How to Talk to Your Kids About Hell

By Natasha Crain

The other day, I received the following comment on an old blog post about hell:

 

The belief in hell is sown into the hearts of many children which this blog advocates and this belief can reap major consequences. Children grow into adults. Millions of adults are on the edge of a belief in [G]od [and] needlessly suffer with the shadow of hell.  They live [in] fear…What a waste…a tragedy. 

Hell is one of the bedrocks of the Christian faith. I absolutely reject Christ.  I work and pay taxes. I am charitable. I am [a] good father and husband. I am kind, forgiving. I like looking at the stars. Yet, without a doubt under the rules of Christianity I am doomed to be tortured for millions…billions of years. In fact, trillion[s of] years of endless agonizing pain wrap[ped] around for trillions of more years.  What is my misstep?  I reasoned that earth was old and books suggesting otherwise unfounded.

 

There are a lot of misunderstandings about Christianity and hell embedded in this comment—and those misunderstandings are quite common. Because there are so many wrong ideas about hell floating around, we as Christian parents must proactively ensure that our kids gain an accurate understanding of this difficult topic. When young people lack that understanding, they’re often quick to dismiss hell based on simple “gut reaction.” But hell is too serious a topic to leave to the discretion of our kids’ feelings. We need to guide their understanding from a biblical perspective.

In chapter 4 of my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith, I explain that people often unknowingly roll three layers of questions into one big objection about hell. We can help our kids understand hell much more meaningfully when we address those questions individually and sequentially:

 

1. Why does God need to punish anyone?

2. Who should be punished?

3. What should the nature of punishment be?

 

Like many people, the commenter above implicitly has objections to hell from each of these categories. In this post, we’ll look at answers to the questions using his concerns. For anonymity, we’ll call him Mr. C.

 

Why Does God Need to Punish Anyone?

When Mr. C says, “Millions of adults are on the edge of a belief in God and needlessly suffer with the shadow of hell,” he is assuming that Christianity isn’t true. If Christianity is true, then people should be warned about the reality of hell and have an appropriate level of concern about it. But Mr. C seems to believe that the whole idea of hell can’t possibly make sense.

A major reason he can’t make sense of hell, however, is because he misunderstands why God would need to punish someone. He believes that, in his case, it would be because he “reasoned the earth was old and books suggesting otherwise [are] unfounded.”

Rejecting the Bible is not why God punishes people. (And, as an aside, plenty of Christians believe the Earth is old.)

God punishes people because of sin.

It’s critical that our kids understand this! As I explained in chapter 4:

“The reality and seriousness of sin is ignored when we suggest there’s no need for God to punish people. To see why that’s such a problem, we need to better understand what sin is. The Bible tells us that God is perfectly good, and that He has written His moral laws on the human heart (Psalm 18:30; 1 John 1:5; Romans 2:14-15). Sin is a transgression against those laws. If God didn’t exist, there would be no sin, because there would be no moral laws to sin against. But if a perfectly good God exists, and humans violate His moral laws, we have to ask, What should God do about it? We expect a penalty for breaking human laws, so why wouldn’t we expect a penalty for breaking divine laws?”

Furthermore, God is both perfectly loving and perfectly just (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 9:7-8; Psalm 33:5; Isaiah 61:8). Justness is the quality of fairly conferring deserved rewards and punishments against a standard of right and wrong. God’s justness and lovingness go hand-in-hand. Just as an earthly judge wouldn’t be loving for setting free those who break human laws, God as a heavenly judge wouldn’t be loving for setting free those who break divine laws.

If sin is real, and God is just, there must be some kind of penalty for that sin.

 

Who Should Be Punished?

If we’re honest, most of us can get our heads around this idea of necessary punishment—for really bad people. But garden-variety sinners? People who lie, lose their temper, and live more selfishly than they should? We think these people deserve something more like an extended time-out, not hell. In other words, it’s not that we don’t think God should punish people, but that we don’t think He should punish people like us.

Mr. C certainly feels this way, as he listed his qualifications for escaping God’s judgment: “I work and pay taxes. I am charitable. I am [a] good father and husband. I am kind, forgiving. I like looking at the stars.”

