A Simple Question About That Norwegian Mass-Murderer…

Anders Behring Breivik, the man responsible for the recent terror in Norway, says he’s a Christian — some of his writings point to him being only a cultural Christian while several media sources have called him a “Fundamentalist Christian.” At the very least, the speculation brings up a thought experiment that I find interesting regardless of what we eventually learn about his beliefs.

If he were really a Christian (even in name only), he would likely accept the divinity of Jesus Christ.

So here’s a question for the Protestants out there:

Would Breivik go to Heaven when he dies?

I know, I know… he’s not a True ChristianTM… and I’m certainly not suggesting that Christians support what he did. I am saying that a lot of Christians believe that people who have done horrible things — even Death Row prisoners — can accept Christ before they die and still get into Heaven. If “accepting Jesus” is both necessary and sufficient in order to get into Heaven, I don’t see how they get out of this by answering “No.” Either Breivik is going to Heaven, or believing that Jesus was a divine and resurrected prophet isn’t enough (which goes against my understanding of Protestant doctrine).

Breivik himself wrote: “If there is a God I will be allowed to enter heaven as all other martyrs for the Church in the past.”

I’m sure some people will try to get around this by saying that faith and good works go hand in hand — you can’t accept Christ and then do bad things — but that’s not what the doctrine says. It’s just ideal, wishful thinking.

So ask your Christian friends that question. Watch them squirm. Make them justify their beliefs.

It’s almost as revealing as asking them: “Is Anne Frank burning in Hell?” She was Jewish, after all…

***Update***: I’ve revised the initial paragraphs of this post quite a bit since it originally went up based on additional information from commenters.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    The question is purely academic as there is no heaven, and therefore no hell, the only place Anders Behring Breivik is going is prison, hopefully a living hell for him!

    • Anonymous
      • Anonymous

        Unlikely to be a living hell as Norwegian prisons are rather humane.. (But hated as he will be he’ll not have a too easy time)

        21 years is the maximum sentence that can be giving for terrorism and most other offences.. 30 years for crimes against humanity (which probably will be added to the current counts of terrorism)

        If he gets 21 or 30 years as a sentence doesn’t really matter that much if he gets ‘forvaring’ which means he can be kept in jail for life as long as courts keep finding that he is a danger to society and/or at high risk of him repeating his crimes.

      • Anonymous

        But as with most penal systems he will assessed for parole, it won’t as the Daily Fail suggests, automatic release after 7 years! Bearing mind his crime, and the fact that he is unrepentant, he’ll serve a long time, mostly in fear of his life from other prisoners.

  • cneil

    Actually, in his ‘manifesto’ he says he doesn’t believe in the divinty of Christ.  He claims he’s a ‘cultural Christian’, which appears to mean he values Europe’s Christian heritage, whatever that may be.  I’m not defending him, nor Christians, but he doesn’t seem to be Christian in any recognised sense. 

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

       Got a link for that?

      • http://dramatic-exaggeration.blogspot.com/ WhiteJM

        Dang it I can’t copy and paste without the format messing up. I’ll have to edit my response.

        • http://dramatic-exaggeration.blogspot.com/ WhiteJM

          “As a cultural Christian, I believe Christendom is essential for cultural reasons. After all, Christianity is the ONLY cultural platform that can unite all Europeans, which will be needed in the coming period during the third expulsion of the Muslims.” (pg. 1345)

          Section 3.139 on page 1307 is titled: “Distinguishing between cultural Christendom and religious Christendom– reforming out suicidal Church. In it Breivik says:

          “If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian … European Christendom and the Cross will be the symbol in which every cultural conservative can unite under in our common defence [sic]. It should serve as the uniting symbol for all Europeans whether they are agnostic or atheists.” (1307-8)

          I can’t find a part where he rejects Christ’s divinity, but it seems pretty close.

          The file I used was from http://depositfiles.com/en/files/xkfpsa8ex

          • Anonymous

            It’s actually a pretty mainstream position for European conservatives. Unlike American politicians you will rarely if ever find them talking about god or Jesus in public. Instead they base their decisions on things like tradition and culture

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

          Thanks — I’ll try to reflect this in an edited version of the post.

      • cneil

        http://www.scribd.com/doc/60739170/2083-a-European-Declaration-of-Independence
        3.139: ‘Myself  and many more  like  me  do  not  necessarily have  a  personal relationship with  Jesus  Christ  and  God. We  do  however  believe  in Christianity as  a  cultural,  social, identity and moral platform.  This  makes us  Christian’.
        So, perhaps he’s not so much denying the divinity of Christ (mea culpa) but is admitting to not having a relationship with him (I know, impossible with a dead guy, anyway). On the basis of loopy Christian doctrine it is this that bars him from heaven, not his acts over the weekend.
        Btw Hemant, the new site is so much slower than the old one you used.

