What if Grandma Gets Run Over by a Reindeer (before she repents) ?

29 Mar

I know, I know….I promised I wouldn’t be writing about hell again…but it just keeps coming up in conversations.

So what if Grandma gets run over by a reindeer before she repents and puts her faith in Jesus?  Now what?

I ask the question because I have seen this very thing play out in my own family.

My wife’s Grandma was much-loved.  She was short, feisty, and a genuinely fun person to be around.  I loved her as well.  She always seemed to have a soft spot for me and I loved the fact that her secret ingredient for every dish she concocted, was bacon.

Spiritually speaking, Grandma had been raised in a non-religious home.  She converted to Catholicism when she met her husband and was faithful to raise her children in communion with Rome.   The rub came when her son, my Father-in-law, had a conversion experience to Evangelicalism and rejected his Catholicism.  As far as he and the church we both attended were concerned, the Roman Catholic Church preached a false gospel.  Some of our Bible teachers even suggested that the Catholic church was represented in the book of Revelation, described as  the Harlot who rode the Beast.  That’s right, not just a church with some problems…it was a church that was directly in league with Satan and the Anti-Christ.

Over the years, my wife’s parents would consistently share the Gospel with Grandma, trying to convince her that she needed to leave the Catholic Church.  Grandma once commented that “If I hear them share John3:16 with me one more time, I’m going to scream!  What do I have to do to convince them (my in-laws) that I believe in Christ?”  So she believed in God, but she had no intent of leaving the Catholic church.  To my in-laws and myself, this meant she probably was not a real Christian.  Since no real Christian would remain in a false church, then her salvation was in question.  At least, this is how we thought at the time….

As the years went by, the same frustrating spiritual conversations ensued, but she refused to repent of her Catholicism.  She also began to experience the pain of old age.  Her husband died of a heart attack while vacationing at the beach.  She was now a widow and had to move to a small apartment, to be close to family.  She began having small cancer patches appear on her skin.  It got to the point where part of her ear and nose had to be removed.  She was in pain because of the cancer, but it also caused her personal embarrassment.  She would have to attach skin bandages and a nose patch so she could go in public, without looking  abnormal from the scars left by cancer.

Eventually the cancer did what it does best, it stole Grandma’s life away from her and she died…..

It’s at this point that the whole idea of Hell becomes excruciatingly personal.  To be consistent, those of us who were Evangelicals would have to conclude that Grandma died in a false church and was never a true Christian.  Our theology told us that Grandma is currently being tortured in hell, and that with every passing moment, she will continue to be tortured for evermore-for eternity.

Eternal hell for the woman who gave life to my Father-in-law.  Eternal hell for the woman who always sent a little money to the grand-kids, even when she didn’t have much money to spare.  Eternal suffering for a woman who had by all accounts, been a decent human being to family and strangers alike.

It has been my experience, that in times like this, Evangelicals begin to seek out some sort of escape clause.  The thought of our loved ones suffering forever haunts us, and we begin to say things like:

“You never know, maybe God chose to reveal himself in those last moments…he is a Merciful God.”

“I know she heard the truth, only God knows, but I believe that she must have known the Lord.”

Besides hoping for some last second reckoning for our now departed loved ones, many begin to seek out some sort of sign.  Some indication from God, that their loved one is now in heaven and not in that other place.

For my wife’s family,  this came in the form of sunshine.  It had been raining all day at the memorial service and during the burial.  Just as the casket was being lowered in the grave, some sunshine peaked through the clouds for a few moments.  To some in my wife’s family, they took this as a sign from God.   A sign that Grandma was now resting with Him in heaven.

To be fair, I have no desire to pick a fight with anyone who has lost their mom.  But it seems a stretch, to say that a little burst of sunlight exempts a loved one from the plain teaching of scripture.   This tendency to find an “out” for our loved ones seems right to me…after all who REALLY wants to see Grandma burn? But it doesn’t change the stark picture painted in the Bible, of the Eternal suffering that awaits unbelievers after they have died.

It’s the question I now ask believers.  Can you really imagine an Eternity in which your dear old Grandma will suffer in Hell?  I know I can’t…

19 Responses to “What if Grandma Gets Run Over by a Reindeer (before she repents) ?”

  1. Freedom March 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    The whole ‘all Catholic are going to hell” is something that has ALWAYS bugged the hell (pun intended) out of me. Having been raised Catholic and know lots of Catholic, they are Christians, they just don’t buy into the various shades of evangelical theology.

