Photo by Kirk Durston

I know that many of you have quite convinced yourself that there is no God and even if there was one, in your view, the concept of Hell would be utterly incompatible with the sort of god you have chosen not to believe in. But let us pose a couple hypothetical questions, just for the sake of second thoughts.

What if there was a being who was not only creator of the universe, but the origin of every good thing given … the origin of beauty, love, justice, honour, music, and all that is excellent and worthy of desire.[1] And what if it was true that the good things within ourselves, and that we see around us in nature, are not intrinsic, but are given and sustained by the Creator?[2] For example, the ability to play a musical instrument so skillfully that the listener is inspired to great things, does not actually come from the person we call ‘talented’ but is something that is given and sustained within the musician from God? Or humanity’s awareness of justice is not a philosophy that has arisen within our own minds, but something real that flows from God … the ability to love, and even friendship itself, would vanish in an instant were it not constantly sustained within us as a branch obtains its nourishment and life from the trunk to which it is attached.

Having imagined such a state of affairs, what if it was actually true that the single most important question in this life was whether to enter into a relationship with God and everything that He is, or to turn away from Him and everything He is?

Now … what if everyone’s wish, in response to that question, was granted and when the momentary dream that is this universe was ended, each person found themselves in an eternal reality that was the fulfillment of their ultimate decision to enter in to, or turn away from, the presence of God? For those who accepted God’s gift of eternal life, what would it be like to dwell immersed in beauty, love, and music that was actually alive, and of such intensity that no mere mortal could possibly survive an instant in that realm?

On the other hand, what would it be like to enter a place that is the fulfillment of the wish to have nothing to do with God … a world (if you can call it that) where the presence of God has been deleted? If Hell was nothing more than the complete absence of God, and everything that flows from that Presence, the realization of what that entails is a horror all by itself. With the departure of the presence of God would go any possibility of beauty, justice and love. It would be the total negation of music, art, purity and inspiration. There will be no virtue there, no patience, no perseverance; a kind thought will never cross what is left of your mind (would it be possible to retain sanity there, tormented by the unveiling of what ‘nothing to do with God’ actually means?). Hope, replaced with pure and eternal despair … merciless regret in the face of fading memories of love, beauty and justice, not a shred of which will ever occur in that world … eternal self destruction at the hands of your own thoughts and conscience tearing into what remains of ‘you’.[3]

It is there that one will know what the complete absence of beauty looks like and what a world utterly devoid of love, friendship and hope feels like. A place of nothingness, where every sound is the opposite of music and no sensation will ever, ever give even the most miniscule pleasure. Such is the minimum Hell, if it is nothing more than a place where the presence of God does not dwell.

As C.S. Lewis said, there are no ordinary people in this world … “the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.” In this world you have freedom of choice, but what you will never have is the freedom from the consequences of that ultimate choice … to enter into the presence of God, or to turn away from it.

[1] James 1:17

[2] John 15:4,5

[3] Romans 2:15,16


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