Glossed Over Christianity Q#1

One of the things that drove me away from Christianity when I was a teenager was that I didn’t feel like I got sufficient answers to my legitimate questions. I always got people telling me the party line. Stuff like “pray on it” or “have faith” or “only god knows.”

I got to the point where I felt like I was too smart for religion. Not trying to sound full of myself or anything, but that’s really how I began to feel. Even now as I’m further studying Christian mythology and taking a second look at it all, I’m still getting the same glossed over answers. I really want to know these answers. Not because I want to use them as ammunition against the faith. I’m genuinely curious.

So I’m going to ask a couple here. Knowing this place is filled with Christians. Even though many probably don’t read my blog anymore. But if there are any more scholarly Christians reading maybe you can fill in the blanks for me.

Ok here we go. I’ll start with one question and then make this a running series over several blog entries.

Correct me if I’m wrong about anything.

1. God ultimately wants us to love him. So what happens to people who die before they get the chance to discover their love for God?

For instance, lets say a 17 year old person hasn’t ever really thought about God. Maybe they were just brought up in a non religious situation and just hadn’t got around to it. But they had just started to research it and then got into a fatal car accident.
They hadn’t really got to fully understanding or forming a relationship with God yet, let alone loving God. So what happens to them?

This baffles me a little bit, because people die at all different ages. For some people it may take them until they are in their thirties or forties before they really begin to understand and embrace God and religion. So what about those people that aren’t given enough time?

Some have said that if they die before knowing God it is because God knows the beginning and the end of them and already knew they wouldn’t come to love him. So what does that say about free will then? Did they even have any to begin with if God ultimately knew they weren’t going to love him? How were they ever given a choice to love him if they were destined to not love him?

What happens to that person (soul)?

0 thoughts on “Glossed Over Christianity Q#1

  1. Damn that is a good question. If any Christian tells you they are certain of who goes to hell. They ether are delusional or lying. We have a real good idea of a way to to be with God, but do we know the only way? I don’t know but it would be terrible advice if I did not lead you the way I know works.

    I will send this to a more scholarly xangan that I know of. This is a very good question

  2. I can’t really answer this intelligently in a comment and would have to think about it for a time anyway, but I will say I have spent hours thinking on that bit at the end: is it truly free will if God has already planned out every second of our lives? Is it really our choice when there is already a path we are on that God has laid out down to the last detail?

    Good question.

  3. Here is how I see it. I think every person has an “age of reason” or they reach an age where they SHOULD know about God and/or sense that there is a God. I don’t remember where I heard it, it may even be a bible verse, but God reveals himself to everyone in different ways at different times. I don’t think God takes a person’s life before he does this, but I could very well be wrong, which I think is what your question is. If I’m wrong in that you can disregard everything I’m about to say. That being said, if a person hasn’t reached their age of reason and they are taken from this life, then I fully believe they go to heaven. It’d be like a professor giving the final exam before he has lectured on the material. He would have a very high fail rate at the very least, and I don’t think God works that way.

  4. Good question, one I have asked myself many times. However, I have personally chosen to not let the lack of logic in my beliefs stop me from having them. I admit there is not a lot of logic, I just take it for what it is because I believe in it, deep down. In answer to your question, know that I don’t know the answer, or scriptural basis for my opinion. I am not as studious as I should be. But my opinion is since they did not reject God, God forgives them for their lack of knowledge and has some other way of giving them a chance. With everything that can be done, that God can do, who is to say God can not simply ask them after they die, if they will accept His gift of salvation? Who is to say that in those fleeting seconds of consciousness before the last breath, God can not appear to them in their minds and inject them with knowledge of Him and his offer and give them the chance to accept or not? That’s how I like to think about that.

