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How could we survive the horrors of heaven?

Discussion in 'Christian Apologetics' started by InterestedAtheist, Feb 11, 2021.

  1. InterestedAtheist

    InterestedAtheist Veteran

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    This post is based on an interesting article I read at the Cross Examined blog by Patheos blogger Bob Seidenstecker. I thought it made a good point worth discussing. My post is mostly quoting it.
    NB - this post is primarily directed to Christians who believe that a literal hell exists. If you have some other view on hell, you may feel that this argument does not affect you.

    The post begins:


    "Could you enjoy heaven knowing of the agony of those in hell? What if those in hell are your loved ones?

    Medieval Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas turned the problem around by embracing that torment:
    In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.
    Many Christians have seized this lemons-to-lemonade opportunity. Thinkers from the early church such as Tertullian and Augustine down to Jonathan Edwards in his famous 1741 sermon “Sinners in the hands of an angry god” and beyond have not avoided but celebrated the pain of hell, imagining those in heaven looking over the ramparts and delighting in the anguish of those far below (more).
    That doesn’t provide much support for C.S. Lewis’s famous claim, “The gates of hell are locked from the inside.”
    ...
    Such thinking continues today. Popular Christian theologian R.C. Sproul told of one of his teachers saying, "In heaven, you will be so sanctified that you will be able to see your own mother in hell and rejoice in that, knowing that God’s perfect justice is being carried out." (video @19:35).

    Who’d want to go to heaven if you’ll turn into that?
    Christians often rationalize hell by pointing to Revelation 21:4, where “[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes . . . [and there will be] no more mourning or crying or pain.” If God will remove all sorrow in heaven, then somehow hell won’t bother us. It’s not clear how (the Bible doesn’t even admit the problem), but Christians have come up with various ideas to insulate those in heaven from hell.

    Christianity StackExchange cites a popular though childish rationalization:
    A common argument goes: There is no sadness in Heaven. If I knew that this person I loved was in Hell that would certainly make me very sad. Therefore it must be that I won’t remember them.
    ...
    The Stand to Reason podcast (here @12:11) expands on this:
    So we are not going to spend eternity reflecting on the anguish of our loved ones who have not received the mercy of God through the love of Christ. That would put a damper on things. But those things are going to be forgotten. . . . [Even if there were a fleeting memory of them,] it will be a reflection from God’s perspective, that they are getting judged justly, and that’s a good thing, and we have escaped justice and received mercy instead, and that’s a good thing, too.

    Yeah, thinking of billions in torment in hell—or even just a handful of loved ones who didn’t make the cut—would put a damper on your pleasure in heaven, wouldn’t it? We certainly can’t have a loved one’s anguish ruining our picnic. But don’t imagine God would actually solve the problem and eliminate the injustice of perpetual conscious torment in hell. Instead, we either lose memories of those loved ones or smother any tender memory with the thought that, but for the grace of God, that could be us.

    This is the “Sucks to be you” approach to justice. I got mine, and you’re burning in hell. God approved both placements, even though no human merits heaven. But of course if the tables were turned (you in heaven and me in hell), the justification would be equally valid—one of us is where justice demands they go, while the other subverted justice and lives in heaven.
    ...
    William Lane Craig (WLC) has something to offer on this topic. He is quoted in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
    [Craig hypothesizes] that God could simply “obliterate” from the minds of the redeemed “any knowledge of lost persons so that they experience no pangs of remorse for them.”
    ...
    “Welcome to heaven! It won’t be so bad once we erase your memory.”
    WLC tosses out another possibility.
    The experience of being in Christ’s immediate presence will be so overwhelming for the redeemed that they will not think of the damned in hell (Source).

    So where does that leave us? Christians themselves tell us that heaven is so hellish that to endure it, one’s memory of loved ones must be erased. Alternatively, one must be distracted, forever."

    I wonder which side different members of Christian Forums fall on on this question?
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2021
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  2. HTacianas

    HTacianas Well-Known Member

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    I fall on the "will wipe every tear from their eyes" side. But moving on. I think sometimes about people in prison and how bad it must be to be locked away. Just that, locked away. No freedom, no coming and going as you please, no nothing you like to do. Just being locked away. Oftentimes for life. I never think "sucks to be you" but I do think "I'm glad I'm not there". And that's about it. But anyways. This might help you a bit:

    How the prayers of those on earth can help those who are in hell
     
  3. Under One King

    Under One King Well-Known Member

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    I've heard some liken it to a house at night with the lights on. Heaven being the house, hell being the outside. In such a case, people on the outside in the dark can see into the house, but people on the inside of the house with the lights on cannot see outside. Just a thought.
     
