The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism – A critique (Chapter Five How Can a Loving God Send People To Hell)

reason for God

Chapter Five – How Can a Loving God Send People To Hell

Skeptic’s Assertion: “I doubt the existence of a judgmental God who requires blood to pacify his wrath. Someone had to to die before God would pardon us. But why can’t he just forgive? And then there is all those places in the Old Testament where God commands people be slaughtered.” (P. 68)

“…I have a even more of a problem with doctrine of Hell. The only God that is believable to me is a God of love. The Bible’s God is no more than a primitive deity who must be appeased  with pain and suffering.” (P.68)

“A God of Judgement Simply Can’t Exist”

In this section Keller says Americans largely agree with the idea all people should be able to choose and reach beliefs on their own terms and God should love “us no matter how we live”. (P. 70) He does not cite a source for the former of that statement and I don’t see that in our culture unless you are contending a moral life is one of a Quaker or Amish. Keller seems to be saying Americans believe they can act like sociopaths and God should still love us. I truly hope I am not the odd one out thinking our culture doesn’t think that as a majority.

Here he loses me saying, our issues with God holding us accountable goes back to the Middle Ages when magic and science lived side by side until magic withered and science grew citing C. S. Lewis as an expert. (P. 70) He says we understood in ancient times if we “violated the metaphysical order there were consequences just as severe as if you violated physical reality by placing your hand in fire.” and ” “That wisdom rested largely in developing qualities of character…”(P. 71)

He contends, “Modernity reversed this. Ultimately reality was seen not so much as a supernatural order but as the natural world, and that was malleable. Instead of trying to fit our desires to fit reality, we now seek to control and shape reality to fit our desires. The ancients looked at an anxious person and prescribed spiritual character change. Modernity talks instead about stress-management techniques.” (P.71)

This statement is paradoxical. Stress-management techniques are based on neurology, peer-reviewed studies, and experiments, while spirituality is by definition based on faith.  Moreover if Christianity is correct then the ancient’s subscription to all other myths for comfort is not only flawed but damnable.

Pastor Keller goes on about our hubris for controlling the physical world has spilled over in to the metaphysical one, “it is unfair in our minds… that we should determine that it is all right to have sex outside of marriage and later discover that there is a God who is going to punish us for that.” (P. 71-72)

Best way to avoid the sin of pre-marital sex: Don't get married.

Best way to avoid the sin of pre-marital sex: Don’t get married.

First off, the Bible’s rules on lawful marriage in God’s eyes is far from moral by almost any standard. Secondly, how Keller doesn’t see how claiming to have information about supernatural desires and what happens after death based solely on a bronze age text isn’t the ultimate hubris. To clarify: An Atheist does not believe in theism. When asked by a Christian what it’s like to be an Atheist, the Atheist should reply, “Do you believe in Allah?” “No.” Will come the reply to which the Atheist says, “Like that.” Skeptics assert nothing without evidence (burden of proof falls to the party claiming something “is”), while the believer makes extravagant claims based on weak 393-The-good-thing-about-science-is-that-its-true-whether-or-not-you-believe-in-it-Neil-DeGrasse-Tyson-quotes-science-reality-truthevidence. Who is more arrogant in their knowledge?

I don’t actually disagree with Keller when he says it only makes sense that if there is a god, he would judge the lesser beings of his realm. I don’t think most people have a problem with the idea of judgement since we hold our own populace accountable. The problem is with the standard, reasons, and outcome (punishment/reward) of said judgement.

“A God of Judgement Can’t Be a God of Love”

Keller starts his defense of God simultaneously being loving and wrathful by saying loving people can sometimes be filled with wrath. This is paltry defense since by Keller’s own faith’s standards humans are the lowest caste of morality left to its own devices. To say it makes sense a super being would be given to the same follies as we are takes away from the “super” part of supernatural. He says that God becomes wrathful not inspite of his love but because of it. This is like justifying a parent lashing out in anger to their child when they run towards the road. Yes, it makes perfect sense for a human with limited abilities, patience, and overall control but not for the most powerful force in all of existence. If God is driven to such wrath as Sodom and Gomorrah, Noah’s flood, or the massacre when Moses comes of the mountain to find the Israelites worshiping an idol, shouldn’t he, as the most powerful being change the laws of this universe rather than resort to wholesale slaughter of the planet?seattlebusad

“A Loving God Would Not Allow Hell”

Keller approaches this as many apologists do. First saying hell is less fire and more separation from God. Secondly he seeks to say hell is inhabited by the jailers, that is to say anyone who is there is there by choice. Lastly he paints the faithless person as more likely to live a narrow life since there is concern about afterlife, good or bad. Let’s take these one at a time.

