Do Sinners Want Hell?

John Piper says that no one wants Hell and that C. S. Lewis was wrong to suggest otherwise. He writes:

‘The misery of hell will be so great that no one will want to be there. They will be weeping and gnashing their teeth (Matthew 8:12). Between their sobs, they will not speak the words, “I want this.” They will not be able to say amid the flames of the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14), “I want this.” “The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Revelation 14:11). No one wants this.

‘When there are only two choices, and you choose against one, it does not mean that you want the other, if you are ignorant of the outcome of both. Unbelieving people know neither God nor hell. This ignorance is not innocent. Apart from regenerating grace, all people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

‘The person who rejects God does not know the real horrors of hell. This may be because he does not believe hell exists, or it may be because he convinces himself that it would be tolerably preferable to heaven.

‘But whatever he believes or does not believe, when he chooses against God, he is wrong about God and about hell. He is not, at that point, preferring the real hell over the real God. He is blind to both. He does not perceive the true glories of God, and he does not perceive the true horrors of hell.’

In a world that hardly even believes in hell anymore, Piper’s article is a must-read. This is terrifying and right on the mark. Read the rest here.

23 Responses to Do Sinners Want Hell?

  1. David Rogers October 30, 2009 at 12:40 am #

    “While there is time, [God] will [“deliver from the wrath to come”]anyone who turns from sin and treasures him and his work above all.”

    [Fully disclosed Calvinist clarification: God will deliver from the wrath to come only those that he desires to turn from sin and treasure him and his work. above all.

    Since the Calvinist system teaches that God is the monergistic causation of salvation, those whom God gives that turning and treasuring will definitely turn and treasure and those that he chooses not to give the turning and treasuring will not and cannot turn and treasure. God chooses not to give, thus God does not want them delivered.

    Thus, God wants those persons never to turn and treasure, or he would give the ability to turn and treasure; and so, God wants them eternally tormented in hell, all for his glory.]

    Keeping it clarified (unless I’ve misunderstood Calvinism).

  2. Andrew Cowan October 30, 2009 at 2:15 am #

    David,

    Things are perhaps a bit more nuanced for Calvinists than your “Calvinist clarification” portrays them. Most Calvinists (at least those whose Calvinism is similar to Piper) would claim that God does want all people to be saved in the sense that the destruction of a human being in and of itself is not pleasing to God. Thus, they would not want to affirm your statement that “God wants them eternally tormented in hell” without qualification.

    On the other hand, God does not save everyone, and thus there must be something that God wants more than simply saving everyone. After all, if he had wanted, he could have set up different terms for how things work so that everyone was saved if he had really wanted. The real question is, what does God want more than saving everyone? The Arminian answer to this question (at least the one with which I am familiar) is that more than saving every person, God wants to give them a choice about whether to accept him or not. the Calvinist answer is that more than saving every person God wants to display the full range of his glory, including his wrath in punishing the wicked. Both views agree that God does not desire the destruction of the wicked, they simply disagree about what it is that is so important to God that he does not actually save everyone. Calvinists appeal to Romans 9 for biblical support for their answer; I’m not sure what texts an Arminian would appeal to in order to claim biblical support for the notion that our having a choice is more important to God than his saving everyone.

    Thus, I think that many Calvinists would want to give your clarification a little qualification to reflect the fact that they believe that in a certain sense God does desire the salvation of every man; they just go on to give a different explanation of what it is that God wants more that prevents him from accomplishing universal salvation.

    For an extended Scriptural and theological defense of this version of the Calvinist position, see Piper’s essay at the following link:

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1995/1580_Are_There_Two_Wills_in_God/

  3. David Rogers October 30, 2009 at 9:51 am #

    It would be helpful to have an explication of that “certain sense” of God’s desire to have every person saved, even though the act of saving is entirely in God’s court, and He does not act on this “certain sense” of desiring the salvation of every person.

    If Calvinists formulations are accurate in their understanding of God’s sovereignty over all things and determination of all things happening and God’s will cannot be thwarted, I cannot escape the conclusion that God doesn’t want some saved and thus also wants some eternally tormented.

