I have re-edited Post and marked the spots re-edited:
Cook wrote:My take is that it makes a lot more sense for an infinite God of love and mercy to extinguish life than to resurrect and maintain life for the purpose of inflicting timeless pain. I have Biblical and non-Biblical reasons for the view, and we can get into it more if you'd like. Of course, people believe in the traditional concept of hell and an afterlife of unending suffering because of direct Bible verses. A discussion between the two views is possible here. I think ultimately though what may be more interesting is to discuss the original topic, the relevancy of hell, from the different perspectives we may bring to the table.
You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
From the context, I've always read it that the Father loves even those who are unrighteous, and that becoming perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect entails learning to love our neighbors and even our enemies. And this isn't an isolated teaching to me but was living truth in the demonstration of Jesus' life, the talk he walked. So that is what is of paramount importance -- loving others. Doing this and loving God with all your heart, mind and soul. Personally I'm not able to reconcile that there is a form of perfection of love that means inflicting suffering to any degree for judicial purposes, much less for hours rolling into days, years, epochs, an endless future of pain, for the shortcomings and immaturities of our short and rather tiny human lives.
If I understand Matthew 5:43-51 in context of perfection — the word means the process of becoming more mature regarding context of passage. It seems to me that Jesus is telling us to grow and become mature in God like Love.
Re- edit begins Here: March 8, 2006
How can a God of Love permit eternal punishment for time without end? Some people think, due to God's great love, it is unjust to eternally punish, or that such punishment is instead temporary, and that everyone will make it to heaven.
The view that Annihilation is a merciful alternative to eternal perdition based on God's love appears to neglect something altogether profound. In order to understand what I mean by this. I must digress for a minute and use the example of the Death Penalty as it is used in the United States so you can gain insight into the point I am trying to make.
The death penalty for murder was imposed in Old Testament Law on the grounds of justice: life for life. This was done for basically two reasons. One reason was to send the murderous criminal to God for final eternal judgment and next, to set an example to the rest of society about the consequence of murderous crime.
For this topic, I would like to use the controversy about the pros and cons of the Death Penalty as a vivid example of why both annihilationism and temporary punishment cannot reflect God's mercy or love.
The pro and con argument about the death penalty goes something like this: One side argues for the justice of the death penalty as merciful and another argues that it is neither just nor merciful.
The main premise used against the death penalty claims that a life sentence, without parole, is a more preferable merciful approach than taking another life.
To further exemplify my point, I'll use the side that is against the Death Penalty to illustrate God's justice of commuting a life sentence verses an annihilationist view of God nullifying someone's life it into some state of non-existence. (Note: This is an example only and not a slight against the death penalty, as I believe murderous criminals should be sent to God for final judgment, justly)
The annihilationist, in this example, would therefore be on the side of the death penalty. In the annihilationist doctrine, it is deemed better to annihilate the murderous individual into a state of eternal non-existence as the more merciful and just alternative to a life sentence of damnation.
What really is God's view on this matter? With these two positions just proposed, would it be just for God to annihilate into eternal non-existence or sentence to an eternal life sentence or a temporary one? How can you truly perceive what God's perspective is? Simple, we learn by examining God's character, nature, and attributes as the Holy Bible discloses within its pages.
For example, God cannot deny Himself. The bible proclaims this fact. What does this indicate? It means, God cannot deny His nature, character, and the essence of who He is. God gave a gift of life to created beings that can reason with intelligence. This is fair and absolves God of any guilt if these individuals decide to misuse the life God gave from Himself and abuse His gift granted for intelligent reason.
To nullify the gift of life, which as a matter of fact, is part of God Himself, as it is written, “In him we live, move and breathe, and have our very being [Acts 17:28].” This means, life comes from God and for God to nullify Life within one of His special created beings by annihilating them into eternal non-existence, is against His very nature: a nature that creates out of nothing - a nature that cannot help but ooze forth life. As God has life, so do we all — that is love.
God's very nature emanates vivifying Love, Justice, Mercy, Righteousness, Fairness, etc, to all. To do so, produces living illustrations to illuminate God's Nature, thus revealing who and what He is. As it is written, “All things were created for thy pleasure.” Revelation 4:11
It is Gods Nature to reveal His personal attributes. God cannot deny Himself. He is a God of the Living and not the dead. Since He lives — Love can. Since He lives — Justice can. Since He lives — righteousness can. Since He lives —Life perseveres reflecting God's attributes by living means and with animate purpose proving God is perfect in all His ways.
God is a God of the living and not a God of the dead. God will not annihilate into a state of eternal non-existence because it is not His nature to do so. This does not mean God cannot do this. He can, but instead He uses self imposed self restraint because His nature and attributes reflect profoundly His noble character. There is nothing unrighteous about God.
Such life producing character will be fair and right in all that it does and in all that it creates. Even at the expense of granting autonomous reasoning and intelligence to special created beings designed for the purpose of God's good and just pleasure to reveal Himself too. These beings have a fair option of rejecting God or excepting Him, freely. To be fair, a choice is laid before them as Ezekiel 18:23, 25, 32 reveals. God is fair.
Therefore, when a created being of note and intelligence sees this choice, they can chose to weasel around God's Nature and His very throne, and even mock God with the fact that He will not annihilate into eternal non-existence anyone due to God's Nature that God cannot deny. They can reject God and the paths of life God freely gives to use, or chose to remain true to God. It is God's nature to grant a test. His ways are pure.
If this personage rejects God, God with wisdom profound will grant that individual enough rope to hang himself by gathering all evidence, plus all rationale, that such weaseling behavior will produce during their personal reign. With this evidence, God will grant a life sentence instead of non-existence because He is just seeing beginning to end. God has a plan (Revelation 21:1).
This is accord with love. God loves those that love him and hates those that hate Him. Love's fairness is beyond our full comprehension. God's love may not be easily provoked, but nevertheless, it can be provoked to anger after a long period of time. God is slow to wrath.
We are to grow in the knowledge of God, including His love that matures us. If we continue to mock God by our very life course, as revealed by how we behave, and treat others, we hang ourselves. No matter how much good we do, we continue to slip back into many forms of weaseling behavior that mocks God's kindness and grace. We need a mirror to see ourselves. It takes courage to look at it and faith to change what we see.
We need a savior to stop what we cannot and thus help us reform. That is the test. Turn back towards God and be part of His plan or away from God towards what we create. The mirror of scripture reveals that human nature is always bent on running away from God making life ugly. God calls forth. Some hear and are changed by God's divine aid: That is Love so true! Choose wisely whom you serve. Return and be part of God's plan.
If one views that this eternal life sentence is unjust and that it would be fairer for the sentence to be reduced and that temporary punishment will redeem any individual, needs to think further on this matter.
If you are I, in this fallen state are permitted a spanking instead of a life sentence, then we would perpetuate sin in the new heaven's and earth. How, by learning after a few thousand years it is okay to sow a few wild oats now and then thus weasel out of any lasting punishment.
After all, many reason that a God so loving will not let you surely die!
This is not just nor is it love. If we fail this test, we have just become another snake in the grass
End of re-Edit
I think ultimately though what may be more interesting is to discuss the original topic, the relevancy of hell, from the different perspectives we may bring to the table.
I imagine there can be some differences in what's meant by "relevancy" and I don't think that's been discussed.
* Is a belief in hell necessary to have a relationship with God?
* Is hell needed in order to have faith?
* Is hell relevant to salvation in that if you don't believe in hell you go to hell?
* Is hell relevant to being increasingly good and learning to love others as the Father loves others?
Just some off the top of my head.
Let's begin! I gave a lot of food for thought!!