Interestingly, many murderers could even fit this description (yes, even a murderer can have moments of kindness and forgiveness—where do you draw the line?). But pretty much everyone agrees murderers deserve punishment (see point 1). So it’s clear we have to take a more objective look at who should be punished.

Romans 3:23 answers that question: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

All.

Not one human is morally worthy of being in God’s presence. Romans 6:23 goes on to say that God has set the penalty for sin as death—which, as the law giver, He has the right to do. The combined picture of these verses is really quite simple, even if we don’t like it: Every single person is guilty of breaking God’s moral laws and He has set the penalty as death.

That’s true even if you like looking at the stars like Mr. C.

 

What Should the Nature of Punishment Be?

If hell only involved 100 years in jail, we’d spend a lot less time talking about it. But the traditional view that hell is an eternity spent suffering in flames? That’s where many people draw their line of “reasonableness.” In fact, most people have never thought through the logic of the first two questions in this post (why God would need to punish anyone and who should be punished) because they jump straight to the assumed nature of punishment. Those first two questions, however, are critical to understand before you can even consider the nature of hell.

The problem is, our human idea of what’s reasonable has no necessary bearing on what’s true. We simply do not have God’s perspective (Isaiah 55:8). We do know, however, that God is perfect, so His punishment is necessarily completely fair—even if we don’t have the full perspective to understand it. Because we can’t use our own idea of what’s reasonable to determine what’s true about hell, we have to look at what God has revealed about it in the Bible.

Jesus referred to hell as a terrible place to be avoided at all costs (Mark 9:48-49; Matthew 8:12; 10:28; 22:13; 13:42). The severity of hell is something all Christians agree on. There are different views, however, on what exactly the nature of hell is and how long it will last:

  • Those who hold the literal view believe hell is a place of actual fire where those who reject Jesus will spend eternity. This is what Mr. C referenced in his comment.
  • Those who hold the metaphorical view believe hell is an everlasting punishment of some kind, but not a literal fire. They say fire is a biblical symbol for judgment.
  • Those who hold the conditionalist view believe those who reject Jesus will cease to exist. They say the many biblical references to eternal punishment refer to the punishment’sfinality, not duration.

For more on the varied Christian views of hell, I recommend the book, Four Views on Hell.

 

The Often Overlooked Ending

Breaking our discussions about hell into these three component questions gives kids an important framework for understanding logical and biblical connections. But we can’t overlook the critically important ending to the story—God has made a way for people to avoid hell if we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as payment for our sins! That’s the crucial other half of the picture. (For help with the rest of this conversation, see chapter 20: Why did Jesus need to die on the cross for our sins?)

As author C.S. Lewis famously said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”

Visit Natasha’s Blog @ ChristianMomThoughts.com


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36 replies
  1. David says:

    I feel sorry for anyone that finds this explanation satisfying. If you hatch a plan that results in billions ending up in hell and a select few ending up in your heaven you blew it. And, I’m not judging god. I’m judging the “men” that thought up the bible.

    Reply
    • Justin says:

      David your response is unfortunately typical. It’s an assertion with no arguments. Like it or not, the article provides an argument that is logical. Consider that and write back your reasons it isn’t and I would be happy to read.

      Reply
      • Michael says:

        According to the propaganda your god is loving and just. Infinite punishment for finite sins is neither loving nor just. Also one of the purposes of punishment is to persuade the transgressor not to sin again but, if the transgressor is undergoing infinite punishment it’s difficult for them to sin. Lastly, many of the sins are quite arbitrary. For instance as an atheist I don’t believe in any gods, including your favorite deity. I have been repeatedly assured that this disbelief warrants infinite punishment.

        I agree with David. The concept of Hell was quite obviously thought up by men, i.e., priests, for the sole purpose of keeping the faithful in line. “Follow our commandments or else the bogeyman will punish you forever!”

