Is a Belief in Hell Incompatible with the Truth That God Is Love?
Many people today act as if we are the first ones to really believe in God's love. On the contrary, this has been a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith throughout the ages. The Puritans believed strongly in the love of God. It never prevented them from embracing the doctrine of Hell, since that is revealed in Scripture also.
We may pride ourselves in thinking we are too loving to believe in Hell. But in saying this, we blaspheme, for we claim to be more loving than Jesus—more loving than the One who with outrageous love took upon himself the full penalty for our sin.
Whenever we take one biblical truth, then conclude that another teaching of Scripture is incompatible with it, we presume to act as judges of Scripture, rather than submitting to what it says. Hence we become our own authority, defining God’s love on our own terms in a way that is incompatible with Hell, whereas Scripture sees God's love and Hell as two coexisting truths. We cannot figure out how to reconcile them, just as we cannot figure out how to reconcile God’s sovereignty and meaningful human choice. However, the two doctrines are in fact compatible in the mind of God. And it is His mind, not ours, which is the source of truth.
I personally have studied the doctrine of Hell in the hopes of being able to come either to a position of universalism, or at very least the doctrine of annihilation. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do so and stay true to the Scripture I see. I don't want it to say what it does, but it does nonetheless (e.g. I have read books by annihilationists, hoping to believe, but the evidence wasn't convincing).
If we start selectively believing Scripture only that isn’t troubling to us, we dismantle the authority of Scripture. That’s exactly what people are doing on the homosexual issue and nearly everything else. If we dismantle the biblical doctrine of Hell, what else will we dismantle because we don't think it fits with other things we believe about God? Where will it stop? I think the answer is, it won’t.
I’ve written more on the difficult topic of Hell in a chapter excerpted from my book If God Is Good, available in its entirety on our site.