Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How Can A Loving God NOT Send People to Hell?

Fair warning, I'm going to talk about Nazis.

I say that, not because it's controversial, but because this is the Internet, and Reductio ad Hitlerum is a thing that I'd like not to be accused of.

"How can a loving God send people to Hell?" is a question that is often asked by Atheists, Agnostics, and let's face it, many Christians as well. It's not a bad question, but I do think it's the wrong question to ask.

I've been reading Eric Metaxas' excellent biography on Detrich Bonhoeffer. I've been engrossed by it for months. It's a great book and it paints the average German living in Nazi Germany in a completely new light, you should read it. One passage caught my attention tonight:

"On the positive side of things, Heydrich was dead. At the end of May, the albino stoat had been ambushed by Czech Resistance fighters while he was riding in his open-topped Mercedes. Eight days later, the architect of the Final Solution fell into the hands of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

The Heydrich he's referring to is Reinhard Heydrich, One of the cheif architects of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. This guy was about as evil as you can get. He's on par with Herr Hitler himself.

Which brings me to the question: "How can a loving God send people to Hell?" It's hard to answer that when talking about your Great Aunt Betty who may have been a lovely woman, but happened to be an Atheist, but easy to answer when talking about such overtly evil men like our friend Heydrich. On the one hand: "She lived a good life, raised good, law-abiding kids and would never hurt a fly. She's in a better place." on the other: "Um...Nazi inner circle...go to hell, go directly to hell, do not pass "Gehen" do not collect 200 "deutschmarks". I have yet to meet a reasonable person who thinks anyone involved in Nazi High command should be in Heaven because "God is love"

Why the disparity?

If God is too good and too loving to let Betty fall into Hell why does He suddenly draw a line at genocide? Is that where God draws the line? What about mass murder? A single murder? Manslaughter? Negligence causing death? Attempted murder? I could go on.

We have something in common, believe it or not. The "How can a loving God send people to Hell?" crowd and the "Hell is hot, forever is a long time, repent and turn to Jesus." crowd. We all believe, whether you admit it or not, that God has to draw a line somewhere; has to say: "You, welcome to my Kingdom!" and "YOU! OUT OF MY SIGHT!" Otherwise, when we get there, we'll see Heydrich and Golda Meir in the same room...


The difference comes in where we draw said line. Christians believe it to be anything short of prefection, that's why Jesus needed to be incarnated on Earth. To live that life, in our place, and give us the credit while He took the punishment. That's why we love Jesus.

Every sane, rational person believes that there are some people who deserve Hell. The difference between them and Christians, is we think that list includes us.

Thank God for Jesus.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens and the Glory of God's Mercy

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     Christopher Hitchens is dead. He died yesterday (Dec 15 2011). He was an Atheist; a loud one. He was 62. He was an author, and a father and a husband; in that order it seems.

If the name and picture don't ring a bell, he's known for saying (with an English accent) things like:

"My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilisation, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can't prove it, but you can't disprove it either."

“The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.”

“Thus, though I dislike to differ with such a great man, Voltaire was simply ludicrous when he said that if god did not exist it would be necessary to invent him. The human invention of god is the problem to begin with.”

    I respect the man for being vocal about his beliefs (though he wouldn't have called them that) and I can even admire him for the veracity with which he kept them, but there's a section of his Globe and Mail obituary that caught my attention:

"In response to Mr. Hitchens’s outspoken and steadfast atheism, the faithful clamoured to the heavens, organizing prayer groups and even going so far as to designate Sept. 20, 2010, as Pray for Hitchens Day.

Don’t bother, unless it makes you feel better, he told the devout, insisting that he wouldn’t recant his atheism so long as he was lucid and rational. And he issued a plea asking people to forgive him if he did make a deathbed conversion, arguing that if such a thing happened, it wouldn’t be him speaking but a “half-demented” entity racked by pain and riddled with drugs."

     It's his desire to be forgiven by his friends if he recants his Atheism, that gave me pause. It's almost as though he's leaving the possibility for such a conversion... open?  That can't be right, the man was one of the most fervent and outspoken of Atheists yet here he is making a theological statement?

     Hitchens saw the possibility of recanting Atheism and espousing God, if he were "half-demented", drugged up, and in incredible pain. He saw the possibility. What if the Holy Spirit was starting to get to him? Would such a conversion be valid? Could it be? Many would say that it would only be an attempt by Hitchens to "hedge his bets" perhaps as an extreme version of Pascal's wager. Theological misunderstandings of Blaise Pascal aside, what if Hitchens' (hypothetical) conversion was legitimate?

     I have said this many times: the question eternal destination for any person is out of my pay grade. I am not the Lord. I know though, that God gives Grace to the humble though he opposes the proud.

     What if that's really what it took to humble Christopher Hitchens, esophageal cancer, his own death, great pain? What if it happened?

      What if he believed?

     Then I'd have a new brother, that's what.

I hope I do.

Thankful for Grace

Monday, December 12, 2011

Part 5 of 14: Ask the Outpost


Part 5

As many of you know, I am now the new pastor at Eganville Baptist Church.Thanks so much to all of you who prayed, it was very appreciated. During the candidate process, they had me up to do a Q&A session on various theological topics. I've decided to post these here in order to foster fellowship/conversation etc...

Some answers may be edited from the original.

Hell/Hades are they the same place?  Is there a place we go to "wait" after death for the judgement?

      Hell and Hades are actually the same word. Hades is actually a Greek word that is occasionally, translated as Hell, and occasionally simply left as Hades. There are two other words that are rendered as Hell in the New Testament, Gehenna, which literally means “the grave” and Tartaroo which is translated as “cast into hell”. As for whether or not there is an “intermediate state” there is, again a lot of good, scholarly, evidence on both sides, for me, personally, I don't think that it has very much impact on our mission as believers in this world, so I don't spend too much time on it, it's very similar to my view on eschatology in that I believe that if you die as a believer, you spend eternity with God, if not, you dont...