“God Can Love Me or Send Me to Hell. But Not Both.”

Sitting at Starbucks yesterday I overheard the following exchange between two men I’ll call Bob and Dan. I recount it here not to make any point of my own, but because it perfectly captures the kind of logjam we Christians so often reach when trying to explain our beliefs to non-Christians.

Dan: But that just doesn’t make any sense.

Bob: What doesn’t?

Dan: That the same God who loves me might very well condemn me to hell for all eternity. If he would do that to me, then what God feels for me cannot be love.

Bob: But it is. God loves you enough to let you determine your own fate.

Dan: But at the last minute God could change the fate I’ve chosen for myself if he wanted to. If God really wanted me to be okay after I die, he could choose to send me to heaven instead of hell. Right? He has that power, right?

Bob: Yes. God can do anything.

Dan: Which can only mean that if I end up in hell, that was God’s will. God actively chose that for me. He could have changed it, but he didn’t.

Bob: You chose that fate for yourself by refusing to accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.

Dan: That I made that mistake doesn’t alter the fact that God has chosen to punish me for that mistake by forcing me to spend eternity being physically tortured. And anyone who would choose that for me—who would choose to punish me eternally just for having used the mind and soul he gave me to arrive at a conclusion that displeases him—cannot possible love me. That’s not love. It’s something. It sounds to me like the worst kind of shallow vindictiveness. But it’s certainly not love.

Bob: It’s divine justice.

Dan: Whatever. It’s not love. Look: After I’m dead, God either has the power to send me to heaven instead of hell, or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t have that power, then he’s too weak to matter. If he does have the power to send me to heaven instead of hell, and he wills me to go to hell, then he’s without compassion—or at the very least he certainly doesn’t love me. That’s your choice. By your own definition your god is either not all-powerful, or not all-loving. But he can’t be both.

Bob: You’re looking for rational explanations for mysteries that only God comprehends.

Dan: That’s so typical. Whenever Christians run into a simple logical inconsistency that cuts directly to the viability of their entire belief system, they resort to the only “argument” usually left them, which is that we mere mortals can’t possibly understand how and why God works the way he does. At the slightest challenge you absolutely abandon logic. It’s ridiculous—and should be embarrassing to you. If you can’t explain the simplest, most obvious, most terrible contradiction in the qualities you say your God possesses, how in the world to you expect anyone but an idiot to take you or your religion seriously?

Bob: God bless you, man. I fear for your soul.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • Craig Thompson

    God is in the business of keeping us out of Hell . . . that's why he sent His Son to redeem us. He doesn't send any of us there, we send ourselves. Maranatha

  • http://mrhackman.blogspot.com Andrew

    "If all are going to heaven then what is the use."

    The fact that everyone being blessed, everyone being accepted, everyone being given life presents a problem for some Christians (that they can't even picture the use of it) shows how far off the path we are.

  • Don Gollahon

    I was just trying to respond with "logic" of how it could be looked at for "Dan". He was looking for a logical response. God is infinite, is He not? Me putting my will against an infinite being would be worse that trying to stop a freight train with my bare hands, would it not? And that is just one sin. We have many per day. The scriptures don't always lead us to the "logical" conclusion of things. For those of us who have faith, that is ok. But for those who have not yet come that far we need to not run from the issue but at least attempt how it might be from God's perspective. The Bible does say God is a just God. And it does say God is Love. It also says man goes to hell if he does not accept Christ. So we need to help "Dan" take the next step in his spiritual journey by helping him over this hurdle. We witness the best we can and leave the results to God whose Holy Spirit can do what we cannot.

  • Becky Johnson

    I know I am sticking my theological neck out there, but this is why I think more and more thinking/compassionate Christians believe in universal salvation, ultimately. I have not staked my claim there … yet. But am reading, searching. contemplating… hoping. In other words, in the process of re-examination. Which may end in, “I have no clue, but I know God is more compassionate than me. WAY more than me. and I trust His goodness, love and care to triumph over our human flaws, rebellions, failures and ignorance.”

    Thanks for putting the Pink Elephant as a centerpiece on the discussion atable.

  • http://REXTHEKINGBLOG rex

    I just beleive in a God that gives each human a chance, he created us from the womb, why is Easu not treated like Jacob. Why are the Israelites (Gods chosen people) Some people prefer to disobey Eve with the fruit, The Pharoh and the Israelites. God knows this that is what free will is and the man

    with all the answers doesn’t realize that we send ourselves to hell. God has a plan for each but, it

    they don’t want it he does not force it. Live for self or for God. Gods way is better and less trouble.

    If all are going to heaven then what is the use. Is it a big spiritual game. No I beleive God is in

    control and hell is there for a reason.

  • http://www.ipandora.net matthew

    If I were going to heaven for sure after death regardless of what I’d done here on earth during my life, I’d be living very differently.

    Why would such a god make things like conscience and laws if he was just going to let us all in anyways?

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Matthew: Are you saying that the only thing that keeps you behaving morally is the fear of how God will punish you if you don’t? That without that fear, you’d just be a dick?

    I don’t think the question is, “Why would such a god make things like conscience and laws if he was just going to let us all in anyways?” I think the question atheists and their ilk have is, “Why do you have to be a CHRISTIAN to have a rewarding afterlife? You can follow your conscience—that is, lead a wonderfully noble and charitable life–and obey all the laws, and have no religion whatsoever.”

  • http://andychristensen.wordpress.com Andy Christensen

    Back up to where Dan says God could decide at the last minute to let me into heaven. And Bob says, yes, God can do anything. But the bible teaches that God is righteous. He is impartial. He cannot just give someone a free pass because, while it would be consistent with being loving, and be consistent with being all-powerful, it would be inconsistent with His nature, which is righteous and just. God is loving, all-powerful, and morally perfect. That last characteristic imposes certain limits on what God will do.

    Great point by John that there are atheists who are all for morality. But the Word teaches that without the Holy Spirit we really cannot be righteous; we cannot love God and love people as we need to without the Spirit. We might do some good things but our sinful nature will always eventually undo it. And we cannot receive the Spirit without being cleansed of sin and reconciled to God. And that is what Jesus was sent for. God does forgive, but it is done His way, on His terms. Jesus is the Way that God made so that we could be forgiven even though we don’t deserve it, so that God’s wrath could come upon sin without destroying the sinner, so that unrighteous humans could be made righteous without God violating His own righteousness.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Becky: So you’re finding that more and more Christians simply reject the reality of hell? Or that God can and does let all kinds of people into hell who never thought of themselves as Christian at all? Either way, that is interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  • Don Gollahon

    I see it more like this: Sin is ultimately me saying my will is better than God’s will. It is a mere mortal defying the infinite, all-powerful God. This results in an infinite transgression, a debt way too big for me to ever pay. God is just. He will punish sin. Such an infinite transgression demands an infinite punishment. And that He would make a way to “pay” such a debt is far beyond my comprehension. But He did. That is love. Jesus, the infinite God Himself in human form, chose to take the punishment for us. Thus the infinite payment for my sin. Why would He do such a thing can only be called love. And for me to create an infinite transgression and then to reject this offer to pay off that debt by just merely accepting Christ by faith would leave me with, well, with hell to pay. Once you leave this life you will face either the justice of God, or the love of God. This totally makes sense to me. The only part that doesn’t make sense is that God would make even ONE way to pay off that debt.

