Friday, February 4, 2011

Faith Fridays: Non-Christians and Hell

Wow I've been slacking on the posts this week!  It's been sooo cold, which in turn has made me sooo achy lol.  All I've wanted to do has been drink hot tea, curl up under a blanket, and read or watch TV.
Speaking of TV, Netflix has Highlander AND Xena: Warrior Princess on Streaming!!!
Yes, I'm that big of a nerd lol.

Anyway, it hasn't snowed down here in my part of the world, BUT
we are having a serious icy roads problem.
So my hubby has taken the day off and we're spending the day together!!
Who knows, we might even finish painting the upstairs today!!!
And then our friends Bouncer and Alicia are coming over tonight to brew beer!
Sounds like a great Friday to me!

Which reminds me--I've been doing a horrible job of regularly posting for Faith Fridays!
In fact, I've missed the past two weeks---oops!
But today that trend will end!

As a foreword, in this post I am using the terms faith and religion
interchangeably for the sake of avoiding wordiness.  Normally I don't do this--I designate faith as the individual journey and religionas the social and cultural man-made construct through which faith is expressed.
Moving on!

I had a wonderful conversation with my grandmother over Christmas Break,about faith, her beliefs and mine, different denominations within the Christian faith, etc.  I love having adult conversations with her as I get older--it's so neat to see how alike we are in our beliefs!
I love my Gan Gan!  

On thing that we talked about has been stewing in the back of my head since then.  It is potentially a very volatile question:
Do you believe non-Christians will go to hell?

To answer (because, after all, that's the point of these posts! lol), NO I do NOT believe that non-Christians will go to hell.  I know that my belief in this respect goes against the beliefs of many Christians,  
but quite frankly that doesn't matter to me. 

Anyway, here are my personal reasons for not believing that non-Christians are damned to hell.  The God I love is a just God, and I do not see how condemning thousands of people simply because they believe differently than I do would be the action of a just God.

Now, I've had this conversation with other Christians and some of them offered this answer:
"It's just because God sacrificed His only Son to save their souls.  If they reject that  gift then it is just for God to send them to hell."  And, not surprisingly, I totally disagree with this logic.  Why?

Well, first of all, to say that they are rejecting God's sacrifice first assumes that they acknowledge that a sacrifice has been made.  The problem with this assumption is that other religions do not acknowledge Jesus as having been the Son of God.  Some--Islam and Judaism, for example--acknowledge him to be a prophet, a man touched by God, but nothing more.  So, to them, the death of Jesus was no different than the death of any other prophet.

Another issue I have with the aforementioned answer is that I don't agree that  this action would be just on God's part.  People come to their faith through many different avenues.  For many of individuals, however, geographical and cultural location are huge determining factors in their journey.  This is as true for Christians as it is for Muslims as it is for Buddhists.  I know many people of many different faiths.  Many of them believe in and strive to live according to the values of their religion with as much strength and consistency and fervor as the most devout Christian.
Heck, many of them are better adherents to their religion than I am to mine!
Indeed, the Bible itself talks about knowing a good tree from a bad tree by it's fruit (Mathew 7) and Paul talks about the fruits of the spirit repeatedly in the New Testament.  I have seen good fruits of the spirit from people of faiths outside of Christianity, and I have seen bad fruits from Christians.
(I reference this to respond to the above response from Christians, not because I believe the Bible is the infallible fount of all wisdom and truth--because I don't.  But I'll post on that another time.)

So how would it be just for the God of us all to condemn some of us for being devout and dedicated to faiths that developed due to factors over which we had no control?  And how is it just to condemn some who live a life after God's own heart by following a different belief structure than Christianity?
To my way of thinking, it wouldn't be just at all.

There's another thing that bothers me about Christians condemning non-Christians to hell--
heck, about believers of one faith condemning non-believers to hell (or whatever punishment according to their belief structure).  It assumes that a belief system developed by man can hold a monopoly over God and the (capital T) Truth.  That seems pretty darn arrogant to me.

One Truth about God is that He(She/It/They) exists beyond the ability of humans to truly comprehend--otherwise, God wouldn't in fact be God.  So when human religions draw us vs. them lines, and decide that 
the them are condemned, I don't see the Will of God--I see the inability of man to understand that there are many paths that lead to God.  I see the insistence of man that his way is the True way, when in reality
it is the true way for him only--and that another way can be just as true for his neighbor.

