Ivellious wrote:I'll try to answer those questions, but if you will, I won't put myself too much in the shoes of God, so to speak. I don't claim to know the perfect solutions.
The way I look at the afterlife is this. I believe that everyone is the "child" so to speak of a higher power. I think that the higher power that had a hand in shaping the universe certainly identifies us all as its children. I think all people have the opportunity when they die to go to heaven, or an afterlife, or whatever you want to call it. People can be with their loved ones, live free from pain and suffering, can watch over loved ones still living, and so on. I don't know if heaven conforms to one all-encompassing place that all people go to, or if it is somewhat "specialized" for each person. I do believe that all people will be there someday. Let me clarify:
I do not see eternal punishment for anyone, not Hitler, not serial killers, not rapists, psychopaths, or so on. There are several reasons for me coming to this conclusion. First, I do not believe the higher power that I believe in is quite the taskmaster or pompous egomaniac that some religions make it out to be. I believe it goes by many names, takes many shapes, and does not play favorites with any of us. I think that it recognizes that people are all individuals, and whether God has a place in their lives is irrelevant because being happy and respecting ALL the world around us is the key. I don't think God takes an active role in shaping our lives. For this reason, I do not believe God chooses to let certain religions (or lack thereof) into heaven.
Second, I maintain the ludicrousness of eternal punishment for finite crimes. That's fairly straightforward, especially when certain individual's "crime" is simply not accepting Jesus as their savior.
Third, I think God recognizes that some humans are broken. Hitler was a broken man. Many people who commit awful crimes are simply put, broken individuals. No human being that is put together properly in the head could be that girl who killed her neighbor's children and laughed about it. Frankly, I would believe that when she dies, she will be reprimanded and punished, but those truly broken individuals will be seated closest to God, because God recognizes that it is not always their fault, in a matter of speaking.
To clarify, I do believe in punishment. Evil and depraved people will be punished, but I firmly believe that God will absolve everyone when their conscience shines through. For those who cannot realize the error of their ways (the "broken" ones), I believe God has the ability to hold them closely and fix them in a sense, so that their souls can be whole again. I believe that our souls, free from dark feelings and mortal concerns, can even come to forgive those who have committed crimes against us. Honestly, some people may take a long time to be punished, and it may seem like eternity. I wouldn't be shocked if God punished us all to some degree, that is, for the errors in our ways, we would have to atone and accept responsibility for them. The severity would be judged by God, and once completed, you could be accepted into your afterlife.
Error is hard to quantify. Like I said, I know that there are broken people out there, physically and mentally. Is that a fault of God? Hardly. Again, I don't believe in a God who takes those kinds of actions regularly. It also depends on what you consider error. Is murder an error? Yes, of course, and I can't fault God for human actions. Is being Hindu an error? We would disagree on that. At the same time, I again believe that God could very well find punishments to suit all "errors," as long as that might take for some. I don't believe God accepts people with errors into heaven, at least not until they have properly atoned.
Again, religious belief is not a concern. Now, say an atheist runs from the concept of God because they simply want to avoid morality and commit crimes and depraved acts. That would obviously be a situation where God may punish an individual. If someone is an atheist because they genuinely don't believe and yet they still live a more fruitful, happy, and moral life, then their punishment may be less severe than others who do believe in Christ.
Of course some people might despise God, whether they wrongfully blame God for certain events in their lives or they simply have some inborn hostilities. But, here's my take: Say you die and the higher power greets you. You say that you hate God for what he did to you. I'm sure God, being patient and loving, would strip away the mortal antagonistic attitude and show you that God was not responsible. If that disposition led to improper actions by you, God would punish you. But the God I choose to believe in would not push away someone for selfish or mortal beliefs. It may take a long while, but certainly God could ease the hate in that heart and let him/her into the afterlife eventually.
Obviously there's much more, but I've already got a good novel going so I'll stop and let you tear into my idealistic worldview. I don't really ask for much other than please don't simply respond by attacking it or throwing Bible verses at me. Not that you can't compare this to Christianity, but comparing this to scripture would be an obvious conflict and really get nowhere fast.
Here is an embedded assumption I believe many who disagree with Christian theology on an afterlife with a heaven and hell seem to have.
It is believed that if someone knew God, that such a person would want to be with God in His kingdom. Scripture is clear on two issues that often get conflated together by Christian and non-Christian alike: 1) God will judge and appropriately punish people for their sin, and 2) Those who reject God do so because they hate Him.
Now finite sin, might deserve finite punishment. However, finite sin shapes eternal beings. Therefore, finite sin has eternal consequences for the persons we ultimately become at death. I do not see how it is possible for God to change someone, unless God forcibly changes who they are. And to do this God needs to divinely "rape" them by forcing Himself onto them. And I mean "rape" in every sense of the word, because no person wants another they can't stand to force themselves onto them. They just want to run and get away or fight back.
Now if this seems plausible, then it is possible. And what is possible is what I actually believe to be the case. Therefore, the finite sins of say Hitler have eternal consequences for the person he turned into and was upon his deathbed. Now, Hitler gets spiritually awoken and sees God whom he sinned against. God will judge and punish Hitler for his sins, but then what? Measuring in a way that we might perceive as a just penalty, let's assume his sins amount to a billion years expulsion for all the death multiplied by the pain and suffering he inflicted. Ok, great. Now he has paid for his crime. But what of his heart and who he was and now is? I see no reason to say that would have changed, and every reason to believe if anything Hitler would be more hardened against God whom he is so powerless against. In Hitler's eyes, Hitler is justified and God is wrong. Is God expected to accept this? How can God accept Hitler's terms unless He becomes divided against Himself?
- "Of course some people might despise God, whether they wrongfully blame God for certain events in their lives or they simply have some inborn hostilities. But, here's my take: Say you die and the higher power greets you. You say that you hate God for what he did to you. I'm sure God, being patient and loving, would strip away the mortal antagonistic attitude and show you that God was not responsible. If that disposition led to improper actions by you, God would punish you. But the God I choose to believe in would not push away someone for selfish or mortal beliefs. It may take a long while, but certainly God could ease the hate in that heart and let him/her into the afterlife eventually."
In essense, it seems to me you believe God should force Himself onto everyone, qualified by God "easing" Himself into the heart of others. The Bible I read already tells me God is trying to draw people towards Himself because He desires none to perish. However, many bury the truth of God because they hate Him. That indeed, all of us run away from God and our carnel minds reject God. It is only by God's luring us to Himself that He can seep in enough to cause some to change in our hearts. While there might be subtle differences, I think nearly all Christians would agree with this regardless of denomination.
Given Scripture is true on these things, then who we are when we die is the person we've decided to be. We are "set in stone" so-to-speak, only the stone we have been set in is this temporary life we have lived on Earth. Is it any wonder that the angels were treated differently in their rebellion against God? They didn't have time like we do to work through their thoughts, feelings and beliefs, but rather judgement was given once they challenged God. We can challenge God all we want, and then on our deathbed desire God to come into our lives and it can be the case. Yet, if we die hardened against God, then when we wake up, we are still the same person. We may now fear God, but that is because He is Almighty. Just because our feelings are now overrun by fear, does not mean what we previously ill-harvested against God is no longer there.
So it really comes down to one big assumption why non-Christians might disagree with and criticise the theology of a heaven and hell. That is, the assumption that God can change someone of their own free volition. The thing is, when most reject the Christian theology of an afterlife with heaven and hell, they base their criticism on a huge assumption that everyone would freely change. I do not see that assumption in Scripture, but rather the opposite being endorsed and every emphasis being placed on this life to become who we are.