There’s a conversation on Facebook right now that started with a friend upset by a pious pastor condemning kids to Hell because they believe in Santa. Seriously, if you are a Christian and you’re doing that kind of thing, stop! Just Stop! Believing in Santa is NOT anti-Christian. It’s not straight from Satan. There was a Saint, a man who followed Christ and did so much good the Catholics canonized him, named Nicholas who lived in the region of Turkey and did kind things for others. He has many legends surrounding him, including putting gifts in stockings hung to dry at a fire. Somewhere, someone, took the legendary Saint and gave him a home at the North Pole, and sometime in the early 1900’s Coca Cola gave him a red suit and made him a heavy, jolly fellow. I don’t have a problem with Saint Nicholas or any of his pseudonyms. We don’t bring him into our church because he already gets enough press, so we try to keep the focus on Christ. It doesn’t mean we don’t like Santa.
However, the conversation quickly turned (my fault . . . completely my fault). My friend assumed that these young ones the pastor was condemning automatically had a spot in heaven because they were younger than 13. I have a problem with that theology and said so (I know, I can’t help myself). And my comments began to stir up some controversy. So I decided to put my thoughts here instead of clogging up that Facebook post.
First, will someone please show me in scripture where there’s an age of accountability? I simply can’t find it. I’ve read the whole book through at least twenty times and been in it daily for close to thirty years. I’ve never seen that magic number or even that phrase. We lie when we tell teens and younger they aren’t accountable for their actions and thoughts.
Second, I need some Bible scholar to show me where God condemns people to Hell. Again, all of those years of reading and it’s not until AFTER Jesus comes again that I can find any record of condemnation on God’s part. In fact in John 3:17, Jesus says He wasn’t sent to condemn the world but to save it! Job said it was his mouth that condemned him (Job 9:20), and Jesus said our own words would condemn us (Matthew 12:37). King David requested condemnation for his enemies in the Psalms a LOT. He even predicted the condemnation of the enemies of righteousness as well as those who plot wicked . . . but there’s no mention of Hell. Jesus said the Queen of Sheba would be condemning those who didn’t believe in Him. Jesus did say that the Pharisees were going to have a hard time escaping condemnation from Hell, but when you read it in context, you find our Savior saddened because He longed to gather them under His wings like a hen gathers her chickens. Jesus wasn’t condemning them. He knew they were not going to be able to escape the condemnation at the last days because of their hard hearts. And the most telling verse about condemnation is John 3:18. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” God isn’t condemning (remember, this is the verse right after the first one in this paragraph). Whoever does not believe stands condemned. Through their unbelief they condemn themselves.
And finally, there’s the issue of the good going to heaven. I used to buy into that theology, but it doesn’t stand up to scripture. There’s no guarantee that the “good” have a place in heaven. If I believe that, then what do I do Isaiah 64:6 “all of their righteous acts are like filthy rags.”? And where does Hosea 6:6 – “I desire mercy, not sacrifice, acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings” (quoted later by Jesus) fit into the “good equals heaven” theology? Why did Adam and Eve get kicked out of the Garden for merely eating a piece of fruit if God overlooks those who don’t love Him enough to do what He asks?
In Deuteronomy Moses warned the people they would stray from God, they would seek their own goodness and make their own holiness. He told them when that happened they’d lose the blessing of God, but if they turned their hearts back to their Creator He would rescue them. When we try to set up our own degree of “goodness” we make a mockery of the goodness of God. We can not be good enough!
Romans 3:10 says no one is righteous, yet the scripture is clear that only the righteous will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Romans 3:20 says “no one will be declared righteous by following the law.” And Paul goes on to say righteousness is given to those who believe. It’s a heart thing. Only those who believe in Christ are declared righteous enough for heaven. Paul tells us that everyone is entitled to this gift! No one will be left out. God does not condemn us to life apart from Him. But as Jesus told us in the parable of the wedding feast, some will choose to be left out. By choosing anything . . . ANYTHING . . . good or bad over Christ, we condemn ourselves, we turn down the invitation.
What about children? I don’t find any special dispensation for children other than 2 Corinthians 7:14 . . . the children of a believing mother or father are considered holy. I know that’s harsh. Now, I don’t find anyplace where it specifically says the young children of a non-believer who die end up in hell either, so I’m not going there! That’s up to God, and I prefer to think as long as a child has that innocence he or she is born with that child has a spot in heaven. But let’s face it, when I stack it up against scripture, that’s just what I prefer to think.
I’m not saying I know it all or everything I believe is correct, I’m just asking you to take your thought preferences and hold them up to scripture. That’s what I do. Some of it isn’t spelled out. So I hold on to what I believe with the knowledge that I could be wrong and understanding that God is bigger and knows better than I do.
Our Father has created a perfect heaven, a place we were given a peak into in the Garden of Eden and the book of Revelation. It’s a place with no room for those who aren’t willing to completely obey their Creator (yep, that’s what He was basically saying in Genesis 3). It’s a place for those with a heart seeking God first and foremost. It’s not a place for the good, it’s a place for the righteous. I don’t want anyone left out of heaven! So I certainly can’t tell “good” people, “It’s OK, you are such a kind good person, I know there’s a place for you.”
What if God meant what He said that only the righteous can dwell with Him? What if He meant it when He said no one is righteous without the blood of Jesus? If after all my years of reading and studying scripture I’m wrong, I will apologize to the masses who are in heaven whom I didn’t expect to see there. But I’d rather do that than stand in front of my Savior trying to explain why I helped a man into hell because I didn’t tell Him the good news of Jesus Christ who came to make us righteous if we only follow Him with all our heart.