“I find little use for a deity who lets me decide my fate”

But what about the now popular conceptualization of hell as radical freedom, as God letting us choose what we want, including a godless existence? It’s problematic, although it makes for effective apologetics. For if we hate hell, then learn that it’s simply the unavoidable consequence of individual liberty and self-actualization —things we prize so highly—then perhaps hell computes after all. We can think of our freedom to reject God as on a par with all those other freedoms that we can’t do without—academic freedom and economic freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of association, and so on.

Yet when human freedom is front and center, God moves to the wings. In the modern myth, our names are on the marquee, and our destiny is up to us. What we make of ourselves here determines what we are to become there.

Should we, however, desire starring roles and such Pelagian freedom? Although not an old-fashioned Calvinist, I think it’s obvious that all of us are broken creatures, that we’re selfish and self-deluded, and that we constantly abuse our freedom, which is so often illusory. Because of this, I find little use for a deity who lets me decide my fate. I don’t want to be my own God. Nor do I want the Supreme Being to respect my alleged autonomy no matter what, just as I don’t want the police to respect the autonomy of the despondent guy threatening to jump off the top of the high-rise. I rather desire, for myself and for everyone else, rescue. Our decisions need to be undone, not confirmed. We need to be saved despite ourselves. Even if we’re allowed, in our freedom, to kindle the fires of hell and to forge its chains, isn’t it God’s part to break our chains and put out the fire?

If the libertarian hell doesn’t give God enough to do, it’s also, perhaps, simplistic in its binary logic. It posits that people move either toward God and so toward heaven or away from God and so toward hell. But, as the Scarecrow says to Dorothy, “People do go both ways.”

Human beings aren’t unidirectional vectors but bundles of contradictions. Saints are sinners; sinners are saints. Everyone is Jekyll; everyone is Hyde. And everyone is in between. We advance toward God one moment and sound retreat the next, and most of the time we’re stuck in the middle.

We’re confused and divided in ourselves, or rather fragmented. Our wills, our desires, our faith are always veering off course. We don’t just fail to do the good that we will; we just as often fail to do the bad that we will. Who travels the straight and narrow, whether up or down? The modern hell, however, posits that, in the world to come, we keep moving in the direction we’re already headed. Our momentum, so to speak, carries us up to heaven or down to hell. Yet what if, like me, you keep moving in circles?

Dale Allison

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5 Responses to “I find little use for a deity who lets me decide my fate”

  1. Joe says:

    For me, this article confirms the abject absurdity of hell…of any duration.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. knudgeknudge says:

    Great stuff – and Dale Allison’s book ‘The Resurrection of Jesus Christ’ is a fine work…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Good points. I don’t understand the concept of hell as a form of punishment in a place of fire (?) as part of God’s original creation.

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  4. TJF says:

    I spent some time researching mind altering parasites recently. The ones that make ants grow fungi bridges out of their heads, make mice willingly seek out death by cat, make bees bury themselves alive, and make spiders cast little web beds for the wasps that are eating them alive. The fact that this is true makes demonic possession seem obvious.

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  5. Iainlovejoy says:

    The libertarian defence of hell founders on the problem that hell is, if it is hell, not a very nice place to be; in fact it is the worst place you can possibly be. It’s easy enough to construct an argument that people ought for “free will” reasons to have an option to go there, but there is the insurmountable problem of how this works when our radically free person arrives in hell and decides that, actually, they don’t like it very much. You then have to explain why you are taking away their supposedly infinitely precious free will in order to keep them there.

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