Yesterday, I was asked an interesting question. I thought you might like to read my answer.
Question: How is God not violating a person’s free will if He uses hellfire for redemptive purposes? Who will not eventually have “had enough” and relent to serve God? Isn’t that coercion to the maximum extent?
“Fire” is not to be taken literally. It simply refers to a process of purification, a process that even Christians experience. Substitute the terms, “trials,” “judgment,” “correction,” “guidance,” “chastisement,?” and “negative life experiences.” God uses these to steer us in the right direction and mold our characters. In a sense, we all experience the “fiery crucible” of life experiences. I don’t believe in “free will,” as I am a determinist, but I do believe in “free agency.” We are free to do what we want, but what we want is determined by circumstances we have no direct control over. None of our attitudes are self-caused. They are all “determined” by antecedent events and the genetics which have shaped our wills. When God “draws” us to Himself and “saves” us we can take no credit. Our salvation is “not of ouselves” (Gal 2:8,9). There is no room for boasting. Do we call it “coercion” when God gives us the faith to believe in Him and creates in our hearts a desire to receive Christ? I suppose you could call it that. Christ said that when He is lifted up, He would “draw” (literally “drag”) all men to Himself. But He not only wants to restore fellowship with us, He also wants to mold our characters so that we would by “nature” desire to be good for all the right reasons and “freely” love God for all the right reasons. He walks a fine line that loving parents walk with respect to the amount of “coercion” that might be involved in shaping their children’s character. Some children require more of the “negative” sort of discipline than others, but everything the parent does is motivated by love. God is infinitely more wise and loving than any human parent. I think we can trust Him to do what is best. I don’t like the term “hell,” because it is not a Biblical term. What we think of as “Hell” refers to future “judgments” of God, which vary tremendously from one individual to the next. The amazing thing is that God doesn’t just “give up” and force us all into submission. He allows us “free agency,” which may be defined as the “freedom to make our own choices.” For that reason, He exercises enormous patience and waits for us to genuinely repent for positive, rather than negative reasons. More extreme measures are required for some than others. To use an extreme example, I would imagine that for someone like Hitler to be brought to genuine repentance he would first have to find himself on the “receiving end” of some of the misery he caused others. This might be the only way for him to be able to truly “empathize” with those he has harmed and see the error of his ways. I am reminded of the story of Corrie Ten Boom who was able to forgive the prison guard who was so cruel to her and her sister during the halocaust. That prison guard was tremendously impacted by that. I often wonder if, during ages to come, there would be opportunity for evil doers to expierience this kind of forgiveness from those whom they tormented during this age. I believe that Christ will continue to seek out His lost sheep during the ages to come and that those who were “saved” during this age will in some way be partnering with Him in these endeavors. The Bible indicates that Christians will “rule” with Christ during the coming ages. Would that not also involve “serving” the needs of the lost? To become “great” in the Kingdom of Heaven and be truly conformed to the image of Christ, would we not need to become the “servants” of all?