Hell and Heaven As Motivation For Faith: A Mega-Post


yesdarlingido asked:

Hey man! Love your wisdom & needing some of it. I answered a question about guilt recently & discussed repentance, explaining that God uses love, not fear, to motivate us & draw us to Himself. The anon wrote me back saying that no matter how much I speak of grace, the reality of hell still stands, thus fear persists & remains as a motive for repentance. I don’t know how to answer, and would love any insight you may have on the topic. Thanks! -LB

Hey there my dear friend: First of all, I love your blog.  I think you’re quite popular around these parts and I can totally see why.  Please continue to do what you do.

Your question has actually bothered me under the surface for as long as I’ve been a Christian (which is, admittedly, not too long).  It’s one of those icky things we don’t like to think about very much.  I’ve heard smarter people answer this question while dancing around the reality of “eternal torment” and “the worm that never dies,” and it’s like we mince words or gloss over these realities with tons of verbal trickery.  I don’t think I’ll fare much better.  So feel free to skip around and make of this what you will.

Please allow me to present my former atheist view on the issue.  Basically the problem is posed as:

1) Sure, God offers Heaven through Jesus. But there’s a place called Hell, which according to your Bible, is eternal punishment.

2) So no matter what you say about God’s love, there is only a binary option with God — Heaven or Hell — and that can’t possibly be loving.

3) It doesn’t matter that you say “free will,” because people either must choose God and be rewarded or not choose God and suffer.

4) Conclusion: Your faith is always undermined by the promise of reward and the fear of punishment, which is a barbaric doctrine that reeks of inauthenticity and materialism and a coercive deity.

But the more I thought about this, the more I saw serious problems in this argumentation.  Whether you believe in God or not, at the very least this “binary-choice” argument is vastly Swiss cheese.

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