The door of hell is NOT locked on the inside.

[Update: Every commenter seems to quote the same excerpt from Lewis and claim the same things, so I ask new commenters to take time to read through other comments and replies]

When people question about the degree of punishment, and the eternity(!) in hell, God “allows” for sinners he loves so much, for their little (often unintentional) sins, Christian apologists often respond along the lines of what C. S Lewis said: “The door of hell is locked from the inside”.

Here is why Lewisian response given by apologists is wrong. See what Abraham tells the rich man in hell in “The Parable of Lazarus & the Rich Man” about hell’s security mechanisms:

“…between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.” Luke 16:26

I guess, Jesus himself makes it clear in the above parable that hell is not locked from the inside. That makes Christian apologetics wrong yet again.

Moreover, it is no secret that the apologetic view of “eternal torture for (unintentional) sins” is NOT what is taught to majority of Christians. The apologists think it is O K to lie for Jesus just a little bit or bent it a little bit for people who ask too many questions.

I wish the rules of gravity were bent “slightly” just for people who doubt it.


30 thoughts on “The door of hell is NOT locked on the inside.

  1. Respectfully I would say you don’t understand the difference between “want” and “will”. Do people “want” to go to Hell? No. Do people “will” to go to Hell? Absolutely. They make a willful choice to disregard God’s grace and act of love to save them, and decide to stay separated from Him. Don’t scoff – people act contrary to evidence all the time. No matter if they clearly see the truth, a lot act contrary to it. This is the point Lewis is making. They, in essence, lock the door themselves.

    • @ _, God made hell. It is in scripture that hell was created for the devil and his angels, NOT for human beings. But human beings who decide to reject Christ’s saving work on the cross and embrace their fallen ways will share hell with the devil and his demons.

  2. Option a: Hell was made by God.

    Why???!!! Why would an infinitely benevolent entity make something so eternally malevolent as Hell? Is it because the entity in question has such a huge inflated ego that it wants every sentient being to praise and kiss it’s ass, and if not, it can punish them by putting them in hell??

    Option b: Hell was made by Satan.

    And who made the Satan?

    Option c: Hell was always there, nobody made it.

    Well, then the universe was also alw……………………

    • @Mithun Philip, Option a is correct.. God made hell. It is in scripture that hell was created for the devil and his angels, NOT for human beings. But human beings who decide to reject Christ’s saving work on the cross and embrace their fallen ways will share hell with the devil and his demons.

  3. I agree with rob, the point cs lewis is making is that the people there don’t want to leave, *even if they could*

  4. But Luke 16:26 says they can’t leave even if they wanted.

    (Too scared to read the article? It’s OK you won’t go to hell if you read opposing views)

  5. Lewis himself:

    “I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside. I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man “wishes” to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good. They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved just as the blessed, forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free.”

    Furthermore, trying to discern doctrine from a parable is a bit silly for one who ventures to make a serious argument about serious matters. Perhaps if you had been a better student of these things, such vulgar displays of hubris might have been avoided.

  6. Tyler, Thanks for visiting my blog and taking time to read through.

    There are 4 Billion non-Christians compared to 2 Billion Christians. All of them came out of the wrong womb. And some of them are willing to die for the wrong God. Will they all go to hell for eternity?! 😦

    Why take that slight risk that you might end up in their hell for thinking Jesus is God? OR Are you displaying hubris by being confident you are right and they are wrong?

    I did not want to make any serious argument. All I wanted to do is to appeal to the common mind. BTW There are books about discerning doctrine from parables. So somebody takes it seriously.

  7. I cant really understand why CS Lewis is so highly rated.

    He had a few good things to say no doubt, but he was just as much a product of his times and the culture that he grew up in, as everyone else.

    A “culture” which had long ago lost any LIVING means of connecting to Real God or The Divine Conscious Light.

    Or which had long ago became totally entangled or trapped in the mortalism one-dimensional “vision” of Newtons sleep or SHACKLES (William Blake).

    Which was/is quite literally a living hell for everyone who was cloned within its dark reductionist orbit—which is now the entire world.

    Have you read the news?

    Or turned on your TV set?

    Welcome to hell!

    And there is quite literally no escape

    Except to wake up from the now all-encompassing nightmare.

    Red pill or blue pill?

  8. >I don’t see the rich man of Luke 16 being in an eternal state of constant rebellion.

    I have always read the parable differently… the Rich Man is in a state of rebellion because he never asks to leave. He never asks to get out. He only asks for water. He doesn’t even so much as ask for a second chance, he only asks that his brothers be told about it. But Jesus remarks that even if someone rose from the dead to tell about it, they still won’t believe. Rebellion creates blindness. It goes that deep. That’s why the METAPHOR, that hell is locked from the inside is an acute one.