1. Separation from God is the punishment, not brimstone.

The most obvious and frustrating idea about Hell being an absence of God’s presence: God is omnipresent. He can’t not be in Hell and be omnipresent. He is either everywhere, including Hell, or he isn’t omnipresent.

Hell not being fire and pain is a relatively new idea in Christian theology that many apologist, including C. S. Lewis who Keller quotes over and over, have jumped on in the last century. In fact there is strong movement in the U.S. amongst Christians to give up the concept of hell entirely (see Pastor Rob Bell). Lets look at the BIble. Keller gets the idea hell is separation from God in 2 Thessalonians 1:9.

“9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

This is more or less the only verse in the New Testament which supports Keller’s position on Hell. Virtually every other verse paints hell as a place of fire, suffering, or both. For time’s sake let’s just look at what Christ said:

Matthew 13:41-42
New International Version (NIV)
41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So are Christians to believe Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians or Christ? Keller seems to say Paul. In any case there is far more support for the eternal torment Dante laid out in the Inferno than Keller’s separation theory of hell. Why is this important will become more obvious as we go on.

2. Hell Is Inhabited by its jailers.

Most Christians believe people who have not chosen to believe in Jesus have chosen Hell. There are many fundamental problems with this view point both logically and Biblically. Let’s look at the Biblical ones first.

Keller cites Romans 1:24 (God gave them up to their desires) to support this idea that God gave us the way out and by no fault of his own. Acquiring grace is not as simple as John 3:16 says it is, something we will cover in a later chapter. More importantly we need to look at the Trinity’s role in people getting “saved”.

John 6:44
New International Version (NIV)
44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

So unless we are drawn by the Father then we will not know salvation. Doesn’t sound entirely up to us. If this needs to be qualified it is safe to assume getting “drawn” it isn’t a given.

We see this in the Gospel of John, so these are supposed to be Jesus’s words.

John 6:65
New International Version (NIV)
65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

Biblically out of Jesus’s mouth we do not come to salvation unless the Father has enabled us. There is no reason for Jesus to say this, and the early church to make it canonical and doctrine unless there is even a possibility God may not do this for someone. Therefore it is safe to assume there has been at least one soul in history who went to hell because God didn’t call them. Unacceptable. Biblically the patrons of hell are not all there by choice.

We all started without belief in any specific god or religion

We all started without belief in any specific god or religion

Now lets look at Christianity’s belief structure in tandem with the concept of hell and see where responsibility falls logically.

Christianity says: God created everything knowing everything about creation’s destiny. God created Hell. God created the rules regarding who does and doesn’t go to hell. Lastly, there is nothing that happens that God did not intend or control. By these “doctrinal facts” God knowingly created souls to go to hell. It does not seem in this paradigm the ball is in our court or that God doesn’t create some souls intending they end in hell.

“Hell and the Equality of People”


Keller sets out to say the Christian is no more narrow than the secularist since they both claim to have unprovable information about the afterlife. The secularist says Christians are different because non-believers will be punished and the secularist don’t claim anything will befall the believer’s soul. Keller disagrees by making an analogy about Jack, Jill, and the nature of a cookie.

Basically Jack thinks the cookie is poison and Jill does not. Jack says it will send him to the hospital and possibly kill him, while Jill says it may spoil her dinner. “Is Jack more narrow-minded than Jill just because he thinks the consequences of her mistake are more dire? I don’t believe anyone would think so.” (P. 81)

First of all, most skeptics have a hard time with why the other choice is more dire. They want proof Christian Hell is real, why Christianity is more right than all other theisms of the centuries, and an explanation as to the incongruity of a loving god and the god of the Bible.

