I Choose Hell- CS Lewis and God’s Role in Condemning

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.” -CS Lewis, The Great Divorce

So often people ask of the doctrine of predestination, “Well, if you believe that God chose those whom will be saved before time began, then doesn’t that necessarily mean that God chose everyone else to go to Hell?” My unwavering answer to that question is “No.” No, I do not believe that God “chose” those who are condemned to Hell, and the reason why is what is expressed above: the choice to go to Hell is a self-choice of the individual, one which chooses to deny service to God and thus is condemned in its own sinfulness.

This is one of the major issues which is at stake in the argument between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. Without spending too much time myself in explicating my position here, I will tell you minimally where I stand and then point you to a (highly academic) source for further detail on what I fully believe.

When it comes to the issue of predestination and the condemnation of souls to Hell, I believe that we are all, from birth, totally depraved, wholly incapable of choosing God (i.e. choosing to do that which is righteous); not because God has made us this way but because we have inherited the original sin of Adam. Because of this we are all deserving of Hell. This is our own choice, at no point has God forced our hand and made us choose to sin, but instead it is ingrained in every bit of our human nature to do that which is opposed to God’s will. Moreover, the only way to avoid Hell is to be counted among the elect of God, those whom He has predestined for eternal life in Heaven. Therefore, the act of predestination is an act of God to save those whom He desires from the natural result of their sins and setting them apart to be glorified alongside Christ in Heaven. However, at no point has God played a part in the condemnation of a soul to Hell. One ends up in Hell because out of their depraved nature they chose to sin, and God’s electing grace simply passed over them.

I know this is a hard doctrine to deal with, either because it seems too complicated or just plain unloving, but I encourage you that if you seriously put the time into searching out God’s will and His character in election then you will be rewarded with a peace about what He says. As well, it is important to keep in mind this other quotation of Lewis from the same book:

“Ye cannot fully understand the relations of choice and Time till you are beyond both…. What concerns you is the nature of the choice itself: and that ye can watch them making.”

If you find all of the talk of predestination and free will to be a stumbling block just keep this quote in mind. It is wonderfully and greatly rewarding to study the deeper aspects of God’s character in theology, but remember that Christ’s call for us is to simply “go” and “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20) and if you are faithful to do this you will certainly not be disappointed!

Grace be with you.

18 Responses to “I Choose Hell- CS Lewis and God’s Role in Condemning”

  1. Jackie Hart Says:

    Occasionally, the predestination… paradox hits me broadside; this happened tonight as I watched a History Channel program profiling a young man who did sinful things, yet didn’t seem altogether consumed by evil. Nowhere in the biography was there an indication that he knew the Lord, and his last act , while dilusional, was apparently to murder someone. I thought, he died at 24 years old; did he have enough opportunity to come to Christ? Had he lived longer, would he have professed Christ? I grabbed the laptop and “yahooed” CS Lewis and predestination, confident that he would have thoroughly brain-stormed it. Yours was the first site I entered, and probably the last I’ll need to enter. I think you have addressed this difficult doctrine as well as possible, and I’m comforted that Lewis recognized that one must accept it for what it is and be satisfied to be unable to pare it down to something with which we are comfortable.

    If you have no objection, I’ll paste the Lewis page in a Microsoft Word document for my devotional use.

    I’m excited to discover your site and will be checking it often. I’m sure all your readers send you God-speed in your seminary pursuit.

    Jackie Hart

  2. Todd Burus Says:

    Jackie,
    Thank you for your kind words. Any assistance that I can provide in helping you strugle through these things or opening up resources for you to study it further is something I am grateful to do.

  3. Dan Says:

    The whole notion that man has a free will is all in the attempt to free god of the responsibility of sending people to hell.

    This is all total and unscriptural nonsense. Destroying the doctrine of free will can easilly be done in the scriptural as well as in the worldy sense. It is impossible to have a free will and the scriptures declare God’s sovereignty. But none of this is as important as destroying the most blasphamis doctrine ever invented. Oh hell, what could that be.

    The Christian hell is an evil and unscriptural hoax.

