Conservative Evangelical apologists (especially Calvinist ones) keep arguing that other worldviews (especially atheism) are not viable so that their proponents have to live in a way inconsistent with their core beliefs.
For instance the great reformed apologist Francis Schaeffer (who had truly a fascinating personality and intellect) wrote:
“Every man is somewhere along the line between the real world and the logical conclusion of his non-Christian presuppositions. Every person feels the pull of two inconsistencies, the pull towards the real world and the pull towards the logic of his system. He may let the pendulum swing back and forth between them, but he cannot live in both places at once.”
To the dismay of some of my readers, I agree there is a huge tension between a materialist fighting for justice for all people, loving his wife and children while at the same time being intellectually convinced that humans are nothing but insignificant bunches of atoms in a gigantic multiverse.
Nevertheless I find it ironic that Conservative Evangelicals use this type of arguments because their own worldview is far more despairing than that of a hardcore atheist.
For the large majority of them believe that all persons having died as non-Christians are going to endure everlasting torment while being aware that their pain will never have an end.
Try to imagine for a few minutes what it means.
A touching email was one sent to Evangelical apologist Michael Patton.
Right now I am in a crisis of faith and am in great need of your advice.
[He then talks about the abusive and legalistic Christian environment he grew up in]
Right now, intellectually I believe in double predestination but emotionally I am a Universalist. If I allow my emotions to bleed into my intellect then I will become a heretic and if I allow my intellect to bleed into my emotions I will become suicidal. In other words, I can’t handle the truth, so I lie to myself.
In an attempt to become consistent I read some of Jonathan Edwards. His view seems to be that because God hates the damned, the saints in heaven will also hate the damned and will rejoice over their misery. I thought that maybe we as Christians should do likewise, so I watched a bunch of YouTube videos by Fred Phelps (the “God-hates-fags”, funeral picketing guy). He argues that God hates the reprobate more than Satan hates the elect and that therefore we should hate non-Christians. I grew up with a lot of abusive, unstable, racist, paranoid relatives so I have seen what hate looks like. It’s a very ugly thing, but what’s really scary is that there’s a part of me that enjoys watching Fred Phelps; that enjoys the adrenaline that comes with stomping on another human being with your mind. I watched Fred Phelps the other morning, and for the rest of the day I felt like I wanted to fight somebody, so I decided to not watch him anymore.
My question that I desperately need answering is: **How do you believe in hell without becoming a suicidal psychopath?** All my life I have struggled with mental illness and my main goal has been peace of mind. I have sought peace in religion but many a time it has been an aggravator and not a soother. I am in a part of my life where I’m going through religious change and am afraid that I may abandon orthodoxy for the sake of the emotional stability that I have so desperately sought all my life.
I realize that such is dangerous because even benign quirks in theology will lead to illogical patters in life. Right now I’m very close to deciding to never have children because they’ll probably go to hell (there’s a part of me that suspects that the vast majority humans do) and it is cruel and evil to bring souls into existence that are probably doomed to damnation. They’ll probably grow up in a world ruled by homosexuals and Muslims. I have become so bitter that I have come to often feel that God hates humanity; that He delights in our misery. I still love God, but I’m starting to love Him in a Stockholm-Syndrome, Battered-Woman, masochistic kind of way. There’s a part of me that feels like I should never get married because my wife will probably go to hell, in fact, it may just be better if I become super reclusive and not have any relationships because everybody’s going to go to hell. There have even been times when I felt like I would probably go to hell and that I should torture myself in order to prepare myself for the afterlife. Michael, I think I’m losing my mind.
People have told me that this should motivate me to evangelize but every time I have tried to I make myself look like an absolute nut and push people away from the faith. I think my mental health makes this very difficult and I have come to think that maybe I have no purpose in life. Maybe God just created me to suffer.”
I was deeply disappointed by some of the answers.
“Hi John Doe, as I am sure you know, the Bible says that God so Loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son…Jesus loved his enemies and he calls us to also. It is twisted logic to think that God wants you to hate unbelievers. No, you are to LOVE them, and you are to do good to them (Romans 12). As for double predestination or not, that still does NOT affect how we are to treat unbelievers, because we have no idea who the elect are! You cannot look at a person in the street and know whether or not they will eventually come to faith and be saved. That is why it is ridiculous what the Phelps’s teach about hating people. It is easy to hate people, the natural man is great at that, it is MUCH harder to exhibit love and forgiveness…that should be one proof that hate toward others is not from God, but love is. I can’t tell you whether or not to have kids, but God does command us to multiply, and I think you need to see the Lord as far more Good and Just and Loving than you do, leave the final judgment of people in His hands.”
Whether or not they hold fast to predestination, Conservative Evangelicals typically believe there is statistically a great chance that the person they meet in the street is going to eternally suffer under the hands of the same God who orders them to love him or her.
This sinister future is compounded by the fact that the sins of that individual were made inevitable by God’s original curse on the whole mankind.
I think that the tension between this conviction and feeling the duty to love one’s neighbor is far greater than the one existentialist atheists such as Sartre and Camus faced while trying to improve an inherently impersonal and absurd world.