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The Problem of Hell

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/26/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 10,110 times Debate No: 17668
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (135)
Votes (8)




The Problem of Hell

I thank Gileandos for agreeing to debate this very important topic with me. We will be debating the problem of hell. [1]

In short, I aim to make the case that the traditional doctrine of hell as eternal, conscious, torment is, in all likelihood, incompatible with the Christian God. If the Christian God has the traits typically ascribed to him by Christians like perfectly loving, good, merciful, just, knowledgeable, and powerful then I say we have an enormous moral problem on hand if you consider God alongside the doctrine of hell.

In what follows whenever I say "hell" I mean to refer to the traditional doctrine of hell unless the term is suitably qualified. The same goes with "God" and Christian God.

I will split my objections to the doctrine of hell into three different parts. I will not attempt to canvass all of the possible objections to my arguments as I am not sure which tack my opponent will take, so I will just attempt to provide a basic bare-bones case for supporting the resolution. These objections will also be unavoidably short.

The Proportionality Objection

"Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

-- Genesis 18:25

This objection is an old and worn one but it seems to me that it is old and worn for good reason. Basically, it states that no amount of finite sin could ever justify an eternal, infinite sentence of punishment - much less torment. Torture is rightly looked at as a morally impermissible form of punishment. Imagine if I said I was going to torture a murderer forever, of course, what the murderer did was heinous to the highest degree and some might even feel a little justified in getting some revenge against the murderer but after a certain point almost everybody agree the torture just becomes pointless and cruel. The problem is expounded even more when one realizes that hell isn't even about reformation - these people will be there forever - it's about retribution. In a sense the doctrine of hell is saying that these people deserve to exist in torment forever. Again, the question comes up about how this state of affairs is even remotely morally justifiable. How does this constitute God doing right?

The Bliss of the Saved Objection

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

-- Revelation 21:4

It's a common refrain in Christian thought that there will be nothing but eternal bliss for the redeemed in heaven. Sounds great, right? A wrench is thrown in the plans when one considers hell alongside this picture of sanctified believers. How exactly can these redeemed be in a state of eternal bliss when there are people being tormented forever in hell?

Everyday, mundane - but admittedly anecdotal - examples can highlight how much a problem this is for the doctrine of hell. I have often heard of/met Christians who have a great sense of empathy for those who suffer. Indeed, this is considered a great moral virtue in the Christian tradition. They also want to spread the Gospel because they do not want to see someone they could have potentially saved suffer the torments of hell. A lot less rarely, thank God, I have also heard of/met Christians who either are indifferent to the sufferings of others, or worse, even seem to delight in the sufferings of others. Surely, the latter attitude is not only morally erroneous but morally perverse.

When considering the status of those in heaven it certainly seems as if they would share the former attitude towards the suffering of others to an unimaginably greater degree then the latter attitude. Now, how could those saved really be in a state of perfect bliss if there are those who are suffering unimaginable, eternal torments? This seems to me to be just plain incompatible with central Christian virtues and God.

The Reconciliation Objection

"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."

-- Colossians 1:20

Surely, reconciliation with God is a theme that runs throughout the Bible. This is most clearly demonstrated by Colossians 1:20.

The problem should then become immediately obvious. Here is a God who is said to be perfectly loving and perfectly good reconciling all things to himself...yet there are people anguishing in hell. In what sense has peace been made if people are suffering for all of eternity? In what sense can reconciliation occur when there are people who are in the state of never-ending, conscious, torment? Are we seriously suppose to countenance the thought that the reconciliation of all people (as a subset of the set "all things" that Col. 1:20 speaks of) happens in virtue of some people agonizing in unimaginable torment forever?

It's incredibly hard to see how by any reasonable definition of the word "reconcile" [2] hell could exist in conjunction with God.

I now pass the baton to Con.





I thank my opponent for this debate.
I am highly interested in this debate. I also am excited, as this should be an entertaining one.

The traditional view of Hell is believed based upon explicit teachings that Hell is an eternal place of torment. [1][2][3]
Hell as a place of eternal torment was a unanimous view of the Early Church Fathers.
Additionally, the traditional view of the afterlife includes three places.
- Heaven for the people devoted unto holiness.
- Abraham’s Bosom/Purgatory for those who are not evil or holy. (Abraham’s Bosom is the Orthodox/Protestant term and Purgatory is the Catholic/Anglican term)\
- Hell for those who reject God’s reconciliation and choose evil.

Christ’s atonement brought a way of reconciliation to those who choose to accept that process.
Those who embrace it fully go straight to Heaven.
Those who do not directly reject God but do not live a life of full repentance go to the “middle place”\
Those who reject this process take the punishment upon themselves.[ibid]

My Positive argument The Justice Argument (also rebuttal to the proportionality argument):
A) Indeed the crime fits the punishment.
Contrary to my opponent’s proposal - eternal punishment is affirmed as proportionate to the crime.

Though I agree with my opponent’s statement that a finite crime should not receive infinite punishment… I do not believe that crimes that get you “into hell” are finite.

