Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Who goes to Hell (for sure)?


I acknowledge that no man can judge another's soul - but understanding Christianity does require the teaching and understanding of at least the kind of person that Hell was made for.


One of the problems about modern understanding of Hell is a mistake in providing examples of the kind of person who would be expected to go to Hell: the kind of person for whom Hell was made.

So, the example given is of some spectacular sinner - such as Stalin or Hitler, some serial killer or child murderer.

Without wanting to say that such persons are not destined for Hell, I think it is a serious mistake to use such persons as sure or typical examples of Hell-bound.


Such examples lead to problems about repentance, since it seems likely from scripture that any sin may be repented, Christ believed-in, and the sinner forgiven

How do we know what happened in the last micro-moments of the life of a spectacular sinners?

We don't. And if un-repented sin is the problem, not sin itself, and since we all are sinners, it is an error to dwell on the magnitude of sin as decisive. 


What, then, would be the archetypal denizen of Hell?

I think it is reasonably clear from scripture that Hell is not typically for spectacular sinners but for the apostate - for the rejectors of Heaven.

In other words Hell is for the unrepentant; but more specifically for the unrepetant who knows what it is they are not repenting; especially for those who have known Christ's offer of salvation and have rejected it.

This is, I take it, the unforgiveable sin of the Holy Ghost.

Mark 3: 29: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.


This interpretation may, or may not, imply that Hell is a rare outcome for people; but the most important thing is that it clarifies what Hell is primarily for: it is primarily for those Men and Angels who have refused the offer of Heaven - who know of Christ's work, who understand what the offer of salvation is and what it means; and who have chosen to reject it.


And the thing which induces people to know yet to reject the offer is pride; an insistence upon imposing one's own, personal, system of evaluation upon reality.

It is not that such people actively want Hell as such, but that they deliberately reject Heaven - because Heaven entails chosen subordination of oneself to God, to Reality, to objective Truth.

It is in this sense that Hell is chosen.


Therefore, in explaining Hell (especially to children or simple folk) the surest example of a sinner destined for Hell is the once-real-Christian who has 'lost his faith' or whose faith has become a matter of his own will: a person more much like the apostate 'liberal' religious leaders of many major Christian denominations than like the spectacular doers of evil.


And this view of Hell as a chosen rejection of Christ and of Heaven, makes clear the exceptional state of sin and peril of our civilization; since the continual propaganda for inversion of the good is making more and more of the kind of people who imagine they have 'seen through' the conventional, repressive pretensions of traditional (which they term sexist, patriarchal, racist etc) concepts of virtue, truth and beauty.

The kind of person who would make the astonishing step of choosing Hell is the kind of person who believes that what their parents and ancestors believed was good is actually evil - what was regarded as wicked is virtuous, that standards of beauty change and reverse so ugliness is art, and that 'reality' is not really-real but is a social construct - malleable in an open-ended fashion.


In the past, almost everybody - including spectacular sinners - would have wanted what Christ offered.

They may not have believed in the reality of the offer, they may not have believed the identity of Christ, they may have been unable to live in accordance with the commandments - but they would not have chosen to refuse the offer of resurrection and eternal life in Heaven if or when it was put to them as a real possibility.

Once they knew the truth of the situation, after death and beyond the veil, they would repent and believe and attain salvation.  


Yet, the modern intellectual elite is replete with people who would refuse the offer of salvation and eternal life - even if or when they knew it to be true! Because, by their warped evaluations, truth is evil.

And they have apparently succeeded in seducing many of the Western population to embrace their evaluations.

Such people know good from evil; and they prefer and promote evil - on the basis that everyone in human history and almost everyone alive now (outside of the Left/ Liberal enclaves of The West) has always been wrong about everything important - including matters of common sense and universal experience.


The socially-dominant Leftist doctrines of inversion of the good are therefore probably the most effective tool ever devised for inducing a world view from which it seem right to choose Hell over Heaven, despite knowing the facts.



dearieme said...

josh said...

"then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."

Even if our were religion were false, it would be the truest thing that ever existed.

Arakawa said...


I, personally, got tired of materialism when I realized that the practical upshot of its assumptions would be that reality isn't all that real.

George Goerlich said...

So if leftist nihilism means everything is relativistic and nothing essentially matters, that everything is a matter of personal choice without basis, I don't see on what basis they can actually reject us asserting that the essential and the truth we find through spirituality and religion is all that ultimately matters and so project and organize the world around those principles.

And so by their own admittance and your point, their outright rejection of God is exactly what condemns them to Hell. Any rational person must accept that by rejecting God and turning away from Him, they are condemning themselves to Hell - a state of being consisting of nihilistic chaos, irrationality, senseless pain absent of purpose and light.

Wurmbrand said...

Perhaps a "quibble" --

Dr. Charlton, you write, "the kind of person for whom Hell was made" --

Heaven was and is prepared for people, but hell was made for the devil and his angels (St. Matthew 25:41). Heaven is the right and proper destination for the saved in a way that hell can never be the right and proper destination for the damned -- though such it will be.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - try Anglican Mainstream.

@Wurmbrand - Point taken; but the analogy with fallen angels was deliberate; since they both know and reject God and Heaven - they 'know what they are doing' in the same manner that the numerous moderns know Good and invert it.

Arakawa said...

I've had a minor intellectual epiphany on the subject of Hell just now.

Orwell complained in his review of That Hideous Strength that having God in a book takes all the interest out of it, since it is painfully obvious from page one that the good side wins, and that takes all the 'drama' out of it.

With an immensely powerful Heaven in the picture, yet a different source of drama is needed. (Thus, reality hangs together at least on the level of a story.)

The 'drama' in a story where God is involved comes ultimately from the fact that for any realistic character, it is not obvious that they will even end up on the Good side. This suspense is particularly difficult to face (and most rewarding to overcome) from the inside. The characters labour under their correct or incorrect understanding of the situation, but their reason and their best intentions may not be sufficient; in the end all they have to fall back on are the faith to keep going, and humility to recognize and repent when they turn out to be wrong. If they don't, they cease to be Good.

One has to combine ultimate certainty in following one's chosen path (for otherwise one will never be more than half-hearted in the service of Heaven) with the ultimate uncertainty of the rightness of the path, always looking for God and listening for His demand that one turn aside from the precipice one has failed to foresee.

It is an entirely different category of suspense that results. That Hideous Strength probably isn't the best example of it, though; Lord of the Rings does far more interesting things with this category, particularly since it has both characters who repent and characters who fail to repent.

buckyinky said...

Very lucid and helpful thoughts here - thank you!

You seem to get closer to the root of the matter where others might draw conclusions before getting there. Your thoughts address what I see as a very relevant question of, as in the case of Hitler or Stalin, who bears more guilt, they or the ones who taught/influenced them to do as they did?

Bruce Charlton said...

@b - Thanks, I blogged it hoping it might help someone as it did me!

Vader said...

It is not that such people actively want Hell as such, but that they deliberately reject Heaven - because Heaven entails chosen subordination of oneself to God, to Reality, to objective Truth."

Just so. To rebel against God is to rebel against reality.

The more militant sort of atheist seems to picture God as a kind of Oriental tyrant, who must be obeyed because He will take a terrible vengeance if you don't kowtow. I can see why they find this picture repugnant.

But, in fact, rebelling against God is like rebelling against Ohm's Law, though the result will be far more shocking. ;)