    • Anonymous

      At what page? I only know that he says you don’t have to be Christian to be a member of ‘his’ Knights Templar.. And that just requires being a cultural Christian..

      And the diary part of the book have him praying to God not to fail or something like that, can be found cited in the media (at least here in Norway)

      And he  calls for the Norwegian State Chuch to go back to basics and be more Catholic whatever he means by that. And voted for the most conservative people he could during the church vote..

    • Fredericka

      Purportedly he is a Darwinian, like many here: “Breivik instead hails Charles Darwin, whose evolutionary theories stand in contrast to the claims of the Bible, and affirms: ‘As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings. Europe has always been the cradle of science, and it must always continue to be that way. Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe.’” (http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=325765)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=684125632 Aaron Harmon

    Unless you are a Calvinist, then you believe that it does not matter what you believe. God will decide who gets real faith  and who only think they have faith and only his mysteriously chosen few go to heaven. Then rest of the believers in Christ burn in hell, thinking, “Wait, what did I do wrong?”
    It’s all bullshit, but it is a particularly cruel brand of bullshit.
    It’s “Santa only brings presents to the children he has on his list.”
    “How do you get on the list?”
    “Be a good child.”
    vs.
    “Santa only brings presents to the children he has on his list.”
    “How do you get on the list?”
    “You can’t. If you don’t get presents, you aren’t on the list.”

    EDIT: Formatting.

  • Anonymous

    of course actions are important to christians.  otherwise they wouldn’t care if people slept with someone of the same gender, or if people get abortions. 

    • Annie

      I think Christians are more concerned with the actions of others than they are with their own.  I attribute this to a lack of feeling in control, so they attempt to  impose control on others.  Very few die hards have a “live and let live” attitude.

  • http://twitter.com/summerseale Summer Seale

    That’s the problem with Christian doctrine: It makes absolutely no sense in the real world whatsoever.

    That’s why it’s always good to point out that most Christians really have absolutely no idea what they “believe” in. They have no clue. They just are raised Christian and say they’re Christian and they’re offended when it’s criticized because it’s a personal identity thing to them. To them, it has absolutely nothing to do with what you believe and just the label you are. Sort of like “I’m American”, even though most people have never actually read the Constitution and understood it, and even though most people have no idea how the government operates in terms of the day to day nitty gritty.

    That’s why, when you confront American “Christians” with the utter bullshit of their doctrines, they either:

    1) Retreat into their “Patriotic” religious ferver, shutting off all input, as it would make them rethink their entire identity, or…

    2) Start to say vague generalities such as “Yeah, I don’t really believe in all that…I’m just more spiritual” or “I just believe in Christ, but I don’t really believe in the bible” or other stupid statements like that, because that’s all they know. It’s sort of like saying “Yes, I’m American, and I’m really sorry my country does some shitty stuff sometimes, but you know…I don’t agree with all of it. I’m not sure about the specifics but I’m American and it’s my right to disagree with the government.”

    That’s where they don’t get it: It may be their right to disagree with their government but, in Christianity, it is not their right to disagree with God. So, when they claim that, it’s useful to point out that this actually nullifies them as being Christian and actually makes them apostates. Of course, that might enrage them, but it’s the truth.

    • adam

      Death in the bible describes the state of being separated from god. Heaven, or “ouranos” (phonetic representation of greek there) refers to air, and eternal life is a quality of life that comes from not being separated from god via sin (death). Judaism and christianity are pretty silent about the state of the soul or flesh after we die and start to decay; you are referring to doctrines that were and are used by people in power to control uneducated masses, not true religion. What the prophets referred to as sheol most plainly means the grave, but has been translated by greek scholars in the septuagint (greek translation of the old testament) as hell and/or death. The afterlife has never been clearly presented in the religious texts i’m familiar with, but it doesn’t matter because that is not what christianity is about. 

      Christianity is about living an eternal quality of life right now by acknowledging our humanity and who god is in relation to it. Even Nietsche had a similar notion when he philosophized that it was rational to make decisions based upon what kind of conduct you would like to echo in eternity, for eternity…are you familiar with that? A christian would believe that, by having an intentional relationship with god, we can better adhere to, practice, and manifest an eternal quality of life, and in doing so can honor god and be joyful in doing so. 

      And by the way, what is the merit of this course of action you suggest? It seems sophomoric to make yourself feel better by putting others down by playing on the insecurities or inabilities of others. 

