Why People Go to Hell, A Difficult Topic
Another reason (previous post) the topic of why people go to Hell is difficult is because the possibility that a loved one may be suffering torment in the afterlife is extremely emotionally troubling. When arguments become emotional they often cease to be rational. It is difficult to cover this topic objectively without coming across as being judgmental and insensitive. After all, if we live long enough, and discuss this topic enough, we will come to know and love people to whom the issue applies. When we are talking about people in the afterlife we are not talking about imaginary, fictitious characters but actual people. At some point we will come to this realization and naturally begin to draw connections. This emotional attachment may cause us to distance ourselves from the argument, to draw conclusions that may be emotionally comforting but may not be Biblically supported, or we may deflect the issue by focusing our attention on the moral failings of those offering their arguments. In the case of the later, the argument often ends with someone quoting John 8:7, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone." Ironically this is one of the most quoted verses of the Bible but it is in a short section of John that has weak manuscript support (an argument for another day).
There are also some theological questions that add to the difficulty of the issue of people being in Hell. The questions are often along the lines of: 1) Do children who do not have a sense of moral culpability go to Hell if they die? 2) Do people who have never had an opportunity to hear the gospel go to Hell when they die? I'm sure my 5 pt. friends will have plenty to say on this issue, and probably will. But since its my blog (which gives me exclusive rights to moderate the page) and I am only a 3.73748422038 pt. Calvinist you will have to defer the right to me to speak first :) and I will.
This said, I think it is imperative to draw the following conclusions as we move forward in talking about why people go to Hell:
1. Just because we cannot say specifically who is in Hell does not mean we cannot know why people go to Hell.
a. The Bible does not major on telling us specifically "who" is in Hell.
b. The Bible does major on telling us "why" specifically people go to Hell.
c. We should keep our majors Biblical.
2. Speaking about why people go to Hell is not the same as condemning specific people to Hell. It is important to make the distinction. Ultimately judgment is with the Lord. Let's leave it there. Yet we must affirm, again, that the Bible tells us why people go to Hell. All we can do is affirm what He has revealed to us in His Word. To the best of my ability, this is what I will seek to do going forward.
3. The reason it is important for us to discuss why people go to Hell is not simply so we can know why people go to Hell. We discuss this matter for the very reason that God reveals this information to us, so that people can avoid going to Hell. The Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). In this discussion we should conform to the attitude of God.
I leave you with an old "preacher story" to illustrate my point.
A church hosted two pastoral candidates on consecutive Sundays. Both preached on Hell. The first candidate was rejected. The second was hired. When a man on the search committee was asked why the first candidate was rejected, though both candidates preached on Hell, he replied, "The first man preached as if he was glad people were going to Hell. The second preached as if he did not want anyone to go. That's the difference."
Let's also be careful to know the difference.