What kind of God would further condemn Holocaust victims?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article about the Holocaust.)

Question: For the past few weeks I’ve watched many hours of documentaries about the Holocaust… and what can I say? The Nazis, the SS and their accomplices in Eastern Europe delivered so much horror and so much brutally that I can barely take it in. In my opinion, the Holocaust was evil in its purest form; it was the uncensored depravity of man!

Yet the Christianity that I've been indoctrinated with teaches that these systematically slaughtered Jews — women, children and babies among them — were executed… but then transferred momentarily to hell, sentenced there by the Christian God… but to a fate far worse than these executions: eternal and infinite torture… but for not believing in Christ.

How do Christians reconcile the morality and character of a God, when he takes people who have suffered unspeakable horrors on this earth… yet stills sentences them to an eternity of the same thing... an eternal Holocaust?

Answer: Greetings friend. Thank you for asking this important question. After all, if God isn’t perfectly moral, then we should all throw away our Bibles and go home! But let’s hold off on that because there are a number of ways to address the issues raised by the Holocaust… although a few of them aren’t pleasant.

That being said, your question is well taken: what kind of God would allow the Holocaust to occur… let alone send the unconverted among its victims to what sounds like an eternal Holocaust… but for the “crime” of not coming to Christ? That never “sells” well to any audience — even to the hard-core Bible-thumpers among us. But the New Testament makes that case, so the pressure is on to affirm just that.

But even if you take the Bible out of the equation and philosophically reverse-engineer a God powerful enough to make this universe, he would also have to be its moral arbitrator (Romans 1:18-20). Therefore, however such a being decides to treat the people who reject his revelation is moral — because he would be the one who defines morality! … and when we find ourselves disagreeing with God, we need to adjust our understanding of what morality is rather than challenge his.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8, NIV)

So, my first comment is to suck it up… because the revealed truths are true. It’s just hard for weak and imperfect people like us to swallow — let alone sell! That’s why we have the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). It’s a command to take positive action against the dreadful scenario of anyone going to hell… not just those who have already suffered... and even suffered through the Holocaust.

My point here is that God’s actions are not ours to reconcile. Our job is to get out there! … to teach, baptize and make disciples! That’s how you keep people from going to hell. Challenging God’s morality and/or his warrant to punish sin keeps no one from hell. In fact, it probably contributes to people going there… although it’s hard to tell what does what in a person’s soul.

I can’t begin to process the horror and despair of those Holocaust victims… and I’m not trying to minimize their suffering with what I’m about to ask, but would you modify how salvation works so that people who have already suffered here on earth will go to heaven even if they ignored the universal offer of salvation (John 3:16) … or did not respond to God’s drawing (John 6:44) …. and regardless of what they did with Jesus Christ? (Acts 16:29-31).

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:44, NIV)

“The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:29–31, NIV)

The New Testament is very clear about salvation…and the Bible is clear that suffering is part of the human condition. But the thing you cannot do is take an extreme example of 20th-century suffering like the Holocaust and challenge God’s nature because of it. He is holy and he is unchanging… and that is the biblical revelation.

“Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:4, NIV)

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” (Malachi 3:6, NIV)

Now, you’ve seeded your question with some false premises through the use of prejudicial language. For example, the phrase “eternal and infinite torture” is clearly over the top. It’s like you were staring at Botticelli’s illustrations of Dante’s Inferno rather than reading Scripture. Hell is indeed eternal, but the fire is a metaphor.

Hell is all about separation from God. But we will not be able to fully understand what it really is until after we die. That being said, it is the worst imaginable thing… and not being able to die while suffering under an eternal fire is our best shot at describing such a condition from this side of the grave.

Of course, we don’t really know who’s saved. Most evangelicals affirm that the children who died in the Holocaust are with God now (having been below the age of accountability when they died) — and here’s God’s mercy at work: there were very likely a number of these children who, if allowed to live a full life, would have rejected God after they became morally accountable. So to them, the Holocaust represented an escape from condemnation… albeit through what any reasonable person would call a horrific trial here on earth.

But here’s the thing: if God “tweaked” the universe so that no one would go to hell, that would “tweak” free will out of existence. What we have physically in the universe and metaphysically in the hearts of people are all necessary processes to deal with the sin that comes with the creation of volitional people — and that’s the only type of people who can give God glory. The problem is, these are also the only type who could orchestrate and actuate the Holocaust.

Please understand that things will be different for us in the far future. We will have our glorified bodies (Romans 8:23), sin will be gone, Christ will be with us, and we’ll be enjoying a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). But all the sufferings we are going through here on earth are necessary for now — even the Holocaust. It’s part of the process of redeeming the very creation! (Romans 8:22).

You see, God plays the long game. As such, whichever methodology will bring the optimal number of people to glory is the moral option… this, by definition. But “optimal” is different from “maximal” — and this means that some will be lost... and even suffer things like the Holocaust. But it also means that some will prosper while others are killed.

This is the life we experience, and since the results will be optimal (Revelation 7:9), the enterprise (and its executive) are moral… and we should not challenge his morality because this optimal process has downs as well as ups.

I’d also like to talk about election (predestination, foreordination, the process of choosing) because, when you understand its processes, you will be less inclined to challenge God’s morality and be more inclined to put the blame on the people themselves… but this is a long section. In fact, it’s a stand-alone article. That being said, I wouldn’t burden you with it unless I felt it had critical data… especially in the fourth paragraph from the end.

Click here to read that article.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20190916 What kind of God would punish Holocaust victims?).

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)