      • Anonymous

        That was only until gentle, loving Jesus came along and introduced the concept of eternal torture in a fiery, hot place. While it’s true that much of the details and doctrine on hell was only developed in the middle ages, Jesus was quite fond of the place.

        In any case, much of religion and Christianity specifically is most definitely about the afterlife. It’s little more than a protection racket against death

        • adam

          Are you referring to the parable in Luke 16? I suppose jesus thinks that a slave is getting smothered by abrahams tits, and then starts listening to this really thirsty guy in hell who is asking him to reach over and give him just a little water on the tip of his tongue. 

          Come on…Where do I even start?Unfortunately, I think you have misunderstood the jewish culture and the way that their rabbi’s teach. My comment completely agrees with yours regarding the point of christianity. You have merely made an assertion with, ostensibly, little to no substantive knowledge about the texts I was referring to. 

          • adam

            Edit: My comment completely DISAGREES haha..sorry my bad.

          • Anonymous

            While Christianity is a plagiarism of Judaism, it also rejects some of its theology. Particularly when it comes to heaven and hell. So talking about the views of Jews and rabbis somewhat pointless when we are talking about Christians – although I appreciate that Jews don’t believe in eternal punishment.

            And there are literally dozens of verses in the NT in which Jesus rants about eternal damnation.

            • adam

              Jesus was a rabbi, and spoke to a jewish audience. Literary criticism requires that one read words in historical and cultural context, so to say that there are verses in the bible that talk about eternal damnation while dismissing the jewish culture and historical context simply because we are talking about christians is misguided in my opinion. One of the hot topics in religion at the time was the dispute of saducees and pharisees regarding a spiritual afterlife. Which side did Jesus take? I don’t really know conclusively, but I presented my interpretation of the text. 

              Concerning the verses, which one states that, when you die, you will burn in hell forever unless you ask jesus into your heart? Don’t forget to differentiate between heaven, hell, the new earth, and the second death. Again, literary criticism: context, culture, audience. From my limited studies, I have found that such concepts relate to the second death and new earth, NOT for an immediate post-death afterlife. Death in the bible is merely separation from god. Eternal death is permanent separation from god, i.e., the second death, NOT dante’s ridiculous hairy satan cave.

            • cipher

              although I appreciate that Jews don’t believe in eternal punishment

              Actually, it depends upon whom you talk to. Many Orthodox do believe in it.

  • http://twitter.com/summerseale Summer Seale

    That’s the problem with Christian doctrine: It makes absolutely no sense in the real world whatsoever.

    That’s why it’s always good to point out that most Christians really have absolutely no idea what they “believe” in. They have no clue. They just are raised Christian and say they’re Christian and they’re offended when it’s criticized because it’s a personal identity thing to them. To them, it has absolutely nothing to do with what you believe and just the label you are. Sort of like “I’m American”, even though most people have never actually read the Constitution and understood it, and even though most people have no idea how the government operates in terms of the day to day nitty gritty.

    That’s why, when you confront American “Christians” with the utter bullshit of their doctrines, they either:

    1) Retreat into their “Patriotic” religious ferver, shutting off all input, as it would make them rethink their entire identity, or…

    2) Start to say vague generalities such as “Yeah, I don’t really believe in all that…I’m just more spiritual” or “I just believe in Christ, but I don’t really believe in the bible” or other stupid statements like that, because that’s all they know. It’s sort of like saying “Yes, I’m American, and I’m really sorry my country does some shitty stuff sometimes, but you know…I don’t agree with all of it. I’m not sure about the specifics but I’m American and it’s my right to disagree with the government.”

    That’s where they don’t get it: It may be their right to disagree with their government but, in Christianity, it is not their right to disagree with God. So, when they claim that, it’s useful to point out that this actually nullifies them as being Christian and actually makes them apostates. Of course, that might enrage them, but it’s the truth.

  • http://twitter.com/bnt0 brian thomson

    I would call him a “cultural Christian”, who would happily see a “holy war” between Christians and Muslims as long as the Christians were winning. It’s a profoundly cynical view of religion as a tool of social control, and as a way of propagating his values. He might be right about that, but not about his goals or his methods.

  • Anonymous

    According to my bible teacher (when I attended a Southern Baptist school) once you’re “saved” you’re in no matter what you do afterwards. Your actions would determine the level of reward in heaven so the size of yoru mansion or the number of garages I guess. Thats how it was explained to me, makes perfect sense.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kenneth-Dunlap/1418932885 Kenneth Dunlap

      Ya, baptists have some very odd views on that. I especially love the “faith not works” doctrine of theirs. Even though it flies in the face of the very words of jebus…

      • Douglas Kirk

        It’s not just baptists who have the odd views…. they’re all pretty wonky.  Every last religion or “personal belief” in souls and the afterlife.

