As I was praying for my children this morning, I was reminded that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 10:6), and no one comes to Jesus unless he or she is drawn by the Father (John 6:44). As I prayed for my children who have not acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Savior and have not professed faith in Jesus, I am also reminded that God gives us free will.
God won’t violate the free will He has given us. How, then, should I pray?
I wish there was another way! I wish that God could just make them believe! If I only I were a Calvinist!
I am only half joking. Maybe not even half joking!
I had a conversation with my youngest about a year and half ago in which she told me that she thought she was an atheist. She said all of her friends are atheists. (I doubt that is true, but whatever.) She told me that she asked God for something (I don’t remember what), and He didn’t respond.
That conversation has stuck with me ever since. I was taken aback. She was only about 16 or 17 at the time. I was painfully aware as we spoke, as I am now, that I can’t make her believe. I was thankful that she felt comfortable enough with me to be open and honest, and I told her so. But that doesn’t make the pain of it any less.
I don’t remember exactly what she said she asked God, but she seemed convinced, at least as we talked at that point, that God must not be real if he didn’t respond to her. I didn’t want to preach. I wanted her to know that she always has an open door to talk to me so I didn’t press the issue with her.
I also know that God is faithful. God drew me out of my darkness, and I believe He can draw her too. After all, no one can come to Jesus except the Father draws her. But will He? Can He?
The question, “How can a loving God send people to hell?” reveals a misunderstanding of at least three things: 1) what love is, 2) what hell is and 3) how people end up in hell. What we are talking about are the words Jesus spoke to these points, to which this question is directed. The question packs assumptions that load the question in the wrong way.
Let me explain.
I previously wrote a piece making the point that God Doesn’t Send People to Hell. In that piece, I addressed the question, but I addressed it primarily from a philosophical view. Below we will examine where these philosophical points come from.
The philosophical view is pretty simple, and flows from the proposition that God is Love. Love doesn’t coerce people against their wills. Therefore, God will not compel anyone to be with Him who chooses not to be with Him because love doesn’t coerce people against their wills.
If heaven is eternal life with God, hell is eternal life without God. If God doesn’t coerce us, He leaves the determination up to us. God doesn’t send people to hell; people choose to go there because they don’t want to be with God.
God invites us to choose Him, but he doesn’t require, coerce or compel us to choose him against our wills.
This proof holds together well philosophically, but does it line up with the teachings of Jesus?
“God has no grandchildren” is a statement provided “for further reflection” found in The Discovery Bible[i]. Sure, we are invited to call God our Father (Matt. 6:9).
“I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord….” (2 Cor. 6:18)
But why not grandfather? Why should God not have grandchildren?
If the parent/child relationship applies to God and us, why not the grandparent/grandchild relationship?
We are born to our parents and carry our parents’ genes in our bodies. We pass on those genes to our children and to our children’s children. Our grandchildren are not born to us, but they carry our genes. This is the natural order of things. It’s biology (or science as they say).
Paul said that he is not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16) Belief (faith), therefore, is obviously central to spiritual life in Christ.
What is meant by faith, though? Is faith “blind”, as some describe it? Is faith is antithetical to science? Does science discount faith? Does faith require the suspension of intellect? Does faith require us to abandon obvious evidence to the contrary?
I have not found any of these things to be the case. Faith does require a “leap”, but faith is not like jumping out over a yawning chasm. The gap is much shorter, and the landing is much more sure than one might suppose.