    It always gets me that the evangelical sects try to label the Catholic church as one big cult teaching a “false Gospel” and that all the members are going straight to hell because they haven’t had an emotional conversion experience. It’s interesting that rebellion and disrespect for authority is a huge sin in the evangelical community, yet that entire branch of Christianity was born out of rebellion against the Catholic church. And they continue to call the Catholic Church a “false religion”. It just shows how little of Church history they know. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church are the only churches than can truly traces their beginnings back to start of Christianity – Jesus, his disciples and the beginnings as a sect of Judaism.

    The rise of the Protestant movement was something that started through rebellion (The King wanting a divorce, John “If you don’t agree with me, I will burn you at the stake” Calvin) and ex-communication (Luther, who just wanted to change theology and not start an entire movement).

    You bring up another good point, the whole “we don’t know what happen in their final moments of life” thing to try and make people feel better right after they threw in the “they are burning in hell” comment.

    If said she believed in Christ, there is no need to start questioning her faith because she didn’t have an emotional conversion altar call experience and then do x y and z to “really” be saved and prove it to the evangelicals that act as judge, jury and the hounds guarding the gates of hell.,

    To answer your question, as a follower of Christ I don’t think dear old Grandma is burning in hell for all eternity. But then again I don’t buy into the control tactic called Hell nor do I believe there is a hell when those that didn’t have an emotional conversion experience that they can prove to the evangelical crowd exists.

    Good post BTW!

    • christianagnostic March 29, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

      Thanks Freedom…I also agree with your take on church history. Most Protestants don’t realize that 90% of their theology is a direct derivative of Catholic Orthodoxy.

  2. randallslack March 29, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    Only God pronounces judgment on where a person spends eternity. As a Christian and a former Pastor, I would never presuppose where a person is going to spend eternity. To do so is presumptuous and self-righteous.

    1 Samuel 16:7″…For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (NKJV). What did your Grandmother truly believe in her heart? Only God can accurately know. And only He can determine her destiny.

  3. christianagnostic March 29, 2012 at 11:57 pm #


    While I admire your gracious attitude, I still wonder, do you believe God sends people to hell?

    Not trying to pick a fight…I mean, if my wife’s Grandma really didn’t know God as defined by Scripture, do you believe she has been suffering Eternal wrath and torment for the last couple years since she died?

    This is a thought that I can not reckon with the claim that God is love.

  4. randallslack March 31, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    God sends no one to Hell. According to Jesus, people choose where they will spend eternity.

    Again, I do not presuppose to know where your wife’s grandmother is. I am no one’s judge (and I thank God for that). (And I don’t think your trying to pick a fight!).

    According to the Scripture, God (in His great love) sacrificed His Son for us. And by simply believing in His sacrifice, we can be saved. I wonder how He felt when His Son hung on the cross? I would fight to the death to protect my family. I can’t imagine sacrificing a son or daughter. But, in His love, did so. I choose to believe; you have chosen to stop believing. I respect your view even if I don’t agree with it. That’s what love does. The last thing I would do is to try to talk you into believing. Because if I can talk you into it, someone can talk you out of it.

    Lest you think I am a Pollyanna, I too have had my times of unbelief. My life has not been easy. I have pastored two churches and have been betrayed by many (some very influential in the Christian community). And at the present time, I am ill with some kind of a neuro-muscular disease that several doctors have not been able to identify (but they clearly see the symptoms). I don’t understand why. Most days are very difficult. But I still choose to trust because, while I don’t understand, I believe in spite of what I see. I believe Him to be trustworthy.

    This is a sobering subject, eternity. My desire is to share what I believe to be the truth with others. I don’t have all the answers. Many things I believe, I believe by faith, trusting God because I believe He can be trusted.

    • Debra Baker March 31, 2012 at 1:43 am #


      I just wanted to let you know that my heart goes out to you, that I have been through the legalistic church ringer and I, too, have a similar condition but with a diagnosis.

      It can be hard to stay positive and I, too, have my seasons of doubt but I have also always been taken care of.

      Hell is one of those issues where I struggle because my God loves the people that he made and doesn’t want anyone ending up in hell.

      I just cling to what I know and what resonates in my heart.

      (Hope you don’t mind, MM, that I hijacked your blog but I’ll ask forgiveness if need-be since I certainly didn’t ask permission.)