    It helps people see that there’s more to humanity than merely a list of rights and wrongs and a judge tossing people out. You have to sit in the metaphor, however, and understand that human souls can be twisted and become unfit for things. This has been a long-standing Biblical idea and Christian tradition. It is modernity that has screwed up our ability to get a weightier matters of meaning.

    I’m surprised Sue doesn’t appreciate Lewis… You don’t have to like him, but the more you study him, the more impressive he becomes by educated standards.

  9. Abraham’s reply says: “…nor can those from there pass to us.”.

    It is not conditional statement that would be waived if the rich man had asked to leave. It is definite and unconditional. Those from hell cannot go where Lazarus is.

  10. No doubt they can’t cross…in the parable… whatever a the gulf is…

    …but that doesn’t mean they want to cross, which is what I gathered from your post.

    In addition, as has been stated, it is a strain to establish a doctrine from a parable. It offers support, but it a the nitty-gritty of a doctrine has a hard time standing on metaphors. In addition, Lazarus is in “Abraham’s bosom,” which many have tried to figure out as well… Some assume it is Heaven, but that isn’t stated…

    And one last thing, the point of the parable is not to talk about how people think about hell, but how riches have nothing to do with the love of God. Once we sit on the point of the parable everything else comes more clearly into focus.

    Your strong words against apologists just isn’t very nice… and your foundation is shaky.

  11. Yes I was in a bad mood when I wrote this post, that must be why the words are strong. What can I say, I am only human.

    I did mean that, “those who want to pass the gulf” cannot pass, no matter what they do or choose. I am sure Jesus would have agreed with me on this if he were alive.

    By the way, The idea that an almighty being needs apologists, defenders & advocates is what amuses me. Can’t he do it for himself? Isn’t he almighty?

    If he doesn’t do it for himself because he chooses not to intervene with fallen creation why do people pray for everything? If the Divine Plan has it that we will inevitably end up praying to God and has everything accounted for, why do religious people say we have freewill?

  12. Are these real questions or just antagonizing questions? There are real answers, but I don’t sense your open to them….

    I appreciate your honesty about being in a bad mood… happens to the best of us! 😉

    By the way, to be an ‘apologist’ means ‘to give an answer.’ Of course God can do it himself, but that’s not the way he wants to do it… he wants us to participate. He didn’t create the world just so he can sideline it.

    He wants human encounters… that’s pretty much how the human mind, heart, and will respond. Most of the time when people see an angel or an appearance of God, they freak out and have a hard time listening. People listen to other people much better, if they are willing. 🙂

    In philosophy we call this an epistemic factor in God’s approach.

  13. Everything I’ve heard/known about God is from human beings. 😦

    Don’t you think that is suspicious?

    God doesn’t use apologists for convincing murderers like Moses, adulterers like David, anti-Christs like Paul or skeptics like Thomas. He does it on his own. But when it comes to you, me, little Madeline Kara Neumann or a kid that dies from malaria every 30 sec, all of a sudden God is a non-interventionist. He wants us to participate! LOL!

    Don’t you think that is unfair?

  14. That you only hear from humans, suspicious? No. Not if testimony is a valid source of knowledge.

    Let’s suppose God spoke as clearly as you assume to these people, if you know the larger story, that’s no surprise. These are all key players in Israel’s story. Even most of Israel didn’t hear from God the way these guys did. And what is more, all the ones you list considered themselves unworthy to be talked to by God, did not demand it, and were overcome when it happened.

    What is more, all of us benefit because God spoke to these guys. You can choose not to be benefited, but that veers more toward intellectual dishonesty.

    From your tone, you presume God should just appear for you?

    As for the problem of evil that you raise, the story of Madeline is tragic, but it stems from an abuse and flagrant misunderstandings. I wouldn’t blame God for that. God provided hydration and doctors and technology today… if we refuse to use it, why is that God’s problem?

    We can’t judge a thing by its abuses, like the link you provide blames ‘religion.’ That’s kind of blanket would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad that people take that blame seriously.

    When did God “all of a sudden” become a non-interventionalist? He intervenes when it’s necessary. But even when he does intervene and saves a life, that person still dies later. Lazarus learned that.

    Again, the story is larger than this. But you have to step into it to see it and see it through honest lenses.

    So, no, I don’t think it’s unfair. And as someone who has lived with a lot of pain and has lost people I love, I can speak from experience.

  15. I am sure your imaginary friend is omniscient enough to know what it would take to convince me & all 4 billion unbelievers. It need not necessarily involve appearing to me.

    Madeline’s parents were not true scotsmans eh?

    The question is not why didn’t your imaginary friend keep Madeline alive. The question is why did he let her suffer? You believe that he is almighty & morally perfect. But I am sure he is morally inferior to you because you would have helped her if you knew what was happening to her. But he didn’t.

