Monday, July 08, 2013

Article: Do you Think I'm Going to Hell? by Melinda Penner

Taken from here:

Let's say I'm discussing spiritual truth with someone who is not following Christ and she comes out of the blue with this question: "Do you think I'm going to hell?"

I can't lie and say "no." But I?d better not waffle around either. Saying "Um, well, um?" will only lead my friend to say, "Just give me a simple yes or no answer." Then my simple "yes" will shut down the dialogue because my friend will feel offended. A simple yes will lead her to believe I think she is going to hell only because she doesn't put her trust in Jesus like I do. Instead, I use a simple sound bite response that captures why the doctrine of hell makes sense and avoids the condescension communicated by the statement "Yes, you're going to hell."

"Do you think I'm going to hell?" My response? "Only if you're as bad as I am."

With this response, I locate myself squarely in the camp of those who deserve hell as a punishment for the seriously wrong things that I've done. This communicates why hell makes sense (we go to hell as a punishment for wrongdoing, not for disbelieving in Jesus). And notice, I've said nothing about whether I am actually going to hell. Instead of shutting down dialogue, this response invites my friend to ask lots of additional questions. And now there's a proper context for making sense of the gospel. I've shown I'm not arrogant and I've prepared my friend to hear about Jesus? unique solution: Jesus took the punishment all of us deserve.

For a more in-depth look at this question, see here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

6 comments:

Scott Watson said...

Interesting way to get a dialog and also convey humility. I have always used the approach that it's not my call, but here is what the referee says.

Michael Appiah-Duku said...

Interesting approach but i wouldn't use it because 1) It's too evasive and so looses its potency 2) people ARE gonna go to hell for disbelieving in Jesus! 3) it belittles the matter of hell 4)your friend may begin to think you don't believe in hell yourself.

Hell is a grave matter with eternally damning consequence. Anything short of a plain response is too risky!

Thank you!

Chad said...

Hello Michael,

Thank you for taking the time to comment.

You wrote: "...people ARE gonna go to hell for disbelieving in Jesus!

When someone says to an unbeliever, "If you accept Jesus you will go to heaven and if you don't you'll go to hell" this is certainly true. However, I don't believe this statement sufficiently communicates the unbeliever's true circumstances. It seems like God is sending them to hell simply because they failed a theology quiz.

People don't go to hell because they don't accept Christ, but because of their sin. In other words, even before they choose to disbelieve in Christ, they were already headed to hell. God doesn't condemn people for wrong belief, but for wrong behavior (Rev. 20:12-15).

My goal as an ambassador of Jesus Christ is to communicate the gospel as clearly as I can. Pointing out to people that:

1. Moral crimes should be punished.
2. All of us have committed moral crimes. (bad news)
3. We will be judged based upon our crimes (deeds).
4. Jesus offers pardon. (good news!)

communicates the truth of their situation in a way that is understandable.

Another way to think about is that it would be strange to say, "Hey, that cancer killed that guy because he didn't go to the doctor." Well, going to the doctor could have changed his circumstances, but it wasn't the lack of going to the doc that killed him, but the cancer!

We have a disease (sin) and Jesus is the ONLY cure.

I hope this clarifies the article for you a bit and I would encourage you to checkout this article that provides a more in-depth look at the themes discussed above!

Godspeed

Anonymous said...

John 3:18
"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son."

Matthew 12:7
"He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned."

Disbelief is itself a sin, and we shouldn't pretend it's not. These words serve as a warning against the sin of disbelief.

Michael Appiah-Duku said...

Thank you Chad for your kind response but i find it problematic!

Firstly, if you say that "God doesn't condemn people for wrong belief, but for wrong behavior (Rev. 20:12-15)" it'll imply that any ethical atheist qualifies for heaven. After all, belief in God is not a requirement for ethical behavior! Therefore what you're presenting is not gospel at all but a form or moral reformation which can be attained without being Christian!

Secondly, your cancer patient analogy is fine. But in this case, we know for sure that the patient would have been cured 'cos this doctor has 100% efficacious cure! ie Jesus cures all sin so the free refusal of the patient to see the doctor caused her death. So one wonders why this patient didn't see the doctor? most likely because she didn't believe the doctor can cure her or else why else would she refrain from seeing the doctor for the cure? so she dies for disbelieving the doctor's ability to cure her!!

Thirdly, it's true people will be judged for their deeds but let's not forget that our actions/deeds spring forth from our beliefs. "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he..."

Fourthly, if "God doesn't condemn people for wrong belief, but for wrong behavior (Rev. 20:12-15)" then everyone is bound for eternal damnation in hell including Christians 'cos there's no single Christian who is or remains sinlessly perfect so based on their behavior alone, they too are gonna go to hell based on your assertion.

Thank you again for your time...please feel free to correct any misconceptions i may have...i stand to be corrected...

Chad said...

Hello Michael and Anonymous one,

I appreciate your thoughts and feedback and the opportunity to think this through with both of you. I certainly want to make sure that I am communicating the gospel clearly and correctly. Please allow me to provide some clarification that I believe will clear up any misunderstanding.

When I wrote, “People don't go to hell because they don't accept Christ, but because of their sin,” it would have been more accurate to say, “People don't go to hell MERELY because they don't accept Christ, but because of their sin.”

Further, when I wrote, “God doesn't condemn people for wrong belief, but for wrong behavior (Rev. 20:12-15),” it would have been more accurate to say, 'God doesn't condemn people MERELY for wrong belief, but for their wrong behavior.

Finally, in regard to my doctor example, it would have been more precise say, “...it wasn't MERELY the lack of going to the doctor that killed him, but the cancer.”
In using the following outline:

1. Moral crimes should be punished.
2. All of us have committed moral crimes. (bad news) (Romans 3:23)
3. We will be judged based upon our crimes (deeds).
4. Jesus offers pardon. (good news!)

my goal is to give the bad news (sin) first and then the good news (God's offer of forgiveness through Christ) second. This pattern is actually followed 13 times in the book of Acts.

My fear in saying to someone, “Hey, if you accept Jesus you'll go to heaven and if you don't you'll go to hell” is that the unbeliever (sinner) will be under the impression that they are MERELY going to hell for not believing in Jesus. I want them to see their need for a Savior and in order for that to happen we must open their eyes to their sin or “moral crimes.”

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding.

Finally, Michael, in regard to your “t'll imply that any ethical atheist qualifies for heaven” comment, I believe it worth highlighting that there can be no such thing as an “ethical” person or “ethical atheist” from God's perspective due to the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The only way we can be made righteous in God's eyes is through Christ...but I realize we agree on that!

However, with my clarification that may be a moot point!

Thank you both again for the “iron sharpening!”

Godspeed