The Tentative Apologist
2/5/10 at 12:04 PM 1 Comments

Do people in hell continue to curse God?

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I have been engaging questions over the justice of the doctrine of hell as eternal conscious torment with the main suggestion being that this appears deeply morally problematic. MGT2 demurs. From his perspective, people choose to be in hell as they pile up sins eternally:

Why does God allow people to continue to suffer in hell? And why does God punish people in hell? Because that is what they want. They spurn every effort by God and choose to spend eternity with the one for whom hell was made. People do not accidentally end up in hell. They make a conscious and deliberate choice.

This response introduces a whole new dimension to the topic over which Christians have long disagreed. There undoubtedly is something appealing about this response. If hell is the sum total of those who forever shake their fists at God then perhaps it is not quite as unjust as we thought. We don't lament the life imprisonment of a maniacal sociopath who shows no remorse. Why should we lament the eternal imprisonment of the irredeemably wicked?

Unfortunately there is a significant problem with this line of argument. (Actually there is a whole gaggle of problems, but I'll note just one here.) A number of biblical texts appear inconsistent with this claim. Let's consider two beginning with Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

The Greek word kamptō (should bow) suggests an individual bowing in honor or worship. Nor, as has lamely been suggested, can this be readily explained by saying God breaks the knee caps of the recalcitrant to make them bow. Likewise, exomologeō (should confess) carries with it the connotation of a joyous confession. It would seem to be a pretty creative eisegesis (reading into the text) that could read this as saying that a person begrudgingly concedes Christ's lordship even as it continues to curse his name.

Perhaps even more intriguing is Colossians 1:19-20: "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

The scope of the passage is unequivocal. Christ's work on the cross extends to all things. But the key word here is "reconcile" (apokatallassō) which means "to reconcile completely" or "bring back to a state of harmony." How is this word reconcile itself to be reconciled to the idea of a significant segment of the population shaking its fist at God and cursing his name eternally? Presumably the answer is: with great difficulty.

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