There was a story in the media today (17th December 2018) of a Catholic Priest in Detroit upsetting the relatives of a teen boy at his funeral, when, during the funeral sermon, the Priest said that he didn’t think the boy would be in heaven due to the fact that he committed suicide.
I made mention of this in my daily Morning News Wrap on Facebook and had some pretty heart wrenching comments and inbox messages from people who had been told similar when their loved ones had taken their life.
So I thought I would try and bring some clarity to the question….Do you automatically go to hell if you commit suicide?
I did make the comment in the FB Post that it is Catholic Theology that a person who commits suicide goes to hell and indeed is a widely held belief not only among Catholics but also other people. The Catholic church at one time would deny a grave in the Catholic section of cemetery if a person suicided. However I was informed that the official teaching of the Church as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance.’
Great to have that clarity re the Catholic Church’s theological position. However, it is still a widely held theological position by many people.
I do not hold this position.
I believe that the bible does not hold that position either.
Firstly, no where in the bible does it state that the way a person dies has an impact on their eternal destiny. The bible is very clear that the only thing that impacts a person’s destiny is their faith or lack there of, in Jesus Christ.
Secondly, if the way a person was to die did impact their eternal destiny, I would think that the bible and particularly Jesus, would have dealt with that topic…say on the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount has sections on life and the way we live it….The Beatitudes for example. This would have been the perfect spot to mention the issue of hell and suicide….but nothing…. Or after the suicide of one of Jesus’ disciples would have been a great lead in to bring this up….but the there is no mention of suicide and hell whatsoever in the bible. Certainly the issue of suicide comes up, King Saul suicided on the battlefield as the Amalekites were approaching, Samson deliberately bought the roof down onto himself and the Philistines who were feasting at the time, Ahithophel hung himself and Elisha and Jonah both prayed to die. At any one of these points, the author of the book where the story was being recorded could have been prompted by the Holy Spirit to make mention of this very important fact that people who commit suicide go to a lost eternity….if this was indeed an automatic fact. But the bible doesn’t mention it. So it is a fair assumption to conclude that there is no link. I mean the bible does concern itself with who we have sex with and whether we are married or not….I am pretty confident that it would address the Suicide/Hell issue if it was an issue.
Thirdly, suicide is not the unpardonable sin. Some people think that because suicide violates the 6th commandment (Thou shalt not kill), and it’s a sin that can’t be repented of….therefore a person goes to a lost eternity. However Ephesians Chapter 1 and 2 is laden with verses that indicate that as a believer our past, present and future is covered by the blood of Jesus. Some people narrowly interpret 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NASB), which says, “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him.”, as evidence that God punishes people who commit suicide. Let me quote from the Charisma Magazine online regarding this verse..” If you dig deeper in that passage, and look ahead to the fifth and sixth chapters, you’ll see that Paul is not talking about suicide. He makes these comments about “destroying the temple of God” as he instructs the Corinthian church in how deal with an unrepentant, immoral person. In chapter 6 he reminds the church that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that they should not be defiled by immoral behaviour.”
In conclusion:- Wouldn’t it be great for the church to be a safer space for people who are struggling with depression? I remember one church leader blasting, for being weak, anyone on anti-depressants. I thought at the time, this certainly is not a safe space for those struggling with depression or anxiety.
About four months ago, I was deeply saddened to hear of a pastor in America, just at the age of 30, with a wife and three young children, taking his life. The last sermon he preached was on depression. How incredibly sad that he felt there was no answers and no one to reach out to. We as the church and we as Christians have to do better. At CityHOPE Church, I am wanting the church to be a place where it’s OK to not be OK. That’s a big journey for us to be on to be really that place. But what a place it would be.
Anyway, that’s my musings on the topic. I am not a theologian, but I am simply giving you what I see in the bible. And let me also say, if someone you loved has taken their life, then I am really sorry for the pain that you carry and I am even sorrier if someone has told you that that person is in a lost eternity as a result. They are simply wrong.
The only thing that determines where you spend eternity is your faith in Jesus Christ. Full Stop. No Qualifiers.
Just an extra….I think we should be talking more about suicide and not keeping it cloaked in darkness….Here are a couple of other blogs I have posted on the topic.
Suicide–I think We Should Be Talking About It Not Cloaking It In Secrecy.
Guest Blogger–Kirby Stokes: Writing on a Young Daughter’s Perspective After Being Left Fatherless by Suicide.
Statistics and Information on Suicide for World Suicide Prevention Day
Hope all this helps
Categories: Australian, Controversial, Theology
thankyou so much for taking the time to write this blog. I have struggled forever with this issue. I don’t know whether it was my Catholic upbringing but I am relieved to read your thoughts because my heart & my head have been conflicted.
I love the confirmation 🙂
The Catholic teaching on being lost for eternity because of suicide is a further development of the view that “if one dies with unconfessed sin in their they will be eternally dammed”. This is why the “last rites” are offered to the person at the virtual point of death. This whole teaching is wrong as there is only one sin for which Jesus Christ could not die for that is the rejection of his salvation message/or actions.
Many do not understand the ministry of those who are saved is not to convict the world of sin, righteousness and Judgement for that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our job is to “inform” but we cannot “convict” for that role is the one that the Holy Spirit is to do. This is why we are not followers of who we received the message from but of Him who sent the Holy Spirit to convict us of our need for salvation.
That’s all for now folks!
Great article Peter. I agree with you 100%.
Just because a person cannot see the hope be drained from a life that suffer from depression, does not mean the person isn’t struggling to stay alive.
God is not a Father who rejects mental illness.
Thank you Peter!