Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Did Gandhi Go To Hell?

This month's Psychology Today contained the story of man who asked an elder at his church a very loaded question: “Did Gandhi go to hell?”

The elder tried to be gentle in his answer, “According to the church's official doctrine's” the elder qualified, “I'm afraid he did.” And with their short conversation concluded, the questioning man left the church forever.

I'm not deluded. The questioning man was baiting the elder. He expected the answer he got; he was seeking a reason to walk out, and he found one. I'd like to focus on the Christian elder's response. This blog, after all, is meant for Christians, so it would be a waste of my time and yours to focus on criticizing the actions of an antagonist. Lets see if we can answer the question any better: Did Gandhi go to hell? How would you answer?

Photo by Chris Reynolds
I don't think we should be wishy washy about telling how salvation comes to us. I do, however think we are out of line to judge the state of another man's soul. A human is only ever redeemed by the grace of God when the Holy Spirit works faith in Christ's redeeming sacrifice within their heart. Salvation is God's to determine as it is God's to accomplish.

Only Christ saves anyone, and since he does so through faith, this is a rather tricky thing to quantify. By tricky I mean impossible. When I walk the street, I don't see faith in some people but not in others. I just see people. It is beyond my authority to see anything more or less than that. Scripture says that though man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Judging others is not only not our job, it is actually impossible for us to do.

So if we cannot determine Gandhi's salvation, how do we answer the questioning man?  He deserves an answer.  Questions of all kind should be welcome in church, and I think we can answer intelligently without falling into the questioning man's trap.

Gandhi did great and excellent works in this world, but that we do not believe that works can earn God's favor or forgiveness. Gandhi's good works will not make his redemption easier on the last day. With that said they certainly won't make it harder; God is slow to anger, and abounding in love (Numbers 14:18), and willing that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9). God can redeem Gandhi just as easily as God can redeem anyone. Gandhi was human, and a sinner, and will stand before God's judgment exactly as we all will, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory God (Romans 3:23).

This answer does not give a yes or a no, but that doesn't make it a cop-out. This is the gospel itself. When a person asks if so-and-so went to hell; they are asking a deeper question. They are asking if you will pass judgment if given the opportunity. They're asking if you are loving and merciful. The correct response to this questioning man is, and can only be, the gospel. Please share it eagerly.

Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
-Luke 18:26-27


  1. I was reading Acts 10 today; the story of Cornelius the the Roman centurian. ( A great it!) When Peter asked him why he had called for him Cornelius said, "Four days ago I was home praying. Suddenly a man in whining clothes stood before me and said, 'Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.'"
    Interesting as this man was not a "Christian" at this time, although he later became one.
    You said it well. We cannot see in another's heart to know if faith is there. Thank God He can!


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