  4. Todd Burus Says:

    Dan,
    I don’t quite get your comment. You seem to be saying that free will and hell are both non-existent, unscriptural things. Yet, you also seem to be in agreement that God exists (right?). So, I take that you are universalist? (I could be wrong, like I said, there seems to be confusion). Either way, I was curious what argument you have for hell being “an evil and unscriptural hoax”? That is a fairly outstanding claim, at least if you believe in the Scriptures, and it would be interesting to have a discussion over why you believe this to be the case.

  5. Dan Says:

    Rom. 8:19-22
    For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him Who has subjected the same in hope. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.

    Philipians 2:10-11
    at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

    Isaiah 26:9
    When Thy JUDGMENTS are in the earth, the inhabitants of the WORLD WILL LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS. (that means everybody)

    John 1:29
    Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

    John 4:42
    . . . for we have heard Him ourselves and know that this is truly the Christ, the Savior of the world.

    John 12:32
    And, I, if I be lifted up out of the earth, will draw, all, unto myself.

    Rom 5:18-19
    For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall (the) many be made righteous.

    Rom 11:26
    And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

    Rom 11:31-32
    For God has shut up all in unbelief, so that He might show mercy to all.

    1 Cor. 3:15
    If anyone’s work shall be burned up, he will forfeit it, yet he shall be saved, yet thus, as through fire

    Col 1:20
    And, through him, fully to reconcile all things unto Him, making peace through the blood of His cross. . .

    1 Tim 2:4
    “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior: Who will (thelo) have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (Thelemo means desire)

    1 Tim. 2:3-6
    Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus who gave Himself a ransom for ALL to be testified in due time.

    1 Tim 4:10
    For to this we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Preserver of all men, specially (first) of those who believe.

    1 John 2:2
    And, he, is, a propitiation, concerning our sins, –and, not concerning our own only, but, also concerning those of the whole world

    1 John 4-14
    And we have seen and testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

    John 9:4
    “I must work the works of Him that sent me”. . .

    Rom. 8:20-22
    For the creature was made subject to vanity not willingly, but by reason of Him Who hath subjected the same in hope. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain until now.

    Habakkuk 214
    For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the Waters cover the sea.

    1 Tim. 1:15
    Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

    Isaiah 42:16
    And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things (the crooked serpent?) straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.

    Isa. 52:7 and 10
    . . . and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God

    Isaiah 55:11
    So shall My Word be that goes forth out of My Mouth, it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

    Ezekial 16:55
    When your sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then you (Jerusalem) shall return to your former estate. (Sodom’s former estate was not in hell, was it?)

    Do you see now that the scriptures actually declare the salvation of all? The whole concept of the christian hell is evil beyond words. If you would like, I will show why hell is always mistranslated and why free will is unscientific as well as unscriptural.

  6. Todd Burus Says:

    Dan,
    Well, you certainly get the award for sheer bulk of out of contxt verses and misapplied meanings, but you missed a couple:

    Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” -John 5.28-29

    And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” -Revelation 20.12-15

    I could spend the next day or two showing you where the mistakes are in your verses or I could recommend some resources of guys who say it better than me. For why these Scriptures don’t proclaim universal redemption, turn to The Death of Death by John Owen. For arguments that hell really exists, turn to Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson. Or listen to Mark Driscoll preach on the Kingdom of God and if Hell exists here.

    Also, I would recommend a good healthy dose of reading the rest of the Bible and not playing lucky thumb looking for passages which may fit your viewpoint. (Sorry, that sounds mean, but it is important that we approach Scripture with the right mindset and I am not convinced that one can find universalism in the Bible unless they are looking for it).

  7. Dan Says:

    It’s you that doesn’t understand any of the scriptures that you quote. And I would not expect you to, because God has not given you the eyes to see the truth. You quote out of a book of symbols (Revelations) and give it all literal meaning. You fail to understand that judgment is a good thing that all must go through. The Lake of Fire is not literal fire. What do you think judgment accomplishes? Do you really think that judgment is another name for your hell?

    Isaiah 26:9
    When Thy JUDGMENTS are in the earth, the inhabitants of the WORLD WILL LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS. (that means everybody)

    See, I already gave you that scripture so I shouldn’t have to again. How about your belief that the Lake of Fire is some eternal torture chamber where people scream forever.

    1 Cor. 3:15
    If anyone’s work shall be burned up, he will forfeit it, yet he shall be saved, yet thus, as through fire.

    Guess that one’s out of context too, huh?

