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I would like to know whether there are any scholars, or philosophers, or doctrines -- or really, anyone at all -- in any sect or denomination of Christianity, who address the question, "Why does God allow millions of people who earnestly seek him to be so wrong that they would go to Hell?" (I'm thinking of the not-uncommon Christian view of Muslims, for example.) I tried asking this question a few days ago on C.SE, and got quite a black eye over it. Almost immediately, two people voted to close the question. One of them said it was too broad, in that I was asking two questions: does anyone address... and why would God allow... Another said that my question doesn't fall under the C.SE question guidelines, and also that I should explain why I believe that millions of people will go to Hell. When I pointed out that it wasn't my belief, but the belief of countless Christian sects, he said that countless Christian sects is too broad.

I'm confused by both of these responses. First, I'm not asking the why would God allow... question. I thought that was clear? Maybe not. Second, I realize that my question doesn't precisely match any of the enumerated types of questions listed here and here, but I should hope that that wouldn't be a reason for closing a question. Yes, a potential warning flag, but I would have thought that a more specific explanation could be given as to why the question is inappropriate.

As for explaining why I believe, or somehow qualifying my question to ask about one particular denomination's belief that there is a Hell where people will actually go, I am utterly baffled. I'm not asking about why people go to Hell, or why a particular denomination believes it. I'm trying to ask whether anyone addresses this "Why would God..." kind of question with respect to the widely held (although admittedly not universal) belief that many people will be judged and condemned, whether to an ECT Hell or just destruction, that is, punishment, or a default "separation from God" experience.

For fear of having it forcibly deleted and/or losing reputation points, I deleted the question. (I try not to get too fixated on reputation points, but I can take only so much of the humiliation I feel when the community disapproves of my posts. I realize that some people might not understand the feelings I experience -- even I don't always understand my feelings -- but they happen anyway.)

Is my question entirely inappropriate for C.SE? If so, could someone please help me to understand why, beyond the simple fact that it doesn't match the broad guidelines I've linked to above? That is, if you can see the source of my confusion, of course. Otherwise, ok, I will accept that the community finds my question entirely inappropriate.

If it's an ok question, could someone please help me to formulate it such that it won't get close votes?

  • Find a medium to large size denomination that believes that, then ask according to their perspective. – 3961 Jan 8 '17 at 16:40
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Thanks for asking here! Let me try to clarify things, at least from my perspective.

I would argue that your question is indeed too broad, not because you ask two different questions ("does anyone address" and "why would God allow") but because many groups that associate themselves with Christianity have attempted to deal with this question. Basically anyone who believes that a) God is love and b) some people will go to a place of suffering must deal with this. And, most importantly, not all of their explanations will be identical, or even remotely close to each other.

That means that a single answer must either (A) cover all the approaches or (B) focus on one or a few approaches, and ignore others. I'd argue that (A) is practically impossible given space limitations.

So what's the problem with (B)? Here's the problem. One user might answer and provide an explanation from their tradition. Another user might answer and provide an explanation for a different Christian tradition. And then other users will come and vote up answers that they agree with, not ones that are well-argued. This isn't hypothetical – this is exactly what happened on many questions when this site was started, and it caused significant problems.

That's why it's important that you specify whose view you want. So instead, you might ask something like, "How do Reformed theologians explain why God allows some people to go to hell?" Or, "According to Thomas Aquinas, why does God allow some people to go to hell?"

All that said: none of this is meant to communicate that your current question is objectively "bad" – it just isn't a good fit for this site. We think our guidelines help ensure that this remains a place focused on questions and answers, not discussion and debate, but they can take time to get used to.

