06 Oct 2019

God the Teacher

Religious 9 Comments

I was looking at the reaction on Facebook to Bernie Sanders’ hospitalization. Someone wrote, “I hope he dies and burns in hell” (or something like that).

It really struck me: I do not at all think God operates in such a crude fashion. I am happy for people to post Bible verses that apparently endorse this conception of the afterlife; I’ve seen very good rebuttals to the ones I knew about.

(BTW here’s a book challenging the idea that the writers of the Bible think of Hell the way we do.)

Try it this way: Start by imagining your ideal 3rd grade teacher. Can you possibly imagine if her reaction after an altercation between students would be to inflict physical punishment on the one in the wrong? (Or both, if they were both in the wrong.) And furthermore, can you possibly imagine if what she did to the “bad student” was WAY WAY WORSE than what he had done? Because in the conventional interpretation, Hell is the worst thing imaginable. So if God sends you to Hell, then He (by construction) is giving a punishment worse than the crime.

Now if you are with me so far, do this: Think through why you answered the way you did, in the paragraph above. Does it involve things like: The teacher is much stronger than the 3rd graders, she is much smarter, she is much wiser, more mature…?

Finally, notice that for each of the reasons you cited, that is also true of God vis-a-vis us, by times infinity.

Does it really sound plausible that because some guy advocated socialism, that God is going to torture him for eternity? That makes no sense at all.

9 Responses to “God the Teacher”

  1. Steve Maughan says:

    I also don’t like people trying to do God’s job and proclaim the resting place of others; whether it’s someone who is seriously ill (in the case of Sanders), or someone who had recently died (eg McCain).

    However, I believe your third grade analogy is flawed. It assumes heaven is the natural destination for everyone, as if it’s ours to lose. It isn’t. If we are dead in sin then hell (the place without God) is our natural destiny. Heaven is an unearned gift (Ephesians 2 v 8 & 9).

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Steve, I understand your reaction but I think you’re misunderstanding me. I agree we are all “bound for hell” because of our “sin nature.” I just don’t think that what hell is, is a place where God burns you for eternity to cause physical pain.

  2. Steve Maughan says:

    Bob: What passages are you using to base this claim? This link seems to provide numerous verses that support a traditional interpretation of what Hell will be like:


    The link you provided in your main post is an old Universalist text. I’ve done a “thorough skim”. It seems to fall into the trap of being one long argument from silence i.e. “if there is eternal punishment then God would have surely said…” type arguments. At best these are logical fallacies — we don’t get to say what God should say.

  3. Jim WK says:

    Bob, why don’t we turn it round the other way? God is perfect. Nobody who is sinful can enter eternity with him. No one at all. Zero people. God comes down to the earth, dies on a cross, provides a way out so that sinful people can share an eternity with a holy God. To do that, they need to be riding on the coattails of Jesus. Or to put it biblically, they need to be in Christ. Just like the ark was the way that people escaped destruction in Noah’s time, the way the houses marked by the blood of the lamb sheltered people from the angel of death in the time of the Passover, the house protected by red cord allowed people to escape destruction in Jericho in Rahab’s time, the blood of Jesus shelters people now. There is safety, there is not safety. If you’re right, then God has changed the way he works completely. In the time of Abram, righteousness was given to him by faith, Hebrews 11 says all of these OT people were sheltered by faith, now you’re saying that God lets everyone in. That doesn’t hold true to the whole of Scripture. People move from unsafety to safety through faith.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Jim, please see my response to Steve. You’re misunderstanding my position. I’m not talking about whether everyone or just a subset of humans are saved, I’m talking about what it means if you’re NOT saved.

  4. Brian N says:

    Is the concept of eternal conscious punishment substantiated by passages like Matt. 25:46 and Luke 16:28?

  5. Clayton says:

    Interesting thoughts, Bob, and I am uncertain about the nature of Hell, but I disagree with your premise that Hell is the “worst thing imaginable” and therefore the punishment does not fit the crime. Perhaps it is the worst place that a human can go, but humans are literally guilty of attempted Deicide. We have not only denied God, not only disobeyed Him, but hated Him and tried to kill Him. If we are playing the game of ranking “bad”s, I would argue (and I think Scripture would argue) that our actions are worse.

  6. Harold says:

    “Does it really sound plausible that because some guy advocated socialism, that God is going to torture him for eternity? That makes no sense at all.”

    No, because eternity is not long enough for these commies.

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