So that is a bit scary. Lots of people have trouble with the idea of hell. Are they all going to become atheists? Hopefully not. We need to go back and ask what makes the idea of hell so hard to accept? One source of that problem is when we make heaven too easy to accept. Heaven can seem easy in many fundamentalist churches. You say the sinners prayer and you are saved. Isn't it great? The most amazing gift is available totally free. You just need to ask. But not everyone asks. So they go to hell. How is that fair? It is like God will give you $1 billion but only if you say Rumpelstiltskin. If you don't say it then too bad so sad. What kind of God does that?DeWitt's transition from true believer to total skeptic took 25 years. It began, he said, with the idea of hell. How could it be, as he had been taught and preached, that a loving God would damn most people to eternal fire? "This thing called hell, it began to rock my world," he said.From there he read about universalism — the idea, scorned by most fundamentalist Christians, that salvation is universal, and all people will be restored in their relationship with God without any action on their own part. After universalism, he discovered the idea, supported by some neuroscientists, that God is actually our inner dialogue."I went from God loves everybody to God saves everybody to God is in everybody," he said.
The trouble is this view of salvation is wrong. It ignores what heaven is like and it ignores what we are like. The big thing about heaven is it is a community. We often think of it in individual terms. Sometimes we thing of union with God but often not even that. We can think of heave like going to Disneyland. If that is what it is like then there would be no good reason for God to refuse everyone entry.
But the joys of heaven depend completely of the fact that they are shared with God and with each other. We will know each other fully just as we are fully known. That is why it is so important that nobody with any sin at all be in heaven. A community of perfect love requires total self-sacrificing love from everyone involved. If one person breaks that than the whole thing breaks down. So we need to be sure nobody there is going to use us or ignore us or disrespect us. We are to live the way God meant us to live. To love and be loved without limit.
So if you see that we must be perfect in love to enter heaven you can start to see why not everyone will be there. But why does God not just make everyone perfect? Problem solved. But making someone perfect is a big thing. We are serious sinners. We don't just sin big but we sin in the most personal ways. For God to make such sweeping and intimate changes to a person's life requires their permission. We understand that forcing somebody to marry against their will is a violation of their dignity as human persons. Forcing somebody to be supernaturally transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus would be many times worse. God will not do it.
But what if God just makes an argument so convincing that everyone is going to say Yes? The trouble is that would still be forcing. Just in a different way. The nature of love requires it be a real choice. It even requires the choice not be simply self-serving. It must not be a choice we make because everyone else is doing it. Quite the opposite. The option of saying No must look easier. That is the only time we know we really love someone or something.
The other thing we need to know about heaven is how right it is. It is where we are meant to be. It is who we are meant to be with. It is how we are meant to be with them. Everything about it is right and not just right on a superficial level. It is right for you right down to the depths of your soul.
What follows from that is that missing out on heaven is very bad. If we are not forced even in the most sneaky way then many will be excluded. If it is so right then that exclusion will be very sad. We are meant to feel that sadness. We are meant to do something about it through evangelism. But evangelism involves the whole mystery of a person be transformed from a sinner into a saint. To reduce it to walking a aisle and saying a prayer turns the whole thing into nonsense. Once it stops making sense then we will be tempted by atheism.