"Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire." – CS Lewis
Milky Way Courtesy of NASA
Dee is once again back in the saddle and will spend the rest of this week catching up. Emails should be answered and comments will be acknowledged! The last two weeks were just a bit overwhelming. Yet, over that time, both Deb and I have found a renewed passion for exposing the hurt caused by those who are held up as the really cool and always doctrinally right Christian leaders. Recently, your always-glamorous bloggers were accused of being “angry” by an unnamed individual who we suspect is tied to a well-known ministry. We will wax eloquent on that subject tomorrow.
Today, I want to target a particular area of concern. And that is on the injunction “Judge not, lest you be judged.” This particular verse is a stern warning NOT to judge the salvation of others. Yet, there are high profile Christian pastors and leaders who have become the “Salvation Nazis.” But, this a new kind of salvation not found in the New Testament. It is salvation by secondary issue. Here are a few examples.
Salvation by gender belief
Andy Davis alluded that those, who did not follow his “no female deacons” mandate, were unregenerate, a term, particularly beloved by Calvinistas, which means. “Not reformed: not reborn spiritually and not repentant” (Encarta). I think he also threw in the term “wicked” for good measure, seriously nailing those folks.
Salvation by pre-tribulation rapture adherence
Eagle commented on our blog today that he heard a pastor say that one was not saved if they rejected a pre-tribulation rapture. I have also heard this in regards to premillenialism which means I am also going to hell since I hold to different perspective.
Salvation by earth age dating:
Ken Ham often calls those who disagree with his 6,000- year earth “in danger of denying the doctrine of the atonement.” Since our salvation is incumbent on the sacrificial atonement of the Lord, Ham is saying, “You ain’t saved, baby.”
Salvation by works:
If you didn’t do anything “for God” you must not be saved.
This list could go on and on. People are considered saved or not by their views on Calvinism, Arminianism, charismatic gifting, tithing, etc. Sadly, it appears that some of our Christian leaders may also be judging what happens in the last minutes of a person’s life.
Christopher Hitchens: Hell, for sure?
Recently Christopher Hitchens died. He was a well-known atheist who was a brilliant writer and a worthy opponent in the great debate. I must confess that reading his writings afforded me no end of guilty pleasure. Here is an excerpt from his 2010 article in Vanity Fair in which he discussed his diagnosis of esophageal cancer.
Topic of Cancer
“I rage through bargaining to depression and the eventual bliss of “acceptance,” hasn’t so far had much application in my case. In one way, I suppose, I have been “in denial” for some time, knowingly burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light.
But for precisely that reason, I can’t see myself smiting my brow with shock or hear myself whining about how it’s all so unfair: I have been taunting the Reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me. Rage would be beside the point for the same reason.
Instead, I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married? To watch the World Trade Center rise again? “
Upon Hitchens’ death on 12/16/11, Christian leaders made all sorts of pronouncements on his life and faith. Many were gracious. Some, however, were not. Here is a comment that Al Mohler made. See if you can see his fatal mistake.
“After Hitchens died, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. alcommented, saying in a Tweet: "The death tonight of Christopher Hitchens is an excruciating reminder of the consequences of unbelief. We can only pray others will believe." Mohler added, "The point about Christopher Hitchens is not that he died of unbelief, but that his unbelief is all that matters now. Unspeakably sad."
Mohler was sure that Hitchens died in his unbelief. Why is that? Was he there, with him, in his last moment?
TWW wrote a post on Hitchens’ friendship with Frances Collins here.
In that post we discussed Hitchens’ admiration for Collins who supported him during his diagnosis and treatment, apparently never hitting him over the head with the faith. This brilliant Christian scientist stayed by Hitchens’ side throughout his ordeal. Who knows what influence he may have had? In that same article, we noted this response which, unfortunately, made it’s way to Hitchens.
“Who else feels Christopher Hitchens getting terminal throat cancer [sic] was God’s revenge for him using his voice to blaspheme him? Atheists like to ignore FACTS. They like to act like everything is a “coincidence”. Really? It’s just a “coincidence” [that] out of any part of his body, Christopher Hitchens got cancer in the one part of his body he used for blasphemy? Yea, keep believing that Atheists. He’s going to writhe in agony and pain and wither away to nothing and then die a horrible agonizing death, and THEN comes the real fun, when he’s sent to HELLFIRE forever to be tortured and set afire.”