They may be temporal (as in a moment in time) but their implications are eternal. For example: Murder has a permanent consequence for all involved. If the consequence is permanent, what in my opponent’s opinion should release you?

Raping a women or a virgin and mentally scarring her from being ever able to have a normal life has eternal or everlasting consequences.

Certain sins cannot be mended or undone and the punishment fits the crime.

Not all sins warrant a trip to Hell. For those who are not morally perfect, they will spend time in place of purification called Abraham’s bosom/purgatory.
Rejection of God’s reconciliation process means you accept the eternal consequence of your sins and consequently the result of Hell as it is laid out within the traditional view.

God’s “sense” of divine justice is well within his omni-benevolence.

I do not see any conflict with God’s sense of “punishment – chastisement – torment – retribution” as used by the Biblical authors and God’s described character traits of benevolence.

After all, God commands us not to be vengeful but He is a God of vengeance (enactor of retribution)

Leviticus 19:18 `You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Deuteronomy 32:35 Vengeance is Mine, and recompense;

Their foot shall slip in due time;
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And the things to come hastenupon them.'

We see also in the New Testament:

Romans 12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is
written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.

Hebrews 10:30 For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The Lord will judge His people."

The traditional view of Christianity clearly asserts that God is a God of Vengeance and retribution. He is the perfect moral agent capable of enacting vengeance without the sin that would encumber us.


God is not some sadistic Being tormenting people like a sadist. A Person’s eternal sins beget an eternal punishment.
God’s torment is morally apt as a perfect moral agent.

Concerning Hell and reformation.
- As we have seen that the place of reformation is Abraham’s Bosom/ Purgatory. You can reform in this life and earn greater rewards… or in Abraham’s Bosom and earn no rewards.
- Hell is for people who are beyond reformation. God decides this not us. We see examples of God’s overruling decision for people in the Flood Narrative, Numbers 12, Moses’ never being allowed to see the Promised Land etc. We have a limited amount of time to repent and reconcile with God.
- An additional concept would be a person who has a permanent black mark on their record excluding them from a future service or privilege. Gun laws and military advancement being some examples.

Take for the easy example, Hitler. How could we possibly know how such a devoutly evil person would handle his “reform” program? If we let him out into heaven, how can we know how he would respond to eternal life and an eternal existence?

I believe my opponent would agree that we simply are not in a good place to determine if Hell bound people can actually reform.

People being eternally sent to Hell have a reformative quality for those in Heaven.

- If we are speculating about this; why is it not equally plausible that the lost souls in Hell, who deserve to be there, are not serving as examples to those in Heaven to not fall away from their positive Moral framework?

- This is the old argument that the extreme but justified punishment of lopping off criminals hands (for a variety of crimes) goes a very very long way in deterring people on the “proverbial fence”.

Concerning the contrast of Eternal Bliss

I am at this moment completely unconcerned that evil murderers are going through unimaginable suffering in prison right now the world over. They are being beaten, sodomized and even exploited for profit. They are thirsty and suffering hunger.

I on the other hand, would be incredibly concerned if these people were running rampant the world over.

I would love that these people would repent but I feel far more comforted that Justice is being served.

I do indeed prefer a Just God and I believe that my bliss would be enhanced knowing that God will right all wrongs through a perfect system of Justice. Eternal crime merits eternal punishment. True Repentance merits true forgiveness.

I am myself a chaplain and I have ministered in prisons and to a multitude of ex-cons. I love when I can uncover a diamond in the evil so to speak. However, I realize that the choices would be the same for many of these people should they be released. Few actually repent.

Concerning the reconciliation objection:

I believe this is an objection based on a non-traditional interpretation.

Even though I can be at peace with everyone that does not mean everyone will be at peace with me.

Romans 12:18
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

The traditional interpretation is that if you reject this reconciliation process through Jesus Christ you are then tossed into Hell.

The interpretation is not that “God will force reconciliation on everyone.”

This objection seems to be a false dilemma from my opponent.

His argument is as follows:
1) God reconciles all things
2) Hell is not reconciliation
3) Thus Hell cannot be the traditional place of eternal torment.

The actual situation and traditional interpretation is a third option.
1) God offers reconciliation to all things through Christ’s actions.
2) Hell is a place for those unwilling to reconcile with God.
3) Hell is a place of deserved eternal retribution for those unwilling to reconcile with God.

[2] the Fathers, from the very earliest times, are unanimous in teaching that the wicked will be punished after death. And in proof of their doctrine they appeal both to Scripture and to reason (cf. Ignatius, "Ad Eph.", v, 16; "Martyrium s. Polycarpi", ii, n, 3; xi, n.2; Justin, "Apol.", II, n. 8 in P.G., VI, 458; Athenagoras, "De resurr. mort.", c. xix, in P.G., VI, 1011; Irenaeus, Against Heresies V.27.2; Tertullian, "Adv. Marc.", I, c. xxvi, in P.L., IV, 277)
[4] Ephesians 2:14-17
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to Gileandos for his round.

