By Elizabeth Prata
I received this question from a reader. That’s all he wrote. Not ‘I’m struggling with this doctrine, can you help?’ or ‘I need some clarification on why God would do this…” Just the question, no context or even a hello.
“Will God send over 90% of all humans who ever lived to hell?“
Oh, boy. I knew what was coming. I welcome questions and I love to point people to scriptures and to credible ministries that offer solid answers related to a person’s question. But a question that starts out with truculent phrasing is almost always from an atheist or purposeful provoker and never ends well. But, in good faith, I answered in the following way:
Prata: No… Our default condition upon conception is sinner at enmity with God. So God doesn’t “send” anyone to hell, since ALL PEOPLE since the Fall of Adam ever born (except Jesus) would go there just by being totally depraved sinners. It’s the just punishment for sinners against a holy God. What God does and did was send Jesus to rescue sinners and save them by His grace.
Prata: He justifiably judges sinners who rebel against Him, who is thrice holy. But He also chooses to save some through no merit of our own. This is grace, and we are grateful to a savior who saves wretched enemies who do not deserve it. What we ALL deserve is hell.
With my first reply, I tested the waters with going straight to the doctrine of total depravity to see how he would respond. If it was, I’d expect the person to sincerely ask for clarification, and then I’d begin teaching from scripture. If not, I’d reply once more to see if they were genuinely responding to the actual conversation, or just whipping up more scenarios simply to be vexing for their own entertainment. Here is his response:
Reader: If everyone is hell-bound by default, then people, especially Christians, should stop having kids. Because all we are doing is adding to God’s expanding no-fly list of billions of unsaved names. And if the vast majority of mankind is going to eternal conscious punishment in hell according to the end times prophecies of Revelations, then that means for the majority of mankind, life had absolutely no meaning in the end. Let’s say your car overturned and pinned you. There’s a fuel leak. I happened to be nearby. I’m a non-Christian. I am the only person around. I rush to your car and pull you to safety but the car bursts into flames and I burn to death while saving you.
Reader: But since I died a non-Christian, I would suddenly find myself in hell even though I ended my life doing a selfless, heroic act saving one of God’s elect. But if regardless of how I live and end my life, if the result is the same for non-Christians, I may as well have not saved you. I should’ve walked away and let you save yourself.
OK, one reply and then I’ll bow out. Scripture this time. Lots of them. It doesn’t seem like he cares about God but only about arguing his point. Going to the doctrine of total depravity and seeing peoples’ response to it shows me where they’re coming from. A low view of sin in ourselves means the person has a low view of God and a high view of man (and his deeds).
Prata: You have a man-centric point of view. You need to expand that and submit to God’s point of view and His plan. All lives had meaning in the end, those in heaven glorify God by being a display of His mercy. Those in hell glorify God by being a display of His justice.
Isaiah 64:6, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
So what you saved me from a burning car but died yourself? We all die sometime. All your works are as filthy rags if you’re not in Christ, whether you’re Hitler or an unsaved fireman saving someone from a burning car and died “selflessly.” The ONLY true selfless act in the universe was Jesus dying on the cross to save sinners like you and me.
I encourage you to read the article below about how hell glorifies God. The only meaning in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. It’s the chief end of man. (Westminster Shorter Catechism)
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, [a] and to enjoy him for ever. [b]
[a]. Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11
[b]. Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4
Your argument is with God.
Romans 9:21, Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Rom 9:21–
Hath not the potter power over the clay; of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another to dishonour?—”The objection is founded on ignorance or misapprehension of the relation between God and His sinful creatures; supposing that He is under obligation to extend His grace to all, whereas He is under obligation to none.
We will end our discussion here, your tendency for mockery against God only digs you deeper into a hellish hole. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).
(I hadn’t liked his characterization of God making a ‘no-fly’ list).
Well, as expected, he did not respect my note to end here. He came back with another email splattered with different scenarios on different topics, not really replying to the one we started with. It’s a key indicator that I’m dealing with a truculent person out for his own entertainment. I replied asking him to please respect my wish for him to meditate on the scriptures provided, to read the article suggested, and to think about what was already discussed, which was substantial (if one is truly seeking and not just arguing). I’d said that if he replied right away again, I’d block him, sadly. He did reply, not with one email but two, which I did not read. And I did block, without engaging again, as promised. So he went to comment on the blog, which I blocked him there too.
When you’re in a public ministry, expect questions, challenges, and even linguistic booby traps in the guise of sincerity. It’s OK to make decisions based on your experience of how long to go on in conversation with a person. There are two scriptures which apply:
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect; (1 Peter 3:15)
Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6).
I’d said at the start that engaging with people who are obviously out for a fight doesn’t end well. It doesn’t end well for two reasons. Either I become vexed myself and speak ungraciously, blotting my witness; or they dig themselves deeper into a hole as Matthew 12:36 indicates-
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
I do not want to be the vehicle he uses to dig himself deeper. In not throwing pearls before pigs or in shaking the dust off my feet by not hearing my words (Matthew 10:14) and closing down discussion, it’s an art to keep that fine line. It’s an individual decision based on scripture and experience. I give one or two replies and cut it off from there, especially if they mock or use curse words.
Maybe I should give more time to a conversation or maybe my timing is just right. It’s a personal decision. Don’t feel guilty about cutting off endless replies and not engaging in a circling the drain conversation. I give a reply (hopefully graciously as 1 Peter 3:15 says to) but I also make decisions to cease engaging as per Matthew 7:6 says to. There are only so many hours in the day. I owe my time, metal energy, and emotional equilibrium to Jesus first, then to those closest to me in real life and my church family, and then to the anonymous public who contact me in this ministry.
It’s OK to bow out of a conversation that has run its course, or to block or mute people who have demonstrated ill-will. And I don’t feel guilty about it, either. Though I do feel bad for the person, so lost in his logic he is blinded from seeing the supernatural- which is God and His glory. I pray for that person. Then I shake the dust off my feet and go on to the next thing, ready with a reply for the hope that is within me…