Hell, Free Will, and the Importance of Options

I was reading an article on the CARM website by Matt Slick:

Does God hate anyone? | Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.

I was prompted to read this article due to a conversation I had recently with a fellow blogger, and a podcast I listened to consisting of a debate between Dr. William Lane Craig and Shabir Ally. All of these topics really came down to the following four questions in my mind:

  • Does God hate anyone?
  • Do people get sent to hell?
  • How important is free will?
  • What are we gonna do about it?!?

I believe the article by Matt Slick presents come compelling evidence that God does “hate”. I would, however, add that hate from God falls into the righteous anger bucket, while human hate falls into the unforgiving sinner bucket. So what does God due to those He has righteous anger toward? He disciplines them, of course. This concept is explained well in Hebrews 12:5-11:

 5And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

#“My son, #do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him.

6For #the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7It is for discipline that you have to endure. #God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8If you are left without discipline, #in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to #the Father of spirits #and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, #that we may share his holiness. 11#For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields #the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

So, is part of that discipline sending those individuals to hell? I do not believe so. After all, going to hell is optional. God provides us with the knowledge and tools to understand Him, and follow His will. Furthermore, He provides us with free will to make the choice to use that knowledge and those tools in a way that is pleasing to Him. If we choose to turn away from that which God has provided we are, in a very real sense, choosing hell. Certainly we do not have a situation here where an individual has done everything he or she could do to have a relationship with God, but God decided to “send” him or her to hell. Folks are just opting in!

Let us not forget that one of the most arguably amazing attributes of God is grace. So why does God let people make choices that result in an eternity in Hell? I would answer that by asking the question: how important is free will? I contend that free will is extremely important. Without free will what is the point? We cannot love God or anyone else without free will. None of the “choices” we make in life would have any meaning because we would have no choices to make – no free will. Should God step in where He sees fit, and interject to ensure that hell remains having plenty of vacancies? I would argue that free will is an all or nothing proposition. 
OK, so we have free will, and can make choices that keep us out of the whole weeping a gnashing of teeth scenario, but let us look at this from a different angle. My worldview includes an omniscient God. If God knows all than God knows which people will not accept Him, and will ultimately end up in Hell. Is this really fair? In fewer than 500 words… yes. Let us not forget that God calls us to be witnesses.Matthew 28:19-20 reads:

 19#Go therefore and #make disciples of #all nations, #baptizing them #in# #the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them #to observe all that #I have commanded you. And behold, #I am with you always, to #the end of the age.”

So, if we – Christians – would be work harder at what we are called by God to do perhaps fewer people would be born with the inevitable life conclusion resulting in an eternity in hell.

Let us not blame God for “sending” people to hell. Let’s smash the walls off of our comfort zone, and go do something about it. After all, we could be one conversation away from keeping hell at least one soul lighter.