Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Unbelief and Judgment

Yesterday I mentioned an article by Bob Wilkin in the Grace in Focus newsletter. Zane Hodges contributed an article in that same newsletter titled, "The Sin of Unbelief," in which he argues (in a Q&A format) that no one goes to hell on the basis of his unbelief:

Question: Did Christ die for the sin of unbelief?
Answer: Of course. He died for all the sins of all mankind (1 John 2:2)

Question: Then why does God send people to hell for not believing?
Answer: He doesn't. The Bible nowhere says that.

Question: Then what does he send them to hell for?
Answer: For not having their names in the Book of Life (Rev 20:15).

Question: But isn't that because they didn't believe?
Answer: Yes. But it's still not the reason they are condemned to hell.

Question: Isn't that doubletalk?
Answer: Not at all. A cause and a reason are not the same thing. Unbelief is the cause for the unsaved not having eternal life. Not having eternal life is the reason they are condemned to hell.

Hodges goes on to explain that if someone on parole is required to be in his home by 11 PM, and violates that order by staying out till "12 PM" (by which I assume he means 12 AM), he is sent back to prison not for staying out too late, but for falling below the standard of the stipulations of his parole. Staying out too late is the "cause" of the violation, but the violation itself is the "reason" he is sent back to prison.

I'm not sure Hodges clear-cut distinction between "reason" and "cause" really works. In reality, they are both causes, but hierarchical causes: the man returns to prison because he violated his parole; and he violated his parole because he stayed out too late.

But the larger issue is a biblical one. Is it true (per Hodges) "the Bible nowhere says" a man is condemned on the basis of his unbelief? Here is Jesus Himself on the matter:

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son" (John 3:18).

There's that basis for condemnation Hodges insists the Bible nowhere states. According to this verse, the reason a man stands in a state of condemnation is specifically "because he has not believed."