An eternal hell is unjust in every sense of the word.

I have argued your position before when I was a Christian, but as an agnostic trying to find the answers by keeping and open but critical look at both sides, the idea that someone who has suffered all their life is going to spend eternity in hell is not only unjust but evil as well. You would really tell the parents of a young girl who has just killed herself, because of the depression she was in that she is going to hell, because she didn't pray one little prayer asking jesus into her heart, what kind of heartless nonsense is that. Christians may try to claim the moral high ground or try to speak of how loving their god is, but when they believe something like that, they are showing how evil their god must be, how deceived they are and how immoral their religion truly is. I would like to go back to believing in christianity, but that kind is unacceptable. The notion that praying one little prayer is what saves you from a supposed eternity in hell contradicts what I've read in the Bible. Their are for instance three different names for hell given in the new testament each with different meanings and each presumably a different place. I could understand a temporary hell for nonbelievers, but an eternal hell is unjust in every sense of the word. You may argue that one has to look from an omniscient god's perspective in order to understand, but that is leaving a little much to guesswork. Even if someone committed the worst evil imaginable I doubt it would be worth an eternity in hell even if it were multiplied 10 times. I would believe again if I could rely on the notion that Jesus was resurrected from the grave as even the Apostle Paul suggested the whole framework of christianity depends on. I don't believe a person like gandhi who did much more good than many "saved" christians I know should spend an eternity in hell because he didn't ask jesus into his heart. That phrase by the way isn't even in the New Testament, nor do I find Peter in Acts saying, "With every head bowed and every eye closed", what does he say "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the holy spirit." (Acts 2:38). If Christianity is true it isn't one prayer that saves a person, it would be a change in their heart and in their life. I grew up in a Southern Baptist church so I know about all the emotional appeals that are made for converts, I used to make them myself. I would ask you if you have a rational basis for your faith. I think it is important to have a rational basis for whatever you believe. Putting faith in Christ is fine as long as you have a rational basis for doing so such as the reason why the resurrection is true for instance. Perhaps you do, I refuse to judge.

My response is in Green:

Thanks for writing me. You asked a few questions so I will try my best to cover all of them, but I might not do it in order. Right up front I want to agree with you about something. You said that it takes more than just a prayer to become a Christian, it takes a change of heart. I agree with you, but the prayer is a part of that. The reason I say that is because if the person never comes to the point where they are willing to admit they need Christ and then are willing to ask for forgiveness, then it shows there has not been a change of heart. That is part of the repenting process.

You said it is not one prayer that saves the person. Well I agree and disagree both. There is a point in time when a person accepts Christ and that is often when they say the prayer, but it does not have to be, it might be that they just know in their heart that they need Christ and accept His free gift of Salvation, but that would be pretty hard without talking to Him (prayer). Yet like I said I agree with you general point, just saying the words does not save you, it is believing and repenting.

You ask what I would tell a parent of a teenage girl who commits suicide. This is not a black and white question. It is for God but not for us. My point is this; I could not know what mental condition the girl was in, i.e. was she in full control of her mental faculties? Was she capable at that time to make a real decision? These are all questions only God could answer. I will say this, but not me it is God who says it: if a person who is capable of understanding, rejects Christ as their Savior and dies they will go to hell.

I get a lot of messages from people who claim to have been Christians and then left the belief. I hope this does not upset you but I have to wonder if you ever really had a personal relationship with Christ. You said you were a Christian, but now you are not even sure there is a God. Okay, what happened? Did you ever come to a point in your life where you realized that you were a sinner and needed to escape the judgment of a holy God? Did you ever truly ask Jesus Christ to be Lord and Master of your life? If not then you never really had a relationship with God and of course He does not seem fair or real to you. I don't know how much of my site you read but you will find that I was like that. As a child and a teenager I said the words, I understood who Jesus was and that I needed Him to keep me out of hell, but I never really understood the deeper things of God. I never understood the love He showed for me, by sending His Son to die for what I did, my sins. Because I never understood that, I quickly walked away from my faith, it was not grounded. It was not until almost 25 years later that I really truly understood what God did for me and how much He loves me, but not just me, everyone.