    If that is the way that it is, then that’s the way it is. If you believe the system, own the system.

  4. Jordan October 30, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    Mr. Rogers, did you read Piper’s article? There are, Scripturally speaking, two wills of God. There is His will of command and His will of decree. His will of command is not always accomplished; Jesus said, “Repent and believe the gospel,” when not all will repent and believe. But God’s decreed will (also called secret will) has determined that all who will be saved wil repent and believe. Is it confusing? Yes. Does it go against our natural, sinful mindset? Yes. But it’s Biblical. I highly recommend Dr. Bruce Ware’s book, God’s Greater Glory, in which he deals with the relationship between divine sovereignty and humans in much fuller detail.

  5. Darius T October 30, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    Good words, Jordan and Andrew. Yep, we have to remember the difference between God’s specific/secret/decreed Will and His general Will.

  6. David Rogers October 30, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    Yes I did read the article, and I will consider looking into Ware’s book.

    My reason for posting is to determine whether my “clarification” is accurate or not. If it is not, please state where.

    I get the sense that you guys want to say that it is incomplete, which is fine. But is it wrong in what I have said?

    While I’m at it and here right now [and if Denny will allow it to be posted here and not be too off topic; and, Denny, I would take no offense in being deleted if it is indeed OT] I would like to ask the Calvinists here:

    What concerns do you have about the presence of non-Calvinist perspectives in Evangelicalism?

    I ask this because of an itch to write a book proposal explaining Calvinism to laypeople (I want to accurately present the perspective and show the sincere concerns that Calvinists have).

    Thanks,

    David (not Adrian’s son)

  7. Nathan October 30, 2009 at 10:40 am #

    Sorry guys, but I think the last thing we should be conversing about on this post are the merits of Calvinism.

    This post should motivate us to examine ourselves and our own hearts about our own salvation and our motivations (or lack thereof) for sharing the gospel and urging people to flee from the wrath to come.

    Are we concerned about the lost and their eternal punishment or more concerned about the nuances of theology.

  8. David Rogers October 30, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    Nathan,

    I understand your point, but I do not think that a discussion on the merits or de-merits of Calvinism is contrary to the examination of our hearts. The examination of our hearts really isn’t something that can be posted on a blog comment board.

    The nuances of theology do have an impact on one’s concern for the lost. The problem of hyper-Calvinism works against the concern for the lost, and it is rooted in the nuances of that theology [I’m not saying that the Calvinists here should be considered to be hyper-Calvinits]. But having said all that, your comment is well-taken and an important reminder.

    Blessings,

    David

  9. BPRjam October 30, 2009 at 12:34 pm #

    For the first time in a long time, I actually find myself in agreement with Piper as opposed to Lewis. Lewis seems to be influenced by Kierkegaard here, whom I also usually like. Though I must admit that much of my thoughts on this do invoke the ability or inability of a human to choose – so a discussion of Calvinism isn’t totally out of bounds.

    A couple of things make be cautious of the article, however. The “throwing” comment is too speculative for me. Someone might be “thrown” into prison, but that does not mean they are actually thrown. (On a facetious note, maybe God punches them in the face or kicks them in the groin to “thow” them into Hell. I my opinion, we should avoid images that could lead to these sorts of thoughts unless absolutely necessary. It is enough to say Hell is unbelievably bad, but unless one repents, all will be forced to go there.)

    Second, I’ve been of two minds about Hell ever since seminary, when I realized a valid interpretation of Hell could involve God’s intense presence on a person without the sinless perfection of Christ as a shield (cf. 2 Thess 1:9 in Greek, though Young’s literal probably works, too). For many reasons, I think such torment has the potential to be worse than the separationists Hell. In short, I can’t decide between the two.

    There are other things I could say, but they veer off into the overly philosophical.

  10. David Rogers October 30, 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    Should we understand Hell in some sense as a separation from God’s presence?

    How should we understand this in terms of Rev. 14:10 where it states “he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb”?

