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How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?

Karlo Broussard explains why the eternal consequence of Hell is properly understood as a necessary effect flowing from the nature of mortal sin, rather than as a vengeful punishment imposed by an angry God.


Host: Now we go to Bob in Richland, Washington, listening on 100.7 FM. Bob, what’s your question for Karlo Broussard?

Caller: So Karlo, what I’m doing is I’m preaching in the jails. And so I talk about sin, and I talk about the different issues, you know, and the sins—the wages of sin is death, and the result of that is going off to Hell. And so I’m just asking for clarification on what I say there, to see if it’s correct. So they say, “How can a loving God send people to Hell?” And my response is: well, you have to look at it from God’s point of view. You know, if somebody’s been running from God, someone is hating God, someone wants to go to Hell, they don’t want to go to Heaven; how can a loving God force them to do something they’ve been running from all their lives, and making them do something that they’ve very clearly indicated that they don’t want?

And so that’s kind of the answer I give, and the question I have is: is that accurate on a theological basis to some degree, or do I need to state it differently than that, or reply to that situation or question differently, or…anyways, I’m looking for your input.

Karlo: No, Bob, that’s a great explanation. That’s exactly how I would go about it initially, in regard to putting forward the idea that all those in Hell are there because they choose it. Right? So Hell is a result, or a product. It flows from the very nature of sin; that’s how the Catechism puts it. When the Catechism talks about punishment, and the eternal consequence, and even temporal consequences of sin, it speaks of how—you know, these consequences of sin are not to be understood as, you know, God venting his wrath, sort of a vengeance from without; but actually flows from the very nature of sin.

So if we’re looking at just venial sins, or the temporal consequences of sin; when we sin, we create sort of these unhealthy attachments to created goods, right? The eternal consequence of sin is basically the loss of God’s friendship, God’s life, due to a severe, grave offense against God. So the separation from God is an effect from the cause—namely, “I reject God.” And the simple fact, Bob, is that if I die in that state of separation, well then that separation is definitive. And the definitive nature of that separation, Bob, has to do with, you know, the nature of a choice by an incorporeal being, and the definitive nature of the afterlife and stuff, it gets into the weeds here—we don’t have time to go into it.

But fundamentally: mortal sin, a grave offense against God, brings about the separation of God, the cessation of God’s life in the soul. And if we die in that state of separation, well then, we spend the rest of our existence in that state of separation.

And as you mentioned, Bob, God is not going to force Himself on us. If we don’t want Him, well then He’s the gentleman, and He lets us have what we want: namely, ourselves. And so rather than God’s permission of Hell taking away from the dignity of man, it actually points toward the dignity of man, because it highlights the dignity of man’s freedom; namely, his free will.

Caller: Well thanks so much. I just—you know, it’s more of an emotional question that they’re asking, and so I’m trying to reply with an emotional kind of a way that they can see—but thanks, I just was kind of concerned that I was off base, and so I thought I’d ask. Thank you very much.

Karlo: Thank you, Bob.

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