  5. @crystal_air – I don’t think God “plans” our lives. He sees the choices we will make, yes, but we get to make those choices. As for the second half of the question, that gets a little more complicated, and it might make me sound like a heartless bitch, but here goes nothing. I don’t think anyone is taken a second sooner than they are intended to be taken. As humans, we use the phrase he/she was “taken before their time” which may or may not make us feel better, but it isn’t true. From a completely biological perspective we start dying the moment we are born. Some would go so far to say we start dying the moment we are conceived, but that is a debate for another day. Its the circumstances surrounding our deaths that make it difficult, not the dying itself, if that makes any sense. Also, aside from those who commit suicide, who REALLY gets to “choose” when they die? So its really not a choice at all.

  6. Great question! (Hey I’m Travis. I’d love to be a part of this ongoing discussion).

    It’s safe to say that no matter the philosophy, religion, scripture, or worldview one knits them self to, there will always be unanswerable questions, mystery, and guessing. o expect perfect and full answers from people on everything is unfair. However, there should always be valuable steps towards a greater understanding of life and a greater pool of wisdom. For all scripture references I recommend you use BibleGateway.com because it has a good quick search engine. With that, here are my two cents:

    Ultimately, no human being truly knows the eternal destiny of any other human being because no human is able to rightly judge (James 4:12). However, there are a lot of passages in scripture that inform us how to live in order to draw near to G-D and inherit the kingdom (Matthew 5-7 for starters).

    It is always tragic when life ends. It is right to mourn all death because life is what we were created for. Eternal life is the gift for the faithful (which makes more sense when we look at it in terms of creation). Death is the consequence of sin and a failure to live and love as Christ has commanded.

    Many believe that there is an age of accountability and that anyone who dies before that age automatically “goes to heaven.” The early church believed all babies that die or are aborted (as well as young children) were given grace and entered into paradise because of their innocence and so on. This belief is extended to those who never hear of Jesus of G-D for many believers as well.

    At the same time, scripture teaches us that G-D is revealed to all men through creation (Romans 1:20), the Spirit (Ephesians 3:4-5) and Christ. G-D has revealed himself through persons and writings throughout history (Matthew 13:35). The Psalms speak of nature being the work of G-D’s hands and that the earth is full of his glory (which has a meaning of weight or presence like fog or mist). Really, no man is without excuse (Romans 1:20). At the same time, G-D is full of grace and intimately knows the true heart and desire of every person. He knows their faith, their deeds, and they rebellion. He is the judge and we can trust him to be just.

    My grandfather didn’t know Christ until his late 80’s. He passed away within a year or two of his conversion. I know people who say they accepted the truth and way of Jesus when they were 4. I’m not sure how everything works and I can’t see people’s inner-most being and love but I can say life is complicated. The early church often prayed for the second coming of Christ to be stalled so there would be more time for sinners to hear the Gospel and repent.

    So what happens to people who don’t hear about G-D, are too young to comprehend, or never give thought to the way of Jesus and divine truth? They meet G-D and deal with judgment and the G-D of justice and grace deals with them accordingly. I’m inclined to believe nothing is final at earthly death but I’m not in the majority on that one.

    —-

    Your last paragraph gets into some tricky discussions. Suffice it for now to say that the people who beleive in free will don’t necessarrily believe people were created to not know G-D but would profess that anyone who lived a wicked life and will find punishment are examples and have been since their creation and always will be (because in all honesty, they were wicked and never did repent). That does not mean G-D forced those people to be rebellious against him, it means they were rebellious and they serve as examples of rebellion.

  7. @TheGreatBout – I’m NOT saying blame God, far from it. What I AM saying is no one dies before or after they are supposed to. Its the one thing we can’t put off forever, though I am sure there are those who will try. We try and comfort ourselves by saying they died “before their time”, but in reality we die when we are supposed to die. Heartless? Quite possibly. True? Absolutely.

  8. @lizheartshakespeare – Most everyone will die. I agree. But this idea that we all die exactly when we ought to greatly implies that those times have been decided (by G-D if we are discussing the Christian worldview) before birth/conception. Where do you get this idea in scripture? What makes this claim “absolutely” true? (I don’t like having these side discussions in venues where a nonbeliever is asking about theology because it brings complications but I’m sincerely curious as to your reasoning for believing these statements).

