The second sermon in the series on hell preached by my minister focused on the objection that hell is too severe for a loving God. He began by noting that many of the images we have of hell aren't actually based on scripture. And it's true that we can thank many non canonical writers and artists during the past two millenia for gruesome scenes of torment. In a notable instance, Dante, in the Inferno, describes public swindlers being tossed in pitch by devils and murderers being boiled in a river of blood, while gluttons languish in putrid garbage heaps and Satan sits on his throne devouring sinners and excreting them.
However, this doesn't address the fact that very severe punishments are depicted for the hell bound in the Bible. The minister noted 3 primary images for hell in the Bible: fire, weeping, and darkness. He stated that these images are not to be understood literally, as fire and darkness can't coexist, rendering the depictions metaphorical. He did not use this conclusion to retract his belief that hell is in fact a punishment. However, I think he must regard a metaphorical interpretation as being more palatable to those of us squeamish about eternal torture.
The minister flipped around the argument about hell being unloving and contended that the severity of hell proves the love of God because injustice in the world will one day be avenged. God is not indifferent to the cries of the innocent. Those who have been harmed will ultimately be vindicated instead of insulted once again by finding themselves standing next to their oppressor in heaven. I admit that I would like to see the good and kind rewarded and the heartless and cruel punished. This argument has an appeal to me. However, eternal punishment for finite crimes seems to be what we in America call "cruel and unusual punishment". This is even more true when the crime committed is one that a person either is unaware they perpetrated or had no control over. Individuals who are deemed to be not guilty in a court of law by reason of insanity are not given the same punishment as their sane counterparts. When the issue is not a religious one, we intuitively understand the issue of unfairness in these situations. However, we seem to suspend our moral reasoning when God enters the discussion. Christian jurors who would never convict a man with psychosis of stabbing a man he mistook for a devil will accept that a child in a Muslim nation who never even hears the name "Jesus" will be condemned forever to hell if she doesn't find a way to believe in Him and become a follower. They will claim Jesus loves her and gave his life for her. All she needs to do is believe and follow him. If the one true God ultimately reveals himself as Allah, will Christians humbly accept their fate in torment, or will they suddenly start screaming, "No fair!"? Unfortunately, Christian hell doesn't seem to solve the problem of injustice. It just compounds the problem.