CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Hell and the Hot Stove, Part II
Infants and Adults

Last time I spoke at length about the fact that Mr. Lee’s essay on the injustice of hell depends upon a belief that we are not responsible for our own actions. Instead, his argument relies upon the contention that God is responsible for our actions because He created the entire system. In doing so, Mr. Lee must first absolve us of all responsibility for our own actions. Look at his analogy again. He says:

“I am the owner of a daycare, full of preschoolers. In the playroom, I put many toys in the center, and surround them with hot stoves. With strict instructions not to touch the stoves, I let the kids loose in the playroom. You can guess what happens next. So who's fault is it that many of the kids suffer burns? Using the Christian argument for Hell, the fault would lie with the children, because they were told of the consequences of touching the stoves, yet did so anyway. You think the police would buy that argument? Of course not. Not only would my daycare be immediately shut down, I would be arrested. Why? Because I created the dangerous condition in the daycare, and as a result, put the kids in harm's way. Even though I may have warned them, children are not capable of avoiding such dangers, and the responsibility for their injury is still mine. And putting hot stoves in a room full of little kids is in itself insane, regardless of the consequences.

”Similarly, if God created everything, then He also created Hell. He is solely responsible for its attributes, and what it does to people. He also created a system of salvation from Hell that is unattainable by most. Like the children in the daycare, we are not responsible for this horrible object that was placed so close to us.” (emphasis added.)

Do you see how his essay relies upon the belief that we are helpless infants? Lets try a different analogy: Suppose that you are an employer who has put an attractive hot stove in a workroom where only adult employees are present.The stove has not been put there willy-nilly, but has a purpose. Moveover, the stove has a sign on it that says: “Warning, hot stove. Do not touch; you will be hurt if you do.” Every person in the room has knowledge about the danger of a hot stove and no one is allowed into the room without knowledge of the danger of the hot stove. Now, suppose someone who sees the hot stove thinks that it is a very attractive stove. This person knows of the danger, but finds that stove just so darn attractive that he or she decides to suppress the knowledge of the danger and touch the stove anyway. Is the employer still responsible? Answer: Only if you live in a no-fault workers’ compensation state.

You see, the reason why the analogy is effective is only because it assumes that we are ignorant children who have no knowledge of the dangers poised by sin. But as I discussed before, that is not the case. The Bible teaches that each and every person is born with a knowledge of God’s law such that we cannot claim ignorance to its proscriptions. If we break the law, it will be no excuse to say “I didn’t know.” According to the Bible, each and every one of us knows, but suppresses the knowledge of the truth (sort of like the person who knows adultery is wrong, but that woman is so good looking . . . .).

Once the knowledge that we actually have about right and wrong is taken into account, then it becomes less credible to believe that we were innocent children who didn’t know what we were doing. We know what God’s law is, and we choose to break it. We are the responsible parties, not God.

Of course, there is still the question that my analogy has left hanging, i.e., exactly what purpose does hell serve? And if God created such a terrible place, how can we find him to be good. God willing, I will get to that in Part III.

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