Monday, September 01, 2008

Why does God send good people go to hell?

Two recent events have me thinking. Someone asked "why do good people go to hell?" and someone else asked "do miscarried infant goes to heaven?" These types of question plague me. I can't pretend to know the answers. But, I have some food for thought.

First, I see two reasons these questions frustrate me:

1) I do not understand justice.

I understand salvation is a matter of justice. The problem is that I do not understand justice. My simple sense of justice is "fairness". But, God's is mercy. While "the punishment should fit the crime" and "flour for the bakers" are my definitions, God defines justice as he acts. It is pattern-less and unpredictable.

I see that my understanding of justice is retributive. It is a cornerstone to political stability. And just because it is pragmatic does not mean this is all there is to justice. If anything, it makes justice more elusive. I consider effective things complete. Justice, however, is more – and it must be.

If salvation is a matter of justice, and my understanding of justice is superficial/incomplete, then my understanding of salvation is superficial/incomplete. When I try to understand salvation, I find it superficial and inconsistent. I find it frustrating.

2) I impose my justice on God.

I can't accept scenarios where Hitler is in heaven and Mother Theresa is in hell. I can't accept these because they are incompatible with my sense of justice. Since I can't accept it, I insist on disagreeing with God – there must be a misunderstanding, a misinterpretation, or an error.

Yet God is clear that my outward life is meaningless, while my invisible heart defines my relationship with God, which is eternal life's only key.

I want to believe good people have good hearts and bad people have bad hearts. But I know the truth – I sometimes appear good when my heart is dark. Outward appearances lie. As a result, I am in error to say "good people". Who knows what lies in the hearts of men? God - and The Shadow.

Still, "sending" apparently good people to hell is uncomfortable – although only half as much as "sending" bad people to heaven. It forces me to disagree with God. It causes me to insist on some misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or error.

Yet God created salvation. And it is God who has given it to us and described it.

Why do good people go to hell?

First, I am ignoring the typical question wording: "why does God send good people to hell?" because God does NOT "send" people to hell. If you think God sends people to hell, stop reading.

In case you kept reading, let me briefly explain hell – and I will do so by explaining heaven. When you hear a symphony in perfect harmony, observe the interconnectedness of nature, or love a child, then you understand how a thing can be "right" simply because it is where it belongs.

It could be a fleeting moment, but it is beautiful. Now imagine that moment lasting forever – not because it does not end, but because it is outside of "time". Forget about how that can be possible; consider how "right" it would be – you are where you "belong" forever. That is God's heaven.

It's not one of a list of choices, either. For you there is one perfect place. Early believers called it the "bosom of Abraham" but that's not only antiquated, but it's also a little awkward sounding. God explains "that" place as perfect communion with him.

This description of heaven makes the description of hell considerably easy.

So, hell is anything else; it is not the "right" place for you. It is not perfect communion with God. God, who is perfect, could not enter into imperfect communion. Instead, you are "outside the communion of God" – which is hell's classic definition. It is an awful forever without God – not where you "belong".

Don't be confused. Hell is not an analogy. And the sorrow, mourning, pain, and suffering are real. Once you realize the reality of God and eternity, you will truly mourn not having it. And, oddly, you will not be angry with God, but rather lament the decisions you made.

Does God send people to hell?

How can he? God invites us to perfect communion with him – heaven. He prepares a place, he makes a way, and he cheers us along the path. If we stop, deciding on a different way – we miss the banquet at God's table. God has done what he could; each of us must choose where we go.

How can faith alone save?

For one, God says so. He tells us that putting our faith in Jesus is all he needs. We know we need to be perfect, and God knows we never could be. So God built a bridge between where we are and where we need to be. If we take his offer, he will follow-through for us.

What if someone has never heard God?

I know two things are true. 1) God has made a way for every single man. No one is with excuse – and God didn't make his details clear. 2) When we are able to see God's true, perfect justice we will rejoice in it. We will not weep and petition against God – we will celebrate justice as it was meant to be.

So, why witness?

For most men, you are God's plan. You are how he plans to bring them to Christ. You, the church, evangelism – all part of the plan. God's counting on you, sure, but so is everyone else.

Can I mess up God's plans?

Yes. On an individual basis, God's plans are derailed every day. He doesn't PLAN on people to sin. And don't be fooled, your sin impacts others. Imagine if you resist God's call to reach others for Jesus. By the time your check clears, they could have been killed by a drunk driver – yet another person who decided to NOT do what God had planned.

