Tim Keller on Tough Questions: Are People Who Aren't Christians Going to Hell?

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Tim Keller tackles the question: Is it fair for people who are not Christians to go to hell? 

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  • Preacher

    It appears that he is another blind man and Christianity to him is an elephants tail. Is he saved? As a Christian, I don’t have just faith and belief, I KNOW that Jesus is the one way, and that all those other religions were fabrications of Satan to throw people off that way. I don’t have the lack of backbone to say I am of another opinion equal to yours. Jesus has shown me the truth, and I will not back down, shut up, or compromise. Turn or burn.

    • Robert Schwab

      Yea Preacher, you really DON’T have the LACK of backbone to say BUT you sure-as-hell have the LACK of intellect to say any factuality here hey. How can you so open and publicly display your ignorance to the whole world out there?

      “All other religions were satan’s fabrications to throw people of track” is the absolute MOST absurd nonsense I’ve ever heard throughout my entire life. I bet that you don’t even remotely KNOW where Christianity actually stems from. I’m referring here to the ROOT origination of Christianity for you can know this, it’s NOT Judaism as all your Christians thinks it is.

      One other thing that’s VERY clear from your remark above is the fact that you too, just like ALL Christian Preachers, operate Christianity as a business for your own personal gain by charging your congregation a tenth of their income for your preaching.

      Not at ALL a religiously kosher act to participate in hey. Jesus was VERY clear on this matter for absolute ALL his Gospel Preachers namely that “freely you received from Me the Gospel and freely you must go preach the same to all the world”.

    • Gamer_Czar

      Turn or Burn? Only the Sith deal with Absolutes! (I have been dying to say that!). I agree with you, but your statement seems almost uncaring for those who currently are not turning. I apologize if I am wrong. We still need to shine the light of Jesus to the unsaved, yes?

  • Joe Rhoads

    Preacher..If your comments are directed at Tim Keller, then let me say I think you’ve misunderstood him. He was asked, essentially, “is it fair to say that some people are going to hell?” His answer, while I agree he could have said it better, was that all people make exclusive claims to truth, even those who say all religions are the same. He uses the blind man and the elephant illustrations NOT to say that this is the true reality of religion, but that the illustration of the blind men and the elephant that is so often employed by people who believe that all religions are the same is a false illustration. His point was that if you believe that all religions are basically the same, and that each religion is just describing a small part of what they see, then you have to be able to see the whole truth in order to know that each religion is describing just a part of that whole truth. To use the illustration, in order to know that each blind man is describing a part of the elephant, you have to be able to see the whole elephant. He essentially says that this is a false premise, not for the Christian, but for the person who says that all religions are basically the same, and that statement, all religions are basically the same, is in of itself, an exclusive claim. It would do you well to remember the context of the question that was asked of him.

    • Preacher

      Dear JR- Sorry about my rudeness. But this gentleman, whom I have seen before and he has always seemed compromising to me, seemed to be asked the question that do people of other religions go to hell. You know as well as I that Jesus spoke more about hell than he did about heaven, and we also know John 3:16-18 (KJV)16
      For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17
      For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
      Mr. Keller skirts the issue and is not clear about the stand of Christ. We need to turn to the only Truth, the Only Way, and the only Life. John 14:6 (KJV)6
      Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
      , I don’t know which one of us understood what he was trying to say, but he needed to be more clear and answer with the truth of God, not a wishy-washy avoidance of truth.

      • Joe Rhoads

        I will admit that I don’t know the man; I’ve heard the name before, but know nothing about him, so you may have a greater understanding that he is skirting the issue. Knowing nothing about him, the clip just seems to show what I posted earlier. That’s the problem with a few minutes of video: it doesn’t give the entire context of conversation. There is usually a stream of meaning flowing and we are only catching one small part of it. He could have been talking about little green men from Mars right before this for all I know, and that would have given the clip a whole different meaning.

        • JD4Vikes

          That’s the problem with most of the Keller clips I’ve seen on the web page…they are simply too short. I in fact saw this entire presentation about 6 or 7 months ago and in the context of the entire “dialoge” and “presentation”…Keller was very clear. I sensed more than anything, he did not want to offer the typical “short” answers Christians often give that are theologically correct but effectually insufficient.

          As an example: IMHO, the Gospels are only truly effective within the context of the Old Testament. Why else would I or anybody else feel the need for a Savior, if I did not understand my need in light of what Israel experienced and revealed throughout the centuries, by God Himself.

          This my friends, is one of the key reasons I believe simply sharing that Jesus died for you/me anymore is no longer effective enough. We are living within a culture that no longer has a Christ-centered and/or Biblical centered experience, that we could rightfully claim 40, 50 or 60 years ago. People are simply ignorant of the OT stories, OT characters and OT assumptions like the 10 Commandments. Good or bad…that is what our new reality is.

          This very reason is why ‘I try’ to begin as much as possible with Genesis and work my way through many of the stories and illustrations we often see our Lord Jesus use, when He addressed a Jewish audience. How much more should we, as we engage a more and more progressively secular audience. One that, for the most part, have never ‘wrestled with’ the bigger picture of Jesus.

          After all, we do read that He had a significant three years of ministry before He died on the Cross. Though the good works He did for humanity could never save us from the consequences of our sins. They weren’t simply “gravy” on our potatoes or “icing” the cake. They are every bit a part of His being, as dyeing on the cross. He didn’t just come