Read Along: 12—Is Hell a Divine Torture Chamber?

Today we continue with Chapter Twelve in the Read Along with Apologetics 315 project. This is a chapter-by-chapter study through the book Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow. (Hear an interview about the book here.) Below you will find an audio intro for Chapter Twelve, a brief summary of the chapter, a PDF workbook with questions for the chapter, and some notable quotes. You’re also encouraged to share your comments and feedback for each chapter in the comment section below. Feel free to interact!  Index page here.

[Audio Intro] – Jonathan Morrow introduces this chapter.
[Chapter 12 Study Questions] (with kindle locations) – PDF study guide.
[Podcast Feed RSS | Podcast in iTunes] – Click to subscribe to the audio.

Chapter Twelve: Is Hell a Divine Torture Chamber?
(pages 158-171]

Chapter 12 explores the issue of hell. Jesus taught about hell more than anyone else in scripture. But is it really a literal torture chamber of some kind? The authors argue that Jesus was informing and deterring his hearers about the reality of hell, though it is not necessary a literal place of fire and darkness. Drawing from input from C.S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, and J.I. Packer, the authors make the case that hell is the logical outworking of man’s free will to be separated from God; a place of total separation. It is not a place of God torturing people. They also address the question of children in hell, and why God doesn’t just forgive everyone.

Apologist Frank Turek contributes and essay arguing that, although hell is unappealing, it is necessary and loving. He also gives three reasons why hell is forever. If there was no hell, there would be no reason for Christ to rescue us.

Notable quotes:

It would be tempting, then, to think that hell may not be that bad after all since actual fire isn’t there, but that would be a mistake because the reality is far worse than the symbol. (p. 162)

Since we were originally created for God’s immediate presence, only before his face will we thrive, flourish, and achieve our highest potential…. To lose his presence totally, that would be hell-the loss of our capability for giving or receiving love or joy. (Tim Keller, quoted on p. 163)

Who in their right mind would knowingly choose hell? The sobering reality is that people are asking for hell every day-though they call it distance from God. They want to be left alone and to live life on their own terms. And in this cry for autonomy, we hear the echoes of Eden reverberating all around us(p. 164)

But does God actively inflict pain on those in hell for eternity? No place in the Bible indicates that he does. In fact, the image of God as a divine torturer is utterly inconsistent with the clear teaching of Scripture. (p. 165)


  1. What is the picture you think most people have in their minds when hell is mentioned?
  2. How would you describe the biblical teaching about hell?
  3. How do you respond to the claim that “God is torturing people forever in hell”?
Recommended Reading
Next Week: Chapter 13—Is God a Genocidal Bully?
Written by

Brian Auten is the founder emeritus of Apologetics315. He is also director of Reasonable Faith Belfast. Brian holds a Masters degree in Christian Apologetics and has interviewed over 150 Christian apologists. His background is in missions, media direction, graphic design, and administration. Brian started Apologetics315 in 2007 to be an apologetics hub to equip Christians to defend the faith.

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