The Craig-Bradley Debate:
Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?

Dr. Bradley's Closing Comments

Don Reddick:

Well, thank you, both of you, gentlemen, for that lively discussion there! We're now going to move to our third segment of our debate before the question and answer period. And that is to provide both Dr. Craig and Dr. Bradley with a 7 minute opportunity to make closing comments. And we will be starting out with Dr. Bradley. If you are choosing to leave, please leave at this point. Or you can stay--that's what we most desire--but we don't want to have any disruption.

Dr. Bradley:

The question we've been addressing isn't just a theological one. It's a logical one. Is it logically possible for God to be loving and to do all the heinous things that the Bible claims He will do to those who don't believe?

Dr. Craig likes, as I've said, to address this question in rather sanitized terms. He wants us to understand this talk about fiery hell and eternal punishment in sanitary terms. Such as metaphors for something like, as I put it, right at the outset, being sent to Hawaii. But it isn't like that, and no orthodox believer has standardly believed it to be like that. Just think about, for example, that passage that is so often quoted in the pulpit: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn. 3.16). How many times have you heard sermons preached on that? Often, I guess. But how often have you heard sermons preached on what comes a couple of verses later? Just two verses later, we read: "And he who does not believe has been judged already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten son of God" (Jn. 3.18). And it goes on further to say that Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed him not. Here we've got exclusivism very clearly stated and the consequences of exclusion from salvation.

But you want some more? Second Thessalonians 1.8-9: "The Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire"--listen again--"in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction . . . ." No mere alienating , . . . alienation and anguishing of over not being in the nice place. Look, people have taken this seriously. And people have been bludgeoned into belief as a consequence of it. Let me read and display for you the kind of use that has been made of the doctrine of hell in the past. Here is a little gem from a book written by a Catholic priest known quite appropriately as Father Furnace. He was named as the children's apostle, and here he is describing what's going to happen to little children in hell. Read it for yourself as I read it too:

". . . his eyes are burning like two burning coals, two long flames come out of his ears, sometimes he opens his mouth and breath of blazing fire rolls out. But listen! There is a sound just like that of a kettle boiling. Is it really a kettle boiling? No. Then what is it? Hear what it is. It is the blood boiling in the scalding veins of that boy. The brain is boiling and bubbling in his head. The marrow is boiling in his bones."

You see, part of the problem is that whether or not the belief in hell is true, the psychological state of believing in it has brought about some of the most heinous evils that this world has ever known, evils such as burning so-called witches in fire, in accordance with the dictates of the Old Testament, Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Do we just take that metaphorically? Condemning homosexuals to death--why? Because they've violated God's injunctions and that if they weren't suitably punished on this earth, they would be punished even worse in the next life to come. I find the doctrine of hell obnoxious, morally, and I find it intellectually pernicious. It's intellectually pernicious because it numbs our critical capacities just as it dulls our moral sensitivities. Believe in that sort of stuff, and you can believe in anything! Believe in that sort of stuff, and you feel you have the license to treat people any way you wish, provided you think, as with the Spanish Inquisition, as with the Roman Inquisition, as with the Conquistadors, that you're sending people to heaven rather than to hell.

It's often suggested that if we didn't believe in hell and heaven and all this God stuff, morality would have no objective basis. But just think about that for a moment! What does objectivity mean with respect to morality? Surely it means unchanging. Yet the God of the Old Testament is so very different from the God of the New Testament. The injunctions in the Old Testament, the commands of God are different from those in the New Testament. And, in both cases, many of them are morally obnoxious.

My time is up. [applause]

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