  • Coyotenose

    Any religious response to this relies entirely on “No True Scotsman”. It’s “Being Saved changes you. If Breivik had really been Saved, he wouldn’t have committed those murders.”

    Of course, that means he can still be “Saved” in the future and will then go to Heaven as long as it’s fer real sure this time, yep.

    • Bill

      The question itself is essentially asking if calling this man not a REAL Christian would be relying on “No True Scotsman” or not.  Salvation is a qualifying factor of a Christian, so to say that EVERY single Christian is Saved is a fact (according to Protestant doctrine which is the doctrine that we are assuming to answer the question).  Since Salvation is a qualifying factor of Christianity then “No True Scotsman” does not apply.
      Saying,
      “All Christians are saved”
      “My uncle’s a Christian and he’s not saved”
      “Well all TRUE Christians are saved”
      is the same thing as saying,
      “No vegetarians eat meat”
      “Well my uncles a vegetarian and he eats meat”
      “Well all TRUE vegetarians never eat meat”
      One would not accept the argument of “No True Scotsman” in the case of the vegetarian because the argument is about a qualifying factor of the type of person in question.  In the same way, the question about Breivik is a qualifying factor for being a Christian.
       The question asked could be restated as follows, “Is Breivik a real Christian or not?”  So, no, not all religious responses to this question are going to rely on “No True Scotsman”

  • Bill

    I think we’re overlooking the role of the Holy Spirit.  The doctrine itself realizes the power of the Holy Spirit and says that a person who truly believes that Jesus is the resurrected son of God has the Holy Spirit living within them.  It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that a person’s heart can change.  So a mere outward confession of faith does not necessarily mean that he believes what he is saying.  If somebody tells you they’re a vegetarian, you’ll most likely give them the benefit of the doubt until they do something contrary to what a vegetarian does.  If you see them eating meat, then you wouldn’t consider them to be a vegetarian anymore even if that person still claims to be one.  Would Breivik go to Heaven when he dies? His outward confession of faith doesn’t answer that question.  Not even his actions answer that question.  If Breivik still has yet to actually believe what he says he does, then the answer is no.  But if, before he dies, God changes his heart, then yes he would go to heaven.  Neither the outward confession of faith nor the actions of that person in their life prior to God’s heart change affect if a person goes to Heaven or not.

    Not trying to pick fights, just my own understanding of true Christian doctrine.

    Hoping to have an intellectual discussion.

    • Anonymous

      So according to your understanding of Christian doctrine, Breivik could simultaneously have ‘the holy spirit living within him’ and commit the crimes to which he’s confessed?

      • Bill

        No what I’m saying that once the Holy Spirit is living within him, then his heart and actions would be changed.  If this man has yet to believe what he says he does, then the Holy Spirit is not living within him.  In my understanding, a person who has the Holy Spirit will not commit such crimes, but then again, mere humans cannot know nor judge the heart.  If Breivik does have the Holy Spirit living within him, then he has chosen to ignore His (the Spirit’s) powers and His leading.

        • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

          Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that he does have the Holy Spirit living within him? If so, then how would it be possible for him to “ignore His powers and His leading”, as you so put it? Or, is this “holy spirit” somehow less omnipotent than Jesus and/or God? LOLWHUT?

          • Bill

            The Holy Spirit has the power to lead a person in a certain direction in a manner that is absolutely irresistible.  However, the Holy Spirit does not have to exercise this power at all times.  It’s not logical to say that because He did not, He can not.

            • Anonymous

              There is nothing logical about the holy spirit. Period.

              • Bill

                Crosh did say, “for the sake of argument”.  We’re trying to have an intelligent discussion.  If you don’t want to take part in it, you don’t have to.

                • Anonymous

                  You were the one who mentioned logic

                • Bill

                  The question is posed to a Christian who holds to Christian doctrine.  The Holy Spirit being an active and living force is part of that doctrine.  So for the purposes of answering this question, it should be assumed that the Holy Spirit is exactly what the Christian doctrine holds it to be.

            • adam

              I don’t think the protestant theological system states that exactly. In terms of saving those whom have been chosen by the father, the spirit’s calling of those chosen individuals is what is irresistible, not the secondary advocacy/conscience capacity that believers are directed to acknowledge.  

