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In fact, any number of times and in various ways, God revealed Himself to Aunt Edna—whether through hearing the stories of Christmas and Easter, through the experience of awe seeing a radiant sunset or a majestic mountain range, or through the whisper of her own conscience. But each time Aunt Edna turned away from that whisper of God calling her to acknowledge Him, to thank Him, to worship Him. Each time she said no to God. “I will not allow You to be God in my life. I will rule my own life,” she said. Aunt Edna just wants God to leave her alone, and being left alone by God is what the Bible calls “hell.”
What Can Be Worse than Deicide?
You could say Aunt Edna has wished that God didn’t exist—not the real God, the God who necessarily deserves our supreme love and obedience and worship. In a sense, as far as her life goes, she’s shut Him out; she’s killed Him. We might even say that Aunt Edna has committed “deicide”—the murder of God.
Let’s be very clear about the basis of the verdict on the day of judgment. Aunt Edna would not be condemned by God for not believing in Jesus. She would be condemned for rejecting God. This is the tragedy of the human condition; we want to be our own god. And the wonder of it is, God allows us to do that. You could say that hell is simply the final and ultimate result of that process. As C.S. Lewis put it: sin is a human being saying to God throughout life, “Go away and leave me alone.” Hell is God’s answer, ”You may have your wish.”6 In that sense, hell is the ultimate testament to human freedom.
Not that people choose to go to hell; they simply choose the road that leads them there—that wide road that leads to destruction. And little by little their hearts become hardened to the love of God and their ears become deaf to the voice of God, and they refuse to humble themselves before the grace of God. In the end, they refuse to receive the rescue that is found in the gospel of God.
C.S. Lewis points to the fact that when people choose the road to hell in this life, they begin to take on the qualities that will be confirmed, intensified, and made permanent when they reach their destination. “It is not a question of God ‘sending us’ to hell,” Lewis says. “In each of us there is something growing, which will BE Hell unless it is nipped in the bud.”7 Hell may be understood as a culmination of the effects of sin and the confirmation of God’s opposition to it. It is both the inexorable result of human choice and the active and deliberate judgment of God. There can be no fairer verdict than that.
Objection 3: The Punishment Is Grossly Excessive
The verdict may be fair, but is the punishment really just—this everlasting condemnation? Isn’t what the Bible describes rather excessive? To “be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” where “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched”—shouldn’t that be considered “cruel and unusual”?
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