  • http://mrhackman.blogspot.com Andrew

    “Such an infinite transgression demands an infinite punishment.”

    The first problem with that line of thinking is that is very hard to garner any such notion out of either the old or new testaments. So where does it come from and why is it used? I think the answer is found in Andy’s statement, “But the Word teaches that without the Holy Spirit we really cannot be righteous…

    Again, the bible teaches no such thing… it refers to righteous living people all the time. I think what motivates us to speak this way is our Western competitive attitude. Therefore we make hyperbolic statements and repeat them often so that we can feel in the right. We then get to hold the trump card. At the end of the day, that is what I believe is driving this theology. As Rex stated above… in our western, capitalistic, status seeking view, it is simply not worth doing unless someone loses.

  • Diana L. Avery

    Oh, yes. This is one I have struggled with for years.

    One book that I found to be very helpful in dealing with this dilemma is Thomas Talbott’s “The Inescapable Love of God.” This book (in my opinion) offers an argument in favor of Christian Universalism that is both logical and biblical. I won’t say it’s perfect (because only God is perfect) but it gave me a great deal of peace on this issue and satisfied both my mind and my heart.

    Another resource that might be worth looking into: http://mondaymorningpreacher.blogspot.com/2009_03_01_archive.html . In particular, the post entitled: “Stern Mercy, Saving Justice” does seem to show how the notion of “eternal punishment” could still be compatible with “eternal love.”

    Finally, a quote from Clarence Jordan, a Southern Baptist preacher:

    “I just cannot stick my God into a little time-space relationship here, hindered and always working against the impending physical death….Maybe God is in hot pursuit of us; we’ve been thinking of giving our heart to Christ. We’re thinking so hard on it we’re driving along and we don’t hear the whistle of a freight train. And bam…it just smashes us to pieces. And God said, ‘You know, I almost had him. That freight train beat me to him.’ What kind of God is that? A God whose purposes can be voided by a freight train? I can’t fit that in.” (Clarence Jordan, The Substance of Faith (New York: Association Press, 1972), 150. as quoted by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland in their book “If Grace is True, Why God Will Save Every Person.”

    Finally, I want to thank you, John Shore, for your compassionate book “I’m OK–You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop.” This book has also helped me a great deal. My prayers are also with you and your wife as you deal with the possibility that she has cancer. May it turn out to be a false alarm.

    • http://nil Tom Varney

      I am in full agreeance with Diana- It is without question-Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the World. But this is not yet known by all the world. And besides this we have to live in this world, but even the World has Laws to keep Law and order. Not all of Creation will make their Peace with God in this AGE-world) No one can come to God, until He Draws them. All Israel did not receive Jesus Christ, Why? Because God closed their eyes-and stoped their ears. Therefore, the gospel was then taken to the Gentile nations, and they have not All as yet believed, and received the gospel. So what next? Not only has the New Testament given us the answers-but all through the Law and the Prophets, we have the Answers- All of Creation will finally be Reconciled back to God-Paul confirms from the teachings of the Prophets-he also confirms the God made this MYSTERY known to him–space does not permit here-but for those who may care to review some Biblical studies that are available-email me at easistreet@bigpond.com I look forward to sharing what I have received concerning this Gospel of Good News-Sincerely Tom Varney-Queensland Australia

    • shawna

      Jesus' response to Christian Univseralism- I am the WAY, the Truth, and the Life- NO ONE comes to the Father EXCEPT through Me.

      • http://mrhackman.blogspot.com Andrew

        That statement does not conflict with Christian Universalism.

  • Rob

    The primary logical impasse of the initial post is also something with which i’ve been struggling. Perhaps someone could point me to an argument which directly addresses it:

    “Dan: …anyone…who would choose to punish me eternally just for having used the mind and soul he gave me to arrive at a conclusion that displeases him—cannot possible love me.”

    Said another way, how can God be a loving God if God has set up a system in which people are punished for “arriving at a conclusion that displeases him” — especially when some perspectives are more conducive to arriving at a conclusion that displeases him. How is that just?

    From my limited experience, this logical logjam seems to be the primary motivator towards adopting at least some form of universalism.

  • spencer

    In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. -John 3:3-6

    My current understanding, which I hold in accordance with what I’ve quoted, is that all those who are not “born again” will not be in heaven. Don’t get hung up on the phrase “born again” – look for how it’s used in the passage. The Holy Spirit gives birth to a spirit within us – a new creation – so that we, the “new creation” will be with God forever. This is very good news, because I am sick of the “old man” that is still with me – all this sin which still so easily entangles me. I look forward to the day when all that is evil and corrupt within me is gone forever. Now, the downside of this is that those who have not been born again – who have no new spirit in them – will perish. But if the evil, old creation was all they were, it must be so – there is nothing to save.

    Ok, kinda roundabout there…how are we born again is the question that remains unanswered. Since I believe it is answered in scriptures by those who truly search I will leave that one alone for now, rather than addressing it with a trite phrase that belittles it, and since i am too lazy to look up another quote.

  • Pamela Heatley

    “He will punish sin.”

    Did Jesus punish sin.

  • Sammy L.

    The Dan character is spot on and is not unreasonable. As soon as a theistic argument makes no sense; the apologist resorts to ‘God is infinite’, or ‘strange and mysterious ways’, or ‘you have to know Jesus to understand’….blah blah blah. Such retorts are not arguments or reason or even remotely valid. Those retorts are simply admissions of defeat.

    Theistic beliefs cannot be rationally defended…so the believer should not even try. It would be more endearing to hear “I know it’s crazy…but it works for me.”

    Also: one of the commenters above attributed conscious and moral law to God on nothing more than dogma. One should become familiar with the science of what we really know about these matters.

  • http://www.ricklannoye.com Rick Lannoye

    Thanks for sharing this story. “Dan” actually has some very good points. Who among us that has a shred of decency within us (presumably, if the Holy Spirit and the love of God dwell in one’s heart, there ought to be some) wouldn’t do all we could to impede someone who was trying to hurt himself. Surely, God would do the same, at least, a GOOD God would.

    Now, please, let’s not resort to the typical think-stop as “Bob” does. To say that do wants to save everyone, but only to give up at some micro point in time to then, endlessly blow torch massive billions of people, simply avoids the real question–How can God be the CAUSE of suffering?

    I’ve actually written an entire book on this topic–”Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There’s No Such Place As Hell,” (for anyone interested, you can get a free Ecopy of my book at my website: http://www.ricklannoye.com), but if I may, please allow me to share one of the many points I make in it–that the core message of Jesus about the true nature of God was diametrically opposed to what God would have to be like in order to put anyone in Hell.

    If one is willing to look, there’s substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus himself opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: “You don’t know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!” Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

    So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

    True, there are a few statements that made their way into the gospels which place Hell on Jesus lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

  • Sammy L.

    Rick said

    ” but these adulterations came along many decades after his death”

    Rick,

    Are you familiar with the history of where the books of the bible came from and when they were added? Virtually the entire ball of wax was put together [at least] ‘many decades’ after his death. A fair portion was added well over 100 years after Jesus’ death.

    If you are arguing that the time separation between events and their documentation diminishes its credibility (as I do)…then the bible is not worth a much of anything.

