Answering “Questions Christians Can’t Answer” #15 Hell?

The 2009 article, titled “Top 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer” rattles off, well, 50 questions intended to stump any and all Christians. This said, the article somewhat restricts itself to a narrow view of theology that is by no means embraced by many – if not most – sects of Christianity. This article series is intended to answer these questions one at a time. Today’s question falls under the category of generalizing a very specific teaching that is not part of the broader theological picture.

Pucket, the author, phrases his questions in a rather pert and sarcastic tone. These answers will attempt to remain as courteous as possible in answering the objection. These answers are not necessarily intended to convince the skeptic so much as to show that, internally, Christianity is consistent such that these questions are no real threat to the system itself.

 

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15 – What purpose does hell serve? If it is punishment for sinful actions, shouldn’t it be used for correctional purposes? Seeing as though you burn forever, you will never get out of hell to show that you have learned your lesson.  Would it make sense to live a faithful Christian life glorifying the Lord and to accidentally sin by saying a curse word the instant you smash your car into the back of a tractor-trailer, thereby being condemned to burn in hell forever? 

As pointed out in the answer to question 9 – which asks why God cannot forgive sins after a person dies if the person – a Christian – forgets to repent of some sin before they die – when one accepts the salvation offered through Christ’s sacrifice, the forgiveness one receives is permanent and is not revoked by the occasional sin or backslide a Christian might do. At least, this is the perspective embraced by most sects of Christianity, and seems consistent with the teachings of the Bible. Consider the following:

John 6:37 ESV

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”

John 5:24 ESV

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

Romans 11:29 ESV

“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Romans 8:34 ESV

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

Ephesians 1:13 ESV

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”

Hebrews 10:14 ESV

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

Psalm 34:22 ESV

“The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”

In fact, this entire question misunderstands the nature of Christian faith. It is not a system of karmic punishment or reward. It is not a matter of working to “be a better person.” Hell is not there to “teach a lesson” or to reform a person. This is not a matter of human behavior, but rather of God’s nature. God is perfect in nature, and he cannot abide anything less than perfection. God has provided a way for humans to be perfected even though they are not, themselves, perfect. People who accept the redemption offered through Christ may freely abide in God’s presence without consequence or fear. Those who try to make it on their own merits, or who reject God altogether cannot stand in God’s presence and must be cast out forever.

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