For one, I'm not in any way convinced that the traditional conception of hell makes the best sense of the biblical data. In fact, I think the case from the bible for the traditional conception of hell is incredibly weak. I think annihilationism [1] makes far better sense of the biblical data. For instance, the most dominant language by far when speaking of hell in the bible is the language of destruction.

Matt. 10:28 "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

The Bible is absolutely saturated with language like this. (See: Ps 37:2,9,20,38; Mal 4:1; Matt 3:10,12; Matt 5:30; Matt 13:30; 42, 49, 50; 2 Thes. 1:9; 1 Cor. 3:17; Phil. 1:28; Phil. 3:19; 2 Pet. 3:7; Heb. 10:39; 2 Pet. 2:1, 3; etc.) You get the picture.

Salvation (life) is constantly contrasted with death or destruction and like terms:

John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Matt 7:13-14: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

Rom. 6:23: "or the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. "

And multitudes of other verses back this up (2 Cor. 2:15-16, Matt. 10:39, 1 Tim. 1:10, etc). All of the verses would go past my character count limit.

If the early church fathers were interpreting the bible wrong (which they were, imo) then their clout on this issue is, to say the least, considerably weakened.

The Justice Argument

A) Con says that some sins' implications are eternal and I absolutely agree! As an annihilationist I think these sins merit annihilation...not eternal, conscious torment. The annihilation will have eternal consequences in that they will not be around anymore for the rest of eternity. If the biblical reasons and the moral reasons do not back up the traditional conception of hell what are we left with? Which eternal set of consequences do we choose from? Con must make that argument instead of assuming it. Con has done nothing to solve the moral problem of the eternal consequences of sin and how they square God with hell traditionally conceived. It still seems morally unjust.

B) Unfortunately, I do see a conflict. I agree that God is the one who enacts retribution, but like the just judge that he is, he wouldn't engage in arbitrarily or cruelly which is what the traditionalist hell seems to be.

Con's argument here actually raises more problems than it allegedly answers. If God can do categorically evil things (like torture endlessly) and then somehow make them "good" then this makes ascribing terms to him like "perfect moral agent" absolute nonsense. J.S. Mill get this exactly right (one of the few things he did get right): "To say that God's goodness may be different in kind from man's goodness, what is it but saying, with a slight change of phraseology, that God may possibly not be good? To assert in words what we do not think in meaning, is as suitable a definition as can be given of a moral falsehood. Besides, suppose that certain unknown attributes are ascribed to the Deity in a religion the external evidences of which are so conclusive to my mind, as effectually to convince me that it comes from God. Unless I believe God to possess the same moral attributes which I find, in however inferior a degree, in a good man, what ground of assurance have I of God's veracity?" [2]

C) Contrary to what Con claims, if God and the traditionalist conception of hell are put together, I do think it makes God look like a sadistic being and that is one the many reasons why it should be rejected. The math just doesn't add up.

D) I don't think that hell-bound people actually reform in hell because I believe they are annihilated so much of this point is irrelevant.

E) Serving as examples for what? Those in heaven already redeemed. Con actually seems to tie himself into knots unknowingly. He says, "For those who are not morally perfect, they will spend time in place of purification called Abraham's bosom/purgatory." This implies that those in heaven are morally perfect. If they are morally perfect then why would they need people being tortured forever as examples of what will happen to them if they stray? They wouldn't have thoughts of straying if they were morally perfect now would they?

The Eternal Bliss Objection

Con seems to agree with me that, necessarily, those in heaven will be in a state of unimaginable happiness and bliss or it wouldn't be heaven. Unfortunately, Con's rebuttal here does nothing to alleviate the moral problem and apparent inconsistency. Con says he has no problem with evil murderers going through unimaginable suffering - that may very well be the case - but, simply put, when you factor in torment beyond any earthly thing we can even dream of that goes on forever and ever this line of thought seems strained.

No amount of finite transgressions against God and others can plausibly add up to infinite, ongoing punishment. This entirely undermines the retributive theory of justice that underlies Con's entire argument! Punishment is supposed to be proportionate on that theory - not grossly over-applied. In fact, it would be morally wrong to do so.

Would not people in heaven, if they were aware of the suffering going on hell, have something like Paul's thoughts? "For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race." (Rom 9:3) This shows a remarkable sense of empathy and one could only imagine how redeemed in heaven are supposed to feel about the sufferings of others - even those that are damned. Now, how does that square with the thought brought out in revelation where there will be no more tears? This is a difficult moral problem for the traditionalist in where we consider how one could be happy - unimaginably happy - knowing that others are horribly suffering forever. If the saved become more God-like then it's hard to see how the saved, or God, can abide by this.

The Reconciliation Objection

Con's rebuttal here simply misses the point. Scripture clearly says that God will reconcile all things to himself and he will be sovereign over all during the new heavens and earth. This is really not up for legitimate contention amongst Christians.

Eph 1:1 : "That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:"

1 Cor 15:28: "When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. "

Acts 3:21: "Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."

Clearly, having people who haven't been reconciled to God (Con even admits people in hell haven't been reconciled) is not reconciling all things to God! It's as simple as that. Con's rebuttal stands in contradiction to what the Bible says.

