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When God’s Core Values Collide

October 19, 2011

In his book, “Love Wins”, Rob Bell asks this pertinent question: “Since God does not desire that anyone perishes, and that all come to repentance, how can God allow anyone to go to Hell?” At another juncture he asks “God demands that we forgive those who sin against us. How then can God not forgive those who sin against Him?” In case those two questions are not enough food for thought, let me add a third he poses in the same chapter: “How can a loving God allow anyone to suffer forever for sins they commit temporarily?”

What Bell is doing is pitting God’s revealed core values against themselves. Without knowing it, Bell has laid out four of the key things that God values (we discuss these values in more depth in our last article on the subject back in September. Access it here).

  • God’s demand that all sin be punished
  • God’s desire that all people have complete freedom of choice
  • God’s love for all He has created
  • God’s plan to redeem mankind from sin by dying on the Cross

With his question, “Since God does not desire that anyone perishes, and that all come to repentance, how can God allow anyone to go to Hell?” the values of “God’s Plan” conflict with “God’s demand”.

With his question, “God demands that we forgive those who sin against us. How then can God not forgive those who sin against Him?” the values of “God’s plan” are laid out against our “Freedom of Choice”.

With his question  “How can a loving God allow anyone to suffer forever for sins they commit temporarily?” the “Love of God” faces down “God’s demand”.

As we said last time, all of God’s values are weighted. Each value carries a different weight. For instance, mankind is free to choose to sin or not to sin. Our wills are not free certainly (our wills are affected by circumstances, hormones, genetics, family, friends and the Tempter), but we can still choose to do right at any given time. Since I have freedom of Choice, this freedom carries more weight with God than his love. He loves me and desires I spend all of eternity with him. But according to the Bible, the very mention of Hell presupposes that God’s desire for us to freely choose Him always weighs heavier than his love for us. As parents, we see the necessity of this. We love our children. But there are times we must let them do as they will, even though their actions hurt us to the core. If we could give them a drug that would make our children obey us, we might think about it for awhile. But eventually we would return to the reality that we want them to choose the best way on their own.

God’s desire to allow us free will trumps his love for us.

But why Hell? Why doesn’t God just destroy us when we die if we don’t have faith in Him? As any person who has ever thought or contemplated running away from it all (even to the extreme of suicide), annihilation is not punishment; it is escape. If Hell is anything, it is the choice to walk away from God and to be forever alone. It is a punishment that God has revealed he does not want for us. But for Freedom of Choice to mean anything, there must be a reasonable choice. Our choice is to choose God or not to choose God. The consequence of choosing God is that we are cleansed and freed from sin’s power. The choice to not be with God is conscious separation from God and the knowledge and weight of our sin still upon us forever.

God’s demand that all sin be punished trumps our desire to escape any consequences.

Just one more thought at this juncture. God will certainly forgive all sins we have committed. He didn’t need to die on the Cross to forgive us. We don’t have to die on a cross to forgive others. But the sins we commit against each other still stand. In John 20, Jesus says, “If you do not forgive the sins of anyone, they are not forgiven”. God cannot forgive us for sins that we have committed against others. Someone has to be punished for those crimes. A judge can certainly drop charges for someone who has robbed from the judge. But he cannot let a criminal go free for robbing another person. Only Jesus’ death on the cross can pay for ALL sins, not just the sins we commit against God.

God’s death on the Cross satisfies God’s demand that all sin be punished. God’s death on the cross -and our putting faith in the Cross –  satisfies our free choice, God’s love, and all of the other core values of God. The Cross is where all the core values are displayed. And the Resurrection shows that Jesus’s sacrifice for sin was acceptable to the Judge of the Universe.

But if someone does not receive the effects of the Cross, then the other core values are played out. And the only way for those weighted values to be enacted is in Hell. So the logical choices are: Come to the Cross, or await eternity apart from God.

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One comment

  1. I love the section where you discuss sin against God verses sin against fellow man and the different aspects of forgiveness necessary for each. I’ve never thought of that before. So right. thanks Mike for more awesome insight.



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