Some months ago I had an exchange with a commenter on YouTube where he, responding to the claim that even gravely evil men are not beyond salvation if they repent before their deathbed, asked something to the effect of, “So you’re saying that Adolf Hitler could be in Heaven and Anne Frank could be in Hell?” Considering that Anne Frank was specifically martyred for her faith, I doubt that particular scenario, but the curious theme is specifically the salvation of men who, by their very evil deeds, stretch our knowledge of evil.
This sort of claim came to mind while reading a recent post on Tough Questions Answered.
I find that many non-believers are hopelessly confused about salvation by God’s grace. This confusion was amply illustrated the other day on an Unbelievable? podcast when the atheist debater challenged the Christian debater with the following: “Isn’t it true that the Christian God would have allowed Hitler into heaven if he had repented and trusted in Christ on his deathbed?”
These are not perplexing questions if you douse them with truth. They are only perplexing questions if you fight that fire with fire, posing and posturing and twisting the meaning of words to win a debate like a sophist and not to let the truth stand strong. If were are totally honest, the answer is, simply, yes. I don’t remember my response on the YouTube video other than it contained that “yes.” To this, the atheist said, in a disgusted tone, “Some religion.” Again: yes.
For that matter, I firmly believe the correct response — quite different from an answer — is a kind of ad hominem:
We are charged to ‘Repent, and believe,’ and only final impenitence is unforgivable. Not even Hitler is beyond God’s mercy unless Hitler willed it. Are your sins so bad that you are beyond God’s grace?
I recall Mother Angelica’s observation awe at the could have been: What if Judas had, instead of despairing in the brief, dark Sabbath, flung himself to the foot of the cross and repented? How great would it have been — Mother Angelica says for us, and I add, “for Judas, too,” — if we could say, “St. Judas, the betrayer of Christ.”