Posted tagged ‘Clark Pinnock’

Revising God by Hating Hell

March 2, 2011

Clark Pinnock commenting on why he rejects the classical position of hell as eternal punishment:

“I am rejecting the traditional view of hell in part out of a sense of moral and theological revulsion to it.  The idea that a conscious creature should have to undergo physical and mental torture through unending time is profoundly disturbing, and the thought that this is inflicted upon them by divine decree offends my conviction about God’s love” (emphasis mine).

– Clark Pinnock, “The Conditional View” in Four Views on Hell, edd. Stanley Gundry and William Crockett (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1996), 164.

From the comments and questions on Rob Bell’s video trailer to his book, I’m guessing that Bell shares a lot of the same sentiments that Pinnock does.  Here’s an excerpt from Bell in his video:

See, what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is, and what God is like.

Bell is right about that, but unfortunately, he along with Pinnock and others are willing to reduce the character of God to one attribute and subject all of his other perfections secondarily to the love of God.  This God-revision is necessary on account of what they have determined to be moral and loving. Consequently, when you start with your sentiments rather than the God who has the right of self-revelation, you are left to reveal the god of your sentiments rather than the God who is.  And it is hubris is the highest degree to define God to our liking rather than the way God has chosen to reveal Himself to us.

The bottom line is this: universalists (or inclusivists) want to believe that all the world will be (eventually) saved.  Their wishful thinking is determinative, and the justification of such thinking warrants an understanding of God that makes His love incongruent with and unaccountable to the rest of his attributes. Carl Henry correctly asserted,

“The subordination of divine righteousness to divine love leads to arbitrary conceptions of agape in which God’s judgment and wrath do not come to full scriptural expression, and from which grossly unbiblical consequences are still deduced” (Aspects of Christian Social Ethics, 168).

Furthermore, in order to make room for the many/all, they reduce the character of God to love and fail to give account for His glory, holiness, justice, righteousness, and wrath.  The manifold perfections of God which shine so brilliantly are shrouded by cloudy sentimentalism, as Ajith Fernando states,

“The universalist idea of the whole (message of the Bible) contradicts such a significant portion of the parts that it simply cannot be regarded as a legitimate representation of the whole. . . . When we ignore those parts of Scripture which we find unpleasant, we will end up with an understanding of the message of the Scriptures that has no place for wrath and hell” (Crucial Questions About Hell, 120).

In the end, it is not simply that love wins. Glory wins. Justice wins. Righteousness wins. Holiness wins. And why is this?  Because God is holy, righteous, just, and altogether glorious in all of his perfections.  And only such a picture of God can tell the whole story of the Bible and adequately portray the drama of redemption in which Christ our King as the lamb who is our righteousness, who absorbed the wrath of God, and vindicated the justice of a perfectly holy God adopting sinners into His family.

When we are left with the God of the Bible in all of His excellencies and perfections, we are brought low to the ground in woe because of His glory, in worship because of His grace.  And no one will be wringing their hands wishing they did not have a God like this.