Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Is Gandhi in Hell?"

By George W. Sarris

In a recent interview with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Tim Keller was asked a question that both Christians and non-Christians wonder about at one time or another.
I’m troubled by the evangelical notion that people go to heaven only if they have a direct relationship with Jesus. Doesn’t that imply that billions of people — Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus — are consigned to hell because they grew up in non-Christian families around the world? That Gandhi is in hell?
As usual, Tim’s response was perceptive and satisfactory . . . as far as it went. However, he never really answered the question. Instead, he ended his comment by suggesting that there is an answer, but that answer is hidden in the mystery of God.
There is still the question of fairness regarding people who have grown up away from any real exposure to Christianity . . . I don’t think it is insurmountable. Just because I can’t see a way doesn’t prove there cannot be any such way. If we have a God big enough to deserve being called God, then we have a God big enough to reconcile both justice and love.
It Wasn’t Always This Way
Kristof’s question would not have posed as big a problem for believers in the early centuries of the Christian Church.
During the first five centuries after Christ, most Christians believed that God would ultimately redeem all of His creation. For them, hell was real, but it had a positive purpose. And it didn’t last forever! They believed Jesus Christ succeeded in His mission to seek and save the lost. The greatest story ever told was the greatest story that could ever be told!
Their answer to the question? Gandhi and every other person created by God will ultimately be in heaven.
However, for the last 1,500 years, most of Christendom has been told that the majority of the billions of people who have lived on this earth will remain separated from the love and mercy of God for all eternity. The moms and dads . . . grandmas and grandpas . . . sons and daughters . . . relatives and friends who have not exhibited the “right kind” of faith here in this life will be shut up in a place called hell to suffer forever.
But is that really true?
Is the greatest story ever told – the story of the creation, fall and redemption of mankind – really a tragedy for the vast majority of people who have ever lived . . . including many who you know and love? Will most of the people God created in His image never walk through heaven’s doors?
To answer Kristof’s question simply and directly – no.
The God who created all things is all-powerful. The God who created all things is all-wise. The God who created all things is all-loving. And this Creator has specifically said He wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
With that kind of God, it’s not hard to believe that He will actually accomplish what He said He desires to do. Jesus Christ did not fail in His mission to seek and save what was lost. He’s the Savior of the world, not just the Savior of a small part of the world.
Tim Keller was right.
“If we have a God big enough to deserve being called God, then we have a God big enough to reconcile both justice and love.”
Adapted from Heaven’s Doors . . . Wider Than You Ever Believed!
Available Spring 2017
Download a Free Preview at HeavensDoors.net


Anonymous said...

George, I posted anonymously at your Shack review, I guess I'll do so again. Refreshing to hear about you. I heard on the Metaxas show that you're ex-Cru and read that you're a 78 GCTS grad. Great credentials. If I can begin to "communicate" with you and see if you're into that then we can try it a little. Your book will be delivered to me this week so I'm jumping ahead of myself but here's a question (that may already be answered in your book): why are you convinced that hell isn't a metaphor for the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD? Like you I am entirely devoted to the inerrancy of scripture. Entirely. But as Jesus spoke in metaphor, hyperbole, and even sarcasm, if he was ever going to be literal about X after death, he'd only be referring to "the grave" as other O.T. writings. You're convinced that the 21st century notion of the hell Dante popularized was in the text in the O.T. and therefore Jesus was being literal?

George W. Sarris said...

Anonymous, I think Jesus was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in much of what He said that is usually assumed to be about the "end Times." I'm not sure I understand your question about Dante's understanding of Hell being in the text of the OT. I don't think the OT teaches anything about hell as it's generally understood to be - in fact, the OT doesn't really talk much about the afterlife. My belief in some kind of punishment/chastisement after death is not really tied to Jesus' use of Gehenna or Hades, or to the Old Testament teaching. It's based on the ideas that there are ages to come, that God doesn't give up on anyone, that salvation is through Christ, that people are truly free to choose to accept or reject God's grace, but that in the end all will freely choose to accept His grace. I don't know if that makes much sense by itself, but I'm glad that you have my book so you can read what I think in more detail.

I think you're the person who emailed me earlier, so I will look forward to talking to you personally about some of these things. If you're not that person, email me at George@HeavensDoors.net. God bless.