Is Gandhi In Hell? It’s been a while since I took a reader’s email to answer. I found this challenge particularly interesting and wanted to share it with you. I received permission to share the story provided I kept the sender anonymous.
The Dinner Conversation
“I was with some people the other night and the topic of Christianity came up. I was asked if I believed in a loving God? Yes. Heaven? Yes. Hell? Yes.”
“Then how can a loving God send all those people to Hell? I don’t want to be in a Heaven where people like Gandhi aren’t in Heaven?” Anyway, since it is such a common topic, I thought maybe you might want to address it in one of your blog posts.”
Hell, Evil And Suffering
I can sympathize with this reader. There probably isn’t a Christian among us that hasn’t had a similar conversation. How does one graciously answer such a challenge? Outside of the problem of evil and suffering, Hell may be one of the areas where Christians get the most push back. So in this post, I will give some basic guidelines to thinking about hell.
Can Hell Exist With A Loving God?
First, there is no logical inconsistency with a loving God administering a just punishment. Many of us are parents. Do we ever punish our children? Yes. Does that mean we don’t love them? No.
Second, the objection only takes into account one aspect of God’s nature, love. It fails to account for God’s just nature as well. Think of a criminal that defrauds people out of their money. He is caught and put on trial. Many of the people who have lost all their money are in attendance. At the end of the trial, the judge says “I am a loving judge, so I’m not going to punish you. You’re free to go.”
Would that be a loving act? No, I don’t think so. Perhaps you have read about the Judge in Orange County that let a man off easy for raping a 3 year old? I have heard a lot of words to describe his actions, (most of them not re-printable here) but “loving” was not one of those words.
God Is Just As Well As Loving
We all have a sense of justice built into us. We feel outrage when justice is not being served. Remember that God is the one that is the victim when we commit sins. He is the aggrieved party. This is why he alone can offer us a pardon for our sins.
In regards to Gandhi, the question makes an assumption. It assumes that Gandhi wanted to go to heaven but couldn’t simply because he got one question wrong on a theological quiz. When presented this way, the question makes God look petty. Why would God punish us for getting just this one thing wrong?
How Good Is Good Enough?
If someone raises this question, you might want to ask them why Gandhi should have been let into heaven in the first place. They will probably answer something to the effect that he was a good person. But what exactly do they mean by “good”? Hinduism (which Gandhi adhered to) teaches that good and evil are relative, and there is no actual good and evil. So on what basis are they calling Gandhi good?
Also, how does one know that they have been good enough to make it in? Are there an exact number of good deeds that gets one in? A percentage? Ask the question and wait for an answer. Remember, they are making the claims about the nature of heaven, so it is their responsibility to defend their position.
What Is God’s Standard?
Also, keep in mind that God’s standard is not “good”, it’s perfection. Was Gandhi perfect? Are any of us? That’s what I call bad news! The good news is the pardon we are offered for our crimes!
Doesn’t Everyone Want To Be In Heaven?
Lastly, it just may be that not everyone WANTS to be in heaven. Remember what heaven is, an eternity with God. Some people simply don’t want that. The late Christopher Hitchens famously quipped that for him Heaven would be like living in North Korea.
What is God to do with people like Hitchens? Drag them kicking and screaming into heaven against their will? Isn’t it the act of a loving God to let us choose where we want to spend eternity? Either with Him or without him.
Is An Eternal Hell Just?
At this point some will concede that hell could exist logically, and maybe there should be standards as to who actually goes to hell. But, they will argue, isn’t eternity too harsh a punishment for our crimes here? I mean, I just think one bad thought and I’m punished for eternity? That’s not fair! And the only way out is for me to believe in Jesus? So if I don’t believe in Jesus, I’m going to hell? For answers to these questions, follow this link to our blog post on “Is An Eternal Hell Just?”
Have you ever been challenged with this objection or one similar? How did you respond. Let us know on our Facebook discussion group at the link below.
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