Exploring the Problem of Evil (Part 3) – How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?


We now come to the point where we must explain why God would send people to Hell. Though we can see how it is logical that God is (a) wholly good, (b) omniscient, (c) omnipotent, (d) allows for free will, and yet (e) none of this is contradicted by evil, we can proceed onto the judgment of God.

Before doing so, we must explore (2) more fully. What does it mean to be good, much more, wholly good? In the classical understanding among both pagans and Christians (though Christians had a slightly different modification to “good”), moral goodness was defined as that which was just. Thus, justice was one of the highest virtues because within justice was goodness. Justice was defined as what kept things balanced, of what brought about positive results and what punished negative results.

Under the Christian view, “good” and “just” are those things that bring glory to God. Thus, if an action glorifies Him (most often by displaying love or pointing us back to Himself) then the action is good. Any action contrary to Him is evil, or “sin.” Thus, if God is good (2) and all powerful (1), and we accept good to mean:

(2’’) That which is good is whatever aligns with the character, nature, and will of God

Though this seems circular, it isn’t. The reason is that I view it as primarily basic. Every culture has a sense of what is ‘good’ and what is ‘evil’ and often those cultures have more overlap in their understandings than contradictions. Regardless, under the Christian definition ‘goodness’ is what proceeds forth from the nature of God and is in line with His nature.

I would add another prime to 2 and state

(2’’’) That which is good must be just in challenging that which is not good

With that out of the way, we can then proceed to

(11) God is just

(11) isn’t really complete by itself, because to be just and to act in a just manner can be to different things. A judge can understand the law, but if he never rules on the law, then he is just as far as he has knowledge of justice. Thus

(11’) God acts upon His just nature

This would mean that if we take (10) into account, (11) explains why we see His justice. If a free moral agent chooses to be evil then God must act upon His justice to correct the evilness and rebellion.

But does this contradict His love? The essence of love is that it does not wish to see harm befall the beloved. Furthermore, love seeks to make sure the beloved is not dishonored in any way and that if such dishonor occurs for justice to follow. It can be viewed in this way:

(12) Love wants what is best for the beloved, for the beloved to avoid harm, and for the beloved to be honored

Are (12) and (11’) contradictory? Couldn’t we simply leave it with (12) and (11), a God who knows what justice is, but out of love chooses not to act on it? Such as this:

(13) God, out of love, chooses not to act on His knowledge of justice and does not punish evildoers

This might seem nice, but it is illogical to hold to such a position under the previous premises. For instance, (13) would contradict our grouping of (2). God would no longer be good because He would not longer be fighting against evil (think of the quote from the Monsignor in the movie The Boondock Saints). Anyone who perpetuates evil would be looked over by God, which is not good, meaning God would not be good. Thus, (13) would be a contradiction to the above syllogism.

Instead, I don’t see any reason why (12) and (11’) are necessarily a contradiction. The reason would be out of the focus of His love – is it primarily toward us or toward Himself? The Christian viewpoint would argue that it is primarily toward Himself (since God is Trinitarian, such love is not narcissistic, but that’s for another topic – for now, we can merely accept that such love is justified while human self love, being singularly based, is not). In light of this, we come to

(14) God delivers justice out of love for Himself and love for individuals, both the victims and perpetrators

I would argue that implicit within (14) is

(14’) Those who are perpetrators of injustice have rejected any love God has given them, thus they are incapable of receiving God’s love as they have turned it away

So (14’) is coherent with (10) – if free moral agents are free to choose, they are free to choose to reject God’s love and face the potential consequences of this choice.

Since humans are free to choose both good and/or evil, which include choosing to accept or reject God’s love, God can exact justice upon them while still loving them since they chose to reject His love. He must be consistent and both love Himself and love those who have loved Him. In loving Himself, He must be just and deal with anything opposite of good. Likewise, He must deal with those that harm the ones who love Him back as the connection has been made between He and the ones He loves. However, He is under no obligation to withhold His justice on those that have rejected His love under their own free will. The two don’t contradict each other, but instead compliment each other.

In what I hope to be a conclusion, here is the logical explanation as we have it (keep in mind the definitions we ran over):

(1) God is omnipotent

(2) God is wholly good

(2′) God is omniscient

(2’’) That which is good is whatever aligns with the character, nature, and will of God

(2’’’) That which is good must be just in challenging that which is not good

(3) Evil exists (why?)

(4c) An omnipotent and omniscient good being eliminates every evil that it can properly eliminate

(5) There are no nonlogical limits to what an omnipotent being can do

(7) God creates a world containing evil and has a good reason for doing so

(8) God, being good, will allow evil E to occur iff (if and only if) E will bring about good G

(8’) Given that some evil E contains an outweighing good G it is not logically possible for God to eliminate E without likewise eliminating G, by proxy eliminating Himself

(10) A free agent must be allowed to cause evil

(11) God is just

(11’) God acts upon His just nature

(12) Love wants what is best for the beloved, for the beloved to avoid harm, and for the beloved to be honored

(13) God, out of love, chooses not to act on His knowledge of justice and does not punish evil doers

(14) God delivers justice out of love for Himself and love for individuals, both the victims and perpetrators

(14’) Those who are perpetrators of injustice have rejected any love God has given them, thus they are incapable of receiving God’s love as they have turned it away

Again, none of this is to necessarily discuss the truth of the definitions, merely to show that this is the argument from Scripture broken down into syllogistic logic. As you can see, it’s quite coherent. The only way around it is to argue on the definition of what is and is not loving, but as you can see, to do so means you’re going to have to show how such a definition could be coherent with what has been presented above (not to mention how such a definition is coherent with reality itself).

Advertisements