        Reply
        • Louie says:

          Sorry Michael, you are not correct. Hell is not made up by priests, its existence is documented by people who were around Jesus. Jesus mentioned hell many times. I do not know what hell will entail, but I’ve never heard it spoken of in good terms. Frank mentions this many times on his TV program in a manner than makes sense. Hell is separation from God, if you do not want to be with Him here, then He will not force you to be with Him for eternity. That is called hell.

          Reply
          • KYle says:

            Well either we have more biblical metaphors or it is described as fiery and tortuous. It gets daunting trying to figure out what is supposed to be taken literally and not, but I guess we will be told again “context, context, context!” or some such trumped up nonsense. It seems Frank’s idea of hell is sorely lacking in comparison with its biblical descriptions. It is also an interesting way to phrase your god’s role in this as “casting” people to hell. That sounds like it is done purposefully and at the very least with much disdain for the lost soul if not downright malicious intent. Add in the notion of the billions of souls destined for hell for the most egregious of acts for having the audacity to be born in a place where they will never hear of or learn about your beloved god. Somehow I doubt that will be in the lesson to your kids.

          • Josef Kauzlarich says:

            Kyle,

            I discussed your objections in detail with David a week ago here: http://crossexamined.org/gods-jealousy-negative-attribute/

            The conversation touches on all your points as David brought the same ones up. Look there really is nothing new under the sun!

            I think your attempt to point the finger at God like He is the bad guy and we are just little victims is hard to accept based on what we know about human nature. Also, I throughly plan on giving my kids an explanation on the “what about those who never heard question?” This has been thoroughly answered by Christian theologians. Please offer an argument against a specific issue you have with these explanations. A blanket statement like the one you gave isn’t worth spending any time responding to. Why won’t the Christian answers work? Are you unfamiliar with them? If not, then get specific.

          • David says:

            Louie,

            I think 2 Thes. 1:8 pretty much undermines your attempt to soften what the bible says about hell. It is a deliberate action on god’s part to “deal out retribution”. Hell may have something to do with separation from god but the primary component of hell is eternal torment. Again, if you devise a plan that results in billions ending up in hell and a fraction of that number experiencing eternal bliss, you failed. It can’t be called victory or good news. It’s a huge loss and horrible news. If most people are going to hell, to be honest, I think you have to rewrite 1 Cor. 15:54 to read “victory is swallowed up in death”. Unless, of course, you care only about the “elect” and don’t care about the “damned”.

          • Kyle says:

            Josef,

            Your response from the other discussion offers nothing. I have yet to see any position that addresses the billions of people that will never hear of your god. Your position seems to be they have no excuse, yet it still seems a pretty good excuse to say they have never heard of him or any other gods that roam about in the minds of men. “A blanket statement like the one you gave isn’t worth spending any time responding to.” Which is all you have provided.

          • Louie says:

            Guys:
            As far as going to hell: We can blame God all we want, but in the end, no matter what hell is, it is our choice to go there. As I said before, I’ve not read anything positive about hell, so I am trying to avoid it.
            As for everyone not knowing about God: Read Josef’s reply on this blog, Sept 3rd. It points you to previous dealings with this topic. But remember, clean up your own house, before you worry about cleaning everyone else’s. That way when you are called upon to assist another, you will be ready and able to assist.
            Thanks for the conversation.

          • Kyle says:

            I’ve read nothing good about Voldemort either, but I don’t alter my life to avoid him because he isn’t real. I responded directly to Josef’s attempt to wave off the argument against not knowing about your god. If the best response you guys can come up with is “they have no excuse” then that is categorically immoral. Punishing people for crimes they don’t know they are committing and have no possible way of knowing? It isn’t a choice to not believe in something you know nothing about. There is no logical defense of that. As was mentioned in the other post, you all sound like you have a horrible case of Stockholm Syndrome.

          • Louie says:

            Kyle:
            Why are you here then? If you do not believe, then go on about your merry way and stop bothering yourself with all this. Stop wasting time hating a god that you do not believe in. The truth is, that you know in your heart that the biblical account of history is credible and God is real. I know that because it was planted there by your creator. All are without excuse. Calling God immoral is laughable.

