As a speaker with Catholic Answers, I fly a lot. Part of what I love about flying is meeting those sitting next to me.
On a recent flight I had an opportunity to share my faith with a woman who seemed to believe in everything except the law of non-contradiction: fairies, God, heaven, reincarnation, Catholicism, the law of attraction.
One thing she didn’t believe in was hell.
In fact, after learning what I do for a living, one of the first things Mary said to me was that, though she believed in God, she did not believe in hell.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because I don’t think that a God who is all-good and all-loving would want to send someone there.”
“It’s certainly not his will that souls be sent to hell.” I said, “We know from Scripture that God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth [1 Tim. 2:4]. and that he does not want any to perish but all to reach repentance [2 Pet. 3:9].
“As a Catholic, however, you believe he already has sent someone, and indeed a multitude of beings, there.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Catholics believe that demons are fallen angels. God has at least sent them to hell, yes?”
“I’m not sure I believe that,” Mary said. “But at any rate, I’m talking about us, people on this earth.”
“Do you think that all will be saved?”
“Do you think that anyone will be saved against his will?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, suppose a person rejects God and does not wish to be with him. Would an all-loving God coerce that person into being saved or would he respect the person’s free choice?”
“Well, I suppose in that case God would respect his freedom.”
“So you can’t rule out the possibility of hell in light of an all-loving God then, right?”
Once Mary had conceded that the doctrine of hell was not logically inconsistent with an all-loving God, I quoted C. S. Lewis from The Great Divorce:
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 chose it. Without that self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened. ”
Interested in learning more? Read my colleague Jim Blackburn’s article, Hell? Yes! Part 1 and Part 2.