There can be no people "rejecting" God's reconciliation, redemption and sovereignty over all things forever because, then, God's plans have essentially been thwarted by his own creations on the traditional view of hell. That's quite the bullet to bite if I do say so myself. And it seems utterly incompatible with the Christian God. Con's attempted rebuttal has gained no purchase because it completely misses the mark.




I was excited to read my opponent’s last round. I thank him for it.
I did notice a distinct shift to the belief on annihilationism.

However, could not the same problems as stated by my opponent’s contention, with God being “perfectly loving” and “all powerful” etc --- still exist with eternally destroying someone?

How does God completely burning someone out of existing through a torturous burning death scenario show God to be the “traditional perfectly loving God”?

If He is all-powerful could he not just fix them?

Looks like the same problems exist as my opponent stated them.

You might argue God is more loving as my opponent did by not torturing them too long, but the same traditional perfectly loving God would still be a problem.

Annihilationism also does not resolve God not being powerful enough to fix them.

Annihilationism has all the same “problems” that my opponent has laid out. Could you be eternally blissful if these people were obliterated?

Fortunately it also has all the same proven solutions we have seen already.

As a side note, eternal punishment is clearly and explicitly taught within the Bible. All implicit statements of destruction must be interpreted in light of the explicit statements of eternal punishment.

We see:
Revelation 14:9-11
“They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever.”
And another one
Matthew 25:46
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

There are more but these are so clear that Jesus, the author of Matthew and St. John all viewed Hell as a place eternal with punishment in view.

This shows that my opponent and I completely agree. He may as yet not realize it but we do.

When we say “perfectly loving” we do not mean God is weak or that God is unjust. His love checks and flows through His other character traits.

Whether this is through eternal torment or eternal destruction. “Perfectly loving” to the traditional view of Christianity is not that the guilty do not get punished.[ibid] Eternal sin begets eternal punishment.

When we say “all powerful” we do not mean that God has not limited himself in his dealings with a being he created to have free will.[ibid]

The result of such concepts? That God is indeed still perfectly loving and all powerful as he chooses to punish the guilty and evil people.

He is “perfectly loving” to give justice to the victims.

His “all powerful” nature shows that it will not be undone outside of His choosing.


The problem of Hell stands negated. A person need not like the idea of Hell. They need not desire to be sent there but nothing in my opponent’s last round supported his side of the resolution.

He in fact entirely supported my side of the contention. There is no problem scriptural or logically with God and his punishing people eternally. He and I may not agree with the degree of punishment but nevertheless his assertion of annihilationism concedes the resolution.

It merely would argue how extreme is God’s punishment. It would argue against the Early Church fathers. The same fathers who explained the Traditional view of God’s nature and character, as well as His eternal justice system of eternal Hell.

My opponent himself has supported my side of the resolution by selecting system of punishment:

That would be subject to the same:

Bliss of the saved objection

Reconciliation objection

The proportionality argument appears to be resolved.

I will address a few of the pertinent statements made by my opponent:

Justice Argument:

A) I am glad that my opponent concedes that sins can be eternal and the punishment can be eternal as well. God is well within his rights to punish eternally.

I fail to see why my opponent continues to assert that NOT punishing someone but allowing the guilty evil people to run around heaven is MORE morally justified than punishing them.

My opponent needs to stop saying it is immoral to punish evil people.

It is clearly FAR more natural to view a person as immoral when a person does NOT punish evil people.

B) Again here my opponent is merely claiming that eternal punishment is something that is immoral or specifically morally wrong.
Causing pain is only morally wrong when it involves self-interest or self gain.

Is my opponent suggesting that every judge that causes pain to a guilty person is committing an immoral act?
Is my opponent suggesing that every judge that knowingly causes pain to a guilty person is morally deficient?

Sure if the Judge was causing pain for profit due to bribery or some other such immoral self interest act, but the sentence being dealt for the sake of retributive justice is not in anyone sense a morally wrong act.

He must prove such an assertion.

My opponent would have to prove that God is not causing pain out of a system of Justice but a system of malice or self-interest for his assertion to be true.

I do not think that is even remotely possible and I do not think he has done this.

C) Again my opponent merely claims that God causing pain is a sadist. I have shown in point “B” causing pain is not morally wrong. My opponent must prove that God’s use of pain is morally wrong.

D) My opponent concedes that a reformative belief is not in view within this debate.

E) My opponent here misunderstands the difference between a perfect moral framework that is chosen and one that is inherent in ones essence.

There is no claim that when we get to heaven that a perfect moral framework will be forced upon our freewill and our free will, will be removed from us.

We will abide by the perfect moral framework it will not be an inherent part of our being.

Hell with eternal punishment could indeed posses a reformative quality in that capacity.

The Eternal Bliss Objection

- My opponent still needs to prove that “bliss” means what he feels it means.

- We see it is indeed affirmed that I would be eternally “blissful” knowing that evil people were being punished with eternal pain that is equivalent to the eternal pain they caused.

