In the Tracking Theological Trajectories training track we looked at Tim Keller’s The Reason For God. It stood out as an excellent book tackling some tough questions in a good style, but raised questions in two areas: evolution, and hell.
Keller’s idea of hell was essentially written to rid his readers of the idea that God somehow gets enjoyment as he pushes those he doesn’t choose into a pit of fire, laughing all the way. Of course, he’s right to correct that image, but the way he does it is questionable.
He takes an idea from Romans 1: 18-32, that God hands sinners over into their sin and that therefore people who end up in hell have actually chosen to go there. He quotes C.S. Lewis at some point when he says something like this:
God gives everyone a chance to say ‘thy will be done’ in case on the final day he has to say, ‘thy will be done’.
It’s a powerful idea but one which actually portrays hell as a somehow desirable location, and that’s simply not true. Keller takes Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and points out that the rich man tried to get Lazarus to enter hell, rather than beg to be let out…but he does want his brothers to be warned about the place of torment, so I’m not sure that’s right.
John Piper blogged recently that this theory is like looking at a fat person – they wanted chocolate, not obesity. In the same way, a person in hell didn’t want to get there, they wanted to sin.
Perhaps more dangerously, however, Keller’s theory proposes the idea that hell is actually God’s passive wrath. The man is merrily cycling towards the pit of fire, and God’s just standing by allowing it to happen.
I think that hell must be God’s active wrath – he is punishing sin because it’s so horrific to him. The Bible doesn’t hold back about describing sin as ‘whoring’, and it’s exactly the fact that God hates sin so much that makes the cross so incredibly grace-filled!
Well, I thought it was interesting – I’d like to hear your thoughts though! If you’d like to hear the session in full it’s located here.