Annihilation (Part 3)

This is the eighth in a 13-part series wherein I give you Hell, a little booklet by the inimitable Dr. Jeff Obadiah Simmonds.

The image of God as a destroyer is hardly a popular one today. Personally, I think it is a much more Biblical idea than the image of God as one who tortures His enemies in hell for ever and ever. This makes God into an evil tyrant. Amnesty International does a tremendous job in opposing the use of torture in the world today. (They deserve our support for doing so.) But the torture of some African dictator or Middle East extremists would be nothing compared to the horror of a mass torture of billions of souls in hell, which lasts not for days or weeks, but for trillions of years and on into eternity. This view of God is, I believe, completely unbiblical. There is not a single instance where God commanded torture. Such forms of punishment are always evil and satanic. Crucifixion—one of the most ingenious torture devices—was the invention of the Romans, not a punishment devised by God. Christ endured the cross, but his suffering lasts for a few hours. The fires of hell would be greater torture still, and would last forever! God would not permit or tolerate the existence of such a place, since God always came to the rescue of the oppressed and the suffering.

We must be clear that we are not saying that God would never send anyone to hell because He is a God of love and will forgive everyone. This is simply not true, for God will judge those guilty of injustice or evil by destroying them. But, given that God’s judgement comes upon such nations for the suffering they inflicted on others, God is hardly likely to inflict such suffering Himself.

The doctrine of hell is often based on the idea of God’s justice. This is understood to mean that because God is just He must punish sin. However, “justice” really means to act with righteousness. When we talk about social justice we think of concern for the poor, the widows and orphans. Specifically to do justice is to side with the oppressed and the victims and to alleviate suffering and remove oppression.

This, indeed, is central to the Biblical doctrine of the justice of God. While God does indeed punish sin, God’s justice does not cause him to inflict suffering but to alleviate it. God is concerned with justice—that those who cause suffering and affliction are opposed and overthrown.

It would therefore be contrary to God’s character to become One who causes affliction and suffering. Yet the usual view of hell is a place of eternal torment. However, just as God sided with the Hebrews who were suffering in Egypt, and as He sided with the outcasts in first century Jewish society, so too the character of God would demand that He side with those who suffered in hell, if indeed it was a place of endless torment and suffering.

One evangelical writer says:

Everlasting torment is intolerable from a moral point of view because it makes God into a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for victims whom he does not even allow to die. (Pinnock [1990] 253) How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness whose ways include inflicting everlasting torture upon his creatures, however sinful they may have been? Surely a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God, at least by any ordinary moral standards, and by the gospel itself. (Pinnock [1990] 246-47)

4 thoughts on “Annihilation (Part 3)”

  1. I address this very issue in my book, and I come to similar conclusions. The upshot is that eternal punishment would seem to amount to [A & ~A] (IOW, a violation of the law of identity), because evil’s (‘evil’ understood as ‘falsehood’) coexistence with a Universal God makes sense only if it is a catalyst which is dissipated.

    I AM ‘A’

    I AM NOT ‘~A’

    I AM ‘~~A’

    Evil is the catalyst of process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *