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Is an Eternal Hell Morally Justifiable?
by Max Andrews
In a debate of mine from this past summer my opponent brought up the problem of hell. His objection was, “There is no moral justification for sending anybody to suffer eternally in hell.” Before defending the doctrine of an eternal hell I need to make clear how far this objection actually goes. This isn’t an objection to the existence of God nor is it an objection to Christianity. This is an objection to hermeneutical principles and, possibly, in a worst case scenario, an objection to inerrancy. Should it be the case that the objection succeeds then we ought to modify our hermeneutical grid by which we understand special revelation concerning the final destination and consequences for the reprobate damned. Should the best hermeneutic affirm the doctrine of eternal hell then the objection brings inerrancy into question. However, I don’t think the objection succeeds at all and below was my response defending the doctrine of an eternal hell:
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My first objection is that God doesn’t send anyone to hell; rather, he permits them to go their own way. Secondly, God is morally justified in permitting the reprobate to be eternally separate from God. I don’t think the Bible is describing eschatological furniture when describing hell so all I’m willing to commit to is that it is an eternal separation from God—the worst state of an unglorified existence.
I hold to an infralapsarian view of salvation. Under this view, God elects all individuals who would freely cease to resist his saving grace. God will so arrange the world, via strong and weak actualizations, to bring about a person’s experiences and circumstances in which they would freely refrain from rejecting God. With this understanding of election, God is both sovereign in actualizing salvation and permissive in allowing the reprobates to go their own way.
God passively permits individuals to go to hell because that’s what the individual chooses. As a decision to reject the revelation brought before an individual they consequently choose a life of eternal separation from an eternal God…