The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Hitler Dilemma

One of the quick and powerful comebacks posed to the Universalist position is the question of Hitler. If Universalism is true then you are saying Hitler can eventually go to heaven.

This is seen as some sort of wrecking ball that should make Universalism fall apart in logic and scriptural stability. However it actually makes one of the best cases for Universalism when you apply its basis evenly across all those involved.

According to the rules of salvation in Evangelical Christianity the following propositions are set forth.

1.) Faith in Jesus is the only way into heaven

2.)Works based merit or demerit is not a factor based on Reformation principles.

3.) People who don’t go to heaven by faith in Christ go to hell.

4.)Hell is forever. There is no hope after the heartbeat ends.

So lets go back to the question of Hitler as an argument against Universalism. Hitler is being used as an example of why it would be unjust for hell to not be eternal and unending. This is because he exterminated 6 million people and thus has committed more heinous atrocities than anyone in modern history. To have hell be anything less than forever would be an atrocity of justice.

However based on the rules of Evangelical soteriology, Hitlers works have nothing to do with His entry into heaven or his exclusion from it. It is His faith in Christ, or lack thereof only that counts. However, it is reasonable to say that no one could have done what he did unless they were an absolutely godless, evil, unsaved person. None the less in the most technical sense it is His rejection of Christ that damns him, and it is his evil works that turns up the heat of his damnation. So for hell to not be forever for a man who rejected Christ AND murdered and tortured 6 million people, that would be a travesty of divine justice.

However there may still yet be a travesty of justice lurking in this scenario even if Hitler gets his eternal justice.

For tragically, based on these same strict rules of Evangelical soteriology, the 6 million Jewish victims of this genocide are also burning endlessly with Hitler in this place of eternal never ending torment!

You see they were all Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah. In fact all of Hitlers Jewish victims had been burning in hell several years before he arrived IF we accept premise 3. If we accept premise 4 we have a situation in which the tragic and pitiful victims in the case are sentenced to their perpetrators very same punishment!

Even if you split hairs and say His punishment must surely be worse than theirs, do you feel a sense of justice with them being sentenced to eternal hell right along with him?

Now your eschatological system may say that in fact no one is in the Lake of Fire yet, but are awaiting final judgement in a prison of some kind. That postponement does nothing to resolve the inevitable tragedy.

So when you ask “What about Hitler?”, I ask in return “What about his victims?”

You have only two choices.

If you imagine some way for them to escape hell in light of the tragedy and injustice of this scenario, then you are no different in your appeal to logic and love than a Universalist.

If though, you are able to accept the victims of the Holocaust as justifiably burning forever without Christ despite their suffering, then what is your basis of moral and legal high ground in demanding justice for Hitler? You cannot plead against the criminal and at the same time abandon the victims that define his crime to the very same judgement.

If Hitler deserves eternal hell above all, then His victims should deserve it least of all. But now we are going outside the boundaries of traditional Evangelical theology.

If we say the innocent Jews get what they deserve in hell for rejecting Christ, how then are we any different from the Nazi’s who sent them there?

Whats even more disturbing is this question. How is our God any different from Hitler? If Hitler is a monster for torturing and burning them in ovens for a short time, how do we find virtue in God doing it forever?

The answer to these questions will never be resolved in the current traditional Evangelical theology. Fortunately there is a solid theology that resolves these problems and it involves this set of propositions.

1.) Faith in Jesus is the only way into heaven

2.)Works based merit bears no relevance on 1.

3.) People who don’t go to heaven by faith in Christ go to hell.

4.) Hell is NOT forever. God can grant further opportunities for repentance and transformation.

In this theological framework, Gods justice can still be satisfied, but injustice can also be rectified. In this scenario, Satan does not win the body count, instead Jesus can acquire everything he paid for.

In this scenario, no one can accuse God or use hell as an excuse to turn away in unbelief.

Most certainly attempts will be made by appealing to the absolute authority of God as a judge who is not subject to human reason or sense of justice, but operates according to some higher and mysterious justice that we do not deserve to understand. Well the problem with that is more and more of the fish who Jesus wants to catch are swimming away from Christianity because the torch that is intended to draw them to God is driving them away. Thats why we hide the torch until they take the bait these days. Evangelical Hell hurts the gospel mission. How could a true doctrine of Christ do that?

Furthermore, the argument remains for ardent ECT proponents that it doesn’t matter how “cornered” we are by logic and reason, all that matters is what the bible appears to say.