  5. christianagnostic March 31, 2012 at 1:57 am #


    You are welcome to hijack anytime……


    I’m sorry to hear about your condition….I don’t think you are being Pollyanna at all. A few years ago, I could have written the almost same exact description of myself. Only I was a worship leader not a pastor and it was my wife that was suffering, not me….but you get the idea.

  6. randallslack March 31, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    Debra – Thanks for joining in.

    CA – Unfortunately, there is enough suffering going around for all of us. I will pray for your health.

    Grace and peace…

  7. Lisa April 2, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    I feel like I’m interrupting a conversation at a cocktail party, but I found this discussion interesting.
    “It is appointed for man to die once and then face the judgment.” Do you not believe in a judgment? If you do, then why? Doesn’t judgment suggest a one or the other? Either /or? Do you believe in a day of reward? The day when all that is good (and hidden) will be revealed. Perhaps that Grandma was the greatest believer in the family!
    And then there is the issue of evil. Do all enter heaven? Do you no longer believe in an eternal home for God’s people?
    I come as a student. Please help me understand.

    • christianagnostic April 2, 2012 at 9:53 pm #


      Thanks for the comment….to be clear, I no longer believe in the Bible or in an afterlife.

      I asked the question, because it was a very real tension that I felt during my many years as a Christian. A question that I often felt was not allowed to be asked out loud and that in retrospect, I find appalling.

      Many of the folks commenting are still Christians, so I can see how one could be confused by the conversation.

      Welcome to the mix!

  8. graceone April 19, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    For me, it’s about trusting in the love and wisdom of the Lord.

    . If the incarnation is truth, can anyone be more loving or merciful than God. I think the essence of Hell is simply the absence of God, and I believe this is at the last self chosen. No one who truly wants Him, and is seeking truth will ultimately experience Hell.

    Here are some interesting quotes by the Roman Catholic philosopher, Peter Kreeft.

    In fact, heaven and hell may be the very same objective place—namely God’s love, experienced oppositely by opposite souls, just as the same opera or rock concert can be heavenly for you and hellish for the reluctant guest at your side. The fires of hell may be made of the very love of God, experienced as torture by those who hate him: the very light of God’s truth, hated and fled from in vain by those who love darkness. Imagine a man in hell—no, a ghost—endlessly chasing his own shadow, as the light of God shines endlessly behind him. If he would only turn and face the light, he would be saved. But he refuses to—forever.

    Also, if salvation is all about God’s work in Christ, surely this is not dependent on someone’s church affiliation. I think AC that if your dear and sweet Grandma confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, no one has the right to judge that she was not a Christian. Only God can truly know someone’s heart and mind.

    My prayers also for your health Randall and Debra.

    • christianagnostic April 20, 2012 at 1:40 am #

      I used to read a lot of Peter Kreeft, but I still think hell is an awful doctrine no matter how you slice it. Saying that folks are Eternally choosing hell because they don’t want God’s love, is still Hell.

      Why not put them out of their misery instead of terrifying them with your love? It is just as cruel….

      Who in their right mind would continue in a hellish existence, if they knew that all they had to do was turn towards God’s love?

  9. graceone April 20, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    Hi, CA, I tried to post earlier in the day, but no dice. The computer was as slow as molasses and ancient as a dinosaur. 🙂

    Hey, I could certainly be wrong about all this

    . There are tons of awesome Christian people who do hold to the doctrine of annihilation or who are universalists. My husband holds to the latter position, and believes that ultimately all will be saved in Christ. He feels quite strongly.

    But, I think that free will is huge, and part of what it means to be truly human. It really does seem an aspect of God’s love to me that He doesn’t arbitrarily force people into the kingdom.

    I work in the human service field, and see people make terribly harmful and unwise choices all the time despite being presented with all kinds of support, and positive
    alternatives. It seems axiomatic to the human condition that we choose to go our own way rather than God’s way.

    Have you read “The Great Divorce” by the Anglican philosopher C. S. Lewis?. It is a parable of Heaven and Hell that you might find interesting.

    Either way I think it’s fine for Christian people to agree to disagree. We are certainly not going to know all the answers in this life. As I’ve shared, one thing I am convinced about is that we can trust the love and wisdom of God.


    • portal001 May 8, 2012 at 4:37 am #

      When I was younger I used to be afraid that of my great grandmother hadn’t accepted Jesus as her Saviour.