As to his analogy, absolutely it makes Jack a more narrow person. Let’s add a setting to the metaphor. Jack and Jill have the same opinions about the cookie in question, but this time they are at a party. Now Jill is walking around letting people know there is a big dinner later. Its going to be really good so they may want to wait til later to eat those cookies. Jack on the other hand is posted by the cookie plate on a soap box with an ancient book explaining how these cookies are toxic and if you eat them you will become sick and possibly die. People are asking Jack how he knows this to which he simply says it’s the truth. “Why is it the truth?” they ask. “Because the book said it was.” Jack says confidently. “So the book you got this information from is also the proof of its validity and you have no peer-reviewed evidence this cookies is as you claim it is?” They ask. “No, but the book is enough. Are you willing to take the risk in light it may kill you?” Jack asks genuinely. “Has anyone else eaten the cookies in question?” the crowd queeries. “Well, anyone who has left the party as they ate it and haven’t returned.” “So we don’t actually know what happens after you eat the cookie?” Jack holds up the book again shaking it emphatically, “Yes we do! It says what will happen in here.” All the time Jill is walking through the crowd saying, “Save your appetite, there’s a lot to enjoy and we’ll get to the cookies.”

If you were at that party which person would seem more narrow-minded to you? Even if  Jill was on a soap box right next to Jack with paper’s from OSHA, the EPA, and the FDAA shouting the cookie isn’t dangerous, but you shouldn’t rush into it who would you think was more narrow?

“I believe in a God of Love”

Keller writes about his struggle with Christian theism in his college days and how he experimented with other theisms and then Buddhism, “the religion I liked best at the time.” (P. 82) but turned away from it because his need for a personal god.

First off, if we are talking about needing a religion based on love, Jainism is the best answer. Fundamental followers take their pacifism to the level of wearing masks to avoid harming very tiny organisms, and while not heavily reliant on deism it does subscribe to a “perfect universal presence,” as well as multiple deities who dwell in the heavens. This religion dates from 3,000 BCE and is far more based in and consistent in universal love, so as with all believers, Keller has chosen his religion as the best through personal justification rather than the best answer to his personal quandaries.


He finishes with saying the evidence for the idea God is love is the Bible itself.  Keller points out there is almost no evidence outside of the Bible for that belief and “The belief in a God of pure love – who accepts everyone and judges no one – is a powerful act of faith.” (P. 83) While I appreciate his honesty that faith is the only reason to think this, I am blown away at this assertion God judges no one after he spent three pages of this chapter arguing God only makes sense if he is judgmental! Moreover the God of Bible is loving maybe 65% or so of the time and he rest of the time its genocide and natural disasters. If I was forgiving, gracious, and loving 90% of the time, but the other 10% I was committing genocide, demeaning women, supporting slavery, and creating the worst possible universe to punish people with, would anyone say I was a person of perfect love? Why then should I extend the perfect love attribute to a character who does it 25% more and claims to be perfect to boot?

Keller simply makes it more clear the only way to get past the existence of Hell created by a God of perfect love is faith, which is completely useless in a discussion with a skeptic. I’m concerned he has forgotten half way through the book who he is addressing.

Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.



15 Comments on “The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism – A critique (Chapter Five How Can a Loving God Send People To Hell)”

  1. silence of mind says:

    This is the usual “Atheist Tale From the Latest Greatest Hallucinated Alternate Universe.”

    Modern science is the result of Christianity. And there is no global curve of progression concerning science.

    Civilization came and went and only the Christians West quantum leaped past the slave and manual labor and beast of burden that characterized every other civilization in human history.

    And while Christian Europeans were busy building a new civilization during the Middle Ages, the Chinese civilization was reaching its zenith. The civilizations in the America’s of the Aztecs and Incas were also buzzing along.

    But those civilizations like all others before them, never progressed past slave and manual labor, and the beast of burden.

    And every atheist seems to have never studied the writings of Plato and Aristotle and Romans like Cicero and Enlightenment philosophers like Locke and the Founding Fathers.

