Why I Believe In Hell
First, humans have committed horrific evils and the notion that God’s wrath isn’t kindled in the face of these atrocities is ludicrous. Victims demand justice. Evil needs to be punished. Jesus spoke very cleary about God’s moral fury in very harsh eschatological language.
But the second and perhaps more shocking reason I believe in hell is because I need to go to hell.
God hates sin. As do I. Hell is the biblical term for this Divine fury--the complete separation of God from humanity. I tend to be selfish, petty, and vindictive. Such things have consequences. Hell is God's wrath, directed at those aspects of my life that are stupid, selfish, or shameful. I hate it when I act like a jerk to my family or friends or anyone else. And that hatred is actually a small participation in the wrath of God. While at times self-loathing, depressive or even neurotic, it is first and foremost the simple and healthy recognition hat I have moral failings in my life. I believe in hell because I need it. We all need it. I don't want to live in eternity as I am now.
Grace is the fact that God will not destroy me, however, for these failures; He will not treat me according to my sin. Jesus taught me the right Way, died for me, and loved me, even though I am a sinner. It is unconditional love. This means that now God and can begin the process of combating the sin in my life. This too, however, can feel like hell.
The logic of disciplined parenting is that all such parents want their children to grow from extrinsic to intrinsic motives in their moral development. Early in life, the threat of punishment keeps children from what their parents deem to be "trouble" (although as the parents themselves are also sinners, this may not always be true). Aversive consequences from the outside motivates. But, if one stays with these external motivations, one will fail to develop into a decent person--only doing good for a reward and only avoiding vice from fear of getting caught. Children need to shift from these extrinsic motivations toward intrinsic ones--doing good for issues associated with identity and character; because they want to, not because they have to.
This is, obviously, an odd view of hell. But it is simply the logic of the parenting metaphors in the bible, that God is a loving Father.
Similarly, as long as hell remains an extrinsic motivator, an external consequence, then our moral development will remain stagnant. And the same could be said of heaven.
As I spiritually grow, I find myself internalizing hell, participating in the wrath of God, living by its logic.
We need grace and we need hell.