I consider myself a Christian, even with all of this in mind.  The Christian religion is the one I have grown up with, the one who's moral code and directions on how to live a Godly life that I am most familiar with.
Christianity is the religion that aligns most with my faith.  But I do not believe that Christianity is the only way to salvation, the only way to seek the heart of God.  And I'm not about to condemn another soul to hell.
The only being in existence that has the right to make THAT decision is
God Himself--
and I'm not about to dare to try to usurp His job!


  1. It is definitely not our right to condemn anyone else to hell. That is purely God's job. God is a merciful and just God, yet He is also a jealous and vengeful God. Read some of the Old Testament and you will see that!

  2. Hi there! I'm a little confused by this post just because the Bible is so clear on stating that Jesus is the only way to heaven..."I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes through the Father except through me." John 14:6
    As Christians, our job is not to tell people that any religion gets us to Heaven, because if that were true, why would we specifically choose Christianity? If I believed all religions got me to Heaven, then I would have no reason to just pick one and say it was "true". In fact, saying that all religions are true gives no legitimacy to truth at all. If I can ask, why are you a Christian as opposed to another religion?
    I completely agree it is not our job to condemn non-Christians to hell, but the Bible certainly makes it clear that God does. He gives us a choice: either believe that Christ died on the cross and rose on the third day, giving us the chance to believe in Him and go to Heaven, OR not to believe in Jesus and to go to Hell. It's a very real place! That's why it's our job as Christians to tell others about God so they can experience his mercy and grace that is Heaven.

    Not trying to be rude or offend you, just trying to understand where you're coming from! This all interests me a lot! (:

  3. Thanks for the comments girls! I'm going to break my responses up into two--hope y'all don't mind!
    Megan--I've read the OT and yes, God is seen to be both jealous and vengeful.
    Of course, the Old Testament is in the context of the Old Covenant between God and Israel. God wanted to be THE God of Israel--there were other "gods" on the scene at the time--so of course He was jealous of His people. However, the OT God was not an evangelical God--He wasn't jealous of the people that did not fall under the Old Covenant. And as far as vengeance went, in the OT it fell on Israel's enemies if Israel adhered to the covenant, and on Israel itself if they did not.
    The way I see it, even if other religions are worshiping God by the wrong name (a concept brought up by C. S. Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia that I very much agree with), as long as they are adhering to their covenants with Him, He has no cause to be jealous and His vengeance would fall on those who forsake their covenant.

  4. Michaela--
    I'm not offended at all chica! I write these posts to share my thoughts on faith stuff and always enjoy a good discussion! And I definitely do not intend to offend with any of my answers.
    To give you a little bit of background on me, I was a religious studies minor in college and have continued studying both Christianity and other religions since graduating. I think the difference in our perspectives comes from my taking both an insider and outsider view of Christianity. Also, I think capital T Truth is different from lower-case t truth--Truth is what religions (which I see as man-made) are trying to discover, truth is their interpretation of Truth.

    From an insider point of view (and the reasons why I consider myself a Christian), Christianity is the religion that speaks most to my faith and my heart. In other words, it is my truth.

    From the outsider perspective, there are truths to be found in all religions. Most religions actually share Christianity's point of view on how humans should live their lives, on the necessity of the presence of the divine in our lives, and on the "truth" that their religion is THE way to salvation as evident by their holy scriptures and that everyone else is wrong.
    Having seen how similar Christianity is in many ways to other religions, I can no longer see it as unique. Having studied the Bible in it's dual existence as both a religious work AND a historical text, I can no longer see it as the infallible Word of God. (I'm actually going to write a post about that eventually.)
    This combination has led me to what I suppose would be a sort of pluralism when it comes to religion. I am a Christian, but objectively I can't see my religion as any more valid than any other man-made expression of faith in God.
    So, I follow my path and see no reason not to let others follow theirs.
    Sorry if that's a bit long, but I hope it helps explain how I can see Christianity as my personal truth and yet see it as one religion among many, and why I don't see adherents to those other religions as condemned.
    Thanks again for your comment!


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