    Justice is a key issue through the millennia.

    Key to understanding the genius of the American Founding Fathers is their understanding of God and their relation to government.

    The power to rule is reserved for God, since all men are created equal. But since God is not here, men must rule themselves.

    That is why the Founders separated the Godly power to rule in its three constituent parts and set them at odds with each others.

    That way the power of God to rule over man would not fall into the hands of any man, group of men or institution.

    In conclusion, without God, there is no Christianity. Without Christianity there is no modern science or Western Civilization and thus, no modern era.

    Without God, there would be no justice. There would only be tyranny, mass poverty and mass misery just like always.

    • Thanks Silence of Mind. I don’t see how anything I said is an alternate reality from the one we live in. Please elaborate.

      I appreciate your view on the Middle ages, but that was a very insignificant part of this post, and more importantly as you pointed out non-christians such as the Chinese, Greek philosophers, Locke, Hobbes, and Voltair (I have read them, and didn’t find the need to have faith to get on board. More importantly Locke was one the few who wasn’t accused of atheism and criticizing the church, so I have to ask. Have you read them?) have done far more to move justice and society forward. I also think you are relatively alone in thinking Christianity was science’s friend during the Middle Ages unless you are arguing any advancements can be attributed to Christianity since they had the power, and even then scientists had hard won victories often silenced and threatened by the Church.

      As to our forefathers, Keller didn’t say anything about the formation of the US so I didn’t either, but since you brought it up, they were at best deists and understood we are likely not the apex consciousness in all of existence. I heartily agree with that sentiment and never once have I said there is no chance there is a god. I am an Atheist. I oppose theism, not deism. Several of the Founders would be livid to be classified as Christians.

      I would love to read your views the actual subject matter of the post besides a couple sentences and picture regarding the Middle Ages and formation of the USA, a subject I didn’t touch on.

      As to your argument, without God: no justice, your argument can be applied to Allah, Zeus, Poseidon, Odin, Vishnu, and Shiva. I assume by your writing you believe in the Trinity. I am not reviewing a book arguing any other god’s divinity, power, or existence. Until then let’s just agree we’re all athiests. I just dismiss one more god than you do. Thanks for reading.

      • silence of mind says:


        You might want to have a look at the work of Dr. James Hannam, Cambridge professor of science history.

        He is a mainstream, uncontroversial scholar whose recent book, “The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Science Revolution.”

        It’s largely a recapitulation of Western History but without the Protestant and atheist propaganda that has plagued our culture for the last 500 years.

        That Christianity impeded the development of science is generally accepted but it a total falsehood. In fact the exact opposite is true.

        Galileo is the great example that is always used to make this case. But he was punished not for his science but for insulting the Pope.

        Also try naming another scientist besides Galileo who was punished by the Church.

        You can’t, because there aren’t any.

      • silence of mind says:


        My argument cannot be applied to Zeus.

        Only people who have not availed themselves to the knowledge of the ages would think such a thing let along say it out loud or actually write it down.

        The Bible is a book of wisdom.

        The atheists who eschew wisdom of course disregard the Bible.

        They instead busy themselves looking for grammatical errors and avenge themselves upon those wayward Christian sects who take the Bible literally.

        Having a battle of wits with the unarmed is the only way atheists can ever gain advantage in an argument it seems.

        And there is much wisdom yet in Greek mythology, for it was through storytelling that the ancients transmitted wisdom and morality (how to act properly, effectively and profitably and what sorts of actions, attitudes and values bring on tragedy).

        But only God can reveal God. And that is what the Bible is: God’s Revelation about himself to man.

        In Greek mythology, wisdom was transmitted by the story teller. Zeus was only one of the main finite characters used to portray human shortcomings and the general belief that the Universe was chaotic.

        The Hebrew understanding of human nature was similar, though portrayed truer and thus much darker, much more violent and sinister.

        But their understanding of God was totally different than any other culture or civilization, having been revealed by God, Himself.