The Reconciliation Objection

- I fail to see how destroying someone eternally solves this objection for my opponent. By my opponent’s definition of reconciliation and by his stated beliefs of annihilationism he is also at odds with this contention.

- The clear resolution is that the Biblical authors did not mean reconciliation in the sense that free will would be overridden.

- We see lots of places in the Bible where “all” does not mean the actually all.

Revelation 13:3

“One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast.”

We know the whole world did not or will not follow the beast. There clearly was a remnant discussed. This literary device of All being power or gravity is common in the bible. We see it in such passages as:

Rev 13:16

“It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads,”

We see that many later did not take the mark as they were set apart 144,000

I could go on to

Luke 2:1

“Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.”

We know the author meant the Roman Empire but that is not how he used the word All.

You must make a case your interpretation is correct especially when you consider so many places in the bible where “all” does not mean “all”.

We see the word used in Col 1:20 is the Plural form of “Pas”. We can see clearly that a use for the Greek word “all” is very much in view of types, collectives and subsets as we saw in the other sample verses above.[1]

Thayers Lexicon:

1) individually
1a) each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything
2) collectively
2a) some of all types

Debate Round No. 2


Thanks to Gileandos for the debate. Unfortunately, I do not think he as resolved the problem of hell (as traditionalists conceive it) for Christianity.

1) Turn About Is Fair Play?

Here my opponent tries a little turn about is fair play by saying my own preferred view of hell (annihilationism) is subject to the same criticisms as his own preferred view of hell. This theme runs throughout most of his reply. The quick and dirty rebuttal would be that the resolution is about the problem of hell as traditionalists conceive it and it's compatibility with the Christian God. Annihilationism is really a side issue in this debate - not the main attraction (as my opponent even admitted to in the comments). I merely brought it up to challenge the idea that the Bible explicitly teaches what the traditionalist takes it to teach. For all we know, both me and my opponent could be wrong and universalism be true. [1] All of that, strictly speaking, is at best tangential to the problem of hell for the traditionalist here. It is fundamentally a moral problem (except for, perhaps, the reconciliation objection).

However, I will quickly indulge:

1a) An annihilationist isn't committed the claim that the damned will undergo a "torturous burning death".
1b) Sure, it seems conceivable that the save are eternally blissful knowing that some are not there with them because they know they (the damned) are not suffering. Capital punishment is still a fairly controversial moral issue but the use of torture for, and only for, punishment isn't. That is just out of the question.
1c) Con cites Rev 14:9-11 which is supposedly one the strongest verses for the traditionalist. Unfortunately for the traditionalist, when you take a look at the source of where the language is drawn from we see that it actually does not support the traditionalist. The language comes from the Old Testament:

Isaiah 34:9-10

"And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into sulfur; her land shall become burning pitch. Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; no one shall pass through it forever and ever."

Surprisingly, no traditionalist ever argues that Edom is undergoing the process of eternal torture even to this day. The smoke is suppose to signify the finality and totality of the destruction of Edom.

Regarding the use of Matt 25:46 - it simply begs the question to assume that eternal punishment means eternal torture. If you automatically assume that eternal punishment just means eternal torture and then use that verse in order to prove that eternal punishment is eternal torture you have just reasoned in circle.

In fact, Con seems to play on a little bit of equivocation as well here. He seems to assume with his use of Matt 25:46 that eternal punishment = eternal torture (otherwise his argument wouldn't work). But, hold on! Later Con says, "Whether this is through eternal torment or eternal destruction. 'Perfectly loving' to the traditional view of Christianity is not that the guilty do not get punished.[ibid] Eternal sin begets eternal punishment." Huh? Con seems to accept that annihilation can also be conceived of as an eternal punishment - i.e. a punishment with eternal consequences. Which one is it then? If both annihilationism and the traditionalism are compatible with the concept of "eternal punishment" than how does citing Matt 25:46 help his case? Notice that this equivocation happens several times throughout the round. Like here: "A)I am glad that my opponent concedes that sins can be eternal and the punishment can be eternal as well. God is well within his rights to punish eternally. I fail to see why my opponent continues to assert that NOT punishing someone but allowing the guilty evil people to run around heaven is MORE morally justified than punishing them." Note the problem. It isn't punishment (eternal or otherwise) per se that is the problem - it's particular kind of punishment that is being called into question here - i.e. that of the traditionalist....and didn't Con JUST concede that annihilation could be punishment as well in any case?

2) Concept

No sane person would deny that evil people deserve at least some kind of punishment. Con continually tries to set up an answer to the problem of hell by contrasting no punishment with punishment. Again, the problem is the kind of morally problematic punishment that Con posits. One of eternal torture for no other reason than because they supposedly deserve it. I don't think anybody can deserve eternal torture and the retributivist theory of justice that underlies most of the defenses for the traditionalist absolutely crumbles if we accept that punishments can out proportion the deeds that cause the punishment. That is not justice in any normal sense of the word. It's like me going to shoot someone in the face because they said something vulgar about my mother over the Internet except an infinity of orders of magnitude worse.

