C.S. Lewis and The Problem of Hell

"Hell is God's great compliment to the reality of human freedom and the dignity of human choice." G. K. Chesterton In The Problem of Pain, Lewis dedicates a chapter to the doctrine of hell. Lewis's thesis is that while the doctrine of hell is hard to accept, it is nevertheless moral. He states, "I am not going to try to prove the doctrine tolerable ... it is not tolerable. But I think the doctrine can be shown to be moral."

He sets out to defend the doctrine of hell as moral by attempting to refute five major objections to the doctrine itself. While the objections are legitimate, I believe Lewis did not afford some of them enough attention. In dealing with the objections, Lewis is not as thorough or persuasive as he is in other topics.

Lewis first tackles the objection to "the idea of retributive punishment." Here Lewis is quite thorough in his explanation of the need for retributive punishment. He also addresses the same objection, although indirectly, in the previous chapter on pain and suffering as intended to yield repentance. His primary argument is that without repentance and a change of heart the evildoer cannot be forgiven and must be made to respond for his own guilt. Lewis states:

The demand that God should forgive such a man while he remains what he is, is based on a confusion between condoning and forgiving. To condone an evil is simply to ignore it, to treat it as if it were good. But forgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offered if it is to be complete: a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgveness.

[Read the rest of the article at Reasons for Hope.]