I was about to leave Moreland's home on the day of our interview about the doctrine of hell. I knew he needed to get over to the seminary, so I thanked him for his time and started packing my recording equipment. But something was still nagging at him. As we stood, he asked if he could make one more point.
"Lee, there's something else I need to mention," he said as he searched his mind for the right way to say it. He sighed, seemingly frustrated on how to sum it up.
Then, as I leaned against his doorframe and listened intently, he described an analogy that created an "Aha!" moment for me.
"When you're trying to make a decision about something and weighing the evidence for and against it, it's important to consider all the relevant evidence and not just a little piece of it," he began.
That made sense, but I asked why he felt compelled to say it.
"Because," he explained, "we've been focusing on one common objection to Christianity-namely, the existence of hell. If you just concentrate on one obstacle, though, you're missing the big, overarching picture.
"Let me give you an illustration. Suppose I saw my wife holding hands with another man at the mall. Would it be reasonable to conclude she was cheating on me? Well, it depends on what evidence I consider. If the only evidence I weigh is what I saw at the mall, then I'd say to myself, 'I don't see anything to indicate she's not cheating.' But that leaves something out, doesn't it?
"It ignores a huge chunk of evidence that has nothing to do with the mall situation, but which has everything to do with the last quarter of a century I've spent with her. I've known her well enough, day by day, to be confident she could never cheat on me like that. So if I'm allowed to bring in that lifetime of evidence, I'd say: 'On the surface it looks like something's funny, but it simply can't be true that she's cheating. There's got to be another explanation.'
"Now, suppose that unbeknownst to me she had received a call from a person she had helped become a Christian twenty years earlier. He happened to be in town and she hadn't seen him in two decades, so they got together at the mall and were showing family pictures and reminiscing. He was getting ready to leave for a foreign country and she might never see him again. And so, like a brother and sister, they innocently held hands and talked at the mall.
"Well, this is similar to our examination into the rationality of hell. You may be asking yourself, 'Do I buy hell or not?' If the only evidence you're factoring into your deliberation is the pros and cons of hell by itself, that's like deliberating about my wife's situation and only allowing the evidence for and against what I saw at the mall.
"I want to submit that there's a lot of other evidence that you should consider that has nothing to do with hell per se, but it's relevant. What is that? It's all the evidence that there's a God, that he created you, that the New Testament is historically trustworthy, that Jesus performed miracles and rose from the dead, that God wants to spend eternity with you in heaven.
"When you factor all of that in, you might say to yourself, 'Even though I might not have a completely good explanation at this point for why there's a hell, I know there's got to be one because I have too much evidence that Jesus Christ really is the Son of God and he taught about it.
"And because I can trust him and his deep love for people-as demonstrated by his death for us on the cross-I can have confidence that hell will eventually make sense, that I'll see its fairness, and I will ultimately recognize it as being the best moral alternative."'
Was this article helpful?