The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: Can Human Beings Be Predestined to Hell?

Sue L. asks, “How can anyone be condemned to Hell or ‘saved’ if God has preordained what that individual will do with their life? Are some people destined to spend eternity in Hell before they are even born?”

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“Presbyterians confess that ‘God from all eternity, did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass’ (Westminster Confession, Ch. III). As the Creator of all things, God has power to do what He wills with His creatures and possessions. In the case of those whom God has elected to salvation and life, we must all confess that this is sheer grace and love most mysterious. We certainly did nothing to deserve it. We are no better or wiser than others.

“In the case of those who in the will of God are passed by and left to go on and perish in sin, what can be said? They choose to defy God and go their own way. Some are so foolish as to deny that God exists (Psalm 14:1). How can they complain? God gives them what they want. In hell they must forever live with the choice that they made.

“Every day that they lived on earth, they experienced the goodness, forbearance, and long suffering of God (Romans 2:4). He gave them life and breath and all things (Acts 17:25). He gave them space to repent, and every day His great works as the Maker of heaven and earth attested His eternal power and deity, ‘so that they are without excuse’ (Psalm 19:1, 2; Romans 1:19-21). You cannot turn your back on God and not expect to face the consequences.”

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“Hinduism as a form of the doctrine of Predestination. That is, each soul, being a pure reflection of the divine which has entered the material world, is predestined to reunite with its sacred source at some point. We hold to the belief that the soul will reincarnate multiple times, but when the soul reaches a full maturity it will cease an earthly existence and know the joy of God. To be clear, we are talking about every soul; not just Hindu souls. This is one reason why Hindus do not, as a rule, attempt to persuade others to convert. To paraphrase Mr. Joel, ‘Don’t go changin’…He loves you just the way you are.’ ”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“As Unitarian Universalists we would look to our Universalist teachings where we believe in universal salvation for all people; in other words, all souls will get into heaven. For those of us who believe in God we believe in a loving God and not a vengeful God.

“We believe we are called to create heaven here on earth right now in this lifetime. This is how we interpret the Gospel of Luke 17:21 - ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’”

Ty Silzer, a former pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America, responds:

“You’ve succinctly pointed out either the core issue or the core problem of what is known as the theology of Predestination, also known as Calvinism, due to John Calvin’s (1509-1564) writings within Christianity.

“To break your questions down, Calvinists believe that God’s preordaining them to hell is the same as condemning them to hell. They cite verses such as ‘Jacob (the saved) have I loved, Esau (the condemned) have I hated’ (Malachi 1:3, Romans 9:13, parentheses, mine), and ‘What if God… has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction’ (Romans 9:22), interpreted as God preparing these vessels (people) for destruction (hell). To flesh out the logic of Predestination, these individuals can’t help themselves towards a path of destruction that ends in hell. Likewise, the ‘saved,’ must follow God on a path that leads to heaven. As far as when, they point to ‘For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world…’ (Ephesians 1:4)—so, yes, before anyone was ever born, Calvinists believe God chose the saved and the damned. And in both scenarios, free will is but an illusion.

“But, this isn’t the only Christian view on this matter. Many other views look to verses such as ‘[God] desires all men to be saved,’ (1 Timothy 2:3), and ‘[Jesus died] for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).”

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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