Friday, December 16, 2005

Henri Nouwen on Heaven and Hell: Part 2

I just received the new Nouwen e-letter. It's called "The Good News of Hell." Nouwen writes: "Is there a hell? The concepts of heaven and hell are as intimately connected as those of good and evil. When we are free to do good, we are also free to do evil; when we can say yes to God's love, the possibility of saying no also exists. Consequently, when there is heaven there also must be hell. All of these distinctions are made to safeguard the mystery that God wants to be loved by us in freedom. In this sense, strange as it may sound, the idea of hell is good news. Human beings are not robots or automatons who have no choices and who, whatever they do in life, end up in God's Kingdom. No, God loves us so much that God wants to be loved by us in return. And love cannot be forced; it has to be freely given. Hell is the bitter fruit of a final no to God."
I agree with Nouwen. The reasoning goes like this:
1) God is love. This means that God is, in his essence, love. God cannot not-love.
2) Love necessarily implies relationship.
3) To say that God loves us is to say that God wants us to love him back.
4) But love is not really "love" if not freely chosen. So, God gives us free will.
5) Free will is not really "free" if we cannot choose to not love God.
6) Because God is in his essence love, God cannot refuse us if we choose against him. To do this would be coercive, and love is not coercive.
7) Therefore persons who choose to not love God will receive the outcome of their choices, which is eternal separation from God. (Defined biblically as "hell.")