Been thinking about the previous post. I answered Billy’s written question as best I could, but blew past the unwritten (and actual) one: how do I reconcile Christian compassion with the knowledge that endless torment exists? Torment that possibly includes those we most loved in this life?
How can there be no tears in heaven if we all don’t get in?
I can only get you to the edge of my understanding. The answer is beyond finite minds and waaaay above my pay grade. But I could share one of my questions to our Maker.
Naturally, C.S. Lewis has already been here. But that book was mostly concerned with earthly pain, and the suffering of animals. If you ever read The Problem of Pain you’ll see this was a wrenching trial of faith for Mr. Lewis.
It wasn’t for me. That probably sounds callous. Hell, it probably is. But animal existence is built around positive and negative feedback. Thought experiment: how do you alert living things to incipient or ongoing damage? A pleasant hum? A warm fuzzy feeling?
Great. You’ve just destroyed all animal life.
Mr. Lewis also addressed human suffering and humans causing suffering. These weren’t existential questions for me either. We have animal bodies, but aren’t merely animals. We are moral beings. The least good person is “better” than Lassie. The least bad person is worse than the most nightmarish of bugs.
(And the most good and most bad folks are pretty much like angels and devils. As Lewis himself pointed out.)
So, enough of his concerns, on to ours.
We are created in God’s image. But what does that mean? It is inherent impossible for humans to fully comprehend humanity (it’s a Gödel thing). Just look at a few ways we define ourselves in relation to animals:
Man is the animal that buries its dead.
Man is the animal that lies to itself.
Man is the animal that uses tools. (Oh yeah, smart guy? Don’t otters use rocks to crack open clams?) Fine. Man is the animal that uses tools to make other tools.
Man is the animal that thinks about thinking.
What I believe, and what you might suppose, is that you are an eternal spirit currently housed in an animal body. That covers the “God’s own image” part. Now to attempt to reconcile Billy’s question with my certainty that God is compassion and love.
First, God isn’t omnipotent. Not because His power is measurable, but because “omnipotent” is a nonsense word. “Can God create a rock so heavy even He cannot lift it?” Gee, I dunno. Can Buzz Lightyear go “to infinity and beyond!”?
Setting nonsense aside, God is still “limited” in our perceptions. He cannot lie nor foreswear Himself (Scripture says that He “repented” decisions, but that was Him humoring men like Lot, who struck bargains and then whined for renegotiations.)
So assume 1) God cannot abide evil; 2) He does not or cannot infringe our free will; and 3) He does not or cannot uncreate spirits.
God is eternal, indestructible, inviolate. Apparently, all spirits are. Else why is Satan going to be eternally imprisoned? It doesn’t matter whether God can’t or doesn’t destroy spirits. What matters is, He doesn’t.
Likewise for free will. We had to have it if God wanted family, not robots. Without choice we’re only mechanisms. And if we could both exist and be infallable, we wouldn’t be created, we’d be Creator.
So God made spirits that He never unmakes, He gave them free wills that must inevitably err, and He cannot abide wrongdoing. Wow. When put like that, what could possibly go wrong?
Ah, but. We all go wrong but we can get right. Christ is the part of the Creator that chose to be housed in animal flesh. The hows are beyond finite understanding. The why is that Christ is the…the filter. That’s just what sprang to mind, I’m not claiming an improvement on Scripture. Wait. Upon reflection, best not to lie. So…I do think “filter” is better than “doorway”.
Filters and membranes let desired things enter, while excluding the unwanted. Sinful beings can enter Christ, spirits can pass through Christ…by leaving their sins behind.
(This of course can be an indescribably painful process. The more sin, the more agony it is to filter it out. Why, only the world’s greatest idiot could sin more than Saul of Tarsus, get purified back from the very gates of Hell, then dive almost immediately back into poison. Should I bow?)
And once again, I suddenly notice that a mere post somehow became a book chapter. Gah! Must…compress…ideas!
An unknown number of spirits will spend eternity in Hell. Their agony won’t be from pitchforks or flames. Not God nor angel nor sanctified man will torment them, or want their suffering. But Hell is the absence of God, it is the absence of love, of compassion…of hope. Thus, pain both eternal and beyond imagination.
But it is spiritual pain. If you end up in Hell, I’m pretty sure you won’t know it. By “you” I mean the destructible parts: mind, memories, consciousness. You know, pretty much everything we currently think of as “us”. If mind and personality can be destroyed by mere earthly torture, how can Hell not unmake them entirely?
So don’t worry; “you” won’t know Hell. “You” will be instantly annihilated upon your death. C.S. Lewis felt that animals cannot know pain the way people do. I think perhaps our minds, memories, and perceptions cannot know Hell because they can’t exist there. I do believe endless spiritual torment could also be mindless torment, could be (here’s a mouthful) consciousnessless torment.
Does that make Hell seem less awful?
Earlier I planned to share one of my questions for God. Now, I’m not. It’s lost my interest. No, now the haunting question is, “was I wrong to make Hell seem less awful?” On the one hand, God might seem more compassionate and merciful to our flawed understanding. This might help lead someone to Him.
On the other, if “I” won’t experience Hell…that’s not so bad, right? What’s my spirit ever done for me, anyway? Screw it!
Nope, not a promising avenue. So…I guess…ignore this entire post? Forget I said anything?
I need a lolcat, stat.