    And don’t try to justify your imaginary friend. He is almighty right? I am sure he can justify his own actions. Until then he is immoral & unworthy of worship in all our eyes.

  16. I approach the subject of “hell being locked from the inside” like this:

    Sinners won’t want to be in heaven. The bible makes it clear that if you aren’t living in grace with the Lord that you are indeed a “God hater”. God’s in heaven. Only those that love God will want to be there.

    Also, those who aren’t covered in grace will not be able to stand before Him. It would be like having a plastic figurine in a furnace. Would melt instantly. That’s what sin does to us, makes us unable to approach Him/stand in his presence. Heaven would be an extremely uncomfortable place for a sinner!

    What a loving God we have. John 3:14 can’t be quoted enough IMO.

      • Hi _,

        You’re hanging the weight of your argument against Lewis on a parable that focuses on something else – a perilous practice indeed. It is the nature of parables to include “givens” that are not necessarily true in fact to make the main point the parable is trying to make. Such is the case with the Rich Man & Lazarus in my opinion, and I suspect Lewis’ opinion as well given his certain awareness of Luke 16.

        At the very least, it’s possible you are wrong in accepting as truth the nature of hell from a parable not concerned primarily with the nature of hell. It is not at all obvious that Lewis or those who agree with him are disregarding Luke 16.



      • Unfortunately entities & places in parables are used as doctrine. Some churches even view Luke 16 as historical events.

        From wikipedia:

        Some Christians view the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man as an actual event which was related by Jesus to his followers;[8] this was generally the view of the medieval Church. According to this view, this story is not a parable but literal biography. Supporters of this view point to the amount of detail in the story. For example, in no other parable does Jesus give a character’s personal name, but refers to the characters as “a certain man”, “a sower”, etc.

        Citation [8]:

  17. Hi _,

    If you really want to dig into this subject, I could recommend ‘the reason for God’ by Tim Keller. It is quite open about the questions you pose.
    But then again, are you actually looking for answers? Your firing questions like a machine gun: if the one doesn’t work, the next one might be a hit, or the one behind that. I am curious whether you would like the questions to be answered, or whether your questions are more of a statement?

    Best wishes!


  18. Hi _,

    I would encourage you to ask God these “impossible questions.” See Isaiah 40 for example. While apologetics is impressive and useful, it cannot fully explain God. Ask HIM and if you let him, he will reveal himself to you. See Job for example. Ask God.

    I recently read the best chapter I’ve ever read on “impossible questions.” It’s from the book “The Gospel According to Moses.” Read Chapter One called “God on the Spot.” This really helped me – and still does – when I struggle with reconciling an omnipotent loving God and “pain.”



  19. I forgot the author – I’m sorry: “The Gospel According to Moses” by Athol Dickson. Chapter One: “God on the Spot.” It’s worth everyone’s time to read it.


  20. Hell is discoverable via 2 principles:

    1. God is love.
    2. Love does not force itself on anyone.

    Now, human beings are made to know, love, and serve God, and in so doing, to find their happiness. This represents the highest telos of the corporal order of creation, and is an overwhelming honor. Now, God permeates all being, from the heights, to the depths, and is himself the principle by which all other things exist. Even Satan cannot fully divorce himself from the inescapable God; Satan has being, which comes from God, knowledge, which comes from God, intellect and will, which come from God. Yet Satan hates God. This tension must drive him to a squirming madness. God cannot draw Satan into His Holy presence, not because the Devil’s evil would hurt God, but because God’s holiness would be a scourge to anyone who has made himself incompatible with it. So it is with all who reject his love; they render themselves incapable of the beatific vision. Were God to force them to stay in heaven, their agony, in addition to being cruel, would pollute the heavens. Instead, God segregates them from himself as far as is metaphysically possible, isolating them together where their suffering will be the mildest. At the same time, as St. Catherine said, “One drop of contrition would empty Hell”. But those in Hell hate the very One who could give them the gift of repentance, and so Hell remains. The theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity are the gifts of God the omnipotent father, whom they despise, and blame for their agony. In reality, he is just giving them up to the desire of their hearts.

  21. _,

    I think you are missing the point of CS Lewis quote. Of course we can not send ourselves to hell. Romans 6:23 says “The wages of sin is death” and that is the punishment given by God to all who fall short of keeping the law. The verse finishes with, “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Bible is clear that God desires no man to go to hell, and is equally clear that many will spit the gift of Jesus back in God’s face and tragically pay eternal consequences for that action.

    So why would CS Lewis say that hell is like a door locked from the inside? Because the only way to truly lock that door is by denying the gift of salvation through Jesus. The door to salvation is wide open, we are called and enabled to receive the gift, and the only way to not do it is too slam that door shut and rebell against the gift. Perhaps it would help to expound on CS Lewis quote and say, “The door of hell is locked from the inside” and the key to open it has been lost forever.

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