can mass-murderers go to heaven, but unbelievers cannot?
thorough reading and understanding of the Bible is the surest path to
challenge to the true definition of Christian stems from the late serial
killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Although Lionel Dahmer recalls his son posing
the very atheistic question, "If there's not a god, why can't I make my
own rules?", Jeffrey was reported to have converted after his arrest. He
is also said to have read from the writings of the apostle Paul at his sentencing.
proponents afterward had a field day using Jeffrey Dahmer as the poster
child for Christianity by associating all kinds of evil as being characteristic
of God and everyone who believes in him. Behind all the fallacious guilt-by-association,
a very legitimate question can nevertheless be found:
someone as horrible as a mass murder become a Christian - that is, go to
heaven - and, if so, what does that say about God?
First, to the dismay of Bible quoting felons around the globe, conversion
to belief in Christ does not waive the earthly consequences of one's sins
in the eyes of God or government.
true conversion is God's invisible action within a person that coincides
with their honest turning towards him. No one begins the spiritual birth
mature and perfectly obedient. As such, the only visible evidence of conversion
that others can expect to see will be the outward effects of a changed life.
So whether or not Dahmer had a sincere profession of faith is unknowable
now that his life has ended and no behaviors may be evidenced.
even if Dahmer's conversion was real, conversion does not override a
believer's freedom to choose between sinning or pleasing God. Believers
can and will still sin, but with an important exception. Conversion permanently
provides the believer with the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit
gives believers the ability not to sin, and the capability to be so open
to God that they are filled with this companion and teacher. When believers
do sin, they grieve the Holy Spirit within them, feel that grief themselves,
and forfeit the benefits for which the Spirit is there to provide.
if Christians may go against God's teachings found in the Bible but will
be made to feel bad about it by the Holy Spirit, would they not be better
off if they remained non-Christian until their deathbed so that they could
sin until then and feel good about it?
presumes that sin brings nothing but good feelings. That is not the case.
We are not commanded to be faithful to our spouse, to always speak the truth
in love, and to abhor murder and adultery just to please God: these are
for our own joy and well-being, too. Furthermore, life, like money, can
be spent fast and loose... for a time. But the day we come up short is also
the day it's too late to fix the problem.
if a deathbed confession is our plan now, how will we expect to convince
God of our sincerity then? Our obedience is not what gets
us into heaven, but it is something that God will nonetheless judge. (See
also What is the
An additional objection posed by nonbelievers, especially
in a case like Dahmer's, is the perceived inequity that horrible murder
cannot keep a person out of heaven, but "innocent unbelief" can.
is horrible, but so is unbelief in light of what God has done for us, in
light of the seriousness of sin, and in light of the massive amount of evidence
God has provided by which we may believe. The seriousness of unbelief
is always difficult to understand until one comes to see unbelief as God
sees it. That might not be fully appreciated until one comes to know
God personally means not just knowing about him, but it means coming to
know him as one would a close friend or family member. You know a friend
through years of listening to them and talking with them. Similarly, you
know God through believing in him and allowing the presence of his Spirit
to fill you, and by interacting with him in prayer.
is critical to actually know God rather than just know about him. The difference
is like a convict on death row who might be able to say, "I know the Governor"
versus another who could only say, "I know about the Governor". Either
statement can be true, but only one is a relationship in which there will
be a confident hope of seeing a positive difference in one's future. That
relationship with God through Jesus Christ is precisely what sets one apart
as Christian. Only from within that relationship may unbelief truly be seen
as God sees it.