Okay, most people reading this blog for any period of time know that I believe in hell. I think that people who do not come to faith in Jesus Christ continue in their sin, and so must bear the punishment of sin themselves.
Now this leads to a slight problem when talking to nonbelievers. Most famously, I’ve heard it attributed to Christopher Hitchens and one of my favorite political bloggers (who writes for hotair.com). The objection simply asks why Christians keep saying to atheists that God loves them, yet also claims that this same loving God will send them to hell simply for not believing in Jesus.
Needless to say, if they’re correct, Christianity is a very crazy religion, and is more than a little psychotic. That is true, though I fear they have underestimated the coherence of Christianity.
For a Christian, God is above all else good and Holy. Both those terms, as they are used by Christians, are explained in the Bible (and anybody wishing to buy me a Smithwicks and a plate of Nachos can talk to me about it). Being also very intelligent and discerning, God values things based on how valuable they actually are. For this reason, humans are not the primary object of his affections. God himself is
This is not the same as human vanity, as God really is deserving of being the object of affection. Indeed, He’s also the best object of affection for we humans.
This causes a problem for humans. Dr. House is quite correct when he says that humans are generally bad creatures, capable of good acts now and then, but still mostly bad. The problem isn’t those actions, it’s that we are basically bad creatures.
So now we have a problem. God is good, and we are bad. If God were to be fully consistent at this point, he’d destroy us all. In fact, given how bad evil is, he’d actually start punishing us now. This is the extension of the problem of evil most people are unwilling to note. We are actually evil too, and part of the fact that evil exists is that we exist.
That’s not the whole story for Christians though. The Bible tells us (in Genesis 1) that we were created in the image of God. We are created to give glory to God, yet we fell into sin, making us evil. Now God has two options for justice. Either wipe us out and send us all to hell, or make some way of saving some of us. He chose the latter, and that is the reason for Christ. Faith in Christ for a Christian is roughly equivalent to a rope thrown to a drowning man. If you don’t take hold of the rope, you drown.
Similarly, if you don’t take hold of Christ, you get destroyed by God’s justice. Similarly, contrary to the above noted objection, God does not send you to hell solely for refusing Christ any more than you are damned to drowning because you refuse a rope. You drown because you are in the ocean and have no gills, and you are damned because you’re evil.
Thus the question is not one of getting “punished” for refusing Christ alone, but also being punished for being evil. Christ is grace, He is a rescuer, That’s why Christians call him “Saviour”. If the universe is fundamentally just, well, we’re in trouble and need a Saviour. God grants that in Christ. He is the only way to heaven.
As a famous pastor once said; All sin is punished. Either Christ takes the punishment you deserve on the cross, or you take the punishment you deserve in Hell.