Jonah, go to Nineveh!
June 24, 2015
Just ask... about eternal damnation!
June 26, 2015

Ask the sister, part 10

In January and February I started the series "Ask the sister". After a longer forced break, there is now finally a continuation with a question that I am often asked:
Is there actually a hell?
As always, you will not get an overview of the theological-scientific discussion here. I prefer to approach the question differently and presuppose the Christian image of God:
There we see (at the very beginning of the Bible, in the book of Genesis) a God who creates man in His own image, like Him (Gen 1:26). He gives him rules (don't eat from the tree of knowledge!), but He also gives him the freedom to abide by these rules or to break them - which man promptly does. When man has eaten from the tree of knowledge and his eyes are opened to good and evil, God expels him from paradise. This is indeed our experience: every child lives in perfect happiness, so to speak (eating, sleeping, discovering new wonders every day), until he understands that there is good and evil.
But this realization is important to us. We don't want to remain infants. We want to become mature, to know and understand what is going on and to make decisions. In life and in faith.
That's fine, God respects our desire for freedom. He even wants us free.
The father saw him coming from afar.
He ran to meet his son,
fell around his neck and kissed him.
Gospel according to Luke 15, 20

Throughout the Bible, the statement that God loves man is repeated again and again. He does not want our death, but our life. And God wants us to return his love. Again and again this is directly linked to the fulfillment of the commandments: "if you love the Lord your God, walk in his ways and observe his commandments" (Deut. 31). In the New Testament it becomes even clearer: Jesus states unequivocally that God loves us and is eagerly waiting for us to respond to this love. One of the most beautiful example narratives of this is that of the merciful father or the prodigal son: the son turns away from the father. When he finally realizes his mistake and turns back, it is not reproaches and punishment that await him, but a father who has only been waiting for him to finally return (Luke 15:11-32). But love cannot be forced. Love requires freedom.

Now to hell: If God wants our voluntary love instead of forcing our obedience, then this attitude of God does not end after our death. He wants our life and our salvation, he offers us his closeness and love, but if we are unwilling to accept it, he will not force us to be happy. We can decide against God, even for all eternity. And eternity separated from God, that's what we call hell. Its existence is a logical consequence of man's freedom.

There remains another question, namely, whether someone is in hell. Can a person who has seen the glory of God still reject it? But this question is not so easy to answer, here I can only hope....

Image: Dieter Schü

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