What kind of God would punish Holocaust victims?

Monday Musings for September 16, 2019

Good morning, Musers,

Should people who have suffered greatly on this earth go to heaven based on that suffering? … I mean… when we think of something like the Holocaust, it seems reasonable that they should. But it only sounds reasonable in a world where people who are good in the main find themselves in heaven, and where people who are bad in the main find themselves in hell. But that’s not this world we live in; that’s not how salvation works.

Now… don’t get me wrong. Salvation is as open as the world itself! (John 3:16). The problem is that it is also a narrow gate (John 10:1-10). Today’s questioner wants to know if that gate ought to be broad enough to include the people who have suffered greatly here on earth. The implication is that such extreme suffering should, in itself, make people adequately meritorious.

The Holocaust is a “third rail” issue when we’re talking about morality — let alone biblical morality! First of all, why would God allow such a thing! But even when we get to a point where we can swallow that, the question stands: why would God further condemn those who have already suffered so much… just for the “crime” of not receiving Jesus? That sounds unreasonable!

But what a thing “sounds” like is often at odds with the true state of things, and the Bible is very clear about what it takes to go to heaven: we need to receive the biblically revealed Jesus Christ in order to be saved (Acts 16:29-31).

True salvation is restrictive… but it’s restrictive by design. Since Jesus Christ is the only one who can save (Acts 4:12), restriction is part of the redemption package… so we must resist the temptation to redefine it just because its constraints make us uncomfortable.

You see, there is so much more at stake here than just the Holocaust. I agree that its victims are the poster-children for what we, as humans, should never allow to happen again. But the remedy is not to send countless others to hell based on false knowledge and false hope. Instead, we should be proactive in bringing truth to a world that is complicit with this and other atrocities.

Now, Jesus was proactive with the truth — and they killed him for his trouble… so the least we can do is go and do the same. I’ll admit, though… it’s a tough field. The twentieth-century has sent many a postmillennialist away screaming. After all, ushering in the kingdom of God must have looked like a pretty hopeless task in the face of its many wars and its less famous holocausts.

But, regardless of your eschatology — and as costly as the twentieth-century was in terms of lives and freedom — its horrors were mere blips in a very long timeline. So, since we’ll likely be at this Christianity business for a while longer, let me share a few assumptions that I find helpful.

God knows what he’s doing. He has revealed himself through Scripture. He has revealed himself in nature. He has revealed himself in the soul of humanity… and God is at work even when the millions who are dying by war and by famine... and when events like the Holocaust make it feel like there’s nobody home.

The trick is to hang on when the wagon hits a bump. The thing we can’t do is switch carts when someone offers us — what sounds like — a more comfortable ride.

(Click here to read more about the Holocaust in the article referenced above. 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.)