However if what the bible appears to say does such violence to the most fundamental understanding of justice and love which are at the center of Gods nature then should there not be room to question whether these contradictions demand a deeper test of what has been handed to us in terms of both biblical translation and doctrine?

The problem is that traditional Christianity is offering the world a salvation that has at its root what philosophers call a tautological impossibility. This is often typified by the term a “married bachelor”. A person cannot exist as both of these simultaneously.

In our case we are telling the world that God is a “loving torturer”. No matter how well you might be able to biblically proof text and justify such a position to form “good theology”, the fact remains that this does not work as “good news” in the mind of any uninitiated person it might be introduced to, if in fact that were the initial message being honestly disclosed.

Salvation requires belief in God. Belief in God is rooted in the goodness of God. No one will trust their lives to that which is not good. The goal is the salvation of the world by promulgating belief in God. But if they have to accept the “loving torturer” paradox in order to salvifically believe then Christianity faces an existential crises in a global civilization whose education and critical thinking is advancing exponentially with each decade.

The fact is the gospel is exploding in third world countries but is on the decline in first world nations. At one time what we now call the first world was on par with third world countries in terms of education, poverty and susceptibility to strong-man leadership whether political or religious. As civilization gets more educated and more rational, the less likely it is to simply “swallow” theologies that demand acceptance of internal logical absurdities. What do I mean by internal logical absurdities? What I mean is that this is not about supernaturalism vs naturalism. People are willing to accept a God who is powerful enough to create everything and to visit that creation with power beyond the natural to help mankind. What they are not able to accept is the internal contradiction that this all powerful loving God also plans to torture the vast majority for eternity because they either A.) found it not to be good news. or B) they just never heard, or C) they were stubborn self willed people.

More and more people are seeing the theology of eternal torment and the God of wrath and anger like the Wizard of Oz, an intimidating presentation of fire and shouting being run by a man behind a curtain. That man is not Jesus but religion.

Are we prepared to say that the theology of Jesus regarding hell would someday become irrelevant as humanity ascends the ladder of Kohlberg’s theory of moral development?

The doctrine of eternal hell is literally an appeal to the childhood stage of the human race who understood punishment as as the sole motivation to behave morally.

If you study Kohlbergs work on moral development you see a fascinating parallel to the progressive revelation of God in the bible. Each age seemed to be typified by a more sophisticated less primitive reasoning for what is the right thing to do and why. Kohlberg theorized a level six in his stages of moral development. This was a person who was absolutely motivated by the highest good for others even at the greatest expense to themselves. Kohlberg never gave much attention to the study of this level because he felt that hardly any one had ever reached this stage. But if you read what it is you see Jesus all over it. It is what Jesus called us to be. And many great Christians have become such people.

Jesus said “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” What did he say this in regards to? It was how we treat those who hate us. To love them is to be like the Father in Heaven.

To then turn around and insist this same Father will burn those people forever is an internal contradiction and a tautological absurdity.

So even if Hitler deserves eternal hell, do you say his 6 million victims do too? If yes, then try explaining that to a Jew and then tell them why they should accept Jesus.

People will reject this not as an objection to Jesus but as an objection to its incoherent injustice. This should be our clue that its not a doctrine thats of God.

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Great argument!

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My answer to the Hitler dilemma is that I believe God’s justice is so powerful He can correct even someone who has committed works as atrocious as the Holocaust. That is, God isn’t left with merely burning Hitler for all eternity, that would be tantamount to giving up—His grace and power abounds so high that even a man as evil as Hitler can be cleansed and forgiven.

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Pastor Mark, I’m with you on your main points. Well done! But I find the above quote troubling.

I don’t think mankind is advancing in its discernment. Civilization, and even most of the Church, continues to eat from the bipolar Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (i.e., intellectualism, moralism, legalism, the law of sowing and reaping), not from the superior unipolar Tree of Life (i.e., JESUS, and his mercy: not reaping evil you sowed; and his grace: reaping good you didn’t sow).

If anyone comes to the deep revelation that God is love, and that true love would not put people in a place of never-ending torment, then all credit goes to the Spirit of truth, not to the “evolution” of logical thinking.

Speaking of evolution, and the supernatural: I would argue that those who advocate Darwinian macroevolution (which anti-biblically proposes death and destruction on earth before the first sin of Adam and Eve, Rom. 5:12, 1 Cor. 15:21) are ripe for the false promises of the New Age movement, or its evangelical counterpart, dominionism.

