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Heaven vs. Hell

Summary:
I think I’ve touched on this before, but perhaps it’s worth revisiting… An understandable stumbling block for people who encounter the Christian worldview is the notion that some external being is threatening to burn you for eternity if you don’t live up to his rules, even though you never agreed to them. What the hell?! If we frame the situation like that, then yes it sounds grossly unfair, and God seems like a tyrant. I can understand why people write books like this (in the same way that I can “understand” why people rob banks and commit murder). But even though (as we’ll see) I think these standard descriptions are perfectly accurate, I think there is a much more defensible explanation of the situation humans face. Here goes: Imagine for the sake of argument

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I think I’ve touched on this before, but perhaps it’s worth revisiting…

An understandable stumbling block for people who encounter the Christian worldview is the notion that some external being is threatening to burn you for eternity if you don’t live up to his rules, even though you never agreed to them. What the hell?!

If we frame the situation like that, then yes it sounds grossly unfair, and God seems like a tyrant. I can understand why people write books like this (in the same way that I can “understand” why people rob banks and commit murder).

But even though (as we’ll see) I think these standard descriptions are perfectly accurate, I think there is a much more defensible explanation of the situation humans face. Here goes:

  1. Imagine for the sake of argument that there really is an afterlife.
  2. When you die, you encounter God. That is, there really is a Being who is the Author of everything.
  3. When you “meet God” for the first time, you suddenly see the entire history of humanity. You get it. You have the superhuman ability to understand how every event interlocks. You see the awesomely complex chain of events, starting in the beginning, and ceasing at the end of the world.
  4. Now, at this moment of infinite comprehension, you freely choose to react in one of two ways:

Choice A: You can be in absolute awe at the beauty of God’s construction. You see how He designed the very structure of reality to turn everything into the fulfillment of His loving plan for creation. (Fans of Adam Smith already have an inkling of how this works, with the “Invisible Hand” that turns our greed into service. But it’s more general than that, where “things just work out” in the long run, so that good triumphs.) You suddenly understand why the Holocaust happened, and why God allows infants to die of leukemia. In the presence of a Being who could invent a story so intricate and lovely, your only sensible response is to sing praises to Him with all your might, glorifying His accomplishment.

Choice B: You can be in absolute horror at the misery of your own actions on Earth. You had no idea what a horrible person you were, but with 20/20 hindsight and foresight, you can see the ripple of destruction you unleashed, going down through the generations, long after you died. Note, this isn’t God judging you, it’s you judging yourself. You feel shame, guilt, confusion, terror, and also FURY because IT’S NOT FAIR that you were plopped into this world with no say in the matter. You are OUTRAGED. How DARE God trick you into doing all of these horrible things, when if He’d just EXPLAINED IT BETTER. If you had realized how everything fit together, you would’ve preferred to NEVER HAVE BEEN BORN but this tyrant created you anyway AGAINST YOUR WILL. How DARE HE?!!?

Now, since the passage of time is something that happens in the material universe in order to make it comprehensible to our finite minds, note that your choice above is final. You choose how you want to react to the instant and infinite comprehension, and then you are effectively in that condition for eternity.

In case it hasn’t hit you over the head: We can summarize Choice A as “heaven” and Choice B as “hell.”

Finally, note that there are things you can do while you’re still alive to condition yourself to make one choice versus the other. If you consciously tell yourself that you deserve hell and that all things good flow from God, and that only through a loving and merciful God do we have any shot at salvation, then you aren’t going to be shocked when you see just how awful your life was. It will just be filling in the specifics; you already vaguely knew that you deserved hell and were no better than Charles Manson when compared to God’s righteousness. If you spend hours per week singing praises to God and reading about His power and mercy, then you are preparing yourself to pick Choice A. Yes, you will be dismayed to see just how bad your actions were, but you’ll know “it’s not about you” and you will forget about yourself when you finally experience the full majesty of the LORD as you’ve been pining for since you were a little kid.

On the other hand, if you don’t think you need a personal Savior, if you think you are leading a pretty decent life and that you’re basically a good person, and/or you’re not even sure if there’s a “higher power” out there…then you are going to react in the second way when you confront the truth in your shell of confident narcissism.

Robert Murphy

Robert Patrick Murphy (born 23 May 1976) is an American economist, consultant and author. He is an economist with the Institute for Energy Research (IER) specializing in climate change and a research fellow with the Independent Institute, He was a senior fellow in business and economic studies at the Pacific Research Institute, and he is an associated scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. In addition to economic subjects, Murphy writes about, and has presented an online video class in, anarcho-capitalism on the Mises Institute website. Murphy also has written in support of Intelligent Design theory and expressed skepticism of biological evolution.

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