    BTW I also heart Shakespeare (even though he was really Edward DeVere). What’s your favorite work of his?

  9. @TheGreatBout –  “Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment…” Hebrews 9:27

    Maybe its just me, but that word “appointed” sounds pretty concrete, and it leads me to believe that our time of death, no matter how tragic, is indeed set by God. I would love to continue this debate, but I have company over, so I’ll bookmark it for another day. And my favorite Shakespeare play would have to be Twelfth Night.

  10. @lizheartshakespeare – That’s something that annoys me about Christians, and I’m a Christian! Really? You’re going to draw that conclusion from one word in one verse whose context isn’t even discussing whether death is foreordained?

    Please just admit that you want to believe that way, and so that’s how you’re seeing the verse, not that the verse is saying that. Oh, the things people make the Bible say…

    (Besides, it’s clearly saying that humans are appointed to die, not that they are appointed to die at a specific time. That might be true, but the verse hardly supports it.)

  11. You need to read “The Problem of Pain.” It’s short and intellectual, I promise.

    http://tinyurl.com/pftdgn

    Let me also say, Christianity won’t ever give you all the answers. Nothing will. So “finding every answer” is not a reliable measure (not that you were saying that). If I were to be honest with myself, I have embraced Christianity because I feel it gives me the most answers, makes the most sense, and promises to give me answers after I die. Since I’m being honest, too, I want to believe Christianity. There is a lot of comfort in the thought of someone who imagined and made me spending time with me and fulfilling me forever.

    You know, something like 80% of teens leave Christianity when they grow up because of this reason. They’re lied to. They’re promised stuff that sounds good but isn’t true. It’s very sad to me

    To answer your question:

    Can’t. It’s the old debate of fatalism versus free will. You know, there is an entire realm of Christianity that denies that human have much say in their own salvation. Calvanism. I don’t hold to it, but some of my friends do.

  12. @lizheartshakespeare – The word ‘appointed’ is definitely concrete.  But look very carefully at the grammar.  What is appointed?  Is it appointed when a person will die, or that each person will die and then face judgment?

    The discussion of whether or not God orchestrates all events (including tragedies like carwrecks) doesn’t hang on that one passage, of course, but don’t get hung up on that word ‘appointed.’

  13. I’m sure you’re looking for an answer rather than a book recommendation, but just in case, probably the best resource on this would be John Sanders’ No Other Name? An Investigation Into the Destiny of the Unevangelized.  It covers the basic options pretty well.  

  14. @lizheartshakespeare – I agree. That word is pretty concrete. “…destined/appointed to die once” doesn’t mention destined to die once at any appointed time but simply appointed to die. It speaks to the mortality of man, which is a result of the fall. We can conclude this by reading the sentences before this passage and the next sentence following it which says “so Christ was sacrificed once.” This passage is simply communicating that man dies once and is destined to only die once (the second death is not destiny but a result of choice) and relating it to the one time sacrifice of Christ as opposed to several sacrifices (like Israel had to perform for the remission of sins).

    Time of death is not mentioned or implied anywhere in this passage. Death alone is mentioned. Simply because death is inevitable for man does not mean it is necessarily or fully set by G-d. If it were not for temptation, and the sin of Adam and Eve then death would not be present. Ultimately, man truly has dug his own grave, in fact, he invented the grave and G-D knew he would and could, and even showed him where a shovel was. Accordingly, as G-D typically does, he lets man do what he wills and now says in response, “man will return to the dust.” The second death is also a matter of man choosing his destiny and G-D saying “Okay.”

    (I’ve always liked The Shrew)

  15. My thoughts on this line up well with TheGreatBout’s. I think have to fall back on God being just, wise, merciful and gracious enough to sort things out in a way that is good and right. I also think that such a way could certainly include decisions/actions after death. It seems from a lot of statements that Jesus & Paul made in the new testament that people aren’t more likely to believe with supernatural evidence than with earthly evidence, so it stands to reason (the way I see it) that if someone didn’t get an opportunity to see earthly evidence or was in the process of making a decision, making that decision post-death would also work.