  • Thank you very much for this response. I'm very disappointed, because the SE sites are really the best sites on the Internet for getting good answers to questions. But I understand. I'll have to go to a lesser-quality forum, wahh. Thanks again. – SaganRitual Jan 6 '17 at 17:12
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    @GreatBigBore My pleasure. I hope your research goes well. You are also welcome to join us in chat, if you want more informal discussion. As you investigate, you'll probably realize that there are certain Christian groups whose views you respect more than others, or you might wonder what the basis is for a particular belief. At that point your questions will likely be a better fit for our format. Thanks! – Nathaniel Jan 6 '17 at 17:24
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    I'm not sure that this question would be so hopelessly impossible to address through an overview answer. I'd expect there only to be around half a dozen major perspectives. – curiousdannii Jan 7 '17 at 0:08
  • @curiousdannii You may be right, but that seems like a lot to me. To me, it would at the very least need to simply ask for the views (not "does anyone address...") and explicitly state overview. Even then I'd be skeptical that it could be done well without at least minimal scoping, to Nicene Christianity or Protestantism, for example. – Nathaniel Jan 7 '17 at 2:48
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    More scoping would definitely help. – curiousdannii Jan 7 '17 at 3:09
  • An immense bounty, too, for all the work required to answer such a question. – user900 Jan 9 '17 at 2:46
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Basically, every Christian denomination addresses this question in one way or another. The problem with the question for this site isn't that there are no good answers to it, but that there are far too many different answers to the question. Fairly representing them all would be impossible even in an entire book, let alone in a space-limited answer here on C.SE.

The problem isn't with the question. It's a great question! It's with the ability to answer such a huge question within the small space footprint allowed for answers this site. In other words, the problem is with the fit between your question and this site.

Having said that, I doubt any "lesser-quality forum" will be able to address your question any better. Most religion-related sites on the Internet either represent a single Christian denomination or perspective (or are divided into areas that represent particular perspectives) or they are free-for-all flamefests where it's hard to get good information amid all the noise. Everyone has a perspective, and they'll tend to speak from that perspective. So about the best you can do on questions such as this one is to poke around and read various perspectives at various websites.

I personally would love to write an answer to your question from my own (Swedenborgian) perspective. And in fact, I've addressed this general line of questioning extensively on my blog, in a number of major articles. If I were to try to post any of them here, they would run afoul of the allowed character limit for answers on this site.

But more than that, if I were to answer such a broad question here, mine would be one of a cacophony of voices giving different and conflicting answers. And as Nathaniel points out in his answer, what then happens is that people upvote the answers they agree with and downvote the ones they disagree with, and the question with its answers becomes a popularity contest rather than a forum in which the answers that best address an objective question to rise to the top.

I speak from experience on this. Early on in my time here, before I'd really grasped what this site was for, I did answer some such broad, open-ended questions, and my answers tended to attract few votes or negative votes because I was presenting a position that is unpopular in the broader world of Christianity as it exists today. The voting had little to do with the quality of the answer. It had to do with whether the people voting agreed or disagreed with the position of my denomination. And most of 'em disagreed, because most of 'em were Protestants or Catholics, with a few Orthodox and other segments of Christianity mixed in. So Protestant and Catholic answers rose to the top, while answers from smaller segments of Christianity such as mine fell to the bottom.

That's not what this site is meant to be for. It is meant to be a site where people can get solid, well-referenced answers to questions about Christianity that can be answered objectively. That's the general goal of the various guidelines on what types of answers are and are not allowed on this site.


P.S. If you were to ask a question here about what Swedenborgians think on this issue, I'd be all over it! And that is definitely not a hint. Well . . . maybe it is a hint. ;-)

  • Thanks for another helpful answer, and for the laugh. First one of the day, and a good one at that. – SaganRitual Jan 6 '17 at 18:59
  • Now that I think of it, rather than posting a detailed answer, could you point me to a resource? Like a particular Swedenborgian scholar / theologian who talks about this subject in particular? If such request bends the meta.C.SE rules too far, then please forgive and ignore me. – SaganRitual Jan 6 '17 at 19:00
  • @GreatBigBore Can you join me in chat? A number of articles on my site come to mind, but I don't want to flood Meta with links to my blog. (I just happen to be "a particular Swedenborgian scholar / theologian who talks about this subject in particular.") – Lee Woofenden Jan 6 '17 at 19:05
  • For anyone interested, the ensuing conversation in chat starts here. – Lee Woofenden Jan 6 '17 at 20:40

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