Now but horrible Later? -- the "if" is important because I think EM is a false idea (an incorrect theory/claim) so Later-with-EM won't happen.  /  In writing these pages, my goal is to show there is One Kind of Divine Love, not (as with an incorrect claim for EM) an apparent/perceived (but false) difference in how God loves most people Now (in Life) and later (in Afterlife).

Here is an important distinction:  If we want to be biblical-and-logical, we must distinguish between immortality that is Conditional (so “only if saved, then immortal”) and is Dependent (so “if something exists, this existence depends on God, so it happens because God causes it”).

 


 

Three Views  —  What will happen in Hell?

As explained above, in this page I'm hoping to show you that "the Bible does not teach Eternal Misery" so you can stop thinking "God will cause Eternal Misery," so "you will be able to totally love God and say YES to God."  But if the final result of Hell won't be Eternal Misery, what will happen?

Three views about “what will happen in Hell” were common in the early history of the Christian Church.  All of these views are compatible with biblical evangelical Christianity, and proponents of each view can affirm all fundamentals of Christian faith.  Theologically, all of these Bible-based views are almost identical.*  The views have many similarities, and one difference.

 

MANY SIMILARITIES:  All views agree that...

• salvation requires belief plus repentance, with authentic heart-and-mind belief that leads to living by faith.

• eventually God will give every person an Afterlife, at least for awhile;  each of us will have a body, and we will face judgment by God.

• during Afterlife, people who have been “saved by God” — who believe-and-repent during their Life, who say YES to God — will live in Eternal Joy with God, and with other believers, in His heaven-kingdom.

• people who are not saved during their Life will suffer in Hell during their Afterlife.

 

ONE DIFFERENCE:

We see view-differences only when asking “What is the final state of unsaved humans?” because...

    with Universal Reconciliation their suffering in Hell is a temporary educational experience that heals-and-transforms them, so ALL believe & repent;  then – during their Afterlife – God graciously forgives them and saves them so they can "live in Eternal Joy with God, and with other believers, in His heaven-kingdom."     {or maybe only SOME believe and repent, producing semi-Universal Reconciliation}
    with Final Annihilation their suffering in Hell is temporary, lasting until they die, until they change from temporary Afterlife into permanent non-existence.
    with Eternal Misery their suffering in Hell lasts forever because God keeps them alive forever, but during all of this time He never helps them improve, and never ends their Misery with a merciful rescue (with Reconciliation or Annihilation) so they remain continually trapped in their sins forever.
 

* Even though the views "are almost identical" in all other ways, these differences in "the final state of unsaved humans" can make a big difference in how we think about God & people, and our relationships with God & people.

 

more – The visual organization in a table of views will help you understand the similarities & differences in views, so you can accurately understand what each view IS and ISN'T, what it DOES and DOESN'T propose.

It's especially important to understand what Universal Reconciliation does and doesn't propose, because “universalism” is commonly used to describe a wide range of views.  But in this page the single meaning of universalism (Universal Reconciliation) is a Bible-based evangelical Christian Universalism that believes “only one road (saying YES to God by following Jesus Christ) leads to salvation,  but if a person is now on another road, God knows where they are, and eventually He will save them by guiding them onto His road.”

 


 

My Views

Logically, by evaluating the 3 Views based on what we see in the Bible,

    I'm very confident (why?), although not certain, that Eternal Misery won't happen in Afterlife,  that instead the final result for people who are unsaved (at the end of their Life) will be either Annihilation or Reconciliation.   But...
    I'm not confident about choosing between these two views (why?) so I won't claim that either “Annihilation will happen” or “Reconciliation will happen,” because both views can claim support from the Bible.  Defenders of both views have strong arguments for their own view, and strong counter-arguments against the other view.
 

Emotionally, based on what I've learned from the Bible and from life, I'm hoping Reconciliation will happen because this would be a happy ending for more people.  And logically, I'm optimistic that it might happen.

 

My Feelings about My Views:  Like other Bible-believing Christians, I feel responsibilities that include wanting to accurately describe the character of God and to avoid giving false hope or causing false fear.  I also have mixed feelings about sharing my views with fellow Christians.

