I stumbled upon this video at this blog and I decided it might be interesting to go through the questions. I do not happen to think they are tough questions at all (although some of them are interesting), so it intrigues me that these are labeled “tough questions” as such. Anyway, I will italicize the questions and then respond in regular font.
Is Anne Frank burning in hell?
If she did not profess faith in Jesus before her death, then I think she is in hell.
How about Mahatma Gandhi?
Same answer as above.
Is Fred Phelps in Heaven since he believed in the divinity of Jesus?
If Fred Phelps was a true believer, then he would be in heaven right now. What I find more interesting about this question is that it ties going to heaven with simple belief in the divinity of Jesus, but clearly that isn’t right. Now, was Fred Phelps truly a Christian? I don’t pretend to be able to answer this questions, but one of the means for evaluation Christians are given is seeing a person’s fruit. From that yardstick, I suppose people can take a general stab at the answer to the question I posed, but, ultimately, we do not know one way or the other.
Should a killer who genuinely repents at the end of his life go to Heaven?
I’m not sure what is meant by “should” here. Maybe it is a moral “should” in which case the question becomes interesting. First, mere repentance is not the Christian idea of salvation, it is repentance and faith. Second, this brings in questions about how morality is grounded. If morality is grounded in God and we take God to be the Christian God and repentance and faith as necessary for salvation, then the answer to the question is tautological. Put another way, if we take Christianity to be true, then this is an easy answer.
Perhaps this is a rational “should”. But if that is the case, then it is a very ambiguous question as it could be asking many different things. It could be asking if it makes sense pragmatically or if it coheres with a certain system or if it improves our emotional health or whatever, but we need clarification to know which one is being asked.
Or maybe this is just asking about my psychological state, but if that is the case then the question is extraordinarily simple and a non sequitur (with respect to the purpose of the questions).
Should a kind-hearted atheist go to Hell for all eternity?
Again, I’m not sure what is up with this “should” and so I think the answer above suffices.
Do kind-hearted religious people who just aren’t Christian also deserve to burn?
Now the fact that this question uses “also” seems to indicate that it is in a similar vein to the above questions. I think those “shoulds” are then moral shoulds and so the answer given above is simple and easy. Thus, my answer given above applies here too.
Would you be happy in heaven if someone you loved was in Hell?
The simple answer here is that I have no idea whether I would be happy for I know neither my future and how I will develop nor what exactly my dispositional state would be like in heaven nor other relevant facts. The obvious answer here, then, is I don’t know. However, a person could attempt to salvage this question, but it is very difficult to see how they would do so without coming again to another obvious answer.
Nonetheless, let’s suppose we get the gist of the question even if it doesn’t make much sense as is. Here is where I find a particularly interesting phenomenon. I can’t quite find the place, but Jonathan Edwards wrote about this exact question. Now, Edwards solution seems to be quite logical and rational, yet people react so violently when they hear it. Thus, this often seems to be more of an emotional question than a rational one.
As to answering it rationally, he proposes many answers, but one part is to say that we thereby rejoice in God’s justice and that as our love to neighbor is an outworking of our love for God, then the two cannot be played off against one another. Now, many find this answer to not be very emotionally satisfying. To that person, there can be no rational answer since it is no longer a rational question but a psychological state. That’s fine, but that doesn’t make it a tough question.
If your child were dying, and I hope that never happens, would just pray for them or would you take them to a doctor?
And if you’d do both, which one do you think has more of an impact?
This is another ambiguous question. It could be either (i) asking about one’s psychological state or (ii) asking which belief is rational. Let’s take them in turn.
As to one’s psychological state, that seems rather simple to answer and nothing really of interest follows from it except maybe that we harbor some unbelief. So let’s go through the options. Let’s say my psychological state is that prayer would have more of an impact. Question answered. Now let’s say that my psychological state is that medicine would have more of an impact. Question answered and I seem to harbor some unbelief about the efficacy of prayer. Finally, let’s say that my psychological state is that I don’t know the answer. Question answered.
Moving on to which belief is rational. I’m not sure this is a question that one knows the answer to. However, this doesn’t make it a tough question for Christians, it makes it a tough question for any person who is given this hypothetical! Answers to prayer do not just have to be miracles, but they can also be the way God has set up the world to work including the efficacy of medicine given a molinist view. Thus, nothing interesting follows from this question.
Whose prayers does God answer?
This is rather easy to answer: the people who have answer prayers. But maybe this is supposed to ask a different question, but then I’m not sure which question it is asking.
And if it’s ultimately His Will, why bother praying?
What is the referent of “it” here? I seriously do not know, but I will try to answer the question anyway. It seems that the question is that if the way the world is is ultimately a matter of God’s will, then why do we pray. If so, the answer is simple: we pray because that is part of what God accounts for in deciding the way the world is.
Anyway, I will continue on with these questions later, but I think it is becoming clear that they are not tough questions at all. Put another way, if these are tough questions for Christians, then Christians do not have much to worry about!