I've also often wondered, where was St. Paul's choice in the matter when the risen Christ knocked him from his horse, blinding him?
...Given what we know of the extraordinary life of St. Paul from this point forward, can we not say for sure that he was eternally grateful for Christ ultimately forcing Himself into Paul's life? Might there be other biblical precedents of God forcing people to do things they don't want to do, for His ultimate purposes? And is not His ultimate purpose that all might come to the knowledge of love of God?
Excellent point, Sleeper, however even here we might have reservations about the word "force." Reformed theology does regard grace as something akin to force (a.k.a. irresistible grace), and ends with a penultimate aporia or paradox when considering the question of whether all will be saved if grace is force/power. Historically this has led to double election (a minority view), God inscrutably "passing some by" for salvation (more common in Calvinism, but still a minority trajectory in Protestantism as a whole, e.g. Wesleyans, most Charismatics and most Baptists (only c. 10% Baptists are full 5-point Calvinists) etc. reject both double election and the concept of God's passing some by) and, for some by way of Reformed theology, universalism (e.g. Karl Barth). Non-Calvinist theology focuses on another biblical theme, God as the *lover of all mankind* and wonders how the same God who is alleged to "pass some by" by Calvinists then regards the Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan as morally culpable for passing by the man in the ditch who could have been saved with just a bit of help. Calvinists respond by forcing the vast corpus of texts about God's favorable disposition to all (Titus 2:11 etc.) into statements about the elect, and borderline making God a respecter of persons, except not due to anything the persons do or don't do, but to sovereign decree. Molinists resolve the paradox by supposing God created one of a myriad of worlds in which freedom would result in the salvation of most, and claim even God can't do logically contradictory things or create worlds with freedom where all do not reject the healing balm of salvation.
Universalism often occurs as a form of the predestinarian view of grace as force (irresistible grace) in that for the universalist all are predestined to eternal joy.
And while the example of Paul's conversion Sleeper cited does have some logical "force," one might doubt whether even here such force is utterly compelling if we also consider the OT wilderness generation, which rejected God despite their deliverance from servitude with a mighty hand including mysterious plagues and the very parting of the sea in their sight, along with numerous other miracles they were said to have seen. Moses, descending from the mountain of God found those same ones he had led from Egypt, and who were said to have been led by God himself with pillar of fire and smoke making a golden calf and worshiping it when Moses delayed returning. Half of the Pentateuch, and much of the Historical Books and the Writings tells this story in one way or another: no matter what God does -or doesn't do- some will follow him and some will reject Him regardless. Job who has nothing left follows God; the archangel who covered led a revolt from heaven. Miracles are not really forcing. The mind can wander after any sort of miracle: "we were led by something, but perhaps Moses was wrong, he must be dead. But let us honor the force that brought us out of Egypt with the image of a golden calf!"
Luke 16:33: "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
We don't go to hell for not believing in Christ, or for lack of convincing signs or evidence, rather we don't believe in Christ because we are already on the road to hell, and don't want to get off it. We like it. Believing in Christ's call would mean we would have to give up that road, so we resist belief, and the Holy Spirit who is calling us to follow Christ.
It is the Scholastic tendency in all of us that prods us to succumb to the temptation to resolve the penultimate aporia of God as the lover of all mankind and the warnings we find that some will slam the door on that love. I prefer Metropolitan Ware's approach, to state both sides of the dialectic as they are presented in the witness to God's revelation without trying to force one of them into a preconceived mold and explain away anything we find on the other side:
"Christ is the judge; and yet from another point of view, it is we who pronounce judgment upon ourselves. If anyone is in hell, it is not because God has imprisoned him there [or shown him a sufficient "forcing miracle" as was seen by Paul], but because that is where he himself has chosen to be. The lost in hell are self condemned, self-enslaved; it has been rightly said that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.
How can a God of love accept that even a single one of the creatures whom he has made should remain forever in hell? There is a mystery here which, from our standpoint in this present life, we cannot hope to fathom. The best we can do is to hold in balance two truths, contrasting but not contradictory. First, God has given free will to man, and so to all eternity it lies in man's power to reject God. Secondly, love signifies compassion, involvement; and so, if there are any who remain eternally in hell, in some sense God is also there with them.
It is written in the Psalms, 'If I go down to hell, thou art there also' (139:7): and St. Isaac the Syrian says, "It is wrong to imagine that sinners in hell are cut off from the love of God' (AH 28 (27), p. 141). Divine love is everywhere, and rejects no one. But we on our side are free to reject divine love: we cannot, however, do so without inflicting pain on ourselves, and the more final our rejection the more bitter our suffering" (Bishop Kallistos Ware, PhD [Oxford], The Orthodox Way
, pp. 135-136).
If someone believes that they will suffer eternally in hell if they choose against God, are they really free to choose in favor of God?
As to the OP, whether the reality of hell itself would be forcing, John Milton supposed otherwise:
"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.
...Here at least
we shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
to reign is worth ambition though in Hell:Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.
" -John Milton, Paradise Lost