3) Result

The problem is not even close to being negated. The problem of hell just notes a perceived tension between the traditionalist concept of hell as conscious, eternal torment and the Christian God. The first two objections were moral problems and the last objection is more of an issue of reconciling several verses about God with hell. Con's only defense has been a dubious appeal some verses and tradition that supposedly support Con's conception of hell and assertions that it can be just to torture someone forever without any explanation.

4) Justice

A) Again, Con seems to accept that eternal punishment can also be annihilation. If that's the case, then it seems he is equivocating when he presents the dichotomy of God either punishing, or, pun intended, all hell breaking loose with deviants running around heaven and whereabouts.

And yet again, I say it's NOT punishment per se is the problem - it's the kind of punishment Con holds to that is! It's one thing to not allow "guilty evil people" into heaven - it's quite another to say that their punishment is that they have to suffer torture forever. No amount of finite sins/wrongdoing seem to add up to infinite punishment.

B) Again, I'm not claiming that eternal punishment simpliciter is something immoral. I'm claiming the eternal punishment as eternal torture is immoral. Con says causing pain is only morally wrong when it involves self-interest or gain. What, then, would God's reasons be for the eternal torture? It's wildly out of whack with the notion of justice (on the retributivist theory) for out of proportion punishment; it's not for any reforming purpose. What is it for?

C) It certainly seems sadistic to cause pain for no discernible reason.

E) It's a difference that makes no difference. Even if we always choose to abide by a perfect moral framework in heaven then what reason would we need to see the damned being tortured since we are choosing to abide by a framework in which we wouldn't need that kind of encouragement.

5) Eternal Bliss

Eternal bliss would just mean the best kind of happiness that is unmarred by any kind dissatisfaction.

The problem again comes up with with how finite beings can cause "eternal" pain that merits infinite punishment.

6) Reconciliation

This response just isn't answering the objection - it'd be ridiculous to suggest that just because all can mean different things in different contexts that it can mean "not all" in this context. Con's argument backfires anyway. He points to Rev 13:16 and says "all" means, as we see in later context, 144,000 people. Yet, we see, in context, those verses that "all" means everything in creation! They don't say "everything...but those pesky eternally tortured evil souls." What con is really doing here is assuming that the traditionalist conception here is right and then just assuming that, therefore, "all" must not include the damned.





I thank you very much for this debate. It has made me feel much stronger in the accuracy of the Church’s teachings on Hell.
I agree with you that annihilationism is a side issue to this debate and I will be glad to set it aside and focus on the resolution directly and your three contentions.

You will see those contentions are resolved.

The Resolution:

I think we see that Hell only has a problem if a person places their subjective definition on words and limits these words needlessly.

The only problem of Hell would be the person’s apparent understanding of the teaching of Hell vs. the teaching of a perfectly loving God. We have seen that they are not in conflict when fully understood.

Like what my opponent feels would be blissful and what my opponent feels is morally right or wrong.

Both of my opponent’s feelings have been shown to disagree with my feelings on what is “blissfull “or what is morally right or wrong.

I applaud his feelings and pursuit of what is morally right or wrong. I through a different and efficacious approach have come to a set of moral values that are not subjective as my opponent’s personal feelings are.

The resolution is negated for this debate.

The Justice Argument:

We see here that my opponent has not offered a good argument to validate his viewpoint that a Judge commits an immoral act by causing a guilty person pain.
hTis seems to be merely asserting that a judge is immoral for causing pain.

1) A guilty person who commits the crime of eternal torture caused to someone else (for example murder) must be punished with an eternal torture.

2) A judge is well within his moral rights to exact a satisfactory punishment equal to the crime. Eternal pain caused to a victim of murder should beget eternal pain to the one guilty of murder.

3) My opponent merely claims that the reason a person gets tossed into Hell is a finite reason. We have already seen a temporal or momentary act can have eternal and permanent consequences.

4) We are not saying that Aunt Mable is tossed into Hell for not choosing Jesus. That would be a recent protestant viewpoint. Historically even up to Martin Luther, John Wesley etc believed in the intermediate place for those who did not commit “Mortal” sins.

The UMC states though they are silent on the intermediate state, John Welsey believed in it for example:[1]
We are clearly discussing the traditional view of Hell against the Traditional view of God. We are not discussing the possible different views of Hell outside of the Traditional view.

5) A finite sin or a “venial” sin does not get you thrown into Hell. You go to Abraham’s bosom for such. As John Wesley states concerning the differences of status between someone rejecting Christ’s saving work vs. those who were not immediately Holy in this life like Elijah and Enoch:

“an intermediate state between death and the final judgment, where those who rejected Christ would be aware of their coming doom (not yet pronounced), and believers would share in the 'bosom of Abraham' or 'paradise', even continuing to grow in holiness there”[1]

6) My opponent states things like “It certainly seems sadistic to cause pain for no discernible reason.”

This type of reasoning seems troublesome to me.

- Would we release all people from prison because “any given person” feels a criminal’s punishment is sadistic because he is unable to discern the reason they are being caused pain?
- Of course not! We have a justice system that makes those decisions, with Jury’s of peers and Judges etc.. We have an expectation that they understand the situation fully and we trust in that system.
- Just because you may not understand the justice system as an ordinary person, this does not mean the prisoners should be released.
- At most, it indicates that you should find out “why” the criminal is so punished.