  16. um… well I can’t really comment on this one (YOU know my side).  I recommended it though for discussion.  Hopefully you get an idea that may answer your question.  I don’t think you’ll get any concrete answers.  Who’s really to say God even exists in the first place… Or heaven, hell and angels for that matter.  

  17. 1 – That’s a great question. I don’t claim to have the definitive answer but I might have some clues. In Acts 10, we read of a man named Cornelius who was not a Christian but was referred as a devout man, one that feared God, and who’s prayers came up before God as a memorial. Interesting, don’t you think? And in Acts 17, we see Paul telling the Greeks who also were not Christians, but had devotions to the Unknown God, and he tells them that they are ignorantly worshipping the true God. Hmmm…even more interesting. Now here’s the kicker. In I Peter 4, Peter says that the gospel is preached to the dead. Does that maybe hint that some people will get a chance to accept the gospel after death? Maybe. Peter also says in I Peter 3, that Jesus preached unto people that were already dead from the days of Noah. So, there’s something for you to put in your theological pipe and smoke.

  18. @TheGreatBout – But that is my point! We are all appointed to die. Somewhere in the great cosmic scheme of things we are all going to die, and our human bodies only die once. There are no second chances, no do overs, no retakes. And once our time is up, its up. Yes, if you believe in the idea of original sin, Adam and Eve doomed us all. The question then, is would we have done the same?

    And The Shrew is good as well. I have trouble picking a favorite, I’ll admit.

    @immortalwithout – Do me a favor and grab two lovely little books called a concordance and a bible dictionary. I would recommend Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words. Then look up a few words in the concordance for me: Death, Die, Died, Dying, and Appointed. Then scroll over to the right where it has a series of letters and numbers starting in either G or H. After you’ve done this, go to the bible dictionary and look up the corresponding letter/number combination. I’ll provide a few examples for you:

    Appointed in Hebrews 9:27 (the verse quoted above) is G606. Roughly translated in the Greek means: “As a verb, signifies 1. to be laid, reserved.

    Die in Hebrews 9:27 is G599. There are quite a few for this particular entry, so I’ll give you the one that supports my “claim”: means of the separation of the soul from the body, i.e, the “natural death” of human beings.

    Oh and just so we’re clear G=Greek and H=Hebrew. The old testament you’ve come to know and love was largely translated from the Hebrew language and the new testament was by and large translated from the Greek. Now how, exactly, am I twisting the scriptures? I’d really like to know. Also, I would appreciate it if you would read the whole conversation between myself and TheGreatBout to gain some pointers on how to politely engage in a conversation.

    @SirNickDon –  I looked this up in a bible dictionary, just to be sure:

    Appointed in Hebrews 9:27 (the verse quoted above) is G606.
    Roughly translated in the Greek means: “As a verb, signifies 1. to be
    laid, reserved.

    And appointed, according to webster’s means: to fix or set officially.

    I fail to see how my interpretation of the word appointed is incorrect. More specifically, appointed is a very specific word. It would not have been tossed around lightly or used in place of other words. If the intent of the verse was simply say that everyone will die, then that would have been far more suitable, but the author of Hebrews chose the word appointed for a reason. I’m not trying to be rude, but I would really appreciate it if we could turn back to the post’s question instead of arguing over word usage. The argument we’re having is better suited elsewhere.

  19. @lizheartshakespeare – Nobody is disputing the definition of the term appointed. What we are saying is that the passage in Hebrews has nothing to do with when people die but simply that people die. The word appointment itself has no implications of time just as the passage doesn’t. It has more to do with inevitability. The surrounding words are important.

    (Yeah, I’m with you. Othello is another favorite. There are too many works to decide on one.)

  20. @TheGreatBout – But it DOES. The word appointed is very specific. Look @ the definition I gave SirNickDon from Webster’s:

    to fix or set officially.