  • Daniel

    If the “Greeks” slipped in the parts where Jesus spoke about hell, then how do you substantiate any of the NT scripture? You have to throw it all out, you can’t pick and choose which parts are “real” based on what appeals to your own reasoning… The entire bible, from beginning to end, speaks of the reality of hell, and goes to great lengths to explain how a loving and Holy God could allow people to go to such a place. They go there because they would rather go there, than to bow there knee to the King. Everyone likes the idea of going to heaven, but not everyone likes the idea of living under the reign of the Kingdom of Heaven. They want “heaven”, but still want to rule their own little kingdom, and that doesn’t work. In Heaven there can only be one King, and that is Jesus. That is what makes it heaven in the first place…

    But a place where there are billions of little kingdoms, where everyone tries to serve themself, and do what is right in their own eyes? That is a place of anarchy, of anguish, of suffering. That place truly is hell. And it is not the result of God conjuring up ways to torture people for eternity, but it is the result of God letting people have their own way, and the consequences of their own decision.

  • Pat

    @Daniel

    ” you can’t pick and choose which parts [of the bible] are “real” based on what appeals to your own reasoning”

    Why not? If most of the bible is inspired by God but some parts of the bible were inserted due to human failures, isn’t this exactly what we should do?

  • Julia

    Both ‘Dan’ and Rick Lannoye are onto something.

    Dan says: Whatever. It’s not love. Look: After I’m dead, God either has the power to send me to heaven instead of hell, or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t have that power, then he’s too weak to matter. If he does have the power to send me to heaven instead of hell, and he wills me to go to hell, then he’s without compassion—or at the very least he certainly doesn’t love me. That’s your choice. By your own definition your god is either not all-powerful, or not all-loving. But he can’t be both.

    Rick said: “So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!”

    Yet that is EXACTLY what happens: More peope have gone to burn in hell for all eternity since the arrival of Jesus than if he never existed.

    Here’s how: There is the thought that (roughly) says that one may still make it into heaven even if they never ever heard of Jesus based on the goodness of their hearts and the generosity of Godl. (There’s more to that but that’s about the gist of it.)

    HOWever that changes the moment they are introduced to Christianity; once you hear of Jesus you now HAVE to choose to worship him. If you want any chance of going to heaven now you better well abandon any faith you previously hold right this instant and pledge your soul to Jesus. That’s it. No two ways about it. You’re either in or you’r out. Your current chosen non- Christan faith is not going to cut it. (Its fake and probably of the devil anyways). And since Jesus is The One And ONLY Way ™ you’re so much better off abandoning all the supposed knowledge, wisdoms and sacred ceremonies passed on through the centuries by your Peoples and Kin. None of it is of any worh so if you have any common sense you’re better off to dump it all and accept Jesus as your lord and savior right. this. minute.

    Well, that was the plan anyways. For millions (if not billions) it didnt go that well. For all those folks who lived and died in the last 2000 years since Jesus arrived on the scene that for various reasons did NOT dump their chosen faith for Jesus it’s hell for all eternity. Whereas if they had never heard of JC they still may have made it to heaven.

    IOW”s Jesus’s arrival was a death sentance for all those billions who refused to bend a knee to this new god-man from some alien religion from a foreign land.

    IF the Christian God did NOT intend for all those billions to go to hell maybe he should never had Jesus’s religion pushed on them. But they had and they chose to not abandon their faith for Christianity and now they’ve paid the price with their very souls damned to hell for all eternity. Serves them right too; only fools and rebels like Dan would refuse Jesus for some other fake faith. He and the billions before him deserve the hell they get.

    Thus is the compassion, love and will of the Christian God in action.

    At least that is what Christianty says ….

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Julia: As a fair, rational, and compassionate person, I’m sure you would want to acknowledge the critical difference between “That is what Christianity says,” and, “That is what some Christians believe.” Surely you’d like to avoid carelessly painting so many millions of people with such a single, broad stroke. Or perhaps you’re not aware of the vast and intricate variety of beliefs at work in the world today that all fall under the umbrella of Christianity?

  • Julia

    Hi John.

    I usually try to say ‘some’ to avoid the broad brush. My bad. Blame it on a string of crazy weeks at home and work. (a decent night’s sleep is becoming a rare and scarce commodity as of late).

    There seems to be as many variations of Christianity as people claiming the title. But most can agree on one thing: Its Jesus’s way or no way. In which my observation stands for the most part.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      This is actually one of the issues that most commonly divides Christians.

  • http://andychristensen.wordpress.com Andy Christensen

    Julia,

    This is not a simple issue, it is a difficult and complex one. What happens to someone who grows up as a Moslem and then is exposed, in a very poorly presented or misrepresented fashion, to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and does not immediately dump their belief system and adopt 'Christianity'?

    Jesus said He did not come to condemn the world but to save it (John 3). We are all condemned already because of the sin that is in the world. Jesus spoke of different kinds of soil, including good soil which would receive the seed of the Word and produce a crop. When I read Romans 2 where Paul talks about how the secrets of people's hearts will be revealed at the judgement, it doesn't sound like Jesus' arrival made it less likely that my fictional Muslim would go to heaven. In fact, without Jesus, she would have no chance because He is the Way for her to be saved.

    We are not punished for picking the wrong religion or for some miscalculation or error of reasoning. We are condemned if we persist in rebellion. It is about where our hearts are at. The Muslim girl who experienced cruelty at the hands of 'Christians' during the Crusades is not going to hell just because she did not drop her beliefs and adopt 'Christianity'. The atheist who is alive at Jesus' second coming will not go to heaven just because he sees that it is really true after all and quickly gives his mental assent to it. "This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares." (Romans 2:16)

    Does a person believe in God? Are they genuinely sorry for the wrong they have done and want to leave it behind? Do they want to be right with God? If these things are true of someone, then regardless of when or how or whether they hear the Gospel, I like their prospects. Theirs is good soil. And if they hear the Gospel, clearly and accurately presented by someone who projects the love of Christ, then surely it can only be to their advantage, right? They may hear it and right then and there have a change of heart and be saved. If not then at least a seed has been planted.

    If the soil is bad and a seed falls on it and does not sprout, the seed did not cause the soil to be unfruitful.

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.blogspot.com/ Julia

    John, bless you. You tried, but gosh dern it you actually ended up spinning the same old rhetoric and proved my point: without JC you're toast.

    Even if you decided to remain non-Christian and live with a 'good heart' as you say, they are still lost without JC. One MUST convert at some time or another, wether in life or in death or some appointed time where you will face your JC wher you MUST convert or go to hell. Bottom line is that your salvation hinges on wether you accept JC or not. That's it.

    Let's use your Moslim girl as an example; Or better still, maybe any Native American who had their very way of life, land and faith beaten out of them since the invasion of Christianity to this land. A Native person horribly mistreated and abused by Christians hellbent on destroying them and all they hold dear. And yet the Native Peoples refused to abandon their rich and deep faiths, finding peace and healing in their steadfast faiths, ceremonies and communinon in God, taking this love and faith in their Creator to their grave after losing everything, including their lives. (BTW, did you know that Native faiths were deemed ILLEGAL to practice in the United States until the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978?)

