Aw, To Hell With It

I was listening to the Andrew Klavan show the other day when this caught my ear: In his “Stuff I Like” segment, Klavan shared with the audience an interesting sounding comedy, “The Good Place.” Research, watching trailers when I should be studying, predicts this could be a very funny show to watch. Research also leads us to conclude this is instant watch on Netflix. Research indicates I have a final I should be studying for. . .

I won’t be giving anything away that you wouldn’t learn in a trailer—as stated, that is all I know—but spoiler warning just in case.

The premise of the show is that, in a differentiated binary afterlife, the wrong person was sent to The Good Place, i.e. Heaven. The protagonist shared (Or is it shares? What is the correct tense in this case?) the same name with a more deserving woman, and now a glitch has saved her from eternal torment in The Other Place. No word yet on the condition of the other woman. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, the late protagonist does her best to fit into a world of goody two-shoes.

In the trailers, they reference the Other Place—the only information on the Other Place is that there are people screaming in torment—and I immediately wondered why there had to be suffering in this Other Place. This seems weird: why would I, someone who believes in the biblical Hell, find it illogical that this Other Place is a land of misery?

Tracing my thoughts, wondering how my intuition and general belief system had come askew so, I realized this Other Place doesn’t make sense in the context of the story. This afterlife is a works based system; if your good deeds outweigh your bad, then Heaven is yours. It seems questionable under these circumstances that a moderately bad person—it is also implied that only extremely good people make it to the Good Place and moderately good people would also—be sent to this horrible Other Place.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks: Many people see the world this way, rejecting Hell, the Bible, even Jesus, because of that same intuition I had watching those silly trailers. It doesn’t make sense that only a small minority of people would escape an eternity of torture. What just cause is there to torture these people? Sure, the minority deserve Heaven, but the whole of the rest do not warrant Hell in this case.

Between writing the above last Thursday, and continuing my thoughts today, I have managed to watch a few episodes and recommend the show highly. I will endeavor to spoil nothing.

Some readers noting Martin Carlson’s serial on Post-Death Consciousness will remember in the Pre-Preamble espousals of nontraditional viewpoints regarding Hell. On this topic, a favorite of his, Mr. Carlson is well versed, but this may be the first time I have ever attempted to write down what I think on the ultimate justice of Hell. That is to say, I don’t know or stand by what I am about to write; I write to know what beliefs I am holding, and not to come to conclusions.

Two biblical truths spring to mind as I consider Hell: Near the end of Luke 12, Jesus lays out in a parable that those who do not know, “Their master’s will,” but deserve punishment will be beaten less harshly than those who do know and disobey; and more importantly, Jesus is exclusively the way to God and Heaven.

This last point, when compared with the works[i] based salvation this comedy and a majority of people ascribe to, puts the topic of salvation into a different frame of reference. There is an outside and an inside, and we’re all outside. Christ is the door by which we come inside. It makes sense a minority of people would gain Heaven and lose Hell, because a majority never follow Christ. In this case, it is not so much a powerful God punishing disobedient man, but a rebellious mankind staying stubbornly in Hell when God reaches down to save him.

Herein, I find my thoughts consistent. Hell is a jarring concept when it is assigned to people for what is ostensibly out of a person’s control—how nice they are, how much good they accomplish—but it is another matter when the question is whether or not a person follows Christ. This position, however, comes with its own dilemma.

What about those who have never heard the gospel?

I am happy to leave this question to God, but will point toward the passage in Luke to which I alluded earlier. I have encouraged Mr. Carlson that he should one day publish his, as he likes to refer to it, heresy regarding Hell, which is a very compelling position. I leave this topic upon a leading question Mr. Carlson once asked me, a wonderfully leading question.

For what reasons does a good father punish his child?

[i]
In general, I am not here assuming my protestant stance of faith alone, but comparing Christ’s teachings that He is the only way to salvation against the general assumption that a person’s good and bad deeds are measured on some cosmic scale.

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