    Does this also teach that if we are with the Lamb in eternity then those tormented in Hell will also be tormented in our presence?

  11. Rick Lannoye October 30, 2009 at 6:20 pm #

    Sorry, but it’s very incorrect to claim that everyone who ends up in Hell had a choice between God or not. For one thing, millions of people lived and died long before Christianity began, and many more long afterward. Meaning, there would be millions of people who lived their lives as best they could, who then died, and woke up in the worst sort of torture chamber ever, with no idea why?

    But you’re missing the even bigger question–what makes you think a God who could torture anyone, for any length of time, for whatever excuse of a reason, is the kind of being you can count on to spare you?

    I’ve actually written an entire book on this topic–“Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There’s No Such Place As Hell,” (for anyone interested, you can get a free Ecopy of my book at my website: http://www.ricklannoye.com), but if I may, I’d like to share one of the many points I make in it to explain why there can be no Heaven if there’s a Hell.

    Let’s say you end up in Heaven trying to sing endless praises to a God who is, simultaneously, torturing billions of others. Unless you are given a de facto lobotomy (in which case, YOU would no longer be YOU, so you might as well have not had a soul to begin with), you would have to begin wondering, “When am I next?” and the joy of Heaven would be lost, replaced by gloom and foreboding! Why? Because you could never rely on a God who is so mean to be honest about making any exceptions.

    After all, which is more difficult? For God to actively cause so much immense pain, for so many, for so long, or to go back on whatever promises he made to a few others that he would not put them in Hell too at some point?

    It would be like accepting an invitation to live as a guest with one of these maniacal men we’ve been hearing about lately who kidnap, imprison, rape and torture young girls in secret basements. Can you imagine such a guy, simultaneously, having some other young lady as his dinner date, and treating her with respect and care? And even if he did for a while, wouldn’t his true nature unleash itself upon her at some point in time, as it has on so many others? Of course!

    Thankfully, there is no Hell, and guess what? Jesus himself made this clear!

    If one is willing to look, there’s substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: “You don’t know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!” Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

    So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

    True, there are a few statements that made their way into the gospels which place Hell on Jesus lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

  12. DennyReader October 31, 2009 at 12:20 am #

    Rick, I am curious, are you a self existent being or are you a creature created by God like the rest of us?

  13. Darius T October 31, 2009 at 9:15 am #

    Rick, apparently you only believe the parts of Luke you like. How convenient.

  14. Trent October 31, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

    I find it interesting that Tim Keller says that Lewis’ view of hell is the only truly just view of hell because it gives everyone what they want and he says “People in hell right now, don’t want to get out of hell.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9fmKSwuoDE

    The relevant portion begins at around 1:03:00

  15. Darius T October 31, 2009 at 3:07 pm #

    Trent,

    Yeah, I’ve heard Keller preach on Hell. I believe he gets that from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, if I’m not mistaken. That may be true, but I am hesitant to read too much into a parable. The parable is about how if only people had a sign then they would believe, but Jesus says that it won’t matter for many even if someone (hint hint) comes back to life. Building a theology of hell around a parable is dangerous ground.

  16. Ali October 31, 2009 at 11:34 pm #

    Yeah, I’ve heard that Keller sermon too, and I wasn’t convinced that his view is able to be fully sustained even from the parable he was using. Still, even if the parable can be legitimately read to support his points, I think Darius T is right – there are other verses in the NT that support Piper above both Keller and C.S.Lewis.

  17. ex-preacher November 1, 2009 at 6:24 pm #

    I’m just one “sinner,” but I certainly don’t want to be tortured for all eternity. That’s just one reason why I’m glad that the notion of hell merely a human invention imported into Christianity from the Persians (Zoroastrians, to be precise) and Greeks.

    How can one believe in a God who will intentionally inflict pain on his creatures for all time? This monstrous cruelty is unfathomable. I reject the notion that this level of punishment is just. Can you believe that Anne Frank and the 6 million other Jews who perished in the holocaust will spend eternity in hell? This sadistic God makes Hitler, Stalin and Mao look like schoolchildren playing in a sandbox.

