Monday, June 26, 2006

Our Relationship to the Damned in Eternity

This was my one question after reading Donnelly's 'Heaven and Hell', but I didn't want it to cloud my review since it is relatively minor. Basically, in the context of how we will relate to those we have loved in this life if/when some of them are not with us in Glory, ED says that Christians will hate the damned in eternity because God will (p. 117).

My thought is that God really and truly loves all people now, and so must do so in eternity because he is constant, unchanging, faithful... God really and truly loves all men and women and longs that all are saved (Matt 23:37, 1Tim 2:3-4). Now this real and true love is not acted-upon in the sense that God's decreed will includes there being both sheep and goats, there being both heaven and hell... But will not that same love for the lost (who God knows to be eternally lost) which beats in his heart now not beat there in eternity too? And if in his heart, why not also in ours? Jesus knew that many in Jerusalem were not of the elect, yet wept over the city... Will he not weep over hell? If not, why not?

So there will be a real sense in which we will love the damned in eternity. They won't be our bosom-buddies then, as they may be now on earth; we will have no personal contact with them. But that is not to say we will hate them. Donnelly has it that we will neither miss them nor sorrow over them, but I disagree. Their loss will not marr the eternal perfection of Glory, but just as God regrets their eternal damnation though recognising it as fair, so will we - neither more nor less - being made exactly like God, perfected in the Perfect One.



Blogger matthew said...


A few thoughts

First, God's immutability doesn't mean that his relations with / reactions to / views of his creatures do not change. E.g., how did God view elect person X when X was outside of Christ? He loved him with an electing love, and yet also hated him. What about now that X is united to Christ? God no longer hates him, but loves him as an adopted son. What about when X persistently sins? God still loves him as an adopted son, and so he frowns at him and spanks him to cause him to repent. A change in X leads to a change in relation to God, and so a change in God's affective disposition towards X.

Secondly, regarding the damned. In this life, God hates them, because they hate His Son. He also loves them because they exist, and existence is better than non-existence - God in this sense loves all that He has made. Further, He loves them in the sense of showering good common-grace-gifts on them.

But, what about eternity? God still hates them, because in this life they hated (and because in eternity they continue to hate) His Son. But he no longer loves them in the sense of showering them with common-grace-gifts. There is a change in relation. Also a change in relation in that the offer of the gospel is no longer available to them. God is no longer exercising patience towards them, longing for them to repent. However, He does still love them because they exist.

Thirdly, thus, I think it's fair to say that the blessed in eternity, seeing all things (in one sense!) as God sees them, will love the damned insofar as they exist, but will hate them because they hate Christ.

Fourthly, why is someone lovely (beyond their mere existence?) Because of all the good things that God has bestowed on them by his grace. However, in hell, beyond the mere continuation of existence (and perhaps some shard of God's image), this is removed.

So, consider (hypothetical) kindly Uncle Joe, whom I now love. In eternity, he is still, in a sense, Joe: there is personal continuity of existence, which is how God can justly punish him for the sins kindly Uncle Joe commited in this life.

But all the good things that made him *kindly Uncle* Joe have been withdrawn by his Creator. There is a huge discontinuity. In a very real sense, kindly Uncle Joe has become sin-ravaged-God-hating-tormented-reduced-to-chaff/dust/dirt Joe - a monster. It's too horrific to contemplate, but it will, I think affect the way one sees him.

Thus, ultimately, it seems to me, there is a change in how God will view the damned, and how we will view the damned because there's a profound change in the damned themselves.

11:47 am, June 27, 2006  
Blogger Andrew said...

Thanks Matthew - that's really helpful, and I think I'm with you on it. I've been mulling this today, and realised that I'd failed to make the necessary distinctions... I wasn't aiming to deny that we'll hate the damned in eternity - which we surely will, seeing sin for exactly what it is.

I'm not sure I get immutability (looking forward to Doctrine of God next year) but Jesus weeping over Jerusalem isn't in quite the same category as God's loving discipline. God frowning towards someone he loves, which he does for their blessing, feels a long way from God weeping over someone he hates.

Could it be that, just as the cross was horrible considered out of context, yet delighted God because of all it acomplished, because of its place in his plans... Will it not also be the case in Glory that God is sorrowful that there are souls lost in hell, yet delight in it at the same time, because of Rom 9:22-3? Thus we will hate the damned in eternity, but not without regret - though holding that sadness in perfect context within God's great eternal plan.

Or is this pretty much in line with what you were saying anyway?

8:00 pm, June 27, 2006  
Blogger matthew said...


Thanks - I agree with your comment on discipline/weeping over Jerusalem; it wasn't the best comparison, although I think the other ones I list are apposite.

Re. hating the damned in eternity but with some regret - that feels like it should be right, and seems like an implication of loving them insofar as they exist, and also seeing the tragedy of God's image-bearers reduced to what the damned will be.

Helpful. Thanks.

11:21 pm, June 27, 2006  
Blogger Marc Lloyd said...

This loving the damned for the sake of their existence is an interesting point. Granted that it is usual and proper to think of existence as better than non-existence and that personal continuity between the ungodly in this life and the damned is necessary, but it is hard to see what exists about the damned (though obviously they must exist!) or what is good about them if God's common grace is removed? Is it problematic that the damned should have good existence about them and yet be damned? If anyone could expound all this a bit more I'd be grateful.

9:59 am, July 18, 2006  
Blogger matthew said...


Good question. Here are a couple of tentative suggestions.

(1) As you note, the damned clearly exist, although, given a privative view of evil, only just (they're chaff, dust, etc) - they have some (very little) ontological depth. I also think, given that they're still kind-of-only-just-human (personal continuinity between this life and the next), that some shattered remnant of God's image must reside in them (although it's hard to see how). Additionally, as I don't think humans are inherently immortal, God must still sustain them in their existence. Thus, on these counts (existence, and image) I think I'd want to argue that God doesn't withdraw his common grace fully, even from hell. It's therefore easier to see how he could love the damned for their existence.

(Interestingly, the existence argument also suggests that annihilationism isn't the kind, gentle version of punishment, but from one perspective is actually far worse; unlike eternal conscious torment, annihilation implies the removal of all grace)

(2) I wonder what it looks like from the perspective of a narrative ontology. If I am the sum of my life lived so far, then presumably for the damned this is also true. Their existence, from one perspective, is defined by the whole of their life story, including (especially?) their story in *this* life. Therefore, God, knowing that story perfectly, can still love them for all the good in them in this life which still gives shape to their personal identity (even if nothing good were to remain in hell), even whilst hating them because all those goods were also marred because done by a Christ-hating, God's-Word-denying sinner, for self-glorifying motives.

That may all be cobblers. Thoughts anyone?

9:17 am, August 15, 2006  
Blogger Marc Lloyd said...

Thanks, Matthew.

If the damned continue to hate God in their condemnation and yet, as you suggest, He continues to graciously grant them existence and love them for the sake of whatever grace He has given them in their lives and the remnant of His image in them, the tragedy and villany - and the grace - of it is all the greater.

8:00 am, August 20, 2006  

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