"Hell is not filled with people who are deeply sorry for their sins"

D.A. Carson on Hell and repentance (Women’s Gospel Coalition Conference)


How do we handle true and valuable insights from people (like Lewis) without feeling the need to interpret them in context of that individual’s larger body of work? (Like Shaynus referenced in respect to Lewis’ theology of hell.) I guess what I’m saying is this: must we form a systematic theology of a teacher’s beliefs and then evaluate each individual statement in light of their theology in order to accept the specific statement? or is it a case of taking the good and leaving the bad?

It’s an interesting dilemma because on the one hand the larger body of work very often interprets and explains what a person is saying in a particular statement; but on the other, a person’s views can develop over time and may even change to the point that they are no longer relevant to the specific quote. And of course, they can sometimes just be wrong altogether.

As long as you take the writing as intended, I don’t see a problem with a writer’s imagination let loose. C.S. Lewis was not intending to set down holy writ. He was intending to use his imagination as a writer given the scriptural and logical tools at his disposal. If Lewis made you ponder a little harder, or think a little deeper, he did his job.

It is fallacious to argue we may doctrinally err because we are not writing holy writ. All statements we make which contain theological assertions are required to be doctrinally sound, even in using our imaginations. Our Lord used imaginative parables without compromising truth. One obfuscates the truth, if not outright corrupts it when he is categorically speaking about hell he then asserts that “it is not a question of God ‘sending us’ to he’ll” but attempts to stretch the Scriptures to accommodate another concept, that of “a” personal hell in saying, still in the context of the biblical doctrine of hell, “in each of us there is something growing, which will BE hell unless nipped in the bud”. While we have come to use the word “hell” more broadly the Bible does not. And if the author intended to distinguished between the two be did not, thus his imagination was not used to magnify but distort Scripture. As well, I am going to read the author as he writes, not with insertions of intentions I assume he meant and of which he is obliged to provide and is quite capable of but did not.

I read the article again and while there is some material which may qualify his soteriology I believe it does not correct the errant properties of this statement. Many religious people are deeply sorry for their sins while never believing on Christ. And the Gospel is not a call, even, to be deeply sorry for our sins but to understand our sin has separated us from God and Christ is the means of reconciliation/forgiveness. The anecdote of understanding our separation from God may or may not be deep sorrow but deep sorrow in itself is not the call of the gospel nor saves. I don’t imagine Carson believes otherwise and I am sure this simply was an immediately less desirable choice of words with given more consideration.
Do you believe Carson’s soteriology is defined by an article that lifts a singular statement out of a message that he preached on a particular text? Have you listened to the actual message to know what else Carson said that this author omitted? Is it possible that Carson did say something that this article did not record? (Given Carson’s tendency to go on for longer than a sentence or two, I imagine this article does not record it all.)

So it would be good to remember that these are not Carson’s words. This is an article that may or may not be fair to what Carson said, much less, everything Carson said. It would simply be inappropriate to judge Carson’s message or his soteriology based on this article.

It is also helpful to note that this message appears to be an exposition of a text, and is therefore concerned with what the text teaches, not what else might be true. It is the nature of expositional preaching to preach a text rather than a systematic theology. (Something that some have gotten away from leading to long and laborious shotgun messages.) No message should attempt to say everything that might be said about a topic that a text may address. The point of preaching is to say what the text says, not what other texts say.

But having said that, there is not much theologically to argue with in Carson’s words. Given the teaching of Scripture about repentance (that God forgives those who repent and that those who don’t repent will perish), it is safe to “theologize” that there are not repentant sinners in hell. 2 Corinthians is pretty clear about the nature of true sorrow, and Carson’s word appear to fall in line with that. Furthermore, Revelation tells us that the judgment of God does not bring repentance but rather more sin (9:20-21; 16:9-11). It is likely that that continues in hell as well. It seems to me that repentant sinners in hell would put God in the rather awkward position of failing to keep his promise that those who repent will have forgiveness and eternal life.

In a bit of irony, your own complaint doesn’t seem to match the standard you have erected. Your post contains nothing of the life of Christ, his vicarious death, his resurrection, all of which are necessary for salvation. We might say that “Given more time you might have selected different words,” but the truth is you had all kinds of time and space and still didn’t say it. Why? Because you were making a different point. And it is likely that Carson was as well. In other words, what you did is not a problem. Neither is what Carson did.


Your I inital question and the subsequent concerns were already covered ib my earlier posts. I recommend you do some mining.

As to the so-called irony of my posts not possessing nothing of the life of Christ, etc., what you have missed is the very point, that abberant limited statements, while able to be nursed by other clearer statements, still do not have removed from them their errant properties as well no one called for exhaustion in all theological assertions. But even the most limited statement still must be accurate. I believe Carson errs here and it is informative at some level.

As to asserting being deeply sorry as synonymous with repentance anyone is free to make such arguments but I believe they cannot be sustained with rigorous exegesis and theological development.

I don’t think anyone here—or anyone I’ve ever met—wants to be read or listened to as though they are saying more than they are saying. To put it another way, whenever any of us says “A is not B,” we are not saying anything about C, and it’s neither fair nor wise put a C statement in our mouths.

By the same token, when you’re having a conversation about horses, you don’t want to be judged for all the things you didn’t say about the entire class Mammalia. Suggest Matt. 7:2 is relevant here.

We also impoverish ourselves if we can’t appreciate a well articulate statement on some topic because we know the source is incorrect on some other topic or even some other aspect of the same topic. (“I only listen to, and appreciate, people who are 100% right 100% of the time”? Right. Who really does that?)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.