    Can you picture Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama or Thomas Jefferson in hell? Will the ten thousand Kosovar Muslims who were raped and murdered spend forever in a lake of fire? Were the 150,000 people killed by the tsunami swept into an eternity of never-ending death by burning? How about the ten million African slaves brought to the Americas? Many Christians evade this issue by saying “It’s all up to God, not me.” This cop-out puts the Christian in the position of hoping that God will change his mind or didn’t really mean what he said.

    I wish more Christian preachers would preach more often on hell. I can think of nothing that would empty out church pews quicker.

  18. DennyReader November 1, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    This monstrous cruelty is unfathomable. I reject the notion that this level of punishment is just.

    EP, as an atheist, a proven liar, a hypocrite, you have no basis to judge what is good or bad, cruel or kind, just or unjust. You have as much basis to make these statements as a cockroach.

    For those who truly claim that they do not want hell. The answer is simple and solution is there for their taking, but yet they refuse. So while their mouths say no, their hearts say yes. It is true that we Christian worship a cruel God. A God that is so cruel He would suffer the passion for His creatures that they might be saved. A cruel God that would lower Himself to become one of His creatures just to reconcile these creatures to the Creator. A cruel God that adopted his creatures as sons and daughters. A cruel God liken the father of the prodigal son, who killed the fattened calf, adorns him with his jewelry and robe at his return. A cruel God that demonstrated His love to the world in this way, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    Then there are the likes of EP who claim to not want hell, but came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Luke 19:20-26

  19. ex-preacher November 1, 2009 at 8:59 pm #

    I’m so shocked that DennyReader has resorted to his usual rhetorical devices – ad hominem and unsupported assertion.

    Christian theology can be basically summarized in two propositions:

    1. God loves you very, very much.

    2. If you don’t love him back, he will torture you forever in hell.

  20. James Cole November 1, 2009 at 9:01 pm #

    Rick,
    Jesus sure did speak about Hell a lot. Apparently the early church believed in Hell as well…see the Apostle’s Creed.

  21. DennyReader November 1, 2009 at 11:22 pm #

    I’m so shocked that DennyReader has resorted to his usual rhetorical devices – ad hominem and unsupported assertion.

    This has been your tactics. When you can’t defend yourself or your beliefs then throw out the “ad hominem” and “it is just rhetoric”. It is an easy hideout, but hiding your head in the sand does not mean that people can’t see the rest of your body. I have documented every one of charges.

    Christian theology can be basically summarized in two propositions

    Which is why no one in their right mind would ask an atheist about Christian theology. The atheists don’t even understand their own theology; of course they will distort and mischaracterize Christian theology. Asking an atheist about theology would be akin to asking a piece of rock, a cockroach, or a walking and talking primate, which is no more than a subspecies of catarrhines made from the mindless collection of star dust. So you can relax EP nobody is going to ask you about that.

    On the other hand, atheist theology is just delusional, thinking they are god and they are the sole determiner of all things.

  22. ex-preacher November 2, 2009 at 12:24 am #

    James,

    Have you ever noticed that hell is not mentioned in either John’s gospel or Paul’s epistles? I guess they didn’t get the memo.

  23. Daryl November 4, 2009 at 9:16 am #

    To The Non-believers,

    Let me ask a simple question: Do you consider MAN unloving and evil and cruel for imposing a prison system and punishment for those guilty of committing captial crimes? Do you not believe in justice, accountabiiity and judgment?

    The gospel message is that we are all guilty of rebellion against a Holy and Righteous God (Rom. 3:10-23).

    But God, in mercy and grace took the wrath due us upon Himself on the Cross. Christ suffered all that Hell is so we may become the righteousness of God, if we believe in Him by faith. If we reject God’s sacrifice, there is no other.

    God hasn’t failed to love you. Quite the opposite. The Gospel proclaims God loves YOU. You simply refuse Him. I pray that you may come to know Christ’s love in a personal relationship.

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