“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much in the same way as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire…. You hang by a slender thread, with flames of divine wrath flashing about it and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder…. Consider this, you that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity…you shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb…. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery…. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite.” [Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”].
The traditional doctrine of hell “is one of the chief grounds on which Christianity is attacked as barbarous and the goodness of God impugned.” [C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain, “Hell”].
So here’s a question: “What would we think of a human being who satisfied his thirst for revenge so implacably and insatiably?” [Hans Kung, Eternal Life, 1984 (p. 136)]. “If this were true” (i.e., the traditional view) it would make Hitler “a third degree saint, and the concentration camps…a picnic ground.” [Nels Ferre, Christian Understanding of God (p. 540)].
“As the Church’s threat against all sinners and all its enemies, hell serves the holy purpose of cradle to grave intimidation.” [Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Putting Away Childish Things, “Hell].
“The idea that a fully conscious creature would undergo physical and mental torture through endless time is plainly sadistic and therefore incompatible with a God who loves humanity.” “In terms of justice, the traditional view of hell is simply unacceptable. It is a punishment in excess of anything that sinners deserve….Besides, no purpose is served by the unending torture of the wicked except vengeance.” [Clark H. Pinnock & Robert Brown, Unbounded Love, “Hell”].
“Is it not plain that sins committed in time and space cannot deserve limitless divine retribution? Hell is the ultimate big stick to threaten people with…this monstrous belief will cause many people to turn away from Christianity.” (p. 39) “What human crimes could possibly deserve everlasting conscious torture?” (p. 140) “Surely the idea of everlasting conscious torment raises the problem of evil to impossible heights.” (p. 150) Any doctrine of hell needs to pass the moral test….The traditional belief….is unbiblical, is fostered by a Hellenistic view of human nature, is detrimental to the character of God, is defended on essentially pragmatic grounds, and is being rejected by a growing number of biblically faithful, contemporary scholars.” (p. 165) [Clark Pinnock in Four Views of Hell, ed, Wm Crockett, Zondervan, 1992].
Is there anyone out there who still accepts the traditional view of Hell?
Is there any view of hell that has Biblical support and at the same time passes the moral test? Does annihilation? How about death by lethal injection? Limbo and/or Purgatory? What then do you say about all of the carnage of lives who are snuffed out of existence?
[Presuppositionalists, don't even start. If you cannot see that it's plausible that the traditional view of hell is unjust without having an ultimate moral standard, then you're just not thinking].