    Yet when they die which God do they find themselves face to face with? The very same one of the invading abusers that destroyed them. NOT the God they had faith in all their lives; the Creator who for countless generations showed wisdom and love and guidance that they had dedicated their life to and had faith in to the very end, the god of their Ancestors who they refused to abandon. Imagine their surprise, their shock, thier sheer terror when they find themselves fact to face with the very same alien diety of the very same alien religion that had destroyed your Peoples, your way of life, your land, your home, your Families; alien, non-Native, bearded and white and demanding worship. This deity embodies the very epitome of the evil you witnessed first hand that erradicated everything in your world. And there you are standing in front of it.

    It would be like coming face to face with the worst uber demon of your worst nightmares.

    Would YOU convert? Or run screaming in the opposite direction? Would you turn your back and abandon your Ancestors, your People and your Family for this alien deity of a alien religion that had your Family killed and your People wiped off the face of the Earth?

    Would you drop down and worship it? Could you?

    I know I wouldnt.

    But that god loves you!! you say. It wants you to find salvation in it. What? LOVE?? Salvation? Are you joking? You mean to say that this god 'loved' you so much that it sent its followers to destroy everything you ever had, including your family; that had everything of your race and People utterly destroyed? And now you are faced with having to worship it or go to hell? Would you abandon your Ancestors, your People, your Family for that? Really? THAT is the love and compassion of your god??

    Or would you join with your Ancestors, your People and your Family who went to hell for refusing to accept this alien god and its murderous religion…?

    No, John, but I am sorry. Its still the same no matter how it is spun: no JC then no salvation for you. To keep this on topic with your opening post- this is the love and compassion of your God in action: you must love and worship JC or go to hell. Good hearts are all well and find, but as you say of your Moslim girl :"In fact, without Jesus, she would have no chance because He is the Way for her to be saved." She must convert when she comes face to face with a deity so alien and foreign to her or go to hell. That is the only choice she has.

    I for one am not going to abandom my Ancestors, People and Family for some alien bearded white deity that demands I worship it or face hell. No thanks but I will be joining my Ancestors and People in hell.

    No hard feelings, btw. It's just way it is. You have your god, I have mine. As it should be.

    May we find Peace, my brother. Even if it isnt in the same gods.

    Mitakuye Oyasin.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Julia: You've written "John," where I believe you actually mean "Andy." You make good points—but you're refuting him, not me.

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.blogspot.com/ Julia

    D'oh! I did mean Andy. Sorry.

  • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty (Michael)

    Sorry I missed this blog a couple days ago! For some reason my RSS feed isn’t picking this up anymore.

    The topic is right at the core of where my soul and my brain have dug the deepest over the past few years in my journey of faith. And it led me to completely change my mind about who God is, how he sees us, where this universe is headed, and what that means for my life today.

    And John’s right — the topic certainly doesn’t have a homogenous viewpoint across churches. Heck, people don’t agree while they’re sitting in the same aisle in the same church on the same Sunday.

    If agreement was necessary, we’re all screwed. And if agreement on something was proof ot its truth, then the world actually was flat for thousands of years until we changed it.

    Either way, agreement is hardly the principle to use a guide for what we should think about an issue. Let’s search it out for ourselves. With fear and trembling, even!

  • mm

    I don’t know. I’m a nonbeliever, but this dialogue about eternity is turning into an analogy(for me at least) where its almost like being a bank teller and being robbed by a guy who walks up to your counter, slides over a piece of paper that says “I have a gun. Give me all the money” but just stands there, says nothing, and never produces the gun.

    In Julia’s view, if your standing before god, and he says “believer or burn” i think 100% of people are going to believe. What do I lose by accepting god? Nothing. I/m dead. My mortal concisence or ego is irrelevant at this point.

    What do I (possibly) gain? Not having my flesh ripped apart for the rest of eternity? Seems like an obvious choice so that can’t possibly be the litmus test used by god.

    The test is more like the bank analogy to me. How much faith do you put in what you can see with your own eyes, and what faith do you put into the unknowable force confronting you? Furthermore, If your only reason for faith is to resist eternal damnation, then that can be the sort of faith god is expecting.

    Heaven and Hell are fear tactics. Whether were willing to accept it or not, this a portion of the bible that was most certainly written by man, and not by god acting through man(should such a thing exist) either. There’s too many holes in it to be the work of an all omnipresent/omnipotent force.

  • http://sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    Sorry for arriving late. Sorry if someone already said this and I missed it.

    There is a third alternative to damnation and universalism that is often referred to as annihilation. John Stott is probably its most famous proponent. But it’s pretty simple. Not everyone will be ‘saved’ for eternal life (whatever that really means) because God has given us free will and therefore some people, even when confronted with God, might still possibly reject Him (CS Lewis does a great job illustrating this in the “Great Divorce”). So you reject eternal life and you get what? Eternal death.

    NOT eternal torment of a sort devised by God. That idea is not only un-Biblical (the Jews did not believe in Hell) but for me it even goes beyond blasphemy. Jesus never utters the word hell- it did not exist – he speaks of Gehnna for instance and the translators later insert Hell or Hades. He obviously is speaking metaphorically but if we want to be Biblical literalists then we should all assume that the damned end up in a garbage pit outside of Jerusalem. where he speaks of fire that is unquenchable. Unquenchable does not mean eternal. When a fire cannot be quenched it burns until it…burns itself out. Bad stuff indeed but not proof of a place designed by God the Father to infinitely torment his children for their finite sins. God IS just and that certainly is not justice..

    The hell-loving mindset is splendidly exemplified in how Matthew 25 is often misread. I don’t know how many times I’ve had fundamentalists tell me that this parable points out Jesus’ belief in Hell when they have actually missed the REAL point of the story, which is that religion or even faith will not ‘save’ you but only service to the ‘least’ of our brothers and sisters. What is also missed is how the ones Jesus applauds, the sheep. are surprised at Jesus’ approval. And the ones he condemns, the goats, were just as surprised. They thought they had it all together. When you take into account the other Gospel stories you have to figure these goats are religious people who sort of figured the sheep were heading in the wrong direction. What a surprise.

  • http://timofowler.wordpress.com Tim

    I was walking in town yesterday and saw a store I had never seen before. It was called "Heaven and Hell Tattoos and Piercing". This got me thinking about the subject (not tattoos and piercing, but heaven and hell). So I thought I would post in my blog on the subject this morning. As I was checking Facebook I ran across this post, and it helped prompt my thinking Thanks.

    My commentary can be found at http://www.slownewday.wordpress.com. There are a couple good links there for further study.

  • http://andychristensen.wordpress.com Andy Christensen

    Mitakuye,

    I freely and willingly acknowledge that I believe Jesus is the Way of salvation; I wasn't attempting to suggest otherwise.

    We are not being punished because we will not worship Jesus. We were condemned already, because of our sin, our rebellion against God. This is a main theme of scripture which is important for us to understand. But we Christians don't like talking about it, maybe because it is no fun. So we don't. And that leads to misconceptions outside the church — for example, that God is punishing us for not worshipping Him.

    For sure, there are plenty of people through the last 2000 years who have wrapped themselves in the cloak of 'Christianity' and have committed crimes in the name of God. Real Christians, the members of the real church, have always been a spiritual minority. Those who committed murder, genocide, theft, oppression, were not sent by God. God did not tell them to do what they did. It did not even enter God's mind to tell them to do that.