          • Kyle says:

            I’m here because I enjoy a healthy debate. I no more hate your god than I hate Voldemort. The truth is, there are so many impossibilities and inaccuracies in the bible that you need to cherry pick what is a metaphor and what is literal. You have literally defined your god in ways that are untestable and unprovable. Nothing has been planted. If your best arguments fall back to ridiculous hyperbole and cliche platitudes, then they are weak.

          • Louie says:

            No, the real truth is, when you peel back the layers of either argument for the best explanation of how everything came to be (by chance or by choice), neither argument can prove it is correct with 100% certainty. And when you calculate the odds of being here by chance, it is unbelievable. I do not have enough faith to believe that we are here by “chance”, and choosing to believe that “choice” is the correct path costs me nothing.

        • Josef Kauzlarich says:

          Michael, your mistake is to think its a finite sin to reject God by not accepting Jesus. Wouldn’t you agree that the nature of a crime has nothing to do with how long it took to commit? A murder takes a minute to commit, yet we charge men with a life setence for it. Right? Your mistake is to underestimate the gravity of our crime. Rejecting Jesus is an eternal, final decision.

          Reply
          • David says:

            Bad logic Josef. A murder may take a minute to commit but it’s ramifications are life-long. Thus, the imposition of a life sentence or death penalty. So, what eternal damage does the unbeliever do to god by not understanding him, knowing him, submitting to him, loving him, worshiping him, etc? I can’t think of any harm done at all. It’s pure vengeance isn’t it? Retribution. A fear based system. The very thing that a man/men would come up with.

          • KR says:

            The concept of punishment for disbelief seems to rest on the notion that belief is a matter of choice. This is clearly not the case. Our beliefs come from our convictions and we don’t get to choose those. For any theist that disagrees with this, I have a question: why did you choose to be convinced that God exists? The absurdity of the question itself demonstrates that this is simply not how belief works.

            If we could freely choose what convinces us, our convictions would be independent of any evidence or argument. We would be able to convince ourselves of absolutely anything and logic, reason or even reality itself would have no power to change our minds since our convictions would not be caused by any external influence but would simply be the result of an arbitrary decision. Doubt would not exist since we would be able, at any time, to just snap our fingers and decide what we want to believe. None of this corresponds with the reality we actually live in.

            Since belief is obviously not a matter of choice, Christian doctrine seems to suggest that God is sending people by the billions to eternal torment for something they did not choose. This is clearly neither rational nor moral.

          • Louie says:

            Sorry guys, belief is a matter of choice. If that were not the case, then people would not be free. For me, it comes down to either we are here by choice or by chance. Which one of these I choose to believe, will determine how I think about everything. I choose to believe we are here by choice, and that choice comes from the evidence in the world around me.

            What damage is done to God by not praising or knowing him? Nobody knows that but God himself. Of course you cannot understand, neither can I. Just like I cannot understand why my car engine dies at times, but that does not mean it isn’t the truth.

          • KR says:

            Louie wrote: “Sorry guys, belief is a matter of choice.”

            OK, then I refer you to the question in my post: why did you decide to believe in God? Could you also please explain why doubt exists if we can simply decide what we believe?

            “If that were not the case, then people would not be free.”

            “Free” as in having free will? As I’ve posted in other threads on this site, “free will” shows every sign of being logically incoherent, which means there’s no reason to think it exists.

          • Kyle says:

            You claim that we can’t know what damage is done to your god but somehow have a firm grasp on what he wants? Either we can understand what he wants and can thereby derive some ideas about how it will affect him, or we know nothing and can’t have any idea about what he wants or how it will affect him. The Christian understanding of their god’s desires seems to abruptly end when it would be difficult or inconvenient to explain some of the more distasteful parts of his psyche and being.