You have a problem with God punishing people for eternity just because they refuse to say one little prayer. You say that no matter what they have done it would not deserve an eternity of punishment. You touched on part of my point, the sin is not judged by our standards, it is judged by the Holiness of God against Whom all sin is an offense deserving death. But even that is only part of the story, I might agree with you if God had not made a way for us to escape, but He did and everyone who goes to hell for eternity will have had to reject that offer of salvation. So who sends them to hell; God or themselves?

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I took it by what you wrote that you were saying; even if God is real if He would send people to hell for not believing then you don't want anything to do with Him. Okay, it is a deal, but when you are in hell you will realize that you chose to be there, God did not send you there. It is that simple. Now I want to tell you some other things that I believe. For one I believe there are different levels of punishment in hell. Not everyone will be treated alike. The Bible says:(Revelation 20:12 NIV) And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

If a person's name is not in the book of life they will go to hell, but if you notice they will be judged on what they did in this life. For instance two people neither of which believed in Jesus Christ die and go before the judgement of God. One has lived a good life, helped others, etc... The other person has been a bad person by our standards, killed, been a thief, etc... They will not both get the same degree of punishment. The point is this, no matter how good you are, you are not good enough to earn your own way to heaven, but you would not be punished the same as a person who is not good.

I believe there will also be differences because of what we did or did not know and understand. For instance you said you were raised in a church, so you will have less of an excuse than someone who never had the opportunity to go to church. I also believe that people who never had a chance to know God, for instance mentally ill people, babies who die, etc... will not be judged the same as the rest of us. God is a loving and merciful God and I don't believe He will judge people on what they did not know but only on what they did know. If a person has never heard of Jesus Christ it would be pretty hard for them to accept Him as their Savior and I don't believe God would judge them for that. Having said that I also believe that if the person is mentally able to understand, that God shows Himself to them. They still might not know about Jesus but if they obey what God does show them, I believe He will take that into account on their behalf. The Bible clearly says that God does not want anyone to go to hell.(2 Peter 3:9 NIV) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. And (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV) I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- {2} for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. {3} This is good, and pleases God our Savior, {4} who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

As far as the resurrection of Christ is concerned; you are right it is the framework for our entire faith. I will give you my view on it, but in the end you either believe or you do not. Here is my take. First you can prove that a person by the name of Jesus lived when the Bible says He lived. There are many extra-biblical records of Him. You can prove again without using the Bible that He died and that there was a movement of people who claimed that He rose from the dead. You can look and see how this story has effected the entire history of the world since that time. You can prove that almost all of the early disciples were killed because they refused to denounce their faith in Jesus Christ. You can prove that many more people who did not see the risen Christ, believed and were also killed because of that belief without denouncing it. You can even see people today in other countries who are willing to die instead of renouncing their faith.

As yourself why? Why would people be willing to die for something that was not real? Okay you might say that the people in other countries are just mislead and because they believe they are willing to die, that does not prove it is true. Okay, but what about the disciples? If they did not really see Christ alive again, why would they be willing to die? If their leader was killed and that was it, why would they be willing to be beaten, thrown in prison and killed instead of admitting that it was all for nothing? Wouldn't you at least think a couple of them would have backed away from the lie to save their own lives? I can understand them being empowered by the Holy Spirit and believing in Christ because they saw Him after His death, but I can't understand them going through all that if they knew it was all a lie.

Also I have evidence in my own heart. This all goes back to my question about whether you ever really had a relationship with God. Again I don't want to upset you but if now you don't believe there even is a God, then you yourself must admit you never had a relationship with Him, since it is hard to have a relationship with someone whom you are not even sure exists. I know what God has done for me. I know He is real and that Christ is alive. That is something I can't explain I just know it because of the way He has changed my heart.

Well I hope I have touched on most of your points.


E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)

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