Will suicide send you to hell?
Will suicide send you to hell?
Let’s take a break from the Angie conversation. This is a question several people have asked me over the last couple of years, so I thought I’d write a blog about it.
Most Christians recognize that suicide is wrong, but there’s a few historical observations that are kind of interesting. It seems that a lot of Jews in the first century actually thought suicide was, in some cases, an honorable way to die. Josephus writes about two mass suicides in The Jewish War. In both cases, the Romans were about to capture a group of Jews and probably execute some and sell the others into slavery. Rather than being captured, they decided to commit suicide instead, because it was the honorable thing to do. I remember reading somewhere that Christians were thought to be an odd group because they refused to ever commit suicide.
But anyway, I think suicide is wrong, because it involves the unjustified taking of human life. I don’t want to argue that point, though. Let’s just assume it’s wrong and go from there.
It seems from reading the New Testament, that absolute perfection is required to avoid judgment. But none of us are perfect. That’s why we need Jesus. He lived a sinless life, and when he died for our sins, his righteousness was credited to us. We are declared righteous because of him.
If it’s true that perfection is required, then any sin at all can send us to hell. If suicide is a sin, then suicide can send us to hell.
But the question is, will a person who commits suicide necessarily go to hell? Or can they be forgiven?
The only unforgivable sin mentioned in the Bible is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, so it would seem that suicide is forgivable. If so, then suicide will not necessarily send a person to hell.
Why do people raise this issue, though? I think it’s because when a person commits suicide, they have no opportunity to repent. If they succeed, they then die. They can’t even ask for forgiveness. Since they lack these opportunities, then they will go to hell for their sin.
Here’s why I don’t buy that argument. Everybody sins, right? That includes Christians. Every single Christian sins sometimes. Let’s suppose some Christian who is otherwise in good standing commits a sin. Let’s say he tells a lie. And let’s suppose further that just as he gets this lie off his tongue, a sniper from out of nowhere shoots him in the head and kills him. In that case, he dies immediately after (or while) committing a sin, and has no opportunity to repent or ask forgiveness. If the reasoning above is sound, then it would follow that this person will go to hell. But that seems absurd. If it is absurd, then the reasoning above must also be absurd, since it’s the same reasoning.
Here’s another way to look at it. If the reasoning above is sound, then it follows that a person loses his salvation every single time he sins. Think about it. If a person who sins goes to hell because he lacks the opportunity to repent, then it follows that he loses his salvation each time he sins until he repents. That, too, seems absurd.
So basically, I don’t think a person who commits suicide necessarily will go to hell.
But there is another question people sometimes raise. Would a person who was truly saved every commit suicide? If you say no, then it would follow that the person would go to hell, not just because they committed suicide, but because they were unsaved. The act of suicide is not, by itself, what causes them to go to hell, but it may be an indication that they will go to hell, because it tells us that they were not saved. They wouldn’t have committed suicide if they were not saved.
I’m not sure I entirely buy that one either. If you read 1 John, you definitely will get the impression that a truly committed Christian would not live in continual sin. It follows that if some person is living in continual sin without any desire or inclination whatsoever to straighten up and fly right, then we are within our epistemic rights in questioning their salvation. But you also get the impression from 1 John that even devout Christians will sin at some point, and that’s why we have an advocate.
What doesn’t seem evident in 1 John or anywhere else is how low a Christian might stoop. Should we assume that a Christian might perhaps lie or even steel, but a true Christian would never commit adultery or murder? If so, what justification could we offer? On what basis would we draw a line between things a Christian will do, and things no Christian would ever do?
To commit suicide, a person only needs to reach a hopeless state of despair for a very brief period of time. We are all different. We all handle stress differently. Though I think suicide is inconsistent with Christianity, so is lying. But it doesn’t seem totally absurd that a Christian could, in some circumstances, reach such a state that would render them capable of either. So I don’t think a person who commits suicide will necessarily go to hell.