Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Here's What I Think
Would God allow a repentant mass murderer into heaven and send millions of good moral people to hell? This is the kind of question that troubles many people when they consider Christianity. I certainly cannot solve all of the issues related to this in one short post, but let me explain how I understand the Bible and the God it presents to us.
First there is the question as to how we come to a conclusion of what is fair and just and what is not. Is this something that we as human beings come to individually or even collectively, or is it something outside of ourselves? If the question of fairness and justice is something we each come to individually, it is then true that all of us reach the same conclusions on every single issue that confronts us? I don't think so. So is justice a matter of collective agreement? We take a majority vote on whether it is just or fair to treat someone in a certain way? Was slavery right and just because at that time there was a consensus that it was right and good? Should we have left Hitler alone because he and a good number of other Germans thought Jews were inferior and should be exterminated? Are these things a matter of public opinion or do they transcend our human decision making process? I think you know the answer to that question.
If we have to look beyond ourselves to find out what is just and fair, where do we look? Many people, including myself, have concluded that the God presented to us in the Bible is the one who determines how things are and what is just and fair and moral. Obviously not everyone agrees with that, but that is where I'm coming from.
If we accept the Bible as the definitive presentation of the God who is actually out there, we have to accept God as he is presented. If we don't like the God of the Bible, we'll need to look elsewhere. In other words, we can't call ourselves Christians and then at the same time reject the God that the Bible presents. If we do that, we are not truly Christians; we are something else.
Does the Bible teach that if a man like Hitler were to repent at the end of his life and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, he would be forgiven and enter heaven? The answer is yes. How is that fair when millions of others who are morally upright may be sent to hell?
I think that the problem is that we don't understand God's assessment of all of us. This may not make more people like the God of the Bible, but the Bible teaches that all of us have sinned and have fallen short of God's standard. (Romans 3:23) It teaches that there is no one who is righteous and no one who truly seeks after the real God. (Romans 3:10-18) It teaches that committing one sin makes us guilty of breaking the whole law and subjects us to God's curse. (Galatians 3:10)
The problem in the scenario that we are discussing is that we are assuming that the great multitude of people are good, upstanding, moral individuals. The Bible does not describe us that way. It's interesting the way people tend to view Jesus. He is painted as a meek and mild person who wouldn't condemn or judge anyone but just be loving and kind. One day some people came to him and told him about some Jewish people who had been murdered by Pilate and had their blood mixed in with the blood of the sacrifices. Jesus' response to this was interesting. He said, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
He then went on to say this, "Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Luke 15-1-5)
The whole Bible and Jesus included presents the fact that all of us have committed crimes against the ruler of the universe and that all of us stand as condemned men and women before God. That includes me and it includes you and it included Hitler and it included Mother Teresa.
But, and it's a big "but", the good news is that Jesus, God in human form, came here and lived the perfect life we should have lived, and he died the death and separation from God that sin required. Jesus' claim is that if we would accept the free gift of God's forgiveness and accept Christ's life and death as applicable to us, God will look at Christ's life as being ours and will proclaim us righteous and forgiven. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me." (John 14:6) According to the Bible and to Jesus, there are no actual alternative solutions to our dilemma.
The question is not why God would send innocent people to hell. The question is, "Why would God allow anyone at all into heaven?" He does so because he is merciful and gracious.
The God of the Bible is not the wrathful, vindictive, vacillating being that he is sometimes pictured to be. Neither is he the wishy-washy, weak being who overlooks wrongs right and left and lets injustices slide through unnoticed. He hates sin and injustice so much that he came and took the punishment for the world's injustices upon himself so that in love he could justly pardon anyone who humbly comes to him for forgiveness whether it be one of the most "morally upright" people in the world or one of the most despicable.