    You couldn’t honestly explain away my scriptures in a million years. And if you attempted to, I’d honestly destroy your illustrations of deceit. Now, when your ready, quote a single scripture that you feel shows that the unrighteous will spend an eternity in some hell. Because, I know a thing or two about mistranslations. In closing:

    Judgment does not = hell!!
    Lake of Fire does not = hell!!

    Sheol-mistranslated as hell 31 times

    Hades-same meaning as sheol

    Gahenna-to complicated for you, but is not the Christian hell.

    P.S.
    I did like the statement one of your idols wrote in their title about “modern scholarship reinventing hell”. They invented it once but I guess now it must be reinvented.

  8. Dan Says:

    Oh, I forgot a big one:

    Eternity, eternal,forever, forever and ever, forever x 2, forever to the power of forever,

    are all unscriptural terms. They shouldn’t be in any bible.

  9. Luke Says:

    I’ve been doing a bit of research on the matter of predestination of late. I was raised in a Baptist church and have always assumed that free will was simply how it was. I do believe in free will, though I’m just now researching it, and in my search for information I, too, stumbled across your blurb, here. The one thing I take issue with here is that you say God doesn’t choose those who goes to hell. That’s illogical. Yes, I agree that we all deserve hell for sinning against God, but in the act of choosing who goes to heaven, God elects those who stay bound to hell by neglect. We have earned hell, but those who get to heaven don’t deserve it any more that we do. Yes, it’s grace, but it’s also God choosing who goes where.

    I’m not trying to attack you or anything, just looking for a bit more explanation.

    • Todd Burus Says:

      Luke,
      Thank you for your comment.

      I think your assessment of the situation is correct, that by electing some to salvation God is by default leaving the others to hell, but the point is that they were going to hell already. The issue at question when this is discussed is in what order did things occur? Did God decree the fall, and so all man was headed towards hell, and then elect some to salvation out of those (infralapsarianism); or did God take everyone from a neutral state, elect some to salvation and then decree the fall in order that what he chose would come about (supralapsarianism)? I think you would be right in expressing distaste at a God who made his choices on heaven and hell and then caused them to come about, but that is not what I mean to be proposing.

      In what I am proposing, that the fall is decreed, we are all headed to hell, and God actively works to elect some to salvation, God is not choosing to send anyone to hell. There are people who God passes over who stay as they are, condemned to hell by their own free will, but there is no person that God says, “You go to hell.” Yes, this is a passive choice, but with God everything is either a passive or active choice, nothing is left up to chance. The question is if it is an active choice, which I argue it is not.

      Also, remember that God is not obligated to save anyone. It is by his great mercy that he saves even one person, so to fault him for not saving everyone is wrong.

      I hope this clears up where I stand and helps you in determining where you stand. Feel free to write back.

  10. Keith Walters Says:

    Toddicus,
    Thanks for your discussion above; especially as it pertains to the ordering of the divine decrees. I personaly hold to a supralapsarian position but your thoughts above certainly give me more to chew on than the prooftexting that usually takes place in such discussions.

  11. Dan Says:

    We were going to hell anyway? You must be some lunatic to believe such damnable heresy. Words don’t describe the level of evil in the false doctrine of hell.

  12. Todd Burus Says:

    Dan,
    I’m sorry you feel that way. Do you have an argument for it or is that only your personal opinion?

  13. Michael Morris Says:

    Todd, I did enjoy your article, and I know that predestination is a bitter pill to swallow for some (but it turns sweet in the stomach…once digested).

    If you meant that God doesn’t “actively” assign people to Hell, that could be true…although He does assign people to Hell. He chose His elect before the foundation of the world, which by necessity means that He did not choose the remainder of those who were yet to be born.

    Were I to encounter a fork in a road (and only wanted to continue, not retrace my steps), I would be making two choices when I select a route. In one instance, I would choose “to” go to the right, and choose “not to” go to the left. It is two sides of the same coin.

    You stated in one post “…There are people who God passes over who stay as they are, condemned to hell by their own free will,….”, but God passed those people over prior to their birth (in fact, before the foundation of the world). It is true that they are condemned to Hell by their own free will…it is also true that they are condemned to Hell by God’s sovereign decree.

