Matthew Coleman
May 21, 2021
Question #

Athiest: Am I going to Heaven or Hell?


You say that all people eventually come to know Christ, in this life or in the next. But I’m an atheist. Do you think I’m going to heaven or hell? How would free will work if I'm forced to know Christ?


The purpose of a tree is to grow towards the sky. The freedom of a tree is to grow heavenward. The purpose of man is to be like Christ. The freedom of man is to become Christ. One of the church fathers said it this way: God became man so that man could become God. So our ultimate freedom is realized in theosis. (Theosis is the process that culminates in union with God).

God is a Father. And a Father’s goal for his son is not to force his hand, or to simply modify his behavior; but rather the goal is to have children that have a right heart. Children that have a truly free will. A will not hindered by lack of knowledge or a corrupt heart.

I would say that you will not remain an atheist when you come face to face with the Creator revealed in the face and the passion of Christ. In that moment truth will be told and your knowledge will be full. My hope would be that you find our Maker to be far greater than anything I could imagine and describe for you; and that He would be far beyond what you could envision for yourself as a good god if you were to believe in one. As a Father, I believe the chief concern of our Maker is not you having a correct doctrine, but a right heart, and a will that chooses the good over the evil. And there are plenty of atheists with a right heart and wrong beliefs, and there are plenty of Christians with right beliefs and a terrible heart. I trust that my Father both loves, and knows how to deal with both sorts. The corrupt heart with a fire that purifies and purges the evil, in the same way that a doctor might remove a tumor, or a rehab facility may remedy an addiction; and the atheist with a truth that overwhelms the reason with understanding, in the same way that a professor endows his students with wisdom.

Moral of the story... God loves you and I can’t wait for you know Him as I do. I don’t want you to know Him in order to save you from an eternal hell, I want you to know him in the same way a tree knows water and the soil it’s planted in—the same way that a man knows his home, his spouse, and his children.

"But suppose he was a man who tried to do right, who tried to help his neighbour, who was at least so far a good man as to deny the God that most people seem to believe in --- what would you say then?" (Barbara asks Thomas Wingfold, who responds) "I would say, 'Have patience.' If there be a good God, he cannot be altogether dissatisfied with such a man. Of course it is something wanting that makes him like that, and it may be he is to blame, or it may be he can't help it . I do not know when any man has arrived at the point of development at which he is capable of believing in God; the child of a savage may be capable, and a gray-haired man of science incapable. If such a man says, 'The question of a God is not interesting to me,' I believe him; but, if he be such a man as you have last described, I believe also that, as God is taking care of him who is the God of patience, the time must come when something will make him want to know whether there be a God, and whether he cannot get near him, so as to be near him. I would say, 'He is in God's school; don't be too much troubled about him, as if God might overlook and  forget him. He will see to all that concerns him. He has made him, and he loves him, and he is doing and will do his very best for him.' "

~George MacDonald

Matthew Coleman

Matthew Coleman is co-founder of Mercy On All. He lives in Western Kentucky with his wife and two children. He loves reading science fiction, fantasy, and anything written by George MacDonald, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, or C.S. Lewis. By the way, Christianity is True.