It has become common for Christians to describe hell as our freely chosen identity apart from God. Hell, it is said, is not so much where God sends the wicked, as much as it is what the wicked choose or create for themselves. This is the view famously espoused by C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce. Lewis argues that hell is our own self-absorption and idolatry let loose for all eternity. Hell is God’s way of saying “Thy will be done” to us when we refuse to say “Thy will be done” to God. Hell is what we get when we choose human freedom instead of divine salvation. The gates of hell may be locked for eternity, but they are locked from the inside. We refuse to give up the hell within us, so hell is what we get around us.But that's only part of the story and to stop there would be erroneous ... DeYoung doesn't make that mistake, read on ...
There is an element of truth in all this. As one way to look at hell, the Lewis version can be helpful. It emphasizes that no one in hell is truly penitent. God doesn’t punish people for a few sins in this life and then keep them locked up forever as they pour out their hearts in genuine faith and repentance. No, the damned never turn from their rebellion. They may regret their choices like the rich man in Luke 16, but they never genuinely repent.
Lewis’ description of hell is also a good reminder that God does at times give us over to our sinful desire. Romans 1 makes this clear. Part of our punishment is that God says, “Alright, have at it. Pursue your sinful ways.” Hell is, in that limited sense, God giving us what we want.
Sunday, May 08, 2011
In Divine Wrath: Consequence or Curse?, Keven DeYoung writes: