Yes, this is about a year late on the Rob Bell issue regarding his book Love Wins, but I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain and realized something that I think Bell either overlooks or simply doesn’t handle well.
If I recall correctly (I don’t have the book in front of me; lent it to a friend), he asks a question of eternal punishment and how it applies to humans who have lived only 50, 60, or 100 years at best: How does one in a mortal state deserve an immortal punishment? Meaning, if I live a rebellious life for 50 years, die, and am sent to an eternal life of punishment – how does that fit into deserving something? Why not be punished for as many years as I had lived? That seems closer and more reasonable to what I deserve, doesn’t it?
It’s a good question, but I think it has some major problems. 1. It casts onto God our human sensibilities regarding what one does and does not deserve. 2. It overlooks the fact that the eternal realm of either heaven or hell function in a nonlinear fashion. As Lewis points out; we think of time as a line, but eternity has no beginning and no end. There aren’t seven days in a week – heck, there aren’t even days.
Eternity simply is.
What does that matter in regards to what one deserves? First of all it disproves the seemingly-flawed logic of suffering for eternity for a life lived in 50, 60, or even 100 short years. Second, it alludes, as Lewis says, to the finality of things. To borrow and yet expand an image Lewis gave; If life is a game then the play clock is ticking and something must be done so that the game is not lost. For once it is lost it can no longer be won.
Of course the image of a game being lost or won kind of breaks down when one considers the possibility of players or teams cheating. But you see my point: Eternity is final. Either you’ve seen God the victor or yourself the loser, but no matter what, you cannot turn a loss into a win or vice versa after the game is over. If you could, then why bother playing the game in the first place? If you could change what you deserve, then why bother trying to live a “good” life (or a “bad” one)?
I think the most important point to Lewis’ chapter on Hell is the very last sentence: “This chapter is not about your wife or son, nor about Nero or Judas Iscariot; it is about you and me,” (131). Do not concern yourself with the hypothetical man suffering eternal punishment for his 50-year long hypothetical life lived. Concern yourself with whether or not you’re seeing God the victor through your life or yourself the loser through your life. And to find out the score, we would be wise to ask the Scorekeeper.