Friday, June 16

Does the fact that you're going to Hell concern you?

So I followed a link yesterday, that took me to an evangelical Christian site. The title of this post is taken from that site. Sometimes I enjoy reading things like that, it gives me stuff to think about, and this website delivered. There was a page about witnessing to Mormons which encouraged missionaries to learn the Mormon vernacular. at one point the author suggested telling Mormons that they are going to "outer darkness" because that is the closest approximation to Hell that we have. It went on to say that most Mormons will find that idea disconcerting because they believe that nearly everyone will live in one of Heaven's three kingdoms. More specifically, we believe that the only people in Outer Darkness will be people that have knowingly chosen it, and that what makes it miserable is the misery the people there make for themselves.

The author was right, I did find the idea of me going to Hell disconcerting, but for reasons they probably didn't expect. Consider this: Hell is a place where people who have committed even the smallest of sins are sent, by God, even if they didn't know that what they were doing is a sin. Furthermore God, the being responsible for bringing these people into existence, created the world and mankind so that by our very natures every single one of us cannot help but sin and will be sent to Hell unless we have the rare benefit of learning about Christ during our mortal lives. The earthly practice that most closely approximates willfully creating beings that are doomed to suffer? Having babies just to torture them to death.

My worldview allows for a God that is just, and will not tolerate sin, but one that is also merciful and isn't bound to send more than half of His children to eternal suffering.

Let's consider eternal suffering for a moment. Try this, draw a line on a piece of paper. Now, I hate to break it to you, but the line you drew isn't a real line. It's a limited approximation of a line, or a "line segment." A real line goes on for forever. Think about that for a moment. Not just to the edge of the paper, not just beyond the desk. A real line goes on beyond your house, your backyard, city, state, country planet, solar system and beyond. It goes on for forever. Now draw another pathetic attempt at representing a line parallel to the first one. Now I ask, how much area is between your two pathetic lines? A few square centimeters, right? Imagine, if you will, the two real lines, the ones that go on for forever, and ask how much area is between those two lines? The amount of area between those to lines is infinite. What if the lines started on left, but still went on forever to the right? The area between them is still infinite.

Alright, Lets say that the distance between the two lines is the limited, finite you. The left end points are the moment you came into existence. Let's now say that the area between the lines are representative of your suffering were you to be sent to Hell for eternity. "Wait a minute!" you say, "doesn't that means that my suffering would be infinite?" Let's say then that the sin you committed that got you sent to Hell was that you were born and your parents failed to baptise you before you died shortly after birth. Or even that your sin was stealing money from orphans.

"But," you say (and I do wish you would stop interrupting) "God *is* merciful. Christ suffered for our sins, and all we have to do is claim Him as our Savior, and we'll be saved." What of the millions of people who lived without ever hearing of Christ? They did not willfully reject Him. They had no chance to save themselves. Did God keep that chance from them on purpose?

Do these finite temporal sins and failings *really* require eternal, infinite suffering to satisfy justice? Does the fact that you believe in a God who is cruel and heartless concern you? It should.

5 comments:

Rich said...

Great post SF (and here I've been thinking that all we are is dust in the wind!). Reminds me of the classic description for this site by the folks at Something Awful:

"To call it a simmering soup of madness would be to misjudge the density of soup. This site is a towering pyramid of madness bullion cubes."

Starfoxy said...

Wait, I just re-read your comment. Are you trying to tell me that the first site you linked was real? As in, "I'm going to make a website and convert people to my church!" instead of "I'm going to make a site to poke fun at exuberant witnessers that is so outlandish that it's kinda funny."
Madness bullion is right. Yikes.

Mike said...

I love Doctrine and Covenants 19

Starfoxy said...

Mike, I also love D&C 19. Looking carefully, and using the footnotes I can see that the scripture I'm sure you are thinking of ("6 Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment.") I finds that this endless torment is reserved for those who commit infinite sins, which people are described in detail in D&C 76
I'm not discounting that there is such a thing as eternal infinite suffering, but I am discounting the idea that every sin merits this infinite suffering.

Mike said...

I actually do discount the idea that any sin will be punished with a punishment that is infinite in duration. I do not believe that anyone will receive a punishment of this nature that continues forever. Some will receive the punishment and be cast off into outer darkness to endure an entirely different type of punishment, but most will then inherit a kingdom of glory.

All who sin and do not repent will be punished according to their sins. (v. 4-5) In fact, all who do not repent will suffer this eternal or endless torment described. They will receive the same punishment that Christ endured. A suffering so infinite in nature that Christ said of it: that it "caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might bnot drink the bitter cup, and shrink— Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and afinished my preparations unto the children of men." (v.18-19)

The verses that really stand out to me in combination with verse 6 are verses 10-12.
Endless punishment or eternal punishment is the punishment administered by he who holds those names.
Section 19 makes it clear that the finite duration of the punishment does not in fact prevent the punishment from being horrible. I think that we can even view that punishment as endless in scope and depth of pain. Just as Christ's atonement was an infinite atonement without being infinite in duration, so also is our suffering if we do not repent and embrace that atonement.

And, just as eternal punishment is God's punishment; eternal life is God's life.

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