Please read our post to see Hitchens’ brilliant and scathing response to this comment.
Could Hitchens have repented?
Russell Moore, however, brings a different perspective to this debate here. (That’s right, I am agreeing with him on this one!).
In a post titled, Christopher Hitchens May Be in Heaven he said,
“I don't know about Christopher Hitchens, about what happened in those last moments, but I do know that, if he had embraced it, the Gospel would be enough for him. I know that because it's enough for me, and I'm as deserving of hell as he is.”
Everyone who think they have a corner on the “who is going to heaven” market should always remember the thief on the cross
“Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk. 23:42-43). (Jesus said)“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Things happen as death approaches. ABC News reports, here, in the last moment, before he died, Jobs, who as far as we know, was a Buddhist, said the following : “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” We don’t know what he saw. As a former nurse, I am well aware that brain anoxia can contribute to hallucinations yet there are far too many stories of glorious last moments to totally disregard them as brain dysfunction.
Two personal experiences
In my own life, I have two personal experiences that would lead me to be very cautious about judging the state of a person’s faith at the time of death.
The death of a Christian friend
Our friend, Jim, was in a Dallas ICU, dying of leukemia. He was uncomfortable and in pain. Suddenly, he grabbed his wife’s arm, and said, “Do you see him. Jesus is here. He’s come!” He died a minute later. Did His Savior come to comfort Jim in his last minutes? Such a thing seems consistent with loving Friend.
My dying father
Throughout his life, my dad found my faith a curiosity. He often asked me questions and recounted other Christian he had met in his life. Yet, he never seemed to want to commit to following Jesus. In his last year, he was afflicted with Alzheimer’s and slowly lost touch with reality. In his final months, he thought I was his sister. Soon, he ceased to communicate, except from some unrecognizable words.
One day, in church, I had an overwhelming urge to go see him immediately. The phrase “Have you asked Him to be your Savior” kept running through my mind. My teen daughter was able to go with me. I am so glad that she was present to witness a rather unusual occurrence.
As I walked into his room, he turned his head and said, “How are you dear?” He seemed lucid and recognized me,which was a surprise. I asked him how he was feeling. He shook his head and said, “It’s time for me to check out.” He had been a doctor and often used that phrase when a patient had died.
I said, “You are so tired.” He nodded. And then I said. “Dad, do you remember when I became a Christian?” He nodded. I said, “I think you thought it was kind of crazy.” He wrinkled his forehead and said, “No, no, it was very good.” I then, tentatively, said, “Have you asked Him to be your Savior.” He looked sad and said, “No.” And then I took a chance. “Would you like Him to be your Savior now?” And he nodded and asked, “How?”
By this point, my daughter’s mouth was hanging open. I was so glad she was there see her grandpa do something that I thought would never happen. I then said, “Would you like me to help you pray to tell Jesus that you want Him as your Savior?” He nodded yes. So, using simple words, I started to pray, and my dad whispered the words along with me, as best as he could.
And then he did something I will never forget. He grabbed my arm, looked me in the eyes and said, “It’s alright now.” At that moment, he reverted into a confused daze, never to emerge until his death a couple of weeks later.
Many Christians who knew my father probably would have thought him a profane man with a difficult personality. Yet, on his tombstone, etched amidst the symbols that represented that he was a doctor, a veteran and a trombonist, there is also a cross and a verse, “The Lord is my shepherd” from Psalm 23, which I would read to him in his last days.
So this is a warning to those who would judge the eternal destiny of others. As CS Lewis said, “There will be some surprises in heaven.” That could work both ways. And TWW will continue to watch and report on those who declare they have special insight into the last minutes of a person's life.
I am left wondering , could my dad be in heaven with Hitchens, rejoicing over their salvation in their last minutes on earth? I look forward to finding out.
Lydia's Corner: Job 34:1-36:33 2 Corinthians 4:1-12 Psalm 44:1-8 Proverbs 22:10-12