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  4. Pavel Mosko

    Pavel Mosko Arch-Dude of the Apostolic Supporter

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    Dear @InterestedAtheist congratulations on what I think may be the best researched thread I have ever seen on this Forum! (I worked a little on Christian Stack Exchange as a contributor) and never seen anybody other than me reference it. I also have dabbled a little with the Jewish Stack Exchange)


    I guess I am mostly with @HTacianas , but I do have some "River of Fire" hopes, which believes that Heaven and Hell are not so much places in the afterlife but states of being how we receive the all encompassing love of God.


    What is the River of Fire? | MYSTAGOGY RESOURCE CENTER
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2021
  5. PloverWing

    PloverWing Episcopalian

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    Yes, I think this is one of the important arguments against hell as a place of eternal conscious torment.
     
  6. Andrewn

    Andrewn Well-Known Member CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    All the answers you quoted and the responses you received are basically similar. But "wipe our tears" does not mean "erase our memories." Note that "love" is not erased from our memories but remains forever:

    1Co 13:13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

    Every few months, one of the agnostics posts the same question and receives the same answers. Why not do some research for different points of view?

    And why do you care for an answer when you don't believe in life after death?
     
  7. Petros2015

    Petros2015 Well-Known Member

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    That kind of matches with the chapter of Matthew 25, which among other things mentions a shut door and outer darkness. The entirety of this chapter pretty much tells me all I need to know about the situation (I'm not going to requote it all, but the link is below and worth a re-read); it is composed of 3 parables that, I think, are kind of meant to build one upon one another.

    Bible Gateway passage: Matthew 25 - New International Version

    I think you could probably draw a one sentence 'what is this parable saying'? summary from each and have 3 different points Christ was making to his followers, all 3 important and vital. I'm not sure how I would express them yet, but it would make an interesting exercise, and its probably a very important one to do.

    I've kind of flippantly said in the past, the big difference between Heaven and Hell is that one of them has a mute button and the other does not. And the big similarity, based on the end of Matthew 25, is that they are both full of very surprised people.
     
  8. com7fy8

    com7fy8 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Well, I enjoy love, right now, even though I know there are horribly miserable people. I care about them, but I can't change them to be loving and caring people. I do pray for them, in order for God to change them.

    But I have been no better than anyone else. God had mercy on me, to change me. So, that is His choice; and I honor His choice, by being blessed in His love if and as much as I am. And do what I can to help others to share with God and not suffer torment of sin.

    Sin is what causes the suffering, in this life and in hell. That is the active ingredient . . . not the fire, really :)

    Satan was in Heaven. But because of his own sin problem, he was unable to benefit from being there. And possibly he was in torment . . . of his pride not being satisfied, even right in Heaven itself with Jesus who is God's own Son so pleasing to God Himself. If Satan was there with Jesus but not at all pleased with Jesus, then Satan had a major problem which was himself.

    So, where do you put a being who suffers torment while in Heaven????
     
  9. Petros2015

    Petros2015 Well-Known Member

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    and no longer was any place found in heaven for him and his angels. 9And the great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

    Camden, New Jersey.

    Actually, at this point I'm probably doing a disservice to Camden. I think they've managed to clean themselves up a bit. That was years ago, and I should forgive you. My apologies, Camden.

    I'm sure it's still somewhere in New Jersey though.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2021
  10. True Counterphobia

    True Counterphobia Slave to Christ Supporter

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    It's important to remember that in the early church, it wasn't so obvious that Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT) was what happens after we die, but that this is the argument that "won out" for many protestants.

    Personally, I find it both problematic, and a bit naive that people can be so sure that ECT is what happens to unbelievers after they die.

    I also believe Jesus is coming back to make "All things new" in the new heavens and the new earth. Disregarding the differing views on the millennial kingdom, it should be clear from the Nicene Creed that Jesus is coming back to "judge the living and the dead". What exactly happens to unbelievers after they are judged should create some pause to anyone who feels their loved ones will suffer eternally for something they did for ~80 years. But of course, they would say God is just in all His judgements and who are we to question God? To which I agree. But I still am personally agnostic towards ECT or whether it is some manner of Annihilation.

    To the thought that Christians simply "forget" about their love ones who were not Christians, this view doesn't really make sense for many of them since often times the text they go to for ECT is here:
    Luke 16:19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

    The reason I post this is because Abraham was clearly able to see the Rich man. So it doesn't make a whole lot of sense that Lazarus wasn't also able to "see" the Rich man. That said, a case could be made that because it was Abraham who was talking to the Rich man and not Lazarus, that Lazarus couldn't see him, but this is splitting hairs at this point.
     
  11. Petros2015

    Petros2015 Well-Known Member

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    Must it...? What if it were just the worst side of them and the best of them was standing beside the best of you? What if... separating the sheep from the goats, it wasn't that THIS person was a sheep, and THAT person was a goat, but that there was BOTH sheep and goat within each to some degree. Perhaps one larger than the other, perhaps one growing and the other withering. But all the same, two things distinct and needing a final separation and separate destinations.

