From Jacob M. Wright: via Cecil Cockerham
Just read an article on John Piper answering a parent who was concerned about what he should tell his child, who has “extreme anxiety” about death, about the topic of hell. Piper took the time to list “5 Great Realities” on why the fear of hell “is a golden opportunity for treating God as big and glorious and utterly real” whether you’re a “6-year-old or a 60-year-old.”
Piper went on to say, “The horror of hell is a signpost concerning the infinite worth and preciousness and beauty and goodness and justness of God. If He were small, if God were small, hell would be lukewarm. Because He’s great, scorning God is a horrible thing. What a gift for a child to grow up deeply convinced that the whole world will face judgment someday. This will give seriousness to the child’s life.”
Now for a personal testimony. The idea of eternal torment forced me into an existential crisis of terror as a child. My mind naturally thought deeply and seriously about my existence. I spent years in the dark terror of my mind, questioning the point of living a life if at the end I would face a hostile being on a throne who would send me away to an eternal reality of torment. All was dark and terrifying in my little mind. This drove me to a breakdown as a teenager. For two years I was not functional as a young kid because of the anxiety and panic.
The way to be delivered from this fear is not to find “security” that Jesus saves you from it, not if you actually use your mind anyway. Because how do you know you’re saved? Hundreds of different Christians will tell you hundreds of different things on how you know you’re saved, and none of it is very assuring. How holy do you have to be to prove you have the fruits of true repentance? Or maybe all you have to do is confess Jesus is Lord? Well, even the demons believe that and they’re not saved! And Jesus said many will say “Lord Lord” and they aren’t saved!
Well, what is the assurance? Truth is, with such a possibility and we are told LIKELIHOOD of eternal torment, you can’t have any assurance. The possibility lurks. The likelihood lurks. There is this deep and abiding unsettledness in your heart, if life is like that, if the world is like that, if you were born into a universe where your main concern was to avoid ending up in eternal torment whether allowed or sentenced by its Creator. And if you’re someone who takes it seriously like me, there is regular panic attacks until it breaks you down mentally and emotionally.
For me to be born into a reality where it was possible and even likely for it to conclude in me ending up in never ending torment is to say that I was born into a horror story, that our existence is not good, that existence is terrifying. There is no reason for this. There is no reason to look at the universe like this. The universe does not communicate any such idea to us. It is merely based on the deepest fears of the unknown. The only way to be delivered from this fear is to realize it’s utterly unfounded, that existence is simply not like that. Only when you start asking real questions about existence and the universe will you realize the utter unfoundedness of eternal hell.
Think about it, what is the Worst Thing a human could possibly imagine happening? Let me help you: an eternity of being tormented. Yea, the universe gives us no reason to think it would ever happen (indeed if the universe tells us anything, it is that suffering is temporary and gives way to revelation and transformation), but eternal torment is the worst and most terrifying scenario the human mind could devise. Am I correct? Okay, now what is the one event that is the Great Unknown, something that all of us end up at and no one knows its outcome? Death. Walla! Declare that the Worst Thing imaginable is the outcome of the Great Unknown unless you do such and such, and you have the most powerful fear tactic possible to put masses of people in bondage to control them.
And all the while, there the universe is, communicating nothing of the sort. There is no reason to ever believe life and existence were like that. Yes, there is reason to believe in justice, in karma too, that if you do bad things you may reap bad things, but no reason ever to believe that anything will land you in an eternal situation of hopeless, non-redemptive, irreversible torment.
You’re safe. You’re in a universe where the greatest and highest power is Love, and that is constantly at work for the transforming of all things to good. That’s the only kind of universe worth existing. Listen deep within your heart and you’ll know that is the only kind of existence that could exist. There is no eternal horror story.
John Pipers God who must satisfy his infinite retribution by inflicting infinite suffering on his creatures to uphold his eternal honor and to his eternal glory is actually the petty ego of humanity, with all its jealousy and anger and vengeance issues magnified to infinity. That God does not exist.