How can God allow hell? Can’t God just forgive people, like he calls us to?

I received a question about how God can send people to hell while calling on us to forgive others.  Why does God not just forgive these people?

My response is below:

You seem to be asking why God has set things up in such a way that there is an eternal consequence for sin.  You see this as in tension with the notion that Jesus has paid for our sins.

I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the Atonement by Dr. Craig as he gives a thorough analysis of the atonement that may be helpful to you.  In the book he makes the following argument:

  1. Necessarily, retributive justice is essential to God.
  2. Necessarily, if retributive justice is essential to God, then God justly punishes every sin.
  3. Necessarily, if God justly punishes every sin, then divine justice is satisfied.
  4. Therefore, necessarily, divine justice is satisfied.
  5. Therefore, necessarily, if some human beings are saved, divine justice is satisfied.

I suspect that your concern lies with premise 2.  Why must God justly punish every sin?  Why can he not just overlook sins for which divine justice has not been satisfied?

Craig makes the argument that a pardon which does not further justice is itself immoral, and God cannot act in immoral fashion.  Thus passing out pardons to criminals who have no interest in repentance from their criminal ways would be unjust.  It is only if the cause of justice is furthered by the pardon that God can justly issue the pardon, and thus for those who repent and turn to God for both forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead them to a life of repentance can we reasonably consider justice to be furthered.  Additionally, the pardon itself can only be just if there is punishment for the sin to be pardoned.  As Craig puts it, “The support for (2) lies in the absence of any apparent justification for pardons of sheer mercy on God’s part.”

Thus we find a situation in which God wants to pardon everyone, but the demands of justice would compel him to refrain from pardoning those who reject the sacrifice of Jesus.  This is true both because they have rejected the very basis by which a pardon may justly be issued to them and because the overall cause of justice is not furthered in pardoning such people.

Matt Bilyeu

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