    There are going to be some surprised people at the Last Judgement. Some of the most surprised people may be the 'Christians' who never really repented of their sin and who committed those crimes in the name of God. Many of them may well wind up in Hell. I wouldn't want to join them.

    We don't know what it's going to be like — facing the God of the universe, the new order of things, etc. No matter what we envision, it is almost certainly wrong, maybe way off.

    Best wishes,

    Andy

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.blogspot.com/ Julia

    Hi Andy.

    I do not subscribe to the Christian concept of original sin. Never have. Of course in your god's eyes this means I am in rebellion, which is another concept I do not subsribe to. This concept has humans born as damaged goods, not pleasing to god. Only way to repair this inborn damage is for you to admitt that you are born damaged (or damned) and worship JC for only JC can fix the damage and thus can make you good enough for god. In short you are born broken and the only cure is JC.

    How convenient, dont you think?

    Again, you tried, but it stil spins around that you better well worship JC or else.

    BTW, 'Mitakuye Oyasin' is not a name; it is a prayer in Lakota: 'All my relations.'

    Peace,

    ~julia

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Julia: Are you Lakota?

  • Pingback: Heaven and hell? « Slow New Day

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.blogspot.com/ Julia

    Hi John.

    As much as I want to say yes, sadly, I cannot.

    I have 3 Native lines from my Grandparents -Great Grandfather and Grandmother were fullblood. Yet there is no paper trail that I can find that I can claim as proof of Native Blood. At least not any that I can find; yet. And, also sadly, due to the stigma heeped upon Natives forced to convert to a White world, their Native heritage was lost or forced to be forgoten or face further discrimination and intimidation.

    However, the Creator still found a way to lead me to my path. If one needs to label my walk- it is roughly a Lakota path I strive to walk. As with most, my path has been long and windy. (I may post a bit of it on my blog…) I cannot exclusively claim Lakota as a title or creed, yet my Heart belongs to Creator and the Chanupa the Creator led me to carry.

    Each must follow the Path Creator sets them on. We each have a song to sing. Some of these are Christian, some are not. Some carry a Cross, others a Chanupa, and other yet other Ways. There are many songs that need to be sung, many voices that Creator has given each. It just not all one monotonous tone, but a chorus of millions, each singing in the Harmony Creator has led them to….

    May we all find our song and sing it in Beauty and Truth, wether it be Christian or Lakota, Hindu or Muslim, Wiccan or Tibetan…

    Aho! Mitakuye Oyasin (All My Relations),

    ~julia

  • http://sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    More like we punish ourselves. In that 'sin' can be defined as working against God's will, summed up by Jesus as to love him with all and to love others. A tall order, yet when we don't do this, when we take another path, we, and often others, suffer.

  • http://www.speakeasy.org/~lion/ Lion Kimbro

    Repeating Pamela:

    Did he punish sin.

  • Che

    If god is in the BUSINESS of keeping people out of hell his business has went bankrupt thousands of years ago. How is it man puts more power in their will to sin over gods will to save his own creation. This is where the bible becomes very contradictory. Adam's will to sin against all of our wills and choices (because we didn't say hey adam sin for us so we can all be born into sin) is greater than christs will to save all man against their wills. We have more power than christ and god because we can send ourselves to hell and he can't save us unless we want to be saved.

    So why is it an earthly parent would never allow their child to burn forever? That would indicate that an earthly love is greater than gods love for us. Even human beings wouldn't allow each other to burn forever. We are far too compassionate for that yet we believe our all loving god will burn us?

    We never created ourselves. We didn't ask to be born under which parents, or which nation or which social status. Yet all of this plays a huge part in which religion you are raised under and how you morally form as a person. A child that is born under a wicked set of parents has close to no chance at heaven because they will be taught that right is wrong and wrong is right. So they grow up only living based on how their parents taught them and eventually die and burn in hell based on circumstances they had no control over. Yet religious folks claim we CHOOSE hell because we are born faulty and imperfect..

    No one is perfect therefore you would have to repent every second of the day to have a good chance of making it to heaven. the bible says if you think of a sin it's a sin so literally no one would make heaven unless they got extremely lucky and god allowed them to die at the perfect time in life where they just asked for forgiveness.

    I think it's time to find a new way of thinking because love should never be fueled by fear of death or pain. That is not true love.

  • Che

    Andy how is it that god is punishing us as soon as we are born before we can even sin? How is it we are being punished to being created imperfect when we did not create ourselves?

    If a machine breaks to you blame the machine or the maker of that machine?

    God could have created a place where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sin just us living forever with him yet he chose to create pain, sin and suffering and tell us to somehow figure out why we are here out of all of the religions that are out there. If you were born in saudi arabia chances are you would be Islamic talking about how you believe in allah and that he is the only way. So people that are born in the wrong place, at the wrong time like native americans who were killed and raped by christian faith based people will burn in hell because they never accepted jesus in their life? This is just?

    • http://www.theturngroup.com/ Rodney Liber

      God doesn’t punish us after we are born. Life is a gift WITH RESPONSIBILITY. We are simply born into a cursed world. God gives us a special gift called free will. We are created eternal beings. By default, without taking the fork in the road, our destination will be hell. That is just how it is. However, God sent his son Jesus Christ to be sacrificed as an atonement for our sins. Jesus is the way to eternal life. He came so that you could have a different destination than where sin would ultimately lead you. Sure, you can use the excuse that you didn’t ask to be born, but you could have also taken your own life by now and gotten out of it. But, by not choosing to kill yourself, you have by default chosen life.

      With that said. Once you are granted life you then have another choice to make. As an eternal being you have an ending destination. Heaven or Hell. Both ways are clearly marked. And it is your choice which destination you would like to spend your eternity in. God sends NO one to hell or heaven. He gave us the free will – the choice to choose for ourselves where we would like to go… In his Word, he says if you want to go to hell, do this! If you want to go to Heaven, do this….

      It is completely up to you, on your shoulders, your responsibility where you choose to go when you die. No one but you! Making no choice by default will lead you to hell because that is the path you are already on. It takes a different choice, one you must make to detour off the default that sin will lead too and to willfully choose the path that leads to life…

  • http://mrhackman.blogspot.com Andrew

    Preach it Che!! :)

  • http://gaggia-espresso.info Arbaugh

    If god is in the BUSINESS of keeping people out of hell his business has went bankrupt thousands of years ago. How is it man puts more power in their will to sin over gods will to save his own creation. This is where the bible becomes very contradictory. Adam's will to sin against all of our wills and choic3s (because we didn't say hey adam sin for us so we can all be born into sin) is greater than christs will to save all man against their wills. We have more power than christ and god because we can send ourselves to hell and he can't save us unless we want to be saved.

    So why is it an earthly parent would never allow their child to burn forever? That would indicate that an earthly love is greater than gods love for us. Even human beings wouldn't allow each other to burn forever. We are far too compassionate for that yet we believe our all loving god will burn us?

