I'm finishing up my manuscript,
"Why Be A Christian (If No One Goes to Hell)". I am claiming the Biblical case that we take St. Paul literally, that "the wages of sin is death," not hell. I am claiming that no one goes to hell, certainly not in the way that people think of it today.
This summer I discussed this with a pastor friend of mine. He disagreed with me. He said that he agrees with C. S. Lewis, as he pictures in The Great Divorce (a book I certainly love), that some people will spend eternity in a total separation from God, even if it's a total separation of their own design and prejudices.
I imagine that the damp and chilly hell of C. S. Lewis is not as horrible as the torturing hell of Dante, so maybe it's more attractive to Christians. Well, maybe it's not as cruel in terms of pain, but I think it's no less cruel in terms of God.
As I understand it, the only way fully to be separated from God is to not exist at all. To imagine hell as a somehow less cruel eternal separation from God does not hold up. Psalm 139 says, "Though I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there." Now I know that's a poetic statement, and not to be forced, either theologically or philosophically, but it confirms something about God, and the impossibility of any existing thing being "separated" from God.
C. S. Lewis' hell is a passive aggressive hell, more hypocritical, I think, for being cooler. You spend eternity in God's cold anger, God's distant anger, and it's not eternal separation from God (because that is not possible with this God), it's eternal suspension in the chill of a jealous God. The hot hell is actually more honest (if wrong), because at least it's an honest anger.
But to not exist---that and only that is eternal separation from God.
Yes, yes, I most certainly believe in eternal life. I believe in the "resurrection of the body and the life everlasting." I don't believe in the immortality of the soul. Neither did the Apostles.
So I take the Apostle Paul literally: "The wages of sin is death." That's it. You're dead. Dead dead. It's over. No hell. No eternal punishment.