Cultural Café, or “I feel special :)”

1 11 2008

This Tuesday at Vintage was a special event called “Cultural Café.” People who came to this event were allowed to text a question to a certain number and during the service the pastor would try to answer the questions as best as he could. As luck would have it, with over 1,000 people at the event, my question got asked/answered first. Yay me.

That question was this (yes, I realize the second statement isn’t actually a sentence, it’s a freaking text, for goodness’ sake):

“Is God all-powerful, or is He all-loving? Because if anyone goes to Hell for eternity, He cannot be both.”

The response, in summation, was basically that an eternal Hell may look cruel to our limited human minds, but God has a different sense of justice than we do, so He is justified in allowing people to go there. This Bible verse, Isaiah 55:8, was referenced: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.” The pastor said that every act of God is loving, even allowing people to go to Hell. Such an act would be loving, he said, because God would be giving them what they’ve always truly desired- separation from Him for eternity- and that it would be His last loving act to them. Therefore, according to the pastor, God is loving in sending people to Hell.

First of all, I have nothing personally against this pastor. It seems that a lot of Christians, including him, are reasonable about just about anything except when it comes to the doctrine of an eternal Hell. Why that is, God only knows.

I personally find the argument that God is loving in allowing anyone to suffer for eternity to be absolutely absurd. It goes against every moral fiber of our being, and yet Christians find the need to defend it with all their being (of course, they don’t talk about it too much, though, because that would be “legalistic”).

If God created us, then He is our Father. What father would grant their child the desire to be separated from them FOREVER and tortured FOREVER. If a child asked its mother or father to play in traffic or play with the pretty carving knife, we would accuse any parent that allowed them to do so as being completely incapable of raising children and of being a disgusting human being. How much sicker would it be for God to allow His children (who are, comparable to Him, nothing more than completely ignorant children) to be separated from Him for eternity with no hope of ever being restored to Him?

Why would God’s sense of justice, love, mercy, etc. be any different from ours? If His thoughts are really that different from ours, then we have absolutely NO reason to believe that He won’t someday change His mind about Christians and cast them off as well. If it’s okay for God to be unforgiving forever, then why wouldn’t it be okay for Him to change His mind whenever He wants? What hope do Christians have if they can’t trust God to always remain the same?

As for justice, why do we as Christians believe that justice=eternaldeathpunishmentHell? The Bible is very clear that judgment and justice only work through mercy. A few examples:

Isaiah 1:17- Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Seek judgment? Does that mean seek punishment for your enemies and their eternal torture? Obviously not, for we are told to “judge” the fatherless as well, and this means to seek their good.

Zechariah 7:9- Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:

True judgment? True judgment is to “shew mercy and compassions,” not torture them for wrongdoing.

Isaiah 30:18-And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.

Hmm… the LORD is a God of judgment. That means panic because He’s a wild maniac waiting to torture you, right? Wrong. God will have mercy upon you BECAUSE He is a God of judgment.

You get the point, right? Now, let’s go back to Isaiah 55:8, but let’s read it in context this time…

Isaiah 55:6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God’s ways are higher than our ways. He is more merciful, more loving, more forgiving than we are, not less. These qualities are not in an entirely different nature from the way that we understand them, they are simply infinitely more abundant.

God loves us more than we could possibly realize, and He does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked.

I might add more to this later, but that’s enough for now.