    We nefer created ourselves. We didn't ask to be born under which parents, or which nation or which social status. Yet all of this plays a huge part in which religion you are raised under and how you morally form as a person. A child that is born under a wicked set of parents has close to no chance at heaven because they will be taught that right is wrong and wrong is right. So they grow up only living based on how their parents taught them and eventually die and burn in hell based on circumstances they had no control over. Yet religious folks claim we CHOOSE hell because we are born faulty and imperfect..

    No one is perfect therefore you would have to repent every second of the day to have a good chance of making it to heaven. the bible says if you think of a sin it's a sin so literally no one would make heaven unless they got extremely lucky and god allowed them to die at the perfect time in life where they just asked for forgiveness.

    I think it's time to find a new way of thinking because love should never be fueled by fear of death or pain. That is not true love.;

    • http://www.theturngroup.com/ Rodney Liber

      Your whole argument is based on a false premise. Its not Gods business to keep people out of hell. Your eternal destination is your choice, not God. God says he wish that ALL would choose him. Most wont. That is what free will is. No one chooses hell because they are faulty or imperfect. People choose hell because they choose not to follow the will of the creator. They choose to do life on their own terms.

      Furthermore, when you come across something that appears to be a contradiction in the Bible, stop and pray! It is not that there are contradictions, it is that your understanding is not yet where it needs to be to understand yet.

      Bottom line… People that go to Heaven are those who chose in their life to walk with God, talk with God, to build a relationship with their creator, repenting for their sins along the way. Most importantly, knowing we are not perfect we ask God to guide our steps, our thoughts and to lead us as the Lord over and in our life. Surrender your will to his. Of course we make mistakes and sin. We will to the day we die. Those who live their life in Christ shall be saved. Those who CHOOSE to live as if there is no God and live their life within themselves have chosen to NOT spend their eternity with God. WHY would you want to spend an eternity with God when you would not spend a life time living with/for him. He will only honor your choice when you die.

      It is your choice, your responsibility. Not Gods! Sounds like things are not making since to you. I pray that you press into the Word of God, ask him to open your ears, eyes and heart to what his Word says and work out your salvation with him. :)

  • Stuart

    Personally i believe in God. but i have always believed that hell was reserved for the lowest of the low, Murderers, Rapists, Phaedophiles. I simply will not believe that god would judge us and condemn us to hell forever because we do not believe in him. God knows we are not perfect. God loves us and forgives us. Would you condemn someone you love to hell for all eternity?

    • Drew

      Stuart,

      If you believe in God, then you must believe in His Word and that He is righteous and soverign. Meaning, He can do what He wants, so what you personally think will happen about hell will not matter. Getting into heaven is not as easy as you believe. Read Luke 13:22-30 about how narrow the way is into heaven. The Bible is clear that if someone is not saved, asking Jesus into their heart, then this person will spend an eternity in hell. Murderers, Rapists, and Phaedophiles will be there as well (only if they do not repent and ask forgiveness of their sins), but so will all non-believers and some people who thought they were Christians.

      God's love is unconditional. He sent His Son to die for us in order to take place of our sins. God did not have to die for our sins. He did this out of His grace, mercy, and love for us.

      And yes, God does know we are not perfect. We are all born into sin due to Adam and Eve's Fall, so it is vital that all people accept Christ as their Savior on this earth. God will not let an unsaved person into heaven (someone who does not have a relationship with Him- Luke 13:22-30). And that is why we need a sacrifice, blood (life), for our sins. Jesus Christ is the ultimate and only sacrifice for the sins of the world. It is true that God does love us and forgives us, but the breaking of His laws cannot be forgiven until a perfect sacrifice has been made. Jesus Christ was that sacrifice because He never sinned (making Him perfect).

      God doesn't want us to go to Hell. If God gave us these commands in Exodus 20, that Jesus also elaborated on in the gospels, and we failed to keep these commands but God let us enter into heaven anyways, then God would not be just. There are penalties for sin, which is hell.

      A person must ask for their sins to be forgiven and repent of those sins. God took everybody's sins with Him on the cross, but in order to avoid hell a person must accept Christ to dwell in their heart.

      After only a few seconds of a person's death, that person will realize how he/she should haved lived their life here on earth. God loves everyone. He is a just God. And, He desires a relationship with all of us.

      The Bible consitently supports this, so I cannot use all of the scripture to help me back everything up. So, read the Bible and you will gain more evidence supporting my statements.

    • http://www.theturngroup.com/ Rodney Liber

      God condemns not a single soul to hell. He gave us free will to choose our own destination. God will love you unconditionally no matter your choice. But, make no mistake. It is your responsibility. Those who think it isnt are those who refuse to take personal responsibility for living out the principles set forth in Gods word. Its real clear how you get to Heaven and how you get to hell. Two roads, which one do YOU choose? God will love you no matter which way you decide.

  • Lois Hoffer

    This is one reason, I think, why people start believing in reincarnation: because then you'd get more chances to "straighten up and fly right".

    I come from a scientific/physics background…although I use alternative medicine and find it works well, too. I'm more apt to believe that however we were created, we work via some basic principles…including for instance that being angry all the time makes you sick and being forgiving and loving makes you well. Perhaps "Heaven" and "Hell" are simply the completely NATURAL result of how you interact with the world, how you feel…the more fear, the worse you feel, the more love, the better, kindof thing. Have you ever seen one of those really rabid fear-mongers on TV? I don't think they are happy or relaxed. They are ALREADY living in Hell…?

    I'd like to think that we get an infinite number of lives to experience the whole gamut from Hitler to Mother Teresa, to test out which brings us higher, which makes us lower, and eventually, we will ALL find our way "up" to him/her. And in the meantime, we experience the consequences in our own bodies and lives right now, of our current choices.

  • Marshall

    I know for a fact that I believe in a higher power/creator. There are simply too many things that point to this. For instance, if the Sun was any closer to Earth we would burn up and life would cease to exist. If it was farther away, we would freeze to death. If we did not have a moon, life very well may not exist. Everything just came together perfectly for life on Earth to exist…it just makes sense that this was all part of a higher power's plan. Look at our human bodies…they are incredible in every way. Go study just a fraction of anatomy and physiology and see how many thousands of things inside of us work together for us to function the way we do…and not only that, but the fact that all of these tiny processes and "parts to a whole" HAVE to work this way or we can die. Their are just way too many coincidences for there not to be a creator.

    However, I grew up in the SE United States, aka the "Bible Belt." Basically the only religion I grew up around was Christianity. Therefore, if I was going to believe in anything, the overwhelming odds were that it was going to be Christianity. I consider myself a Christian, but I would be lying to you all if I said I did not have any doubts. However, my MAIN doubt is the one stated below.

    "If you were born in saudi arabia chances are you would be Islamic talking about how you believe in allah and that he is the only way. So people that are born in the wrong place, at the wrong time like native americans who were killed and raped by christian faith based people will burn in hell because they never accepted jesus in their life? This is just?"

    Every time I mention this point to fellow believers, they can't give me a satisfactory (for me) answer! It is so frustrating! I am not naive enough to think that if I grew up in the Middle East that I would still be Christian. I'm pretty certain that if all of my friends and family were of a different religion, say Islam, that I would be of Islamic faith as well. Combine all of that influence with a culture that you could be killed if you do not believe in a certain religion (plenty of cultures out there like that, I was lucky not to grow up somewhere like that), and that only furthers my point. Would I go to hell simply bc I wasn't surrounded by the "right" influences?? Would I go to hell essentially bc I grew up in the wrong place at the wrong time??