      I visited her and would have conversations with her about Jesus and The Bible. I think she was very patient with me. I love my grandma; she used to say that she would love to hang around after she died, to see where I would be and what I thought about things in years to come.

      I used to read scripture to her and we went through the sinner’s prayer together.

      I was concerned that someone I loved, this beautiful person would be at risk of going to Hell if they didn’t believe. My Grandma used to tell me that she believed in reincarnation.

      She used to say that missionaries might do better to learn from the people they were trying to convert. I honestly don’t know what she truly believed when she died. If God exists then He truly knows her heart. Of course when she died I hope that she believes.

      I think if you grow up in a Christian household, where the assumptions is that everyone has accepted Christ (except maybe the one person) as their Lord and Saviour then most of a person’s loved ones are presumed to be safe and secure.

      But what of the countless families that live and die being brought up in different faiths?

      What of those people who have loved ones who have very different beliefs?

      I have been told that it is God who grows the seed and the believers who plant the seed.

      I believe that it is possible that those who never heard about Christ in their lifetime would be given an opportunity to accept Him when they die.

      • christianagnostic May 8, 2012 at 6:28 am #


        Thanks for the comment and for sharing some of your thoughts about your Grandmother.

        you said- “But what of the countless families that live and die being brought up in different faiths?
        What of those people who have loved ones who have very different beliefs? ”

        These are excellent questions. If God is loving and just, than the answers to these questions must reflect those qualities.

      • graceone May 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

        “If God is loving and just than the answers to these questions must reflect those qualities.”

        Absolutely, very well said. I certainly don’t think that everyone apart from conscious faith in this life is heading for Hell.

  10. Momma E. May 9, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    Hi CA – I happened across your site while in the midst of responding to a comment about gay marriage. Your thoughts are provoking me in a great way today. I agree with much of what you have to say. I don’t consider myself agnostic, but I have certainly fallen away from the RC Church. It just hasn’t updated itself for the 21st century at all. If anything I consider myself a “New Age Catholic” My family tree has many religious branches including Judaism, LDS’, Lutherans, Evangelical Baptists and RC’s, so I’ve been exposed to many different points of view over the years.

    I have trouble reconciling the loving God I am most familiar with – with the terrifying spectacle of a vengeful petulant God that religious extremists envision. Extremists scare the daylights out of me. My relationship with my God is intimate and really nobody else’s business, unless I choose to share. Further, its not my place to pass judgement on other people’s behavior (unless I’m on the jury when you stand trial for a crime) when I am fallible and a work in progress myself. I may have an opinion, but I can’t stand in judgement. That said, when it is time to close my eyes for the final time on this plane of existence I will be asking myself these questions: Did I love? Did I show it by my actions and words? Was I loved in return? Did I make a difference in other peoples lives, was I kind? Do I take responsibility for my mistakes and hurtful actions towards others and am I sorry for them? If I can answer yes to these questions, then – for me anyway – I know where I’m headed next. And, that there will be quite the conversation when I get there! Thank you! Best, Donna

    • christianagnostic May 9, 2012 at 6:11 pm #


      Thanks for taking the time to read and for your comment.

      You said “I have trouble reconciling the loving God I am most familiar with – with the terrifying spectacle of a vengeful petulant God that religious extremists envision. Extremists scare the daylights out of me.”

      I totally agree….because I was one of them. Not that I was in the street shouting names and calling down hellfire. But truth be told, I only voted for pro-life Conservatives, I believed gays were heading to hell, and that women should submit to their husbands,….on and on I could go with the types of extreme ideas I swallowed because of my faith and the Bible.

      But in the end, I couldn’t reconcile the claim that the Bible was the inerrant word of God. Without the Bible as my guide, my eyes have been opened to how narrow and hurtful some of my views actually were…

      • Momma E. May 9, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

        Hi again – I think people forget that the Bible really is just a guide. Written by people, a very long time ago. Much of what was written no longer applies to today’s society and how most of us live in the 21st century. if we choose to use the bible as a guide to living our lives we have to remember that it is just that – a guide only. There is certainly much wisdom contained within it, but it needs to be viewed with a filter – not taken at face value. If Jesus were to show up today I have a feeling he’d be marching in the gay pride parades, consoling women at the battered women’s shelters, speaking at AA meetings, and serving meals at the homeless shelters. – among other things – wherever he would be needed most. Who knows, maybe we’ll see him on Dec 21 this year? 😉

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