So, why does God send good people to hell?

He doesn't. People send themselves to hell. God makes a way – but he doesn't force the choice. And, if you don't mind me saying, who on this entire planet is "good"?

Hey, what about a miscarried child?

Well, sin separates us from God. He just can't tolerate sin because it is contrary to his will and fundamentally imperfect – fundamentally incompatible. We would be perfect if not for our sin.

So, what is sin? Sin is selfishness. It's wanting what you want. We describe God as agape love – selfless love. He is the opposite of sin. But is a child selfish? An hour in a nursery and you'll see who matters most to a child. It's me-me-me-me from the very beginning. Sin is truly our first nature.

If "me" is the problem, is there a time we don't know of "me"?

I think so.

To me, life begins after conception – when brain activity begins. Although I am against abortion from conception (just in case), I don't believe consciousness exists prior to brain activity. As a result, I believe in a time after conception, before self-awareness, when we have not committed sin.

But is it our sinful action alone that separates us from God? No. Indeed, it is the very nature of what we are – sinful creatures – that separates us. Our sinful actions are mere manifestations of what we are. And what we are is incompatible with God.

What does this have to with children?

Honestly, I'm not sure. Do miscarriages and aborted children go to heaven? I just don't know. I know what I want the answer to be. But ultimately, I have to trust God. Trust his justice. Trust his perfectness. When the day comes when I finally see, my faith tells me I will be pleased.

That's all I can do.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thoughts, I am mulling them over as I type, could I ask for your views on free will vs. predestination? Do you believe that unregenerate man can, without the assistance of God, make a decision to follow God?

Oberland

Jerry Nixon said...

The predestination thing is too long of an answer here, but I look forward to blogging about it shortly in more detail. To summarize, I believe a "free predesintation" (a term I have just coined) which, naturally, needs some explaination - but I do not see the presumed contradition between free will and predesintation. But more on that later...

Your second question is answered elsewhere. My opinion of the answer is the result of what I already see. When I was outside of God's will, when I was yet to know God's glory in my own life, I recognized my hopelessness in sin and chose God as my personal lord and eternal savior. So, yes, I believe the unregenerate can choose God. I know many others. What do you think?

Tatsak said...

2 Timothy 4:1-"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead....." NIV

Revelation 20:15-"If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was THROWN into the lake of fire." NIV

God is not ambiguous about sending people to hell. The same way a judge sends people to jail.
I understand that hell and the lake of fire might be 2 different places but if someone is in hell they will be thrown into the lake of fire, being that their names are not written in the book of life, hence, no relationship with Jesus Christ.

Thank you for your thoughts on this subject. God Bless!

Anonymous said...

"I don't believe consciousness exists prior to brain activity."

So would you admit it doesn't exist after the brain is dead?

Michael said...

Hey Jason, I enjoyed reading this and I have been talking to my college friend just tonight and one of the topics of nice debate that came up was this; God gave us free will, he allowed us to choose Him, to believe in Jesus and to live eternity with Him. Yet he knows that some people will not accept Him, he knows some people will do every good work that [should] come with being a Christian, but they won't believe in Jesus. Has he not basically created these people for hell? The main question that came from my friend was "How can a God look down on someone who has done so much good in the world, helped so many people, lived a respectful life being there for others not go to heaven because he decided to not believe in Me?" We both understand being inherently evil.

When you respond could you also send to my email at mtschmidt@crimson.ua.edu too please because may forget to check this website. I definitely accept more questions or clarifications. Thanks.

Michael

Jerry Nixon said...

To be clear, I meant to draw the contrast between God "sending" people to Hell (which I do not believe) and people "earning" their place in Hell and God therefore fulfilling that as a matter of his perfect Justice (which summarizes my belief). To be clear, however, it is because we are sinners that we qualify for a place in Hell and not necessarily our sin – this is what we have received from Adam. It is incompatible with God’s perfect presence. In contrast, I also believe the Lake of Fire is intended to be a consequence of sin and not a punishment - because as I understand it, punishment is fundamentally intended for reconciliation. God will “throw” those into it as an act of his Justice, not an act of desire.

Jerry Nixon said...

You asked: "So would you admit it doesn't exist after the brain is dead?"

Yes, that is exactly the way I see it. Brain activity appears to be the telltale of consciousness and life.

Before it, I don't believe there is life (though I am still against abortion from conception in case I am wrong about this).

After it, like a victim of a car wreck or an aged man, I believe this physical life is over. No brain activity, to me, means no life.