Timothy Dalrymple over at Patheos has decided to take issue with the doctrine of eternal, conscious torment for those who die outside of Christ:
"Imagine three people in a windowless prison cell. The first is a torturer, the second a prisoner, and the third an observer. The torturer is with the prisoner, doing what torturers do. He puts the prisoner in the most extraordinary agony a human being can experience. Horrendous pain. The prisoner is screaming, writhing, begging for relief — but the torturer keeps going.
"I find it impossible to believe that God would countenance such a thing. I know the horror I feel if I am forced (through a movie, or etc.) to watch even a minute of true torture. I know the deep, black feeling of wrongness that arises in my heart when I see that. So when I really sit down and contemplate what eternal conscious torment would be like, I’ve never been able to believe that the God I’ve come to know through Jesus Christ would permit it."
"I think," "I feel," "I can't imagine" . . .
Hmm, I am seeing a pattern.
Someone will need to show me how it's possible to come to a position other than "eternal conscious torment" if the relevant words of Christ and the Apostles are to be taken seriously. There's just no way "And the smoke of their torment rises up for ever and ever. There is no rest, day or night," or "It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched'" can be understood other than some kind of conscious agony for eternity.
That said, it seems obvious to me that Dalrymple is exaggerating and stuffing the "torment" position with straw, maybe to make himself feel better. I don't see where he gets the idea that God or anyone else is supposed to be doing the "torturing." I don't even understand why he has the picture of maleficent torment in his mind to begin with. I have always had the impression -- based on how God "cursed" Adam and Eve (pushing them out of His direct presence) and what Christ endured on the cross ("my God, why hast thou forsaken me?") that the Lake of Fire is nothing more than the complete and final separation from God -- who is life. What could possibly be worse? That, of course, would explain why it's called "the second death." Yet if Milton and Lewis are right, sinners gladly choose such a fate over submission.
Dalrymple says that "fundamentalists" would be surprised by how little scriptural evidence exists of "ECT." If he's reading the New Testament I'm reading, I would say Dalrymple's belief in the Trinity is now in imminent danger. There is no less plain teaching on eternal damnation than any other orthodox doctrine.
It's pretty apparent to me that this willingness to entertain the argument from personal incredulity ("my God wouldn't do that") over vividly explicit revelation and historical consensus is dangerous territory. A Christian who is not willing to accept revealed truths that rub him the wrong way isn't really worth his salt.