Bishop Ware (of no relation) writes (The Orthodox Church. New Edition. London: Penguin Books, 1997),
While it is true that God loves us with an infinite love, it is also true that He has given us free will; and since we have free will, it is possible for us to reject God. Since free will exists, hell exists; for hell is nothing else than the rejection of God. If we deny hell, we deny free will… God will not force us to love him, for love is no longer love if it is not free; how then can God reconcile to Himself those who refuse all reconciliation?…
There is no terrorism in the Orthodox doctrine of God. Orthodox Christians do not cringe before him in abject fear, but think of him as philanthropos, the ‘lover of humankind’. Yet they keep in mind that Christ at his Second Coming will come as judge.
Hell is not so much a place where God imprisons humans, as a place where humans, by misusing their free will, choose to imprison themselves. And even in hell the wicked are not deprived of the love of God, but by their own choice they experience as suffering what the saints experience as joy.
This is an interesting counter to the “hell as separation from God” take on Hell, which is something I’ve been unable to wrap my head around. How can one be totally separated from an omnipresent God? And why would a Holy God allow sin to continue to exist (as set apart from the rest of creation as it may be in Hell) in the New Creation, which is supposed to set right? If sinners remain imprisoned in Hell, then sin remains as part of God’s creation. Either God is not omnipresent or Hell is not so much a “place”. But here, we see that although the unrepentant may not experience the bliss of being reconciled to God, they are not absent from God, but instead experience the torment of being unreconciled. It still leaves the question of conscious existence, and how unatoned sin can remain as part of creation. However, I think there is considerable strength in this view, as it makes clear that Hell is not retribution inflicted by a God who has no qualms with inflicting eternal torment on his creation.