              • Bill

                In a response to somebody else I had said that the Holy Spirit does have the power to urge in an irresistible manner in some cases even after the irresistible grace has been submitted to by the chosen human.  He does not always exercise that power but I think we can pull from scripture that the power does exist.  A person who truly has the Spirit has a battle going on inside their bodies that Jesus, James, and Paul all refer to about whether to serve the creator or the creation.  Jesus speaks on this when he says, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”.  Sometimes the flesh wins the battle because the Spirit has not exercised His power to irresistibly and absolutely make a person submit to the power that He offers.  But other times it is by the irresistible urge to serve the Creator that the flesh is overcome by the Spirit.  That is why the doctrine is about being humble and allowing the Spirit to do His work in the life of any follower.  So in this part of the doctrine, believers are not just directed to acknowledge the power of the Holy Spirit, rather that WILL indefinitely happen if a person has received the Holy Spirit.  And Paul speaks to this when he talks about the fruits of the Spirit and the Spirit acting as a seal of our faith.  The Spirit is the one that is within us (we obtain the Spirit through faith) and does the good works that Paul and James both agree are the marks of a true believer of Jesus Christ.

        • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

          What if the Holy Spirit wanted him to commit that act of terrorism?  Perhaps it was the Holy spirit whispering in his ear that made him do it? Or perhaps he heard “other voices”. 

          That is basically the problem with religion.  You can’t tell the difference between “the holy spirit” and a crazy idea of your own.  If you put all your faith in these “whispering voices”, then anything goes.  And a lot of bad stuff can happen. 

          • Bill

            I will concede that if the Spirit were the only thing that humans had to base their religious lives off of then you have made a great point.  However, the Holy Spirit is not the only active person that directs a Christian life (according to Christian doctrine).  In John 1 the author speaks of Jesus and his incarnation in to flesh to dwell with humans as a human.  Jesus is called the Word of God.  Hebrews 4:12 says that the word of God is living and active.  So not only is there the help of the Holy Spirit, but we can also base our judgments off of the Bible (this is all still according to the doctrine which was the original point of this post.  Debating the logic of the doctrine or whether it’s true is an entirely different issue that’s not what I’m trying to do here).  Reading through scripture it can pretty clearly be seen that a voice inside your head telling you to commit terrorism is not from God.  And the Bible tells us that God will give us discernment on these voices.  Again, I am speaking strictly about my protestant doctrine and no other kinds of Christian doctrine or any other religious doctrine.

            • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

              But doesn’t everything about religion  (including the bible) ultimately have to go back to the Holy Spirit?  Where did the bible authors get their ideas from?  They all claim it was the Holy Spirit (unless you think there was a Monty-Python-ish  parting of the clouds with God talking).   I view the bible authors with the same skepticism as anyone else who claims to have “heard the voices”.  Therefore I don’t view the bible as an independent source of authority other than believing in the Holy Spirit. 

              I do understand that Protestants believe that the bible is a separate source of evidence.  I just think they are mistaken.

              • Bill

                Ultimately it goes back to God the father who is seen to have authority over both God the son and God the Spirit.  Everything ultimately can lead back to the Trinity if you want to look at it that way according to religion.  And I understand that most people who read this believe that protestants are mistaken and that is why I made it a point to say that I am not here to argue the truth or lack thereof in the protestant belief.  I am simply responding to the original question posed which was in the context of “Christian doctrine”.  So while answering the question, I was simply providing insight on what the doctrine is (in my opinion) and what application it may have to the question at hand.

                Also Jeff, I would love to talk with you elsewhere or at another time about what you’ve said about Jesus and the Spirit.  I just don’t think we should load this page up with comments that don’t deal with the original question posed.

                • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

                  Bill,  Yes, the Disqus comments system is only designed for a few levels of nested comments before they extinguish with shrinking margins.  I’d be happy to discuss the foundations of Christianity somewhere else.  One possibility is at my very humble blog.  I created a new post for this purpose. 

            • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

              P.S.  I forgot to mention Jesus in my other reply to you.  I realize that protestants (probably all Christians) think Jesus was God’s ambassador on Earth.  the only problem is that EVERYTHING we know about Jesus was told by others and most of that not written down for a couple of generations after Jesus died… and most of it not written down by anyone who actually knew Jesus.  For example, some think most of what Paul wrote was Holy Spirit inspired.  And you could also ask the question, “How did Jesus claim to know what to say?”  probably by the Holy Spirit.  It all goes back to the Holy Spirit.  If you can’t trust someone’s claims to the Holy Spirit, you can’t trust what they say.

        • Anonymous

          Then wouldn’t your answer to my question – logically - have to be ‘yes’?

          By your own understanding of your doctrine, it’s possible to have the holy spirit living within you and nonetheless choose to ignore its ‘power and leading’ and commit attrocities.