    I'm deviating wildly from accepted theological interpretations here, but I did want to present an example to consider where the saved in heaven would shout "amen hallelujah!" and bid a hearty farewell to their own damned shadows. And also to say that "Must" is a strong word to use in the context of the discussion. But if it can be done on StarTrek by accident, it could be done in Heaven by intent and mercy. Whether it will be, I don't know. And I think it best to start the process here and to ask for a Sheep to be planted and then for the Shepherd to tend to it... But I don't put it (or something like it) outside the realm of God's power... Hence, I am not worried about "the horrors of Heaven". I would expect to find all that I truly loved or was truly loved by in anyone I ever met right there beside me, and probably nothing of anything else (either in them or in me).

     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2021
  12. JohnClay

    JohnClay Married Mouth-Breather Supporter

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    An excerpt from a pastor who seems to think that hell means God is great.... (I chose the image in the video)

    From the video:​

    A crime is so great against God - his glory is so great and so awesome that for us to disobey Him - It's the only fitting punishment that we know - the only fitting punishment that can righteously be given by God. You know what that left me with? It left me with okay there's the glory of the punishment but then I started thinking about how glorious he must truly be if that is the punishment for rejecting his glory. For falling short of his glory if that is the punishment - for evermore without the rest - where you become pain itself how great truly is his glory. The penalty is great - the lake of fire - because the crime is great - The crime is great and I just went well Lord how great are you that's the penalty and it's forever and men become pain how great are you
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2021
  13. True Counterphobia

    True Counterphobia Slave to Christ Supporter

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    The problem with this is that he doesn't make an exegetical case for why he holds this view. He states a somewhat logical case, sure, but he isn't engaging with scripture in doing it and scripture is the final say on these things.

    Further, I would be much more persuaded that ECT was in fact the case if a non-refutable case could be made about it from scripture. But that isn't the case and we know that because the early church struggled so much with deciding which PoV is the correct one. My point here doesn't work if there's no reason to believe that being more removed from Christ historically doesn't mean anything about the sureness to which we can be confident of certain theologies to be true.
     
  14. JohnClay

    JohnClay Married Mouth-Breather Supporter

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    This preacher rarely refers to the Bible though "Our services are noted for their anointed preaching and teaching and the signs and wonders that accompany them"
     
  15. True Counterphobia

    True Counterphobia Slave to Christ Supporter

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    That's all fine and well, but then you have to ask on what authority do they say the things they do. If they say something that doesn't line up with scripture, what then? Are they still "anointed" as far as Christianity goes? If so, I'm not sure what the basis for their authority come from.

    My point in this is that sometimes you don't need to make a dogmatic stance on things if something isn't clear from scripture. This seems to be the reasonable thing to do rather than making a dogmatic stance that doesn't need to be dogmatic.

    I can't comment on the "anointedness" of their preachers because I only have this one example. But you do seem to imply by the context that they put what their preachers say to an awfully high level and I question why they would do that if they are not drawing more explicitly from the Bible, the Word of God.
     
  16. JohnClay

    JohnClay Married Mouth-Breather Supporter

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    BTW here's a full sermon from him about hell...

    My Christian Grandmother Went to Hell | Shocking Truth Revealed (audio only 2019)

    Prophet B. Leyshon boldly speaks the truth as he recounts his recent experience with his Christian grandmother before she went to hell. This is a wake up call for all Christians as well as non-believers. Everyone must listen to this sermon before they die. The truth will shock you.

    Note he no longer seems to be referring to himself as "prophet"....
     
  17. True Counterphobia

    True Counterphobia Slave to Christ Supporter

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    I am not sure I will have time to watch an hour long sermon from a pastor of a Church that I know nothing about and don't have any reference to on if it is worth my time or not. Besides, if a preacher is preaching for shock value alone, then that puts into question the motivation for why he is preaching. But perhaps he actually believes what he is saying, you might say? Well, show me how he is backing up what he is saying with scripture and I will assess what he says and make my own judgement on it.
     
  18. JohnClay

    JohnClay Married Mouth-Breather Supporter

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    Yes he'd believe what he's preaching... I think he has a doctorate in demonology and sometimes he talks about what demons he's seen (like at the start of this sermon)
     
  19. True Counterphobia

    True Counterphobia Slave to Christ Supporter

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    People can have all sorts of accolades but that doesn't mean they actually are being truthful with things. I have a problem with Bart Herman because he doesn't see the Bible as the Word of God, but that doesn't mean he isn't educated on the New Testament. This also doesn't mean that I am wrong about the way I see things because plenty of other NT scholars DO see the Bible as the Word of God.
     
  20. JohnClay

    JohnClay Married Mouth-Breather Supporter

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    Well at least it is consistent with Matthew 7:13-14 which seems to be a central teaching of his. (He has a tiny church with about 15-20)
     
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