    A part of getting more comfortable with God’s sovereignty is accepting the fact that this is God’s universe, He is in charge, and He gets to choose. We are simply pots…some made for destruction, so that He can show His mercy to those made for glory. None of this eliminates the personal responsibility we hold for our own sin.

    All the above is simply my opinion, and is where I am currently on my road to sanctification. Further light is coming (I hope), which may (or may not) alter this understanding.

    Have a blessed day Todd,

    Michael

  14. Todd Burus Says:

    Michael,
    Thank you for sharing your thinking on this with us. There is one suggestion I would like to make for you though. You give the hypothetical of if you were to encounter a fork in the road then by choosing one way you are at the same time choosing not to go the other way. This fails to be an analogy for our situation because:

    (1) It gives a false dichotomy. It is not necessary that God choose one or the other. He is just no matter if he chooses one, both, or none.

    (2) People, unlike the roads in your analogy, are not neutral. The road is there and unphased irregardless of your choice. This is not so with people. I often describe this by saying it is not that we are neutral and God sorts us into one of two bins. We are all in the ‘condemned’ bin and it is God who chooses to take some of us and place us in the ‘saved’ bin.

    This in mind, the analogy I would suggest is this: There are many roads and all of them are destroyed in a bad storm. The civil engineer then must decide which ones to fix. He may fix all, none, or some of them, but no matter what he chooses, he is not responsible for the ones that are destroyed. Just because he didn’t fix them doesn’t mean he destroyed them. It also doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have fixed them if he had wanted. It just means that for some reason he chose not to.

    Of course this analogy fails because the storm that destroys the roads is self-inflicted in that we choose to sin, but no analogy is perfect.

    To answer your first statement, yes, I would say that God does not actively assign people to hell, he just passively let’s some go there out of their own active choice.

  15. Michael Morris Says:

    Todd,

    If you don’t mind, I would like to discuss this further with you if I may.

    You stated that my “road analogy” presented a false dichotomy…I’m not sure I concur.

    I agree that it was not necessary for God to choose ANY to be saved.

    I further agree that He is just no matter who He chooses (or does not choose).

    The people (unlike the roads) are not neutral…once they enter into creation at the moment of conception. However, God made His election before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Since we were all “in the condemned bin” as you put it, even prior to our entry into creation, God selected some from that “bin” to be placed into the “Saved bin”. In the act of that choice God by default “chose” to seal the eternal fate of those He did NOT select for eternal life.

    Once individuals enter into creation via conception (more souls are entering creation every day), each individual is “pre-assigned by God” if you will to one of two fates. One is either an elect child of God, chosen before the world began, and will come to faith in Jesus Christ, or one will not be granted the faith and repentance required to truly make Jesus Christ their lord and savior.

    I know that there is a reticence to attribute a person’s damnation to God…we like to think that God has nothing whatsoever to do with it. And once again, I am not suggesting that there isn’t a complimentary responsibility on man’s part (he deserves justice), but by the very act of choosing not to save some, He makes it impossible for those He did not choose to attain salvation.

    If we accept his election of some, in order to remain logically consistent, we must accept his pre-ordained destruction of others.

    Thanks for the “virtual” discussion brother !

    • Todd Burus Says:

      Michael,
      You say “people (unlike the roads) are not neutral…once they enter into creation at the moment of conception. However, God made His election before the foundation of the world.” This brings up the big debate: when exactly did the decree of the fall take place? This is what is known as the ‘lapsarian’ debate. Supralapsarians believe that the decree of election preceeded the decree of the fall; infralapsarians believe that the decree of the fall preceeded the decree of election.

      The position I advocate (and thus why I say “not neutral when chosen”) is the infralapsarian position. This means that I believe God decreed the fall and thus knew we would be fallen, guilty, and headed to hell prior to his choosing of the elect. Note, it doesn’t mean that we were already guilty/had sinned, but that God knew we would be guilty/sin, and therefore we retain the fact that election occurred before the foundation of the world. What you have argued isn’t necessarily the supralapsarian position, but it does give you something more to consider before taking a hard-and-fast position on this yet.

      You can read more about the lapsarian debate here.

  16. Barry Wallace Says:

    I’m not a theologian, but the whole lapsarian debate seems somewhat odd to me. If God is eternal, then he exists outside of time and does not think in time-bound categories, as we do. Trying to assign an order his decrees seems inappropriately speculative. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29)

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