Ross Douthat’s Case for Hell

From Ross Douthat in the NY Times Opinion Pages:

But the more important factor in hell’s eclipse, perhaps, is a peculiar paradox of modernity. As our lives have grown longer and more comfortable, our sense of outrage at human suffering — its scope, and its apparent randomness — has grown sharper as well. The argument that a good deity couldn’t have made a world so rife with cruelty is a staple of atheist polemic, and every natural disaster inspires a round of soul-searching over how to reconcile with God’s omnipotence with human anguish.

Doing away with hell, then, is a natural way for pastors and theologians to make their God seem more humane. The problem is that this move also threatens to make human life less fully human.

Douthat makes some points that are worthy of consideration, whether or not you agree with him.


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4 Responses to Ross Douthat’s Case for Hell

  1. me says:

    That’s not special pleading; that’s just a definition based on different assumptions. Christianity does not teach that there are exceptions; even Jesus set aside his godhood to be fully human.

    Materialism denies man is created in God’s image; therefore, from a Christian perspective, a materialist definition is a denial of the Christian (and Jewish, for that matter) definition of what it means to be human.

    But, you’re right, I think. It is more “humane” to be forgiven on a human level. To be forgiven by a deity is a downright miracle. That’s the gospel: we can’t be “sorry” enough to earn forgiveness–that is indeed inaccessible. Forgiveness is a gift that we don’t — and can’t — deserve.

  2. I know you will disagree, but a completely materialist definition of humanity has already stripped away the essence of what it means to be human.

    I would say that is special pleading, myself. I I find it more humane to be forgiven by a person to whom I have apologized than to an entity I have “sinned” against. I can easily recognize when I have hurt someone; it is beyond my ability to find forgiveness from an entity whose “rules” I have broken.

  3. me says:

    I guess it depends upon your definition of humanity. The Christian perspective is that humanity is created in the image of God, and that morality originates in the character of God. Doing away with the concept of hell is, in a sense, saying that evil doesn’t matter.

    I’m not sure I agree, however… I need to think about it some more. Evil does matter; but perhaps forgiveness matters more.

    I know you will disagree, but a completely materialist definition of humanity has already stripped away the essence of what it means to be human.

  4. I have no clue as to how getting rid of such a damnable doctrine reduces our humanity.

    Perhaps with modernism we are seeing that there is no eternal life to justify theodicy’s apologetics, and the first thing to go is going to be Hell. Then the second thing will be Heaven, which concept I find to be just as horrifying.

    Our humanity is increased when we finally see that this life is all that we have, and we are to make it as good for ourselves and others as we can without looking over our shoulder to see if we are being watched or judged by a supernatural Creator.

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