    How exactly can that be disputed? I fail to see that, I honestly do. The words “fix” and “set” imply a specific time, at least to me. But enough of this. I’m just going to have to do a post on it tomorrow with a new set of eyes. If you’d like I can “friend” you on xanga and tag you in the post. I just don’t think this is the time or place to be debating words, especially since it wasn’t the intent of the post. And I could go on for DAYS about Shakespeare…

  21. the answer to this is entirely dependeng on what theological tradition a person holds to.  If one is Reformed (also called Calvinist, though this is a misnomer) then that person will say it’s impossible to know, and it’s up to God.  If one takes an exclusionistic view of the Bible, then by virtue of having never accepted Christ, this person is condemned.  For 1600 years, the Catholic church would’ve likely said that the person is in limbo along with all the other babies and “aliens” who didn’t have a chance.  Since they got rid of their belief in limbo recently, I don’t know what they did with all the babies, but I’m gonna guess they’d say heaven.  And then there’s the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition.  This tradition holds to a view of Prevenient Grace, which says God is constantly at work in all people and all situations, trying to lead the hearts of men toward him.  Generally, people who hold to this tradition (as a pastor in the Church of the Nazareene, I do) would argue that someone who never had a chance- like this 17 year old- cannot be held responsible for his or her lack of faith. Furthermore, there are many people who are “evangelized” to, who have the Gospel presented to them in such a way that it is unmoving or downright offensive, and does not inspire them toward love of God.  Some within our tradition would say that these people might not be judged according to their unbelief, because what they were asked to believe in wasn’t truly Christ.

    Also, in regard to the glossed answers- I hate those answers.  Tell that person to read Acts 8:26-31, and if they still won’t give you an answer, they should at least admit it’s because they don’t know.

  22. @lizheartshakespeare – Actually, the appointed thing there is the number of times they die.  It is set officially that man will die once- as in we will not die 0 times, we will not die 2 or more times (with the noted exceptions of Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter…)  It’s not an appointed time, but an appointed amount. 

    Essentially, to argue the concept of an appointed time would justify murder and abortion.  I know this is not what you’re doing, but if you claim nobody dies before or after God wants them to, then this means everybody dies precisely when God desires.  Now, you could maybe make a case for “If he hadn’t been murdered, he’d have had a heart attack or something,” but since miscarriage rates are dropping and abortion rates are rising, there’s no way around the appointed time thing other than God’s okay with abortion.

  23. @musterion99 – lol, the first signs of the Baptist movment. They’ll preach anyone to death and keep preaching once they’re gone : P

    Good research though – makes the cogs in the head turn a bit

    @roxics – Glad to help, (even if I didn’t feel like it helped in the least )

  24. @lizheartshakespeare –

    Eh, I read every comment before commenting. Besides, politeness is irrelevant to the argument.

    You don’t understand the difference between saying “You are going to die for sure” and “You are going to die for sure, and I know the exact time,” as some others have pointed out, so there’s really nothing more to be said to you.

  25. @immortalwithout – All I can say is good witness. Politeness is irrelevant? WOW. Second of all when did I say that I knew when people were going to die? I NEVER did, so good luck trying to find where I did. Unless of course your going to twist my words like you so politely accuse me of doing to the bible. I’m done with this argument. Have a blessed day.

  26. @PastorSZ – When exactly did I say God agrees with murder and abortion? They are products of the fall. All I am saying is God knows when we’ll die. He may not like the circumstances, but He knows beyond a shadow of a doubt the time, place, and circumstances of our death. To say that He doesn’t is to argue that he isn’t omniscient, which therefore calls into question the very idea of Him being God. In light of that revelation, I hope on all things good that He DOES know when I’m going to die, or I’ve wasted my love, time, and devotion to Him, and I might as well go live it up in this life because that’s all there is. But I’m done arguing. I’ll be posting on this later this afternoon if your interested in continuing the discussion, but I don’t think this is the time or place to be having this particular argument.