 

{re: my views, more and MORE}

 


 

Carefully Study the Bible:  I'm "very confident... that Eternal Misery won't happen in Afterlife" because I've carefully studied what the Bible says about what will happen in Hell.  In the page I've written mainly for Christians, I encourage readers to decide that "instead of ASSUMING you already know what the Bible teaches [because of what other people have told you the Bible teaches], you will carefully STUDY the Bible to learn what it really does teach."  But I recognize that you have a limited amount of time, and you want to use your time wisely, so I explain how to use my page so it will help you "carefully study" more time-efficiently, so you can learn more in less time.

Think about Justice-and-Love:  The Bible says a lot about Justice and Love.   /   I.O.U. – Later, I will write an introductory paragraph for the next few sections.

 

 

Basic Justice  (in overall changes, from Before Life to End of Afterlife)

Each of the three views proposes the same change for a saved person, who goes from Nothing (before Life) to Eternal Joy (in their Afterlife);  this change is wonderful.

But for an unsaved person, who is not saved during Life, the views propose big differences in the overall change:

    with Universal Reconciliation, it's from Nothing to Eternal Joy;  this change is wonderful.
    with Final Annihilation, it's from Nothing (before life) to Nothing (after their Afterlife ends with permanent death), in a neutral change that seems fair,* although it's sad because all of us should hope for everyone to have joy.  Basically, the overall change is      /     also, God has the right to decide who will be in His Kingdom, so it seems fair if The King decides “these people won't be in My Kingdom” and eliminates them with Annihilation.
    with Eternal Misery, it's from Nothing to Everlasting Misery;  this change is not wonderful.   Instead it's horrible.  And it seems extremely unfair, because they never asked to be born (they did not choose whether to have Life-plus-Afterlife) and they didn't get to choose their initial situation-in-life,* yet they will suffer forever.  Eternal Misery seems especially unfair if, as claimed by some Christians, they were predestined for Hell with no chance to avoid it.  Or if they have free will (with no predestination) but are “dealt a bad hand in life.”
 

* 3 Choices:  IF the Afterlife-for-Unsaved will be Universal Reconciliation, and IF you can choose whether or not you will be born, but you don't know what your situation-in-life will be if you are born — so you don't know if you will be born in the American Bible Belt (with a high probability of salvation) or in a country-culture-family where the dominant religion is non-Christian (e.g. where it's Jewish, Moslem, or Hindu, so you'll have a low probability of “saying YES” to Jesus) — what is your smartest choice?  Will your choice be different if the final result of Afterlife-for-Unsaved will be Annihilation?  or if the result will be Eternal Misery? }

 

 


 

 

 

I.O.U. — The rest of this page is a very rough outline for some of the ideas that (after they are developed-and-revised) probably will be in this page later, maybe in July 2018.

 

GENERALLY,

In the big page — written mainly for Bible-believing Christians, to show that the Bible does not teach Eternal Misery — a detailed Table of Contents will give you a quick overview of the main ideas, and help you decide “what to do next.”

This page is mainly for non-Christians, but I think Christians will find it interesting and useful.  I'm hoping it will stimulate every reader to think carefully for themself, and to have productive discussions with others.  I'm trying to write in ways that will appeal to non-Christians, that will reach their hearts and minds, so they will be able to love God and will say YES to God.  In one way to do this, later I will share more stories (based on history & analogy) to show how horrible claims that "God will cause Eternal Misery" seem, and how this claim doesn't accurately describe the actual character of God, as He has revealed Himself to us in the Bible.

 

and MORE SPECIFICALLY, ...

 

• a result worthy of praise:  A divine process of Purgatorial Universal Reconciliation (PUR) — that would occur if, near the beginning of Afterlife for an unsaved person, God will use UR-Hell to purify them in a painful process-of-purging that produces educational corrective healing (with divine spiritual surgery to remove sin) — would let God save them, and achieve Justice-with-Love.  When lovers-of-God think about this result of PUR, we can give God our SINCERE PRAISE for “what He will do for people in Hell” because He will achieve praiseworthy Justice-with-Love for victims and sinners with His temporary process of UR-Hell that produces permanent UR.

 

• But... some critics of Bible-based Christianity will object, by claiming that we should not praise God if He will use use "a painful process" in Hell, even if this process produces an extremely good result, a result that is permanently beneficial (and thus is loving) for unsaved people who will feel the temporary pain.  Are the means justified by the ends?  Would some temporary pain be justified by lots of permanent joy?