          • Louie says:

            Q: Why did Louie decide to believe in God
            A: Because it came down to either, we are here by choice or chance. The odds of chance are so overwhelmingly bad, that choice made more sense to me. Then I looked at the world around me, and the biblical account of history fit what I observe. With those two points, I CHOSE to become a Christian.
            Q: Why does Louie have doubts
            A: Because neither Choice or Chance can be 100% proven. After you look at the evidence, you have to decide which works the best. It takes faith to believe your choice is the correct one either way, thus there is always a sliver of doubt.
            Free will is why we are even talking about this. You have the freedom to choose what you believe and do. Your creator gives you the freedom to spit in his face.

          • Louie says:

            Kyle:
            What did Jesus say the #1 commandment is? Love God with your whole heart, whole mind and whole soul.
            What did Jesus say the #2 commandment is? Love thy neighbor as thyself.
            If you do these two things, then everything else falls into place. He doesn’t even demand that we do these things perfectly, He only asks that we try. He has that right, and you’ll have that right too, when you create an entire universe out of nothing.

          • Kyle says:

            And that response addresses the issue how? Again, ridiculous hyperbole and cliche platitudes are not good arguments. I specifically asked about your god’s desires and psyche and how you only seem to know for certain things that benefit and reinforce your worldview. Why can we know that he wants us to love him and have no idea why he does any number of the horrible things that can be attributed to him? Receive a great windfall? He must be good. Infant gets cancer and dies a horrible death? Well we just can’t understand his plan. That doesn’t follow.

          • KR says:

            “Q: Why did Louie decide to believe in God
            A: Because it came down to either, we are here by choice or chance. The odds of chance are so overwhelmingly bad, that choice made more sense to me. Then I looked at the world around me, and the biblical account of history fit what I observe. With those two points, I CHOSE to become a Christian.”

            So you chose to believe because you were convinced by a probability argument. Did you choose to be convinced by this argument? If so, why?

            “Q: Why does Louie have doubts
            A: Because neither Choice or Chance can be 100% proven. After you look at the evidence, you have to decide which works the best. It takes faith to believe your choice is the correct one either way, thus there is always a sliver of doubt.”

            I’m not talking about proof, I’m talking about belief. If you can’t simply decide to remove your own doubts, then your beliefs are not controlled by your will – which of course means you can’t be held responsible for them.

            “Free will is why we are even talking about this. You have the freedom to choose what you believe and do. Your creator gives you the freedom to spit in his face.”

            I believe you just conceded that we don’t have that freedom. If we did, doubt wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t even have a word for it.

          • KR says:

            I should also add that if your beliefs are contingent on proof, then they are by definition determined and not a free choice.

          • Louie says:

            Kyle:
            Sorry, I have no issues with these things that you do. I do not need to know why God places the rules before us that He does. However, I do think it is laughable that one can stand here on planet earth shaking his finger at the Creator for doing horrible things, as we butcher the unborn and sell their parts… You may respond with, “Then why does not this all power God stop the treachery?” The answer is, “He will.”

          • Louie says:

            KR,
            That is one of the best jobs I’ve seen at trying to side step responsibility for your own actions. Let me know how that works out for you. Do I have your permission to print out your post, and hand it to the police officer when I get pulled over for speeding on my way home?

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Louie, that’s a strange conflation/equivocation between having the choice to believe something and having the choice to commit a crime. One can make arguments about not having free will, but one doesn’t need to go anywhere near that subject to say we cannot choose what we believe. I can’t decide to believe something – I either do or I don’t. I can’t choose to believe I have a million dollars in my bank account when I know that I don’t. This has nothing to do with free will, or ‘choosing to speed in my car’.

          • KR says:

            Louie wrote: “KR,
            That is one of the best jobs I’ve seen at trying to side step responsibility for your own actions. Let me know how that works out for you. Do I have your permission to print out your post, and hand it to the police officer when I get pulled over for speeding on my way home?”

            How about actually addressing my point? Before you can accuse anyone of side-stepping their responsibility, you need to establish that the concept of responsibility has some kind of coherence. If we don’t have free will, it doesn’t. My point – which you seem to be side-stepping – is that for a choice to be made by free will, the reason for the choice has to be under the control of the agent making the choice. If it’s not, the choice is not free but determined or random. I think you will find that the only way the reason for a choice can be under your control is if this reason is itself a choice.