          • Bill

            I guess that’s right.  I didn’t differentiate between possible and probable.  Probable? No.  Possible? Yes, I was mistaken for saying no.   What I meant to say with what I said was that to my understanding, that’s not typically something that will happen.  But like I said before, if the person denied using the power and the leading of the Holy Spirit, the original sin that his human body is still plagued with could have taken over and done such a thing.  I know that original sin can also be debated, but we’re just assuming (for the purpose of a Christian answering this question) that Christian doctrine is being used.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure some people will try to get around this by saying that faith and good works go hand in hand — you can’t accept Christ and then do bad things — but that’s not what the doctrine says.

    There are differences between denominations with respect to their doctrines concerning faith vs. works (and of course, each of them can back up the doctrine by contradictory scripture). But generally, a Christian would have to answer yes to this question (though according to some, other conditions must be met–true repentance for example).

  • Anonymous

    I personally separate Christianity from christianism by asking which part of scripture is most important: John 3/16 which is exclusive or Luke 10/25 (the good samaritan) which is inclusive and is based on the great commandment.  Evangelism in my opinion does not represent the essence of Christianity but merely compensates for low self esteem.  I would assume that this is true with other religions also.

  • http://www.bottle-imp.com Daniel

    This generally falls under the debate of Faith Vs Works which is a question I have thrown at Christains many times. Educated Christians that actually read The Bible seem to be split on this. Some seem to use John 3:16 as the end all, be all argument and that faith is all you need. Others say that if you aren’t acting in accordance with Christ then you don’t really have faith anyway and maintain that simply believing is not sufficient. I can’t list Bible verses anymore, but this is something I’ve seen debated by Christians in a fairly heated manner.

    To me an interesting example is someone like Mark David Chapman. This man is a murderer but since then has been a very committed Christian. I’m not sure if he is “Born again”, in the sense that he converted after his crime, but I think most Christians would agree that Chapman has been redeemed and will go to heaven, despite committing one of the most heinous of human crimes (murder).

  • http://www.bottle-imp.com Daniel

    This generally falls under the debate of Faith Vs Works which is a question I have thrown at Christains many times. Educated Christians that actually read The Bible seem to be split on this. Some seem to use John 3:16 as the end all, be all argument and that faith is all you need. Others say that if you aren’t acting in accordance with Christ then you don’t really have faith anyway and maintain that simply believing is not sufficient. I can’t list Bible verses anymore, but this is something I’ve seen debated by Christians in a fairly heated manner.

    To me an interesting example is someone like Mark David Chapman. This man is a murderer but since then has been a very committed Christian. I’m not sure if he is “Born again”, in the sense that he converted after his crime, but I think most Christians would agree that Chapman has been redeemed and will go to heaven, despite committing one of the most heinous of human crimes (murder).

  • Bryan Rosander
  • Anonymous

    This isn’t really a ‘fair’ question–there’s so many qualifiers and hypotheticals buried in it that it makes answering an exercise in gymnastics.

    First off, which group of Christians are you talking about?  When you talk about “what the doctrine says”, I have to giggle, because if all Christians agreed on what the doctrine says, there wouldn’t be so many sects, denominations and so forth.  Even within the same denomination, you’ll find intense debates on what should be emphasized more.

    I can answer the question in relation to the Episcopal parish I grew up in, if I’d asked my priest about it:  “Yes, he ~could~ go to Heaven, if he accepts God’s word and repents his sins.”

    However, there’s a LOT of unpacking that goes with that.  The biggest one is in the concept of Purgatory.  CS Lewis (I know, I know–this isn’t about his lame-ass “proof”, though, it’s about doctrine) posited in The Great Divorce that there is no functional distinction between Purgatory and Hell, save one that the soul itself makes.  Since Hell is, in essence, the absence of God, a soul unwilling to surrender the sins weighting it down, even in the presence of the divine, will remain in Hell.  One that chooses to accept the Word, even after death, will go to Heaven–and thus, the place the soul waited until doing so would be Purgatory, not Hell.

    Being a Christian in life, according to this view, is primarily a way to prepare yourself for the later process of shedding your sins in Purgatory.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s not forget Joseph and his technicolor dream coat or some such thing.  Spends his life whorin around the bars and all and then finally goes home to his father who shoves his other son aside and kills the fatted calf for his prodigal son.  according to scripture, yes  Breivik can go to heaven if he goes “home to his father”.  Of course that tends to piss off everyone else but, as the comedian used to say, “its in the book”.

  • http://neitherdawkinsnorfudnamentalism.com Tom Woodman

    Seems to me his main motivation was hatred of Islam.  Plenty of Christians have that, but it also appears a very clear distinguishing mark of the secular atheists, Dawkins, Hitchens, Sam Harris to name but three.  Both the religious and the anti-religious should be very careful indeed

    • cipher

      Oh, well, if he hated Islam, then he’s in. It seem that’s about all you need today to be a True Christian™.

  • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

    James 2:13-15
    New International Version (NIV)13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

     14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?

     That seems to contradict the two verses Hemant linked to. James 2 seems to be saying that faith alone is not enough, or maybe that faith causes you to commit good deeds. Thus it’s not as clear that the doctrine says faith is enough, but it is clear that the doctrine is unclear (and likely contradictory). By “doctrine,” I mean “Bible.”

    • Anonymous

      It’s a question that’s somewhere near the center of the Catholic/Protestant schism. Different sects have very different answers to it

  • cipher

    Re: Anne Frank – About fifteen years ago, I read a quote from an evangelical pastor.  I think this is pretty much verbatim: “Every man, woman and child who died in the Holocaust went from the fires of the crematoria straight to the fires of hell!”

    Hemant, our friend Mike Clawson can protest all he likes – this is Christianity.

    • adam

      Yeah, I would protest as well and say this as a general response:
      An infinite, multi-dimensional universe in which matter changes, reforms, pops in and out of existence coupled with a god who manifests foundational paradoxes, one of which is hating sin while wanting all to be saved – can you connect the dots? I know its easy for everyone here to rehearse the same theological debates that were born out of medieval society, but wake up guys and gals. If you truly want to be the atheistic, free-thinking arbiters of empirical study and throw off the shackles of that “terrible evil” called religion, than why not get out of the elitist comfort zone that tends to soothe the frustrations of being stuck in a body for 80 years and then dying and actually address the apologia that hits a nerve…(Deep breath…) Or, at the very least, how about avoiding championing stereotypes and prejudices, whether they are being expressed by a random and irrelevant pastor or by yourself. Cheers.

      • cipher

        If you can reference “an infinite, multi-dimensional universe” and “sin” in the same paragraph, I’d say you’re the one who is having trouble connecting the dots.

        • adam

          Would you elaborate on your point? I was saying that, yes, this terrorist could be in heaven, and he could be in hell at the same time by the same god who still maintains his (god’s) paradoxical and holy personality. Speaking of elaboration, my main point was that little part at the end. Catch it? You prejudicially stereotype christians and I was “protesting” while kind of calling out a phenomenon in atheist society. 

          • Justin

            So, Adam, you’re, what, 20? 21? I’m just guessing those because, at that age, I made arguments eerily similar to yours and still eventually arrived at atheism.  Good luck!

            • Adam Strand-Polyak

              No, but pretty close! I have not yet been convinced otherwise because no one wants to play. Its understandable though – this is a comment thread and it gets really annoying how the more elaborate the responses get, the skinnier the text box becomes haha…thanks for the kind attitude though! And feel free to let me know what eventually changed your mind. I haven’t been really challenged regarding these subjects for a while.

              • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593675787 Glenn Davey

                Adam: You’re not going to get any mind-blowing answers here today. From personal experience, you’ll still resist reasoning freely on these things for about another 5 years. You’ll come to the answers you’re looking for on your own. Not in a comment thread. That’s the deepest part of me talking to the deepest part of you. I know who you are. I was you.

                • Anonymous

                  All I was looking for was some mitigating qualification of that overly broad, derisive, etc. etc. see earlier posts. No answers needed. Just some acknowledgement that, yeah, stereotyping is not what this world needs. As atheists who often are submitted to that kind of prejudice, why force the same injustice on another people group? Because “they” deserve it? Um, remember the whole stereotyping concept? An example response might be, “Fine, it wasn’t the fairest thing to say. But this is a forum for atheists, so we aren’t as careful about what we say because its our community” or something like that. Not some pontification regarding what I will (or won’t) believe in 5 years based on my current physical maturity level and some pseudo-spiritual understanding that you and I have. What is difficult about that?

              • Justin

                Nope, not talking down.  Just saw your posts, noted the similarity and felt compelled to confirm the parallel.

                I’d imagine further that you may be studying at a mid-size, relatively liberal, Christian school, but that might be overstepping.

                As far as mind-blowing arguments go, that wasn’t how I got here.  It was by digging.

                First, it was the troublesome texts.  Then, it was the systematic dismissal of modern church doctrine by way of historical analysis, cultural understanding, and the process of understanding and translating scriptures myself, until there was no reason for me to regard the Jewish and Christian belief systems as anything more than myth.

                After that, to be sure, I dug through the holy texts of several other religions, and didn’t find anything to move me back toward any spiritual considerations.

