Today, I want to talk about a specific ramification of what we believe about God and salvation. As much as we need to discuss our beliefs, that discussion also needs to address where our beliefs lead. We need to ask if our beliefs make sense, to examine the validity of our beliefs based on their ramifications. Most of our discussion thus far has done this to a certain degree, but today I want to look at some specific beliefs, see where they lead, and then ask if they make sense.
To do so, I am going to make some assumptions about what we believe based on what I have learned in the evangelical church over the years, and then draw a logical conclusion.
My first assumption is this:
A person’s response to Jesus in this life determines their eternal destiny. Only those who are “born again” in this life will go to heaven, while everyone who has not responded to Jesus in faith will spend eternity in hell. This life is our opportunity to put our faith in Christ, a life that is but a blip on the timeline of eternity, a metaphoric nano-second you could represent with the following illustration:
Our life is the dot on the left when compared with the line of eternity that goes on to the right forever and ever. The decision you make about Jesus in the dot determines where you will spend eternity on the line.
My second assumption is that God is going to save children. All of us believe kids are going to go to heaven. While we may disagree on the specific “age of accountability,” none of us think God is going to punish innocent children in a state of conscious torment for all eternity. Although some might say the Biblical evidence is unclear, all of us believe that kids go to heaven.
My third assumption begins with a story.
When I was in high school or early college, a guy from our church’s denominational leadership came as a guest speaker to our youth Bible study one Wednesday evening. I’m sure most of his talk was good, but I only remember one thing he said. It was this: “Thirty-three percent of the world’s people claim to be Christian, and our best estimates tell us that maybe ten percent of all people are truly born again.”
My third assumption is that these numbers are reasonably accurate evangelical estimates. Considering the percentage of the world’s population that lives in China and India, and the prevailing religious thought in those countries, these numbers seem a safe assumption. Ten percent of the world is born again in the way the evangelical church understands “born again.” I’m also going to assume those numbers have been reasonably accurate in the past hundred years or so and will be accurate for the next hundred years or so. Again, that seems a safe assumption, or at least not an unreasonable one.
Therefore, here’s my conclusion:
If we really believe ultimately people will go to either heaven or hell, where they will stay forever and ever and ever, an eternity that makes life here on earth entirely insignificant,
if we really believe only ten percent of all people are going to spend eternity in heaven,
if we really believe all kids, a hundred percent of kids, are going to spend eternity in heaven,
if we really believe that once kids pass the age of accountability, they have a ninety percent chance of spending eternity in hell,
the most loving thing we can do is . . . I can’t even say it. But the conclusion is obvious. (In case it’s not obvious to you, the best euphemism I can think of is “not let kids reach the age of accountability.”)
And you would tell me: Jeff, that is ridiculous. I can’t believe you would even suggest such a thing. It is crude and horrific.
And I would say: Exactly. So is the idea that God would punish anyone in hell for all eternity.
However, while the conclusion is horrific and ridiculous, it is a logical one based on the premises. So, maybe one of the premises is incorrect. Let’s examine them.
For now, choose to believe that God is love, that He loves you and me and everyone; that He is working toward and will ultimately accomplish the salvation of everyone.
Choose to believe that the gospel is really good news, really.
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Thank you all.