    @roxics – Sorry about taking over your post, that wasn’t my intent. I hope you learned something though, and that it leads you down the path you are intended to take, whichever path that may be.

  27. @lizheartshakespeare – There is a difference between knowing when and appointing when.  To say there is an “appointed time,” requires that someone appointed it.  Since the verse you provided is in the context of the power of God, it is only reasonable that He is the one doing the appointing.  If, on the other hand, you are suggesting He knows when we’ll die, there is no appointment occuring, but I can agree with the premise.

    As for omniscience, God’s “Godness” is not dependent on His Omniscience.  In fact, Jesus was/is God, but He stated flat out that there were some things even He did not know.  Also, God states that He “forgets” our sins, that He has “blotted them out” from His mind.  Omniscience has come to mean “knows everything,” which is not entirely the case, since God has chosen not to know certain things.  On the other hand, the more accurately translated definiton of Omniscience would be “sees everything,” which seems to apply a whole lot better.  Either way, “Omniscient” actually is not in the Bible, but is a term applied to God by theologians after Scripture was written.  It is clear that the human concept of God has constantly changed since the beginning, and for us to put limitations on what does and does not make Him God presumes that we fully understand Him, rather than confessing that we can only understand Him to the point that He has chosen to reveal Himself to us.

  28. Perhaps loving yourself, another human being, another creature, and/or the wonders of the world is the same thing as loving God.  Perhaps God does not see “love” the same way we do and does not expect it the same way we would.

    Perhaps the mystery is the point… searching for the answer makes you more whole than just knowing it, like a teacher who makes her students come up with their own answers and defend them rather than just give them the correct response because she knows the problem-solving and critical-thinking skills are more important than one more tidbit of information that will probably be forgotten in a few weeks anyways.

  29. God has given us enough information to know Him. Even without “knowing other Christians or even the Bible”. It’s what we do with that information that determines our eternity.

  30. @lizheartshakespeare – I can’t understand where you’re coming from if you refuse to respond.  I’m not trying to be insulting or condescending here, I’m just trying to share what I’ve learned, and help you understand why the statements you made- whether you meant them that way or not- are not valid.

    Your statement was “I don’t think anyone is taken a second sooner than they are intended to be taken. As humans, we use the phrase he/she was “taken before their time” which may or may not make us feel better, but it isn’t true.”  I copied and pasted so as to avoid misquoting, I hope this is okay.  Based on this phrase, it is not at all a stretch to say that you believe people are meant to die when they die,  If no one is taken a second sooner than the time they are intended to be taken, then that means that no aborted child was taken too soon, no 3 year old victim of murder was taken too soon, no one who is a victim of a fatal crime, accident, or disease was taken too soon.  If that’s the case, then that means that an aborted child was ready for death.  I cannot accept that, and you did not provide a solid case for it Scripturally.  If, indeed, you meant something other than what you said, then by all means explain to me what it is that you meant.  If you meant what you said, then please understand that by saying that nobody dies too soon, you have left room for a God who is in favor of heinous crimes and senseless murder- a God that I personally could not worship. 

    As for my statements concerning omniscience, I apologize if you disliked them, and it led to you not responding to the other portion of my post, but I will not retract them.

    The study of Scripture and of God is my life.  It is what I majored in in College, it is my career, and it is my greatest passion.  I desire to learn from others their understanding of Scripture, and I desire to share mine with others, in hopes that we might mutually edify one another.  If you do not wish to engage in such a discussion with me, I understand, but please do not resort to flippant or sarcastic remarks in order to dismiss me, just tell me you’d like to end the conversation, and I will be perfectly amicable about it.

  31. @PastorSZ – What, precisely, do you NOT understand about, and I quote:

    “But I’m done arguing. I’ll be posting on
    this later this afternoon if your interested in continuing the
    discussion, but I don’t think this is the time or place to be having
    this particular argument.”

    In other words, I’m NOT continuing this discussion here, as it was NOT the intent of the post, and it is RUDE to continue to do so.

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