Sometimes ideas have consequences: good and bad. Often people who hate an idea will pretend that an idea has consequences, but it does not. An idea might have consequences, just not those consequences.
This is an another important thing to know! Here is a common example I often meet in the wilds of social media.
Suppose a person, after careful thought, decides she knows an idea to be true: “Heaven exists and knowing Jesus is the only way to go to Heaven.” I am supposing this to be true, not arguing for it here. Christian theologians and philosophers have made arguments for this idea, received from (what we think) is Divine Revelation.
Suppose this idea is true for the sake of argument. A critic will claim as a result: “You must know all kinds of other things!” and then suggest those other things are either obviously false or wrongheaded. This might be right: some ideas have consequences that show an idea to be very unlikely true or at least deeply troubling.
That’s a good reason to go look at that idea more closely. However, sometimes the critic has made a leap from what I know to something that does not follow!
Take the case of Heaven and Jesus.
I have been told (by a critic) that if I believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, then I must know that he (the critic) is not going to Heaven.
The critic will often go out of his way to show he does not know Jesus. He will assert (even if only for the sake of his argument) that Jesus does not exist, blaspheme Jesus, and deny that Heaven exists. He will state that if Heaven exists, he does not want to go there. Following all this, he will ask why a loving God would send someone who merely lacks belief from going to Heaven. If he is a nice chap, he will point out that as a nice chap (at least as nice as I am), this seems very harsh, since he has thought as hard about it as he is capable.
There are many ways one might respond, but the best sort of response is to see if the critic is right assuming everything he says about himself is true. Let’s grant he has engaged in utterly sincere intellectual activity and has examined the best arguments for Christianity, Heaven, and Jesus. Let us assume he is merely unpersuaded and has no other (bad motive) for rejecting Jesus. Let’s assume he is enormously nicer than anyone else I know. He is saintly with divine sanctification.
The critic is a moral paragon who rejects Jesus while doing the best he can to examine the claims of Christ. (Surely some such person has existed, even if not this critic?)
I still know nothing and cannot know anything about his eternal destiny. I cannot possibly know or judge the state of his soul in eternity.
First, the critic may not believe now, but he has time ahead of him. Even if a second after saying his worst blasphemy, he dies, there is the moment of death. What happens then?
We do not know.
However, if we have supposed God exists and is good and everything else the critic asserts, we might believe God will clarify the whole situation perfectly at the moment. We don’t know if God does, but given the assumptions of the critic and traditional Christain theology, surely God must. God is just, God will damn no man merely out of ignorance (we are assuming). Yet “no” means “no” and God would not force anyone to love him.
Assuming the critic is the perfect truth seeker he claims to be, my assumption is that he would turn to God. I even have reasonable hope this is true. God does not desire anyone to perish and so I must not desire this either.
“Ah,” the critic says, “don’t you think anyone is in Hell? Who would reject bliss?”
Here I must say: “I don’t know. I hope I would not.” Yet the critic is too hasty. I know people over a lifetime to get ever more stuck in their ways. The older I get the more I hate the vices of my youth, but some might not go that way. Perhaps, they become stuck in them and justify them. Maybe they say “no” as they run out of time into timeless eternity.
Assuming they had perfect clarity of the consequences, “no meaning no,” then a choice has been made. That the result is awful is not God’s fault if God has made this clear. Maybe I am cynical, but I have no trouble believing somebody will make that choice. If so, no Heaven for that sad soul.
Maybe. Maybe not.
The point is simple: I know Jesus is the only way, but have not the faintest clue who found the way. I know many who look like they are following Jesus are not. I was once that way, through self-deception. (God have mercy!) Mayhap’s many who look like they are not following Jesus are, through the work of the Holy Spirit, being prepared to accept Christ.
I do not know. The critic does not know. Nothing about what I believe means the critic is surely damned. I need to recall what I don’t know!
Of course, the critic is unwise to deny reality, very unwise. He might be preparing his soul badly. If I bet, wouldn’t I bet the critic is damned?
Maybe, but why make such a bet? I don’t wish anyone in particular to miss Heaven. I would hope everyone would choose God, though I know (through Divine Revelation) many will not. Who will miss out? We are told by Jesus that many we think are “in” aren’t and many we think our “out” are “in!”
So it goes.
My job is to witness to the truth, to urge friends to embrace the truth, not to guess who has done so or not. I am not the Judge.