  2. I have removed the picture and few sentences regarding the Middle Ages since it seems to be distracting from the meat of the review. I will read that book, and while I agree atheists and agnostics at the turn of the 20th did spread a lot of none sense about the Middle Ages, the repression of beneficial scientific advancement on any level is reprehensible. Galileo may be one of the few examples of this, but we can all agree his work is pretty damn important, so much so the church apologized in 1992 for it.

    The Bible does have a lot of wisdom in it. It also has a lot of Bronze Age misogyny, homophobia, human trafficking, and justification for indiscriminate massacre. You cannot claim its from a perfect being’s lips and also admit it has some of the most evil acts of literature. Its a case of having your cake and eating it too.

    There is no more evidence for the Bible than the myths of the Greeks. Linguists, archeologists, and historians largely agree the Bible is a political document willfully pieced together for specific purposes through the ages. We are still retranslating and adding/removing books today. Have you read Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch, (and longer versions of Daniel and Esther)? You wouldn’t have unless you were Catholic since the Church added these to distance themselves from Luther and continues that through today setting Catholics and Protestants on different faith trajectories. Claiming the Bible is dictated by a super-being is an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence. The point is the Bible is clearly the work of humans. Even if it wasn’t you cannot say it’s true because it says it is. That’s just a bad argument.

    • silence of mind says:

      Dear Danger,

      Galileo was the one and only.

      That’s because the Church supported the development of science. The Church systematically educated the best minds in Europe for centuries.

      Four years of study in math and science were prerequisite to the study of theology and philosophy.

      But like the ancient institution that it was it, the Church took profound interest in social stability and the spiritual development of the people.

      And that, along with the Christian worldview, is what led to the development of modern science. All other religions in all other civilizations were powered by the bias of the men who ruled.

      So the agenda of religion was almost always to further a social order with the ruling class (descended from the gods, of course) closest to the Gods.

      Such a bias, the divine right of kings, was the way of things until the American Revolution in 1776.

    • silence of mind says:


      The nation of Israel and Western Civilization are extremely strong indicators that both Moses and Jesus were real people.

      Only someone who deprives himself of reason and adopts a very narrow worldview would think otherwise. Thus my fundamental problem with atheism.

      Since the core of the Bible concerns both Moses and Jesus and since Israel and Western Civilization grew up and developed around their teachings and since their teachings are contained in the Bible, it only makes sense that the Bible is much, much more than myth.

      Atheists complain that God doesn’t intervene to end evil. Yet in the Old Testament that is precisely what he does. And he wipes it out.

      God snuffs out evil people by the bushel.

      Yet atheists still complain because they have created God in their own image, set a standard of behavior for Him and then judged Him wanting. Then they declare that he does not exist.

      The only thing is that it is pure delusion to think that not measuring up to an arbitrary, biased standard has anything whatsoever to do with existence.

      Things exist whether or not they measure up to an atheist’s personal, arbitrary and biased standards.

      • That’s like arguing Egyptian culture is strong evidence of Ra and I assume Ra is another god on the laundry list of deities you deny.

        All the points you are making have been or will be addressed in the review of this book. If you read the posts there should be no reason for you to bring any of these counter arguements up unless you care to quote a point that I have made you find unsatisfactory. If show me an error I will amend, add to, or delete as needed. Please do not use the Bible as argument or proof since it is not accepted as a historically accurate text academically, interpreted in vastly different ways, and cannot be verified by its contemporary historians or their records in ways that satisfy its extraordinary claims. Thanks for reading.

      • silence of mind says:


        No, it is not like Ra.

        Hundreds of thousands of people saw God put on pyrotechnic displays of his divinity every day for decades, in the case of the Hebrews. Those displays of divinity were memorialized in the way of the Hebrews: through ceremonies and traditions that have been passed down through the millennia essential unchanged.

        In the case of Jesus, his pyrotechnic displays of divinity were witnessed by thousands of Jews, Romans, assorted Arabs, Greeks and other people’s of the Mediterranean region and beyond.

        Likewise, Jesus was memorialized through ceremonies and traditions that have also been passed down through the millennia essentially unchanged.

        You deny because that is what atheists do.

        But denial is a psychopathology, not a means of argument.

