Scott Clifton (aka Theoretical BS) offered a response to my YouTube video “If an atheist says they don’t think hell will be so bad, what do you say in reply?”. I’ve included his video below followed by a quick response:
Scott’s main argument in the last half of his video appears to be that I’ve offered an inconsistent view. Why? To recap, I’ve defined human beings as individuals who image God in much the way the moon reflects the light of the sun. Thus, on my view, we can understand why rejection of God is so devastating to human flourishing given that it entails the rejection of that same image in other human beings: if one rejects the light of the sun (i.e. God) then one also thereby rejects the light of the sun reflected in the moon (i.e. human images of God).
And that leads to the alleged inconsistency. In Scott’s words, I’ve defined hell as “total separation from God” and thus akin to “moonlight without the sun”. But one cannot have moonlight without the sun providing that very light. And thus, “either alienation from God does not entail alienation from other people or the very notion of hell that you’re defending is impossible.”
By way of response, first, we need to define “total separation”. This description refers to relationship (more accurately, a reciprocal shalom-bearing relationship). Within a Christian understanding of God, there can be no separation from God in an absolute sense since God preserves the creature in existence every moment by an act of will and God is omnipresent (i.e. present in knowledge and power) to every state of affairs including the state of affairs of that creature’s existing.
For Scott’s objection to be sustained, he must assume that the act of bearing the image of God is something that is only borne in virtue of voluntary relationship (i.e. as a product of that reciprocal shalom-bearing relationship). But that cannot be the case since being in the image of God is a precondition for the creature’s entering into a reciprocal shalom-bearing relationship with God. Thus, there is no inconsistency between the creature being in total separation from God, that is, lacking that reciprocal shalom-bearing relationship, and continuing to reflect the image of God (i.e. the moon reflecting the sun). Thus, there is no incompatibility as Scott alleges.
One more thing: even if one did lose the image of God in hell (i.e. fail to reflect the sun’s light) one of three things would follow:
- Bearing the image of God is normative but not necessary for being human
- Being human is normative but not necessary for being a particular person
- Hell eventually results in the cessation of existence (i.e. annihilationism)
However, one need not even bother with 1-3 since as I first explained, there is no incompatibility to begin with.