Wrong People in Heaven? You better believe it.
It does not take a lot of thought to think about popular debates between Bible believing Christians. Calvinists versus Arminians is a popular debate in most Christian universities. However, here is the catch that I think we sometimes forget. I do not think that either way of thinking will ban someone from heaven. Someone is wrong, and as such, there will be wrong people in heaven. While I have my personal thoughts and beliefs towards the topic (and many other topics) I do not think that those that I disagree with in this case are banned from the heavenly realm (Sidenote: I side with Arminians most of the time, but the writings of John Calvin still contain some pretty good stuff). I think that this is part of the benefit of having a God of mystery. We cannot figure him out and therefore cannot hope to have all the answers. While plenty of times this might cause us to be frustrated, at the same time it allows us to have our own thoughts and opinions about God that actually helps us to better connect with Him, love Him, and worship Him. If Jesus wanted us to have all the answers he would have given them to us. The entire study of theology is dedicated to trying to figure out who or what God is and what He wants us to believe. Trying to understand the divine creator with human minds is a difficult task bound to be met with heresies and fallacies along the way. Does this mean that we should just give up? Is theology a dead, pointless endeavor? I do not think so.
For the average Christian, theology might not matter a lot to them. They have the Bible, in which they can find most of their answers on how they should live their life and interact with the people in the world. Most of the time this is enough. This is why you do not see a lot of pastors get into a lot of deep theology. It is over most people’s heads. But just because something is over most people’s heads does not mean that it should be studied. Quantum physics and neuroscience is far beyond the understanding of most people, yet the advances that are made in these areas of study are able to help people anyway even if they do not understand it. Theology is more for the people who are asking why. Or for people who discover something odd about God and want to know why God works that way or exists that way. Theology is the study of God and Christianity. It is as much history as it is worship and relationship. However, having a good understanding of theology and the science of God is not entirely necessary for salvation.
It would be great if we had all of the answers in life. If we knew every single detail there was to know about God with all certainty. Even better, would be to understand the infinite “why” questions that are brought before God on a daily basis. I think that there are two reasons that we cannot fully understand God and have all the answers. The first is that we are humans and limited to human understanding and reason. An example is brought to us by C. S. Lewis when he describes God as being outside of time. Human thought is essentially limited by time. It might even hurt our brains a little to imagine an infinite amount of time, or as God puts it, an eternal life after death. We simply cannot comprehend these things with our brains. Everything seems to have an end or an expiration. How can something simply exist forever? Another example is to try to think about the beginning of time by keep asking ourselves “well, what happened before that.” The second reason that I do not think we can fully understand God comes down to faith. It takes little faith to believe something that we understand completely. Instead, it takes a lot of faith to trust God when in reality we know so little about Him. This is the kind of blind faith that God wants us to have. It is as if he is saying “look, here are the things that I am going to allow you to know, are you going to love and follow me anyway?”
The problem comes when some people claim to be God following, Bible believing Christians, yet still hold beliefs and opinions that greatly differ from other God-following-Bible-believing-Christians. Both of these people have done the research and are looking at the evidence the same way but coming up with different results. This has been occurring for over 2000 years. While sometimes people may misinterpret things, or manipulate the Bible in order for selfish gain or selfish justification, these are not the people who I am thinking of. If you are ever using the Bible to justify your actions or to argue your perhaps liberal or questionable behavior, you are riding a very thin line are likely in the wrong. However, the people I am looking at are generally people that come from two different schools of thought. This can come down to really simple things like styles of music that are player during worship, or it can be much bigger things such as abolitionism, or pacifism. Interestingly enough, the Bible never once speaks against slavery, and yet the Church has (at least to my knowledge) unanimously decided that slavery is wrong (though, this is a somewhat new development when compared to all of church history). Sometimes these situations come down to a matter of opinion or preference. Does God love people and welcome them when their preferences do not line up? I have to believe yes. Does God even embrace people of different doctrines? I once against have to believe yes. However, does God accept people with different dogmatic beliefs? Perhaps even yes.
There are three different levels of belief in the church. The loosest one is preference, or opinion. These are things like whether or not a church uses pews, or if hymns are only going to be sang or perhaps even which night worship should be held at. These are generally small details that make each person a unique worshiper of God. If a Christian gets too hung up on trying to have their preferences met by the church they are failing to understand what worship is at all and they are never going to find a church that “speaks to them” or “fills them with the spirit.” They hop from church to church because there is always going to be some kind of detail that they do no agree with that the church seems to embrace. Does God care about these preferences? I do not think so. So long as the preferences do not interfere with Scripture and things that God has revealed to be good and true, each person should be entitled to their own preferences and able to worship God as they so choose.
The next level of belief is that of doctrine. At the root this is the cause for the numerous varieties of denominations that have spread throughout the world. This is how a church as a body is choosing to worship God. These are things like how the church handles Communion (or the Eucharist, or the Last Supper) or Baptism. This also is where we find things like pacifists, and Calvinists, and Arminians, Does God care about people of different doctrinal beliefs? I think both yes and no and it depends on each individual case. I do not think that God cares if a church supports complete pacifism or chooses to celebrate Communion instead of the Eucharist. However, I do think that God cares if a church desinifies homosexuality. Christians should not support churches that are going against the Bible and rejecting the things that God has said. Likewise, I do not think the hatred of homosexuality portrayed by churches like Westboro Baptist is something that God smiles upon either. This is to say that some doctrinal difference are justified where others are not. Otherwise, I still think that churches are able to disagree with other churches and people can choose which church to attend. However, despite these differences I still find it just as possible and appropriate for these churches to set their differences aside and work together anyway. At this moment my community has four different denominations working together to put together a community wide VBS (Wesleyan, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal).
The final category of belief is that of Dogma. These are universal truths to the Christian faith. This means that all Christians should be able to unite under these principles and agree to them. For a basic example of what these include I would say take a look at the Nicene Creed or the Apostles Creed. A dogmatic concept is that of the Trinity where God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is a hard concept to understand, but one that almost all Christians believe to be true to some degree. Another is that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Dogmatic beliefs are ones that I think God cares about a little more, and even then, I do not think a complete understanding of the Trinity is a requirement for Salvation. If a church has a solid foundation in Scripture and common dogmatic principles, I would say that it is at least fundamentally set up to worship God and allow His spirit to work there.
This means that without a doubt there are going to be people in heaven that were wrong about something. As a matter of fact, it is quite likely that everyone that makes it into heaven will have believed something wrong while they were on earth. This is because we cannot hope to have all the answers. All we can do is make the best effort that we possibly can with the life that we are given. Even if we do some things wrong, it matters more the things that we do right.
– Pastor Zach