Yes.  Although I understand the objection (by claiming that a causing-of-pain is not a loving action), I believe the Bible,* and I think the Bible clearly teaches us that some people (certainly those who were unsaved at the end of their Life, and maybe everyone) will have some suffering in their Afterlife.  And when all things are considered with a long-term perspective, I think that with PUR the ends (permanent Eternal Joy) would justify the means (temporary painful process), when judged by our common human standards of weighing gain versus pain.  When we compare PUR with Eternal Misery, we see that God temporarily “does things FOR people” in UR-Hell (for the purpose of eventually helping them), but He eternally “does things TO people” in EM-Hell (with no apparent purpose except to hurt them);  due to this extreme contrast, I sincerely think that a Christian can honestly praise God for UR-Hell, and they can honestly feel ashamed of EM-Hell.

* Some critics will say “I don't care what the Bible teaches, instead I want to decide how-things-should-be without reading the Bible.”  Of course, they have a right to think this, and to express their opinion.  But they cannot claim to speak for mainstream Bible-based Christianity (as I am trying to do), they are just stating their preference, are just saying “I don't like it.”

 

• Also, I am arguing against Eternal Misery, and for “either Universal Reconciliation or Final Annihilation.”  If the final result of Hell for unsaved people will be non-existence (after Annihilation) instead of Eternal Joy (after Reconciliation), a claim that “I don't like it” is more likely and is more justifiable.  Although I'm hoping for Universal Reconciliation and would like to declare that “yes, this will happen,” I'm only optimistic (not confident) that it might happen.  I think the Bible is ambiguous when we ask “will the final result be Reconciliation or Annihilation?”, although I'm biblically confident that the final result won't be Misery that continues forever.  I'm frustrated by the ambiguity — re: the biblical evidence (and its logical evaluation) when we compare Reconciliation versus Annihilation — but I want to be honest about the ambiguity because...

 

• When we're describing Hell, every Christian has the responsibilities of trying to...   accurately describe what the Bible teaches, so they can   avoid an inaccurate description of God's character (but I think this happens when someone says “God will cause Eternal Misery”), and   avoid giving false hope (by claiming “UR will happen” if UR won't happen in the actual Afterlife-reality for an unsaved person), and also   avoid causing false fear (by claiming “EM will happen” if EM won't happen);*   each "avoid" is important, but (due to biblical ambiguity) it's difficult to be confident that we're doing both.     {claiming “FA will happen” could cause false hope if EM will happen,  or cause false fear if UR will happen.}   {what would be worse, FA or EM?}

 

• I.O.U. -- Later, this section will explain why I think Christians should be kind to each other (in the two ways explained below)* when we're disagreeing about What Will Happen In Hell.  Why?  The basic reasons are summarized in this table of motivations-and-logic:

 Here is the process 
 of logical thinking
 for each person:
 I think EM
 will happen,
and
 I love God, 
so BECAUSE I think
God will cause EM,
 I should defend the morality of the EM caused by God 
 in my effort to lovingly defend the character of God
 I think EM
 won't happen, 
and
 I love God, 
so BECAUSE I think
 God won't cause EM, 
 I should show why the biblical God is not an EM-causer 
in my effort to lovingly defend the character of God.

These ideas are explained with more detail here.

* My section-intro will describe two kinds of loving tolerance between Christians, when we are  1) being loving for defenders of EM, who should not be treated in the way we might treat a parent who defends a soccer coach accused of molesting the children he is coaching, by saying “I guess he did these horrible things, but it's ok because ____”, and   2) being loving for critics of EM, who are analogous to parents opposing child molestation, but defending the coach, by saying “IF he did this it would be horrible, but I don't think he did it because ____ .”   /   I will set up the analogy between two kinds of horrible actions — causing Eternal Misery, and molesting children — (I think one of these is much worse than the other)* and then will show the parallels between actions of EM-defenders & EM-critics and parents who defend & criticize the coach's ethics.  But... this "coaching" analogy doesn't fit perfectly, because it's easy to defend EM-critics (analogous to molestation-critics?), but is tough (impossible?) to defend EM-defenders (analogous to molestation-defenders?).  Therefore, I'll have to think about this analogy more carefully.   /   Also, an "effort to lovingly defend" uses two very different strategies:  those who "think EM will happen" try to defend the morality of God if (as they think will happen) He will cause EM;  those (like me) who "think EM won't happen" try to show why — based on what's in the Bible — EM won't happen, and also explain why we think EM-defenders are saying bad things about the character of God — because we love God so we want to explain why “no, He isn't like that, He won't do these horribly hateful actions” — when He is being falsely accused (we think) of wanting to cause EM.