The coming Antichrist and his various false prophets will astound the world with miraculous powers (Mt. 24:24, 2 Thes. 2:9, Rev. 13:13, 19:20), and doubtless—like New Age guru Marianne Williamson, a 2020 presidential contender in the Democratic party—he will offer mankind esoteric principles of enlightenment to help accelerate the supposed evolution of human potential…for the advancement of mankind: but in reality leading people everywhere step by step to the worship of Lucifer, Rev. 13:4.

Blessings!

I don’t think Hitler was any more evil than the average person who ‘only’ committed first degree murder against one person who never harmed them. He was more ambitious, but more evil than the person who kidnapped, raped, and murdered a child? I don’t think so. It seems arbitrary to think someone who did that could be forgiven, but not Hitler.

The argument of “The Hitler Dilemma” is the centerpiece of the superlative film, Hellbound? In this documentary, Kevin Miller examines the fate of the Jews during the Holocaust very poignantly:

@Hermano I don’t know what Miller says, but I assume it’s that according to standard evangelical soteriology, Hitler’s victims will suffer forever too.

You assume wrongly. Although Miller does examine infernalism and annihilationism, he is squarely in the universalist camp.

There have been and are people ‘worse’ than Hitler, of course. In fact, an unknown person of limited chance to actually do much evil can still do as much as circumstances allow - and be as evil, in his mind and heart, as Hitler’s blackest day.

If, as a result of honestly working through the reasoning of “The Hitler Dilemma,” we can conclude that Adolf Hitler will ultimately come to repentance and salvation, what about that snake, the fallen archangel Lucifer?

Please consider “Will the devil be saved?

Thank you for that in depth comment. I feel that I left you with a different impression regarding the “educated and rational” than I intended. I am speaking of the humanistic and naturalistic people who tend to see the bible as superstition. Educated rational people who think in terms of higher criticism use eternal torment and its internal contradiction as evidence that Christianity is not only irrational but presenting a God that is less than fully good. would only ask that we try to imagine a gospel that does not damn people forever and then how it would be received by educated people with critical thinking skills vs more simplistic people.

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Im honored to have your first post on my thread. Welcome!
Bravo to your wider and deeper and higher view of Gods love and power.

Thank you…cant wait to watch.

Forgiveness for Hitler is not the point. Its that under our flawed theological structure the unsaved Jews of the Holocaust would suffer the same judgement as Hitler. Its about helping ECT adherents see the injustice of eternal hell in such a case.

So yep, in a nutshell…

The whole Hitler appeal is an illogical and hypocritical furphy in that it’s apparently ok to be… repulsed, sickened, and angered by the temporal torture and extermination of six million Jews by an evil, unjust, and hateful Hitler; and yet infernalists’ will then turn around and whole heartily… laud, justify, and support the supposed eternal torture, or annihilation, of the very self-same Jews by a good, just, and loving God… go figure!?

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That was right on the mark, davo, imo.

On the basis of eternal torment theology Hitler could be in heaven and all 6 million victims could be in hell. Salvation is not based on works but on faith in Jesus. So, on the possibility that just before he died, Hitler was regenerated by the Holy Spirit and born from above, (or if you’re Arminian…he had a sudden realization of his sin and repented and put his faith in Jesus) then he could be in paradise right now while those he had tortured ad murdered could be awaiting eternal torment.

No advocate of endless torment doctrine can disprove tat from scripture. That is the reductio absurdum of that doctrine.

I can appreciate that construction and your intent but there are passages that might offer grounds for the impossibility of Hitlers conversion this side of the grave. As described by the following:
~ Having His conscience seared as with a hot iron I Tim 4:12
~ Being past all feeling Eph 4:19
~ Having a reprobate mind Romans 1:28

Now that should not be construed as a limitation on Gods side, but due to the self inflicted damage done to his own being in accepting Satans deep and hideous doctrine to such a degree that he could justify global conquest and extermination. Hitler was for all practical purposes an AntiChrist.
All Im saying is that I have very little confidence Hitler repented of his deeds. And if the most technical disqualification is needed to match the soteriological rules of salvation that might squeeze him into heaven I would offer this:
Jesus assured us that if we do not forgive men their sins the father in heaven will not forgive our sins. Could we entertain that Hitler repented of his own incorrigible hatred of the Jews just before he put a bullet in his brain? Highly unlikely.

Highly unlkely. Yes. Impossible? No. That is my point.

Or, neither Hitler nor any other what we would call evil person is in a thing called Hell.
Non of us had to realize our sin. Christ did away with sin if we realized it or not. Being the propitiation of sin, Christ fulfilled the need of humanity to get things right with the Father.

This tread may be good…