Freed Wills (contra the “free will defense” of Infernalism)
Now, some like to say, while the Lord may not actually send anyone to hell, don’t we go there ourselves and lock the door from the inside (a la C.S. Lewis). They’ve transcended literalistic views of Jesus’s “depart from me” texts BUT insist on human free will as a defense of Infernalism … that some in their authentic God-given agency will *ultimately* reject the divine embrace forever.
Imagine beholding Jesus Christ (because in the end, “every eye shall see him”), seeing him as he is, unhindered by the deceptions of the world, flesh, and devil. Imagine seeing the Light of Christ as the apostle Paul saw it on the Road to Damascus. Image knowing, at last, the truth … and then freely turning away into eternal conscious torment anyway.
That would be a strange freedom indeed. In fact, such “freedom” toward self-destruction under the radiance of perfect love would indicate a powerful lingering slavery to something other than the Good. Does such an outcome seem possible? Not quite the right question. Does such an outcome seem possible to Jesus?
31 So he said to the Jews who believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. 32 “We are Abraham’s descendants,” they answered. “We have never been slaves to anyone. How can You say we will be set free?”.. 34 Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).
In this life, Jesus recognizes that some will continue in his word and others will abandon it. Some will embrace him and some will reject him. Some will believe and some will roll their eyes or even pick up stones to kill him. Such people were in deep denial of their own slavery. Imagine a Jewish expert of the Torah saying, “We have never been slaves to anyone”! Had they forgotten four centuries of slavery in Egypt? Or the exile of the northern tribes to Assyria in 732 B.C.? Or the exile of Judah into Babylon in 587 B.C.? Or the occupation of their lands by the Hellenist tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes and by Rome, even as they objected? Bizarre. But that’s how denial works.
In this life, those who trust Jesus will “know the truth and the truth will set you free.” But, Jesus says, those who continue in the delusion of asserting their “freedom” to deny Christ are actually in self-imposed slavery. In that sense, yes, “hell is locked from the inside.”
Here’s my question: Is that the final word? Not in this text. In the end, Jesus offers two options. We will either remain slaves to a lie and reject him forever, or we will be freed to see the truth and embrace him. What he doesn’t envision is the “free will defense”… namely, that the Beatific vision could heal our eyes truly free our will, and yet we would freely choose eternal bondage.
Jesus promises, “if the Son sets us free, you will be free indeed.” At the final judgment, on that “great and terrible day of the Lord,” the prophet Joel’s “valley of decision,” Christ will finally free our wills from denial and delusion and enslavement. He could not condemn the blind for being unable to see. He cannot justly condemn fatal choices by dysfunctional wills. And the Mercy who endures forever cannot let our mischosen NO remain the final word. But “if the Son sets us free, you will be free indeed.” And how will we respond with freed wills? We will freely respond to perfect love, just as we were created.