    Don't give me this argument that "that is what missionaries are for"…bc missionaries don't reach near everyone. Also, let's imagine an Islamic missionary coming to Alabama, where I live, to preach to me about converting to his/her religion or I'm going to hell. I can tell you it really would take an act of God for that to happen. Fact is is that there is way too much Christian influence around me…my family is Christian and so are several of my friends. Plus, I am partial to Christianity due to what I've been taught all my life! The odds of me converting to Islam are next to NOTHING. Therefore, putting yourself in their shoes, how would hardly any people actually convert to Christianity if the situation were reversed?

    I just can't imagine my God punishing these people for being born into another religion. How is that fair?? What if someone has FAITH and believes in something you cannot see (like Jesus)? What if they live to follow their covenant and try to live with good morals at the same time? What if they believe in a higher power and believe life actually has a purpose and that there is something after this life on Earth for mankind? Are these people going to hell bc they grew up somewhere where Christianity was in the vast minority? This is by far my number question. There are so many religions out there…enough to NOT have time to study near all of them. How do I know that I picked the RIGHT one in order to have eternal life?? Why do these other people go to hell when they were pretty much born into other religions, not by choice of their own??

    Can someone ACTUALLY attempt to really answer this question???!!

    • Diana A.

      I'm not sure if I can really answer this question, but I'm willing to let you know what I think.

      “If you were born in Saudi Arabia chances are you would be Islamic talking about how you believe in Allah and that he is the only way. So people that are born in the wrong place, at the wrong time like Native Americans who were killed and raped by christian faith based people will burn in hell because they never accepted Jesus in their life? This is just?”

      No, it isn't just, which is why I don't believe it is true. I do believe that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God, but God didn't stop revealing himself with the life of Jesus. I believe that God is ruthless in his love for all people (all beings for that matter) and so will do whatever it takes to bring us home to him. If that means going through other religions, God will use other religions. God isn't nearly as prissy about these things as some of us like to think. To me, rigid dogmatism and the need to threaten other people with dire penalties (both now and after death) for failing to buy into that dogmatism–these things are more about our own fear and need to be right than they are about God.

      In the end, God looks at our hearts, not our heads. So it's less about picking "the right religion" than it is about having the right attitude–one that loves God (however we understand him/her) and loves neighbor (all people being our neighbors.)

      • Marshall

        Diana A.,

        Thanks for your comments. I've tried to imagine God letting all people into heaven that have faith, try to live with good morals, believe in a creator, believe that life has a purpose, believe that once you die life doesn't simply end and there is nothing else left, etc. However, I don't mention this to fellow Christians bc I know that would completely be against the idea. If this really was the case, it would make my commitment to Christianity much more solid.

        Jeanine,

        I really appreciate this effort, and it does definitely help me out. The explanations make sense and I've gained more from your answer than any other I've heard before. It puts me at ease more so than in the past. That's pretty awesome about that church in Iran too.

        With all of that said, there is still something irking me. Let's say God "sends someone" your way that witnesses to you temporarily…and you live in an area dominated by another religion. If you want to convert to Christianity and follow God in order to be saved, that is wonderful. However, when that messenger is gone, what then? I can easily see this being a "religious high" of sorts. I've had them. Over time, and being influenced by friends and family on a daily basis, you might stray back to the religion you have been brought up in…in fact, that is the very likely scenario. In this instance, would God continuously find ways to put Jesus into your heart? Or would this be God's one and only offer that you better not reject or you will go to hell? Would this be the "refusal of seeing the light" as you mention?? I mean, this type of person would want to accept God, but there would be just so much outside influence that could very well hinder this from happening. I would hope God would find many more ways to reach someone in this situation due to them not being surrounded by Christians whatsoever. It just doesn't seem like everyone is on the same playing field when it comes to being influenced to follow God and get into heaven..? That is what I have a problem with. God is all powerful and all knowing…so I could assume that he can reach anyone that wants to be reached…that he will send someone or put a vision in someone's head in order to reach them (even in somewhere like the Middle East). Logically speaking, however, this is just so hard for me to honestly believe.

        I am very analytical, and this makes taking things at face value harder for me to do. Some people can just say "okay, sounds good" and believe in something for the rest of their life. I struggle very much with this, which hinders my commitment to Christianity. It makes me question my faith more so than most I think. I don't like being like this, but I cannot help myself. I realize I'm never going to come close to understanding everything, understanding God's will for others (heck, I don't know God's will for me yet). However, I need to know and accept my God not only as a loving God, but ALSO as a FAIR God in order to devote my life to him. I believe in Jesus, that he died on the cross to save us from our sins, etc. However, the doubts I mention are keeping me from giving my life to God, from living like a Christian should live, etc. I know deep inside that I have a GOOD heart. However, I don't live like a Christian should. I don't set a Godly example. I don't read His word like I should. I pray, but not like I should. I still desire to go out with friends and party, which is not the Christian thing to do. I've just never had this burning desire to change yet. I've been saved, but I know I need to change my ways in order to make sure I have a spot in paradise with God. I guess the fairest thing to say is that I LIKE God right now, but I'm not in LOVE with God to the point where I strive everyday to do what he would want. I hope a burning desire comes over me soon, but until these doubts/questions go away, I doubt that happens. The worst part about it is that while I know I need to change, I don't have an urge to make the effort. I don't have an urge to read His word even though I know I need to. I don't know if I'm ready to give up the lifestyle I have now. This is just a confusing time, and I know that I could perish tomorrow (which is scary). I think I would go to heaven, but I don't KNOW that I would go to heaven. It's not the most secure feeling in the world.

        • Jeanine

          You sound a lot like me in terms of how your mind works.

          Regarding your first question, the Bible says over and over again that 'God is not willing that any should perish, but that 'all' should come to repentance.' No way do I think He gives us one chance and then, hey forget you. Actually, I think he gives us every possible chance; until he knows that our hearts and minds are made up and have really decided either for or against him.

          Think of Pharaoh in Egypt. God could have just struck him dead, blinded the Egyptians and made the way of escape for his people. He could have just zapped them out without a trace. But no, he gave Pharaoh a choice to obey Him. Again and again God spoke to him, sending signs and wonders -proving to Pharaoh who He was. Ten times he tried to get Pharoah to repent and finally Pharoah let God's people go. They left and God sent no more judgement on Pharaoh. But it did not end there. Pharoah changed his mind and in open rebellion against God, tried to overtake the children of Israel to recapture them. Only then does God destroy Pharoah.

          I think God is patient beyond anything we could imagine. But I also think that the Bible teaches that His patience will come to an end.

          Psalm 95 says,

          Today, if you will hear His voice: 8 "Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work. 10 For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, 'It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.' 11 So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.' "

        • Jeanine

          And please allow me to share one other thing.

          When I was in college years ago, I was asking all kinds of questions like this. I was also raised a Christian and believed in Jesus and his death on the cross. My architecture major had a small class, so for all five years I was in class with the same people daily. There was a group of about 5 'born-again' Christians in that class. I had both a respect for them and sort of a disgust for them.

