On his blog this morning, Bobby Grow (Evangelical Calvinist) rightly challenged the question, so often raised by evangelicals, as to whether children, particularly those killed in Connecticut, are in “heaven” or in “hell.” As Bobby noted, the determining factor hinges on the nebulous issue of the “age of accountability” so important in evangelical circles. I appreciate Bobby’s response and would like to add a few thoughts of my own.
Those evangelicals who raise questions as to whether the children killed in Connecticut are in heaven or hell betray their complete misunderstanding of who Jesus Christ is. Jesus Christ is the incarnate Saviour of the world, the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world and the one in whom God has reconciled the universe to himself. The children in Connecticut were saved two thousand years ago. Nothing remains to be done; nothing is lacking in the incarnational redemption of Jesus Christ.
Inevitably, this raises the more troublesome issue of the 20-year old mass murderer who committed this atrocity: Is he in “heaven” or in “hell.” I have heard much about unspeakable evil on the news lately and I expect that the general consensus is that the shooter is in hell. The question I want to raise, however, is this: “Has Jesus Christ taken away the sin of the world or not?” If so, then he has not only taken away the sin of the young children who were killed but he has also taken away the sin of the killer.
An act of unspeakable evil has been committed. Unspeakable evil was committed by those who hammered the spikes into the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. An act of unspeakable evil was committed by Judas Iscariot. Yet, are we so certain that he and the other perpetrators of unspeakable evil are in hell? Or has Jesus Christ taken away their sin as well as ours?
Do not mistake me. I am not a universalist. Like my theological “mentor” T.F. Torrance, I hold to a doctrine of reprobation. At the same time, while I believe that the reconciliation of the world is complete in Jesus Christ, there is an ongoing aspect to reconciliation. Like salvation itself, reconciliation, though objectively complete has both a present and future aspect as well.
In my understanding (not necessarily Torrance’s) reconciliation will only be complete, at least subjectively, when the Connecticut shooter and his young victims are reconciled in the Kingdom to come. The God I believe in, the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ and the gift of the Spirit, is able to “pull that off.” I believe it is entirely possible that this shooter and his victims will meet face-to-face somehow, somewhere, someday and, at least, the opportunity for reconciliation among them will be realized. Only then will all things be subjectively reconciled in Jesus.
It may be that the shooter ends up in “hell.” Who knows? But he will never escape the love of Jesus Christ, for Jesus Christ is his Savior as well as ours.
So I guess what I really want to say is that we need to be slow to speak about who’s in and who’s not. We are all sinners and we are all in the hands of the God who has loved us to the uttermost in Jesus Christ. In the final analysis, the news is good; really good!