                From what I can see, you’re already a critical thinker, trying to draw some kind of logical universe out of everything you’ve learned, and it’s apparent that you have already rejected many doctrines of mainline Christianity.  I am pretty well assured that you are the kind of tolerant person that is not a thorn in the side of atheists, regardless of your religious classification.

                That post went long, sorry.

                tl:dr = You don’t need my help.  You’re cool.

    • Anonymous

      Of course, the pastor was full of crap!

      And are you saying that as a Christian I have to believe that because I do not

      • rob

        I agree, its a straw man argument. One person does not reflect the group, the same way that Jared Lee Loughtner does not represent all or most atheists.

        • cipher

          One person? Oh, give me a fucking break! This reflects what most Christians have believed for most of the past 2,000 years.

          Christianity is what Christians believe – and this is part and parcel of it. From the beginning, whenever someone has come along attempting to promote a wider, more inclusive view, they’ve either been marginalized (as with some of the early Church fathers) or eliminated altogether (e.g., the Albigensians).

          The fundies are correct; what the Liberal Christians believe isn’t Real Christianity™. It’s preferable, certainly – but Christianity it ain’t. The fundies can lay claim to having the authentic goods. Liberal Christians are inconsistent and frequently hypocritical – you can stomach Hitler burning in hell, but not Anne Frank.

        • cipher

          One person? Oh, give me a fucking break! This reflects what most Christians have believed for most of the past 2,000 years.

          Christianity is what Christians believe – and this is part and parcel of it. From the beginning, whenever someone has come along attempting to promote a wider, more inclusive view, they’ve either been marginalized (as with some of the early Church fathers) or eliminated altogether (e.g., the Albigensians).

          The fundies are correct; what the Liberal Christians believe isn’t Real Christianity™. It’s preferable, certainly – but Christianity it ain’t. The fundies can lay claim to having the authentic goods. Liberal Christians are inconsistent and frequently hypocritical – you can stomach Hitler burning in hell, but not Anne Frank.

          • rob

            “Christianity is what Christians believe”

            Exactly.  And if liberal Christians don’t believe that Anne Frank is in hell, then that must be Christianity too. 

            Does Christianity contradict itself?  Very well then, it contradicts itself.  It is large and contains multitudes.

            • cipher

              There are no liberal Christians. That was my freaking point.

  • cipher

    And Hemant, I just read the post by Rachel Held Evans you cite in the Anne Frank post, along with a fair number of the comments.

    There are no words.

  • rob

    The Christian trump card is that salvation is a function of god’s sovereign will.  Even CS Lewis acknowledged that people who did not embrace Jesus could go to heaven through the grace of god, and that it is useless to speculate who goes where.  Obviously different schools of thought exist too.

  • J Myers

    I am saying that a lot of Christians believe that people who have done horrible things — even Death Row prisoners…

    That is a rather inexecusable non sequitur Hemant, given the certain innocence of any number of death row prisoners.

  • Fredericka

    Protestants do not understand faith to be belief that a given proposition is true, but rather trust in Christ, not ‘faith that’ but ‘faith in’: “Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God’s grace; it is so
    certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust
    in and knowledge of God’s grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy
    with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does
    by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion,
    willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the
    love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible
    to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire.” (Martin
    Luther, Preface to Romans).
    I’d be perplexed to see them squirm upon discovering you do not know what they believe.

    • cipher

      Oh, please.

    • penn

      If what you say is true than there are perhaps a half-dozen “true” Christians on the planet.

      • Fredericka

        There is an old song that goes, “Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart.” (http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/w/lwantbac.htm)  Atheist research has corrected these lyrics, it would seem, to ‘Nobody, I am a Christian if I say I am.’

  • Fredericka

    “I’m sure some people will try to get around this by saying that faith and good works go hand in hand — you can’t accept Christ and then do bad things — but that’s not what the doctrine says. It’s just ideal, wishful thinking.”

    What does the doctrine say, in the very passage quoted as proof of “what the doctrine says”?: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Oops, you forgot to quote verse 10, which says, “created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” a thought which might be paraphrased as, ‘faith and good works go hand in hand.’

  • Jennifer A. Nolan

    Whatever Anders Breivik’s eventual destiny is, he should be sorry about what he did to all those innocent people.  And the same would have applied whether they were atheists, Christians, Muslims, or whatever.  This anti-Islamism of his looks too much like Hitler’s anti-Semitism for my comfort; would he have also wanted to kill Ibn Warraq?  I sure hope the Norwegians will go to some trouble to stamp out this hate-mongering in this country — and I also hope this teaches a few lessons to us American Christians, too.  If there is a God in Heaven, where we ultimately “go” is up to Him, not tiny, egoistic, stupid human beings.


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