Even in my most religious moments, I have never been able to take the idea of hell seriously. Prevailing Christian theology asks us to believe that an all-powerful, all-knowing being would do what no human parent could ever do: create tens of billions of flawed and fragile creatures, pluck out a few favourites to shower in transcendent love, and send the rest to an eternity of unrelenting torment.
However, this time we explore a different facet of the Aeon article argument. Is God like us doing what no human parent would? Although we could spend time expounding on human parenting, both good and bad, I think all of us know those stories either through the media or through our experience. In our age, it’s God’s declarations we’ve forgotten.
The obvious place to start is Psalm 50:21:
These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
The psalmist describes God calling His people to hear Him speak. He rebukes His faithful, not for being delinquent in ritual sacrifice of bulls and goats which are His anyway, but for not offering sacrifices of thanksgiving, performing their vows to the Most High, and calling upon Him in the day of trouble. And He promises in response:
“I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
To the wicked He says that they have no right to recite His statutes or covenant because they hate discipline and reject His words. He goes on to say that they are pleased with thieves, keep company with adulterers, speak evil and deceit, and condemn and slander even their own kin.
Finally, He calls those thus condemned to repentance, even warning them of the penalty if they do not:
“Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
Reiterating this theme, He says through His prophet, Isaiah:
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
He calls yet again, through His prophet Ezekiel:
“I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.”
And through His prophet Paul, He states that He: desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
This God gave His own Son as a sacrifice for us, His enemies, that whoever believes in Him should not die but live, eternally. What human parent ever did that?