            Of course this choice must also have a reason (if it doesn’t, it’s not an expression of your will), which means that the concept of free will leads to an infinite regress of choices based on previous choices. The only way you’re going to get out of it with your free will intact is through an action that is not by choice but still under your control – or, to put it another way, an action that is simultaneously involuntary and voluntary. This is clearly a logical impossibility, which leads me to believe free will cannot exist.

            Judging by your post, you seem to think that the concept of responsibility is somehow essential to the regulation of our behaviour. I disagree. Let’s take your example with speeding. I don’t see why we need to establish any moral responsibility in order to see that high-speed driving increases the risk of accidents on the road. This is clearly a behaviour that needs regulating. All we need is a system for coming to some kind of consensus on what behaviour we’re willing to tolerate and what behaviour we find unacceptable. Conveniently, we have such a system – it’s called democracy. It’s not perfect but it seems to be the best we’ve come up with. We elect representatives who make laws regulating our behaviour and those who break the law are dealt with by law enforcement and judiciary.

            Once we have our agreed-upon system of rules in place, all that needs to be determined is who did the deed and what’s to be done with him/her. Deciding what consequences for breaking the law will most benefit society is not a simple matter but I don’t see why the concept of “moral responsibility” would be needed in this process.

          • Kyle says:

            Your last reply to me was pretty incoherent. What “things that I do” are you not taking issue with? How have you addressed knowing all the good sides of your god without being able to account for the bad? You mention selling body parts and that your god will answer this when all evidence to date shows he can’t. How do you know he even wants to? Clearly your god has shown his will is to allow that to happen. You have no response in the face of all evidence to the contrary but to say “He will”. That is not a sufficient argument. It is a desperate plea in the hopes that your beliefs might be validated by some random yet completely undefined act or event in the future so that you can point your finger and say “Aha, I told you it was his will.” It fails.

          • Louie says:

            KR:
            Free Will was a word/term YOU threw into this discussion, not me. Freedom / Freely / Free / Free Will / Free Willy / Free Willy2, whatever…
            We are getting hung up on this freedom term, so I’ll remove it. “Decide how you will, for all things; but live with your decision, as it is yours to make however you wish.” You are correct that I am hung up on responsibility, as it is lacking in society today. Everyone looks to blame someone else for their problems. If people would simply be responsible for things they do or don’t do, the world would be better for it. Just my opinion. Thanks for the conversation.

          • Kyle says:

            You talk about responsibility when you won’t even take responsibility for your own views and morals. They were prescribed by your god and you have no choice in the matter.

          • KR says:

            Louie wrote:”Free Will was a word/term YOU threw into this discussion, not me. Freedom / Freely / Free / Free Will / Free Willy / Free Willy2, whatever…
            We are getting hung up on this freedom term, so I’ll remove it.”

            I don’t think the issues of moral responsibility and free will can be separated, they’re inextricably linked.

            ” “Decide how you will, for all things; but live with your decision, as it is yours to make however you wish.” ”

            I’ve also got one: “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills” (Schopenhauer). In other words, we can choose according to our desires but we don’t get to choose what desires to have – which means our choices aren’t free at all.

            “If people would simply be responsible for things they do or don’t do, the world would be better for it. Just my opinion.”

            Since I don’t believe in free will, I think responsibility is essentially a meaningless concept. People tend to react strongly to this as, for them, “no responsibility” equals “no consequences to our actions”. This of course doesn’t follow at all. Does the fact that I don’t believe in free will mean that I’m suddenly OK with the thought of being murdered, beaten or robbed? Of course not, I very much want to be protected from people who commit such acts. In a society where no-one believes in free will, there would still be no problem reaching a concensus that people who murder, rape and steal need to be dealt with. They would most certainly face consequences for their actions, even if people around them didn’t hold them responsible for their behaviour.

            I think the quarantine analogy is helpful. If someone carries a deadly and highly contagious disease, we don’t hold them responsible for getting infected but neither are we going to let them walk around spreading the disease. We’re going to keep them isolated whether they like it or not for the protection of others.