* What is the worst action, A or B or C, if a dictator makes a prisoner suffer for awhile, and then...  A) releases them to freedom? or  B) kills them? or  C) continues making the person suffer for the rest of their very long life, doing everything possible to keep them alive so they will continue to suffer?   If you think C is worst, and if you think God will cause Eternal Misery and you defend this action, are you forced to use the logical principle that “anything done by God would be good, by definition, because He is God”?     {more about these ideas}

 

 

 

 

MORE STORIES

Earlier I say

Maybe I will share more stories to show how horrible claims that "God will cause Eternal Misery" seem, and how this claim doesn't accurately describe the actual character of God, as He has revealed Himself to us in the Bible.

Below are some stories, based on history (e.g. Roads to Moscow) or analogies.

 

Thinking about a Song — Roads to Moscow

The Ethics of Afterlife:  In late 2014, listening to one of my favorite songs (Roads to Moscow, by Al Stewart) encouraged me to think more deeply about the ethics of Eternal Misery, compared with Final Annihilation or Universal Reconciliation, when we ask What Will Jesus Do?   I was thinking about WWJD versus WDSD, by comparing temporary punishing (by Stalin) with permanent punishing (by Jesus if He will cause Eternal Misery) and with the alternatives to permanent Eternal Misery.     {probably you already have figured it out, WDSD vs WWJD = What Did Stalin Do vs What Will Jesus Do}

The Character of God:  The Ethics of God and The Character of God are closely related, as explained in "Comparing Ethics" below.  But first you can listen to the song if you want, listening carefully so you can understand what's happening in the story.

 

spoiler alert for the paragraphs below — If you want to want to EXPERIENCE the song before reading what's below, listen to it one time (or more), maybe the first time without looking at the youtube-graphics so you can more vividly imagine what is happening and what the person is feeling.   {and you can buy the mp3, as I have}

The Story:  Roads to Moscow tells the story of a soldier during and after World War 2.  Late in the song, from 5:00 to the end at 8:03, finally the war is being won;  then the loyal soldier is on a train heading homeward, feeling relief (that his country won and he is alive) with joy (because he is going home, and soon it will be springtime), thinking about feeling safe, finding a wife, having a family, earning a living, being happy.  In the music & lyrics, we can feel his relief and joy.  But... at the border of his own country he is questioned about a minor event during the war, and because of it he is put on another train going to a different destination:

        It’s cold and damp in the transit camp, and the air is still and sullen,

        And the pale sun of October whispers the snow will soon be coming,

        And I wonder when I’ll be home again and the morning answers “Never”

        And the evening sighs, and the steely Russian skies go on forever.

 

Comparing Ethics – WDSD versus WWJD

comparing ethics:  I've listened to this song many times.  The history is accurate, and most of us think Stalin (who decided, by the policy he chose, what would happen to the soldier) was a moral monster because he wanted some of his people to live part of their finite life-time in Siberia with moderately miserable conditions.  But will God, with the policies He chooses, treat most of the people He created in a much worse way?  Imagine the feelings of a person who, if Eternal Misery is a reality,* discovers they have been sentenced to a never-ending infinite afterlife-time in Hell with extremely miserable conditions.  Does that make you want to cry?  When I compare these two situations, and think about analogy, it's difficult to avoid wondering if God (who will decide what happens in Hell) will be a Moral Monster who doesn't have sufficient love and justice, will do things that are much worse than WhatStalinDid, IF...     Or can we praise God for what He will do to unbelievers in The Lake of Fire?

Comparing Fates:  Stalin sentenced this soldier to a few decades in Siberia with moderate misery.  IF God will cause Eternal Misery (but I don't think He will, I think this "if" will not happen), He would sentence billions of unsaved people to zillions of years in Hell with extreme misery, followed by many more centuries of misery, followed by... much more misery, with eternal conscious torment that will never end.

* But I'm confident that the Bible does not teach a doctrine of Eternal Misery.  Instead we see a different fate for unsaved people — who ultimately will have relief (FA) or even joy (UR) — that is decided by a God who has abundant love and justice.     {the importance of thinking IF-Then, BECAUSE}

 

Comparing Responses:  I've had very different responses when thinking about WhatDidStalinDo and WhatWillJesusDo.