          They were perfectly harmless and never said a mean word to anyone; they had a great bond between themselves; and seemed to really live out what they said they believed. This I guess is why I respected them. However, I was also disgusted by them because I thought they were looking down on me (a liked to party as well). I thought they were self-righteous and had a holier-than-thou attitude. I knew I wasn't perfect and thought that I was forgiven by God just like they were. Who gave them the right to act so pure? I was not going to be so conceited; I was going to hang around with sinners just like Jesus did.

          Well, fast-forward about 6 or 7 years. I was now a single mom, with a 4-year old and my fiance' (who I had been dating for 6 years) cheats on me while we were planning the wedding. I had always tried so hard to be a good person in my heart (if not so in my actions); but now I found myself in a deep, deep pit. This is where God met me. He showed me the darkness of my own heart and how many times I had rejected Him and His ways. I was completely broken and very sorry. Sorry for everything really, my whole life.

          And miracle upon miracle; he lifted me out of that pit and I became 'born-again'. The blood of Jesus washed me whiter than snow. He removed the darkness that stood between me and Him. My heart came alive and the things I used to do became disgusting to me, because they had really kept me from knowing who God is. He changed me inside and out and continues to change me daily. Just like watching a baby learn and grow; I can see myself learn and grow to be more like Him. I couldn't even help myself when it came to reading the Bible. I craved it. I still do.

          I now understand that being 'born-again' is something that happens to us; it is not something we say we are. And the goodness I saw in those kids in college was not self-righteousness, it was His righteousness. He gave it to them, they did not develop it on their own.

          I hope you understand what I am saying. I don't think everyone needs to be in a pit like me to recieve God's grace; but I guess I was just such a know-it-all, it was the only way he could get my attention.

          I hope you will be blessed Marshall, and come to realize that the lifestyle we try to hang on to is really just a lie – nothing can compare to the goodness and joy of knowing the one true God, being 'born-again' and sure of our salvation our inheritance in Christ. Everything else just falls away and we don't miss it one bit. He does not just ask us to give up this and that; when we are sincere; He fills us up to overflowing with truly good things that bring us life and love and joy and peace and friendship and answers and so on and so on…..

          :)

          • Jeanine

            He takes away our sinfulness and fills us up with Himself.

      • http://www.theturngroup.com/ Rodney Liber

        Jesus is pretty clear. NO one comes to the Father but thru him. We may not know all the intricacies of how it all works, but teaching there are many paths to God is a line I personally do not want to walk. Be careful.

  • Jeanine

    I struggled with this question for a long time myself; and Dr. Adrain Rogers gave a Biblical answer to it in one of his sermons that has really satisfied me with that question. I’ll try to condense what he said for you (if it gets long, then hang in there, I am not going to give all of the verses). He used 4 – R’s as follows:

    1. Revelation – ‘All men’ are given ‘some’ light by God. John 1:9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

    The witnesses to this light are creation and conscience. Creation as seen in Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Conscience as seen in Romans 1:18-19 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

    2. Refusal – Light refused increases darkness. This can be seen in Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

    A man denies the Truth because of his sin. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

    3. Reception – Light obeyed increases light. Creation and conscience show us the fact of God but not the way to God. God is under no obligation to show a man the way to God who is not even interested in the fact of God.

    Luke 19:26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.”

    God has given to each man a measure of faith and it is the man’s responsibility to respond to it. If he does he is given more light, if he rejects it because of his sin, the truth he has will be taken from him. If someone has progressed enough in the truth that they are ready to hear the gospel and know the way of salvation; God will send somebody.

    There are countless stories like this in Christiandom – if you listen to people’s testimonies of how they came to Christ, you will see that many, many Christians were led to salvation by perfect strangers that they never saw again. There is an instance in the Bible in Acts 8:26-40 where God sends Phillip out into the desert to speak with an Ethiopian about the way of salvation. It is a great story. Phillip chases him down in his chariot and jumps aboard to explain to him the ancient scriptures. The Ethiopian beleives in the Lord Jesus Christ and gets baptized.

    There are also stories in the Bible where a missionary did not go, but the Lord himself went. The apostle Paul was met by Jesus in a vision on the road to Damascus and was led to salvation by the Lord.

    I was just recently listening to a Pastor speak who has one of the only Christian churches in Iran. He shared several stories about Muslims who were visited in a dream by Jesus and led to salvation. The church in Iran today is actually growing way faster than most churches in the west, and there are hardly any Christian teachers in Iran because of the intense persecution.

    Pastor Rogers said that he believes the scriptures teach that “there has never been a man who has lived or died without an opportunity to receive Chirst had they lived up to the light that God gave them.”

    4. Reconning – We will not be judged by the sin we have committed; but we will be judged by the light we have rejected.

    Romans 2:4-8 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

    According to this passage – all have sinned and must repent before a holy God and ‘SEEK’ to do good. It is not Christianity as a religion that saves us (the Bible talks of many who think they are saved who are not) – it is the right understanding of who God is and who we are; and knowing that God has made the way to be right with him through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Because God is Righteous – the price for our sins had to be paid by soembody. Accepting Jesus work on the cross with a truly repentant heart restores our relationship with Holy God.

    Well, this sermon was very helpful to me; I hope you can gain something from it as well. Dr. Rogers said one other thing in this sermon that I always remembered – regarding people who doubt the existance of God and the work of Jesus on the cross.

    He said that there are two kinds of doubters – honest and dishonest.

    Honest doubters really want to know the truth and have just not yet found sufficient light to answer what their hearts want to know.

    Dishonest doubters cannot find God for the same reason that a theif cannot find a policeman!

    I looked in his sermon archives, but I couldn’t find the link for the sermon I am talking about here. You might enjoy listening to some of his other sermons though, he is a wonderful Bible teacher. http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/love-worth-finding/listen/broadcast-archives.html

  • Thomas Logie

    I agree that God cannot love me with His electing love and then send me to the Lake of Fire. God is often patient and tender with the wicked for a long time as we measure time, but Romans 9-11 and Ephesians 1-2 make it clear that His electing love precedes our response of repentance and faith. Yes, God’s treatment of Pharaoh and of Esau in Romans 9 also teach that He exercises His right to condemn as well as to bless based on His own plan which is in no way contingent on our responses. Our default setting from the Fall forward has ben to deny and defy God. If God chooses not to change it through His Holy Spirit, then matters will run their course right through the condemnation of Matthew 25:31-46. We will never change that fatal default setting on our own — we naturally like it too much! We make genuine choices because we cannot know God’s will before He reveals it, but His plan controls in sovereign power.

    • Bones

      The author of Revelation is using symbolic imagery with regards to the Lake of Fire. Hades and Death cannot be burned or destroyed because they simply don’t exist. They are states of non-being.

      The point is that Death has been overcome.

    • http://www.theturngroup.com/ Rodney Liber

      God does not send anyone to hell. Your eternal destination is your choice. He will love you regardless of your decision.

  • fire lion

    A bunch of sophistry. In the end all christians can say is ” god works mysteriously”
    If something is pure love then it will never create an environment that allows for suffering. As simple as that.

    Why even create other beings other than yourself. Omnipotence can never be logical. Christians try to keep their murderous god in their god of love. What a warped religion. Truly all religions are a reflection of the men who created them.

  • Bones

    Hell is a human, medieval construct.

    It simply doesn’t exist beyond this life.


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