            So if a society that has rejected free will and moral responsibility would still be locking up the murderers and rapists as before, what’s the difference? I would say that the difference is that rather than thinking in terms of responsibility, guilt and punishment we would be focusing on behaviour: what behaviour are we willing to accept, why do some people behave in a way that is unacceptable, can we prevent people from developing this kind of behaviour, can we reverse this development if it’s already happened and – concerning the question of sentencing – how is the behaviour of the general public affected by how we treat the convicted criminals?

            That last point is tricky, maybe we need some kind of punitive dimension to the sentencing as a deterrent to others even if this would not be to the benefit of the individual convict. These are complicated considerations but I absolutely believe that doing away with the whole responsibility-based paradigm creates a more rational setting where we can improve society by proactively addressing the causes of destructive baviour rather than just reacting to the symptoms with punishment and containment.

            Apologies for going off on a tangent in a discussion supposedly about Hell.

            “Thanks for the conversation.”

            Likewise.

          • Louie says:

            KR:
            ” I’ve also got one: “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills” (Schopenhauer). In other words, we can choose according to our desires but we don’t get to choose what desires to have – which means our choices aren’t free at all. ”

            No, I disagree. But, even if we did not get to control what our desires are, we do choose what to do in response to them. Do you choose to react or respond to your desires? Are you going to take that $100 off the table or leave it? That is a choice, you may desire to take it, but choose not to. Either way, you are responsible for the choice.

            I read through the rest of your reply, and in my opinion, it really does not matter. Controlling how people behave is all up for discussion, it is not a one size fits all thing and I don’t want to get into that.

            It sounds like you and I will never agree on this freedom thing, I still feel strongly that you are responsible for your behavior, decisions you make and so on, and that is how you will be judged in the end. Interesting exchange, but I still think a lot of it is just semantics.

            I’ll give you the last word, thanks.

          • KR says:

            Louie wrote: “No, I disagree. But, even if we did not get to control what our desires are, we do choose what to do in response to them. Do you choose to react or respond to your desires? Are you going to take that $100 off the table or leave it? That is a choice, you may desire to take it, but choose not to. Either way, you are responsible for the choice.”

            Free will is an illusion. I can say this with some confidence as the concept doesn’t make any logical sense. I explained why in an earlier post in this thread but you didn’t respond to this. You also didn’t respond to my question whether you chose to be convinced by an argument for God’s existence. I know the question itself makes little sense but then that’s the kind of absurdity you end up with if you want to defend belief as a free will choice.

            Another absurd consequence of belief as a free will choice is that it would mean that you could, at any point, decide to stop believing in God. You could wake up tomorrow and by an act of will decide you don’t believe in God anymore and just like that, you’d be an atheist. No argument would be necessary for your deconversion since it would not be based on any arguments but only on an arbitrary decision. Are you really going to tell me you think you could do that? Isn’t it completely, blindingly obvious that this is not how belief works?

            You agreed that you can have doubts – your explanation being that there can’t be 100% proof – but if your convictions depend on proof, you’ve already conceded that they are not freely chosen.

  2. Kevin says:

    It may be helpful to understand that Christianity started ‘before’ there was a Bible. The men you refer to (I’m assuming you mean Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul) recorded what they saw and what they heard Jesus say. They were living during this time period. Hundreds of years later, the Roman Empire adopted the Christian religion before there was a Bible. And this happened because there were so many Roman’s who were Christians (all before there was a Bible). So, I would encourage anyone who dismisses Christianity because of the Bible to further investigate Christianity. Read Frank’s book, ‘Stealing from God’. Andy Stanley talks about this topic a lot and has a series currently underway that one might feel helps puts things in perspective.

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  3. Stan Patton says:

    You’ll want to add another bullet to your list in order to capture that 4th view, purgatorial universal reconciliation.

    * Those who hold to the purgatorial view believe that hell is agonizing but temporary and remedial — an equitable repayment for an individual’s record. They say that “everlasting punishment” is a poor translation of “kolasin aionion” and understand the term as punishment pertaining to the pivotal age of ages.

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