The first time I heard Roads to Moscow, I cried.  What was done by Stalin was very sad, and profoundly unfair.  In the song, in a story based on history, the young soldier — loyal to his country, giving it four of his best years, with much good luck (letting him survive the war) and a little bit of bad luck (when he was captured for one day before rejoining the army of his own country) — would be sent to Siberia for the rest of his life.

But earlier in life I never cried when I thought about the much worse fate of Eternal Misery.  Before 1987 (when I began studying EM-vs-FA more carefully), apparently I was not really “believing” Jesus would inflict Eternal Misery on most of the people He created.  Why?  Although I had not been thinking carefully about this important question, I was assuming the truth of EM, but... did I really believe EM?  No.  I truly believed that Stalin had done the horrible things in Roads, and I had empathy for the soldier, with deep sorrow.  But before 1987, I didn't truly believe (in the deepest parts of my heart & mind) that God (who is not "safe" but is good) would do the horrible things claimed by defenders of Eternal Misery.  It was something I “just didn't think about” in my mind, or “just didn't feel” in my heart.

 

WDHD versus WWJD:

Or consider Hitler, a common example of a person who (according to critics of Universal Reconciliation) was so evil that God would refuse to save him.  (so is the claim that due to the contrast between Hitler and people-like-us who are much less sinful & evil, Hitler should never be saved, but God should consider us worthy to be saved?)

In a brief summary, the two worst things done by Hitler were:  he plunged part of the world into a huge war that killed 80 million people;   and in the Holocaust, his Nazis made millions of people miserable for awhile (a few days or years) and then killed them.

a comparison:  The finite sufferings of millions during a temporary war are small, compared with the infinite sufferings of billions that would occur IF God causes Eternal Misery for everyone who is not following Him on the narrow road.  The miseries of Holocaust for millions (caused by Hitler) are mild compared with Eternal Misery for billions (caused by God) IF God will cause Eternal Misery.   {but there are two main kinds of strong Bible-based reasons to think this will not happen}   And according to traditional Christian theology, the same people who were hated most by Hitler — the Jewish persons who were abused and killed by him, along with many millions in previous generations who were devout followers of Judaism — are destined for Eternal Misery, because they have rejected Jesus as their Savior.  So... will God condemn most of His Chosen People (i.e. all of the Jews who have not accepted Jesus as their Messiah?) to a never-ending Hell where they will have Eternal Misery?

 

 

I.O.U. - The rest of this section is rough-and-incomplete.  It will be "more" about the basic idea summarized above, with Stories & Principles, as you can see in this rough outine:

 

MORE STORIES – both analogy-based and history-based — to illustrate some ethical problems (leading us to think “maybe this is not an accurate description of divine character”) if God will cause Eternal Misery for most of the people He has created.

 

• author Brad Jersak asks us to imagine:

    a Jewish girl who was killed in Nazi concentration camp, so her last memories of Life are gas coming in (with shared terror among all victims who were with her), then her first memories in Afterlife are "welcome to Hell, where you will suffer with no releif and no hope for the rest of eternity," or (with Final Annihilation) "you will die again, but this time it's God, not Nazis, who will kill you."
    and a teenage girl, 14 years old, who hears about Jesus at summer camp and says to herself "I'm almost ready to say YES but not today, so I'll think about it and maybe will decide tomorrow," but is killed on her way home;  in an extra twist, much later the man who raped-and-murdered her sincerely repents on his deathbed and is welcomed into heaven.  Is this fair? (for her, and for him?)  If not, how could it be "made more fair" in afterlife?
 

• and from Jeremy Moritz who rejects Eternal Misery and accepts Final Annihilation:

