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Sorry I got to this a little late in the day! Nice work on the challenge responses.
I think the more difficult challenge to respond to is when they say that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. A lot of people live good lives overall. Of course they commit normal kinds of sins like everyone does, but they don’t ever do anything really awful. To say that that person deserves eternal torment seems extremely harsh and unfair.
I can argue that nobody is perfect and therefore atonement is needed before anyone can measure up to God’s standards, but it’s really difficult to tell a kind and generally upstanding unbeliever that they deserve eternal torment.
I believe the Bible and I want to know how to defend it. How would you handle this kind of challenge?
Beth, I think what’s needed to answer this question is a grasp of how holy God really is. Otherwise, there’s no understanding of how sinful we are and how egregious our crimes against God, the sovereign of the universe, are. Rebellion against God is the worst possible crime any person can commit, and all have done this, even those who are about as good as most people.
Check out this dialogue I had with someone on the STR Blog who objected to the idea of hell if you want to see how I handled it.
In a nutshell, there are three things to keep in mind: 1) The length of a specific crime, even in our legal system, doesn’t determine the length of punishment. A crime that took a moment can carry a lifetime sentence. 2) Even in hell, the people there will continue to be in rebellion against God, so their crimes will never end. Hence, the unending punishment. 3) The higher the authority you commit treason against, the greater the punishment (compare a teacher, a cop, and the president, and then imagine how much more serious it is to commit treason against the sovereign of the universe).
Beyond that, there are two other resources that can help you think through this. One is The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. The other is this sermon by John Piper.
I hope that helps.
It’s one thing to grasp this with the mind and another to grasp it with the heart. I’m intellectually satisfied with your answer, Amy, but eternal hell still really bothers me.
I think it probably will until we all see God as He is.
This STR place is awesome… happened upon it only just a few minutes ago. I’d have to say I echo Sam’s point in his post:
“It’s one thing to grasp this with the mind and another to grasp it with the heart. I’m intellectually satisfied with your answer, Amy, but eternal hell still really bothers me.”