        Pretty soon, the rational personal person must realize that denying everything is a virulent form of self-imposed ignorance.

        What atheists have done is choose the standard of judgment reserved for the American courtroom and discarded common sense and rationality.

        If the courtroom standard of judgment were the actual standard used for knowing things, we’d still be living in caves and beating each other over the head with clubs.

        It’s a standard that narrows the focus to the point where no thinking is required or permitted.

        That is why I always say that atheism demands the return to prehistoric thinking when personal bias was truth and the strong imposed their truth on everyone under their influence.

  3. Please cite your sources for the Hebrews, Jews, Greeks, Romans, and Arab eye witness accounts. Please explain how your denying every other deity besides the Trinity is so much different to my denial of every theistic being.

    • Danger,

      The Gospels of Saint Luke and Saint John were written by known people. Saint Paul was also real.

      They recorded the life and times of Jesus and His teachings. Jesus founded the Catholic Church (also recorded in the New Testament) which has scrupulously kept the original meaning of Jesus’ teachings alive and well and has scrupulously recorded its history since the very beginning.

  4. As I have said previously, the academic world does not accept the Bible as sufficient proof for the extraordinary claims it makes and neither do I. If you have other sources I would love to read them. Also, I would strongly recommend you watch Who Wrote the Bible ( as it was done by a Christian and does not set out to disprove the Bible or its origins.

    • Danger,

      The Catholic Church is the institution that invented academia in Western Civilization.

      So the idea that academia doesn’t recognize the Bible simply shows how far postmodern society has descended into corruption and agenda-driven bias.

      Up until the 1950’s and the rise of postmodernism, the Bible was the all-American way to become literate and ethical.

      The Bible contains the ethics, morality and worldview that formed the basis of Western Civilization and powered its rise to become the greatest, most just, most prosperous, most technically advanced civilization in human history.

      As I stated earlier, Western Civilization itself is the proof that Jesus lived and taught and was the most influential human being in human history.

      I also stated earlier the critical importance of tradition in passing knowledge and wisdom through the millennia, from one generation to the next.

      The ancient world existed a long, long time ago and the actual physical evidence for things is long gone. But since writing was rare and literacy rarer still, the ancients used ceremony, tradition and story telling to transmit knowledge into the future.

      That you keep repeating a demand for a particular kind of proof when actual proof is so obvious (the existence of Western Civilization) and tried and true methods of transmitting knowledge by the Jews and Christians so effective, is rather disquieting.

  5. If the Church is responsible for modernism that has surpassed it, isn’t it paradoxical to argue its validity and then condemning current world view? In point of fact the red scare changed our pledge to include “under God” (1954). Again, all the values and wisdom of the Bible which are useful and moral I agree with. It is the other 35% or so of the book condoning the most evil acts of literary history which call into question the claims of perfect love and divinity.

    Western civilization could be proof the Bible and its authors existed and wrote what they wrote, however it is no more proof Jesus did what they claimed than Joseph Smith, Jr. claimed Jesus did, and we know the Mormon Prophet was alive. I have personally seen his grave. These extreme claims demand better evidence unless you are willing to concede the Book of Mormon is as valid as Paul and Luke’s writings.

    You have not shown why my arguments in the post are specifically incorrect. You have not answered why my disbelief in Christianity is fundamentally different than your disbelief in all other deities. You have not supported your arguments with anything outside of personal opinion and the Holy text you subscribe to.

    You are clearly a believer who will not be moved. If you do not care to answer my questions, cite your sources beyond the Bible, and justify your dismissiveness of all other faiths and non-faiths I have no interest in defending my position to you any further.

    Post Script: It is wrong for you to infer anyone who is not a Christian is not a true American. I love my country.

    • silence of mind says:


      Postmodern society has not surpassed Christian values or the Christian worldview. For the truth is timeless.

      In fact, postmodernism is presently in a state of collapse. Our society is degenerating in real time right before our very eyes.

      That’s because its worldview is incoherent and based on personal opinion and personal bias and violates “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” *

      We are seeing the end of the greatest Golden Age in human history. It only lasted 1/2 a century but it was glorious indeed.

      * from the Declaration of Independence

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