    Another important fact to consider is that the typical doctrine of Hell cannot help but completely alter the motivation of new converts.  Preachers ask people to come to Jesus and accept His loving gift of salvation, but what is really going through the mind of a sinner when they walk down the aisle after learning about Hell?  While the message of Heaven is appealing, so much greater is the fear of spending eternity in a fiery pit.  Regardless of how extraordinary it may be, the goodness of Heaven can never compare in magnitude with the ruthlessness of Hell. 
    So, if someone truly believes in the two fates, they may correctly decide to come to Jesus, but what is their heart's motivation?  Is it out of love for their Savior or out of fear of Hell? For most, it would clearly be the latter and rightfully so.  Therefore, the choice they are making feels less like a choice and more like coercion.  It is as if someone points a gun to your head and tells you that you must go somewhere or else be shot.  You may choose to go, but it surely does not feel much like free will. 
    Allow me to make yet another analogy (I like analogies; what can I say?).  Suppose for a moment that a wonderful man — Mr. Right, if you will — offers a marriage proposal to the woman he loves.  "Marry me," he says, "and I will give you a life like you've never dreamed of before.  You will be loved with the greatest commitment and passion that any woman has ever known.  I will give you the finest house with all of the wonderful things you've ever wanted, and you will be happy for the rest of your days!"
    Now suppose the woman is very flattered by the proposal, but is uncertain about whether or not she is ready for such a commitment.  Asking for a few more days to think it over, Mr. Right answers, "You are welcome to take more time, but it's only fair that I warn you what will happen if you decline my generous offer.  Your only option, other than spending paradise with me, is to be thrown into my underground dungeon, have your eyes gouged from their sockets, and be subjected to unimaginable pain every hour, on the hour, for the rest of your long, miserable life. "
    What do you suppose would be going through the young woman's mind at a time like this? I imagine that would change the way she feels about the man considerably.  She might have previously accepted Mr. Right's proposal because of her love for him, but is there much chance of that now?  Surely not.  If she takes him seriously, she'll undoubtedly marry him, but not as much for love as out of genuine terror at the alternative. 
    Is this God's way of doing things?  Does God want His people to turn to Him out of fear that they will be tortured otherwise?  Where is the love in that?  If everyone really believed in this doctrine, wouldn't that properly tarnish their concept of the Savior? I would imagine some might even have a hard time calling Him "Savior" at all.  How merciful can it be to create a never-ending torture pit for everyone and then save only a few from it?
    I should address a small issue at this time.  There is a tendency in the Christian church to absolve God of any responsibility for Hell.  After all, He isn't the one torturing people, right?  To these arguments, I must remind readers that regardless of who physically inflicts the pain, if God designed this system, He must accept a great deal of responsibility [I would say ALL responsibility] for it.  God is of course the final authority on anybody's destiny and can destroy lost souls or keep them alive at will.  If He chooses to keep billions of people alive in unending punishment for their wrongs, we mustn't speak as if there is nothing He can do to change things.
{and Moritz says much more about the character of God if He will (or won't) cause Eternal Misery}
 

• and I've read (or heard) other stories in books & web-pages.

 


 

SOME PRINCIPLES based on biblical teachings, re: The Character of God (will He achieve Justice-with-Love?)

[ i.o.u. - Later these ideas will be either omitted-from-here, or revised so they will fit-better-here. ]

[[ Overall Existence, with Experiences-plus-Changes:  We should hope for an eventual result that leads every person to say "this was fair" in life-plus-afterlife, and "thank you for creating me, and for all of my experiences." ]]

[[ Moral Luck:  if God uses a purgatory Afterlife-Hell, I think He will consider the Moral Luck of individuals in Life (re: their abilities, life-situations, and life-opportunities) so He can customize their experiences;  this seems consistent with biblical descriptions, by Jesus, of servants who knew a lot (and therefore are beaten with many stripes) and those who didn't know much;  during education in hell God could give special consideration to those with bad moral luck, to "even it out" and as part of the "differing degrees of sorrow" during a painful purging;  I'm speculatively imagining, in this way, how God could "give grace" to those who were unlucky in their life-situations and in their probability of saying YES to God in Life]]  [[iou - I will connect this with binary special situations re: moral luck and other kinds of luck]]   [[ here, I will describe Rawls "veil of ignorance" and empathy-plus-compassion, when we're making decisions about policies for society ]]

[[ also, consider questions about some actions of God in the Old Testament:  justice in life-plus-afterlife could help explain "why" for many questions, by many people, about the Bible -- e.g. the mass killings commanded by God in OT -- many people, in their ethics-based human responses, don't think some of God's actions seem morally justifiable, and think some actions are not consistent with the character of a loving God, IF we consider only Life;  but IF we consider Life-plus-Afterlife, with a General Resurrection (described in John 5:28-29 & elsewhere) of everyone who ever lived, THEN the OT killings were temporary, to be un-done with the General Resurrection of All, when our questions about WWJD (=WWFD=WWHD = WWGD) becomes "then what? will their ultimate fate be everlasting misery (MUCH worse than just killing them during Life, makes questions about "morally justifiable?" MUCH more difficult), or everlasting non-existence (neutral overall change from nothing in initial BeforeLife to nothing in final AfterLife), or everlasting joy? (with a good answer for God's actions being "morally justifiable". ]]