I can easily discern why a criminal is undergoing his current sentence of pain, because I have an understanding of the justice system that is punishing him.

7) My opponent states:
”Again, I'm not claiming that eternal punishment simpliciter is something immoral. I'm claiming the eternal punishment as eternal torture is immoral.”

- If a murderer caused eternal torture to his victims how is it immoral to Justly punish him with the satisfactory fitting eternal torture?
- Clearly, if a murder murdered your sister, God of course will not murder the “murderer’s” sister in a tit for tat system of Justice. The murderers sister committed no eternal crime, but the punishment will be a personal pain to the murderer. It will be eternal and efficacious for retribution.

My opponent states:
”it's not for any reforming purpose. What is it for?”

If Jesus is the way in which reform comes to the criminal and the criminal rejects that reforming process what is left but pure, selfless “Just” retribution? Why is this God’s fault if a person chooses to reject the reforming process that Jesus Christ came to offer the world?

- Do not criminals in our justice system continue to reject efforts to reform them? Do we blame the judges for sentencing them when they reject the process of reformation offered to them?

The eternal bliss problem:
My opponent’s definition seems to be merely a personal preference. He would be “blissful” if God did not punish people appropriately.

I however feel that God punishing everyone according to his or her deeds would only enhance my bliss. I cannot say I loose sleep even now as Hitler’s chosen destiny is likely Hell.

I however would be greatly concerned if an evil and unrepentant Hitler was not punished to the utmost for his crimes, much less releasing an unrepentant evil Hitler loose upon heaven.

The only way I would be full of bliss would be that his crimes are punished to the maximum.

If a Hell bound person, indeed did not choose to reconcile with God and repent/reform, then their eternal crime should merit eternal punishment.

For those that commit only venial sins or finite sins then they are justly sentenced to purgatory until satisfaction and holiness is achieved.

The reconciliation problem:

- My opponent’s entire contention is merely a problem of interpretation and understanding of Greek word usage.
- Here I cited Thayer’s Lexicon to show that indeed the word “pas” or “all” in greek does not have the meaning my opponent is suggesting, but a categorical sense is very much in view, not just a universal. [Ibid]
- We see that indeed many places in the Bible “all” does not mean “all” universal, but rather it means a complete category, or everything in a category.
- We have seen proof that the Biblical authors have indeed used “all” in a purely categorical sense and not a universal sense.
- We see that this is only a categorical reconciliation as both Paul and all other Biblical authors show that God will not reconcile unbelievers.

We see the traditional view of scripture is that indeed God will reconcile all people who choose to be reconciled. This is not a universal statement from Paul but a categorical one.

We see this contention is resolved as there is clearly people who are not reconciled (whether through annihilation or eternal punishment).

But all who choose to be reconciled will be completely reconciled.

Paul is clearly stating that not one of those who choose God will be lost. All who choose will be reconciled.
- We use such language today. “Children pick up the whole house now!”

We know this would not mean the children are indeed expected to fulfill the exact demand. Both pick up, whole house and now are used in a distinct frame of reference and categorically.

We see that the Biblical authors use language in a similar way all of the time.

This contention stands negated.

The resolution stands negated with an understanding of a Justice System that is a perfectly loving system of Justice.


Debate Round No. 3
135 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Gileandos 6 years ago
I did want to again give a sense of excitement that the debate was something that strengthened your faith.

I also want to point to round 2 where Pop dropped the proportionality argument and shifted to the annihilation view.
He affirmed that an infinite crime deserved infinite punishment.

Enjoy the reread. I myself have reread the debate like 30 times. It was a great debate.
Posted by Gileandos 6 years ago
I am excited for you to have your faith strengthened to any degree.
As this was a phenomenal debate and the points may not be on top of your mind, I would definitely encourage a reread sir!
Posted by phantom 6 years ago
Gileandos, first like I said in my RFD I read this months ago when I couldn't vote, so if I forgot anything about the debate that's hardly surprising. Second, unless PCP conceded that God does not hand out infinite punishment for finite crimes I don't see how your post is relevant.

I'll re-read it after I take my SAT's and write a full RFD
Posted by Gileandos 6 years ago
Did you mean to vote the other way?
Popculture and I agreed within the debate that finite crimes do not warrant infinite punishment.

I showed that on the contrary that infinite crimes committed in a temporal scenario do indeed warrant infinite punishment.

Example = Hilter. The atrocities of cooking Jew children in ovens have a permenant impact upon all people involved. Such a crime though committed in a moment of time, does NOT have finite impact. Such attrocities will dog or hound the people involved for all of eternity.

That was just one aspect of the case.
Posted by epicuriousluxurious 6 years ago
After when I saw this page,
I no longer believe that the Hell we know of today is what the early Church actually taught. They clearly did not teach it...
Posted by thethickgreyline 6 years ago
The medievil doctrine of hell that is defended here most surely conflicts with the character of God as revealed in Scripture. Please read some John Stott for a much more realistic, logical and scriptural doctrine of hell that makes sense of the distinction between Gods punishment of human rebelion, and Gods punishment of individual sins.
Posted by epicuriousluxurious 6 years ago
I was reading over your debate again. I have to say, you do have some valid points. As far as now, I don't exactly know where I stand, but before I ever plan on debating with anyone, I should study the Bible more. I apologize for giving pathetic responses.
Posted by epicuriousluxurious 6 years ago
...but from the bottom of my heart, I really thank you for giving an effort to explain everything to me. This website has really allowed me to explore my faith, and I owe thanks to people such as you!
Posted by epicuriousluxurious 6 years ago
Gileandos, thanks for your reply
you are assuming that tradition is right. You are assuming that majority rules. You are assuming that everyone should agree with the way you see Hell. You are assuming the existence of Hell is true. You are assuming that Hell is interpreted correctly. And most importantly, you are arguing with a parameter that you set. If you keep arguing from perspective in which you set the idea that tradition is correct, even verses that argue against your ideas will seem to somehow support your views. Do you see the problem? Like I said, take a step back and look at the damage it has done to Christianity. I know Christians who killed themselves because they didn't want the slightest chance of going to Hell, if they ever lose faith. God is supposed to bring peace to this world NOT sin.

If I find contradictions within the Bible, I am using Scripture, then Logic, Why tradition?, and yes I am using personal experience that is objective therefore it cannot be used as proof. More circular reasoning, you are assuming that a Human set definition supersedes the truth.

Take a look at this, tell me the issue.

The Bible has told us MANY times, not to follow tradition. When Jesus came down to earth, he told the Pharisees not to abide by their absurd tradition.
The majority taught that planets revolved around the earth
The majority taught that the earth was flat
The majority thought that bigger objects fell faster than smaller ones
The majority followed Aaron into rebellion
The majority followed false gods in the old Testament
The majority voted not to go into the Promised Land.
The majority being wrong is what fuels history, even in the Bible its this way. By presenting the contradictions that MANY not majority of Christians can consent with, its worth examining. If we get a chance to debate, I will give you more proof.
Posted by Gileandos 6 years ago
To quote you:
"Thanks for your reply, however, you are using circular reasoning"

I do not see where there is circular reasoning.
Can you lay out in a 1. 2. 3. where I am commiting this fallacy?

The Quadrilateral is what a Methodist will use to determine "Truth":
Personal Experience

Traditional interpretations of scripture are foundational to an accurate approach to interpration.

The concept being:
"If God is telling you this, then He has told the majority of the other Spirit Led Christain "Chosen" the same thing."
If you hold a minority opinion among the faithful the burden of proof is on you.

This debate had a low number of votes and gained no interest from Orthodox viewpoints to vote in my favor, but the majority of theologians agree that Hell is eternal.

You have to make a case that these interpretations which were handed down from Judaism pre-Jesus were indeed wrong.
8 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Vote Placed by SuburbiaSurvivor 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I think Pro was trying to, subtly, make the case that annihilation was somehow more benevolent then eternal punishment. But the scriptures he gave supported Con's arguemnt the and arguments Pro offered were well refuted by Con. A good debate though.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: He was very convincing. In my opinion pro did not really make a case, well he did but it wasn't...built well. Con showed a few weakness of pros case and said god is the creator and judges morals, he would know if the punishment fit the crime. Con wins arguments. Con gets sources as he had more of them, also this counters the first votes source point, as I saw it after I read this thing. Conduct pro as he did well too, so in my opinion he deserves some points.
Vote Placed by phantom 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Seeing as people are starting to vote on this again might as well vote on the debate that made me change my mind, and actually somewhat restored my faith. I read this months ago so I can't give a proper RFD, but pro adequately showed the moral conflicts to prove his case, he also showed verses that supports the annihilationist view of hell. His proportionality argument proved that infinite punishment for finite sins is clearly not something a just God would do.
Vote Placed by ConservativePolitico 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con swayed me.
Vote Placed by lotus_flower 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I don't believe in hell, but I am not a christian, and so I leave that tied. Both pro and con and pretty good conduct, both the spelling and grammar was fine, but I went pro because I felt like the proportionality argument wasn't refuted very well.
Vote Placed by seraine 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I chose to go Pro because of one main reason- the proportionality argument. Con said that the consequences are permanent, thus they deserve permanent torture. Murder may have permanent ramifications (which is arguable. In a hundred years, no one will notice the difference), but the suffering is not permanent. Permanent consequences =/= permanent suffering.
Vote Placed by Man-is-good 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: While I do agree with Pro on 'The Problem of Hell', I felt that Pro did not successfully establish his case. Con did show that God was a moral agent of retribution and reconcilation, and did probe at some of the holes in Pro's case. Both sides presented a great argument, but I felt Con's arguments were somewhat more convincing. In addition, both sides presented equal sources (in terms of quality) and had good conduct.
Vote Placed by izbo10 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: gileandos tried to make finite crimes infinite that didn't work, nor did the rest of his arguments.