Upon watching a forceful, honest, passionate display of emotion and straight-talking Bible teaching from pastor Mark Driscoll as he was answering a question on hell (56:50), I accidentally glanced at the comments section on Youtube, where I was watching it, and saw a familiar objection that went something like this:
“I could never believe in a God who is angry at us and/or sends people to hell for their sins.”
The comment was stated more forcefully and more passionately than my bare bones version above and added a current population figure. Mark was discussing his view based on the Bible, a Christian view about a Christian teaching. If Christianity isn’t true, the question would have no force at all because the Christian view then wouldn’t matter. But what was the commenter’s response based on? Was it based on the teachings of Jesus for a question about the teachings of Jesus? Based on principles of justice or mercy? Was it even based on a search for truth about the way reality is? None as far as I could tell, but simply based on what the commenter would not like to believe. For what does one’s preferences in the matter have to do with how reality is? He didn’t even consider all the people in history, just the population of today. Without saying it directly, he’s describing God as being unfair, but without offering up why any of us should think that his unoffered standard is better than God’s.
In answering this objection, I think my friend said it well: “I find it interesting how people can seemingly decide what kind of God they can believe in. It’s not like God can be determined by our beliefs.”
But perhaps this overlooks another side of the skeptic’s objection. Perhaps they “could never believe” not because they have an intellectual problem with it but rather a genuine emotional reaction to hearing that their unsaved family members and friends who have died are now . . . It’s understandably and unspeakably tragic. Christians too have friends and family members who have died without taking hold of the pardon God has offered. We too have to face whether there’s good enough reason to believe that Jesus was who he said he was and whether we should believe he historically resurrected to prove it. I don’t like hell, but in light of his qualifications I also believe Jesus really knew what he was talking about—which is why he went through the crucifixion to get me out of it or else I too would die in my sin and rebellion against God.
I’ll leave you with these last thoughts. Heaven is not a right that God owes anyone or else it wouldn’t be amazing grace to being with. What if instead he chooses to show his righteousness by punishing evil rather than forgiving it?
“But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world?”
(Romans 3:5-6 ESV)