Imagine you were asked by a coworker, “Does God love me?” What would you say?
Suppose he asks a follow up question, “If He does then why do you say He is going to send me to hell?”
He continues, “But more importantly, if He loves everyone, why will He send innocent people to hell—especially those who have never heard of Him? Eternal torture seems to me—even in the cases where people have rejected salvation—over the top. Are you sure that He loves us after all?”
How would you answer his three main questions? (1) How do we know God loves us? (2) Why does He send innocent people who have never heard of Him to hell? (3) How is eternal torment just?
I suppose I would approach the topic differently depending on if the person was a seeker with a legitimate question or a scoffer. I am going to work under the assumption that the person is truly struggling with these aspects of God and has a hard time accepting God because of these intense questions.
The question of the love of God is a question that probably every person has asked at one time or another. The cross is the greatest attestation of the love of God. Before the world was created, God knew that mankind would ruin this earth in sin and He willingly chose to take the pain, sickness, and sin of the whole world on His shoulders. Not only did Jesus suffer an excruciating death at the hands of the Romans, He suffered to absorb all of the white hot wrath of God. God had to destroy sin or else there would be no justice, and Jesus took the penalty for all sin. “The Father watched as his heart’s treasure, the mirror image of himself, began to sink drowning in raw liquid sin. God’s stored rage against humankind for every sin ever committed was placed upon His Son.”(1) Let’s say that your son develops a heart disease and he needs a new heart, and you volunteer to give him yours, and before you are wheeled into surgery your sons comes up to the stretcher and says, “Dad, before you go in, I want to have proof that you love me?” Do you think he could truly doubt your love?
Regarding an innocent person. I would like to see why you believe the person is innocent, especially in God’s eyes. Let me ask you if you think a German soldier of World War II who was part of the group that rounded up “undesirables” and brought them to concentration camps, deserves to be punished? What if the soldier was only the cook that feed all the German Soldiers? Even though he was innocent of outwardly capturing people, he still was on the wrong side and supported great wickedness. So it is with myself and every person, we may not be constantly doing horrible things, but we have been serving the wrong kingdom and supporting the regime of Satan. Furthermore in defining innocent, we are not the judge (in fact we are more like the inmates trying to claim we are all innocent). Let’s take a look at the standard that the Judge holds forth. God holds forth His standard and it is boiled down in the 10 Commandments. Do you think any person has ever kept all of the 10 Commandments? Let’s just imagine that someone sins only once a day and lives to be around 80. That is a grand total of over 29,000 sins. What judge on this earth would acquit a criminal with a rap sheet like that? (2)
In answer to your question regarding the eternality of judgment there are several thoughts regarding that difficult question. First, mankind’s sin is against an eternal God. Since I sin against an eternal God, there are eternal consequences. Let me explain it this way. “If I lie to a child, I probably will not suffer any consequences. If I lie to my boss, I could be fired. If I lie while under oath in court, I could go to jail. Under the right circumstances, if I lie to the U.S. government, it would be considered treason, and I could be executed. The same sin receives varying levels of punishment, depending on whom I’ve wronged.”(3) Secondly, the idea of justice is an interesting idea to accuse God of, let me ask where do you get your idea of justice from? As C.S Lewis noted, “There is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own source. When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on.”
Finally, I understand many of these questions are deep and you may have suffered an awful lot, but let me ask you another question. When the Titanic went down there were over 2,000 people on board, and over 1,500 of them died. I would like you to imagine that you were on the Titanic watching the lifeboats slip away, and someone yelled to the passengers on deck, we found a lot more life boats below deck there will be room for everyone. Would you refuse to go aboard because other people may not know about the lifeboats, or you were unsure if the person that made the life boats was a caring, loving person?
(Special thanks to Dr Timothy Miller of MBU for the original idea, and many of my atheist friends for being so open in their questions.)
- When God Weeps Tada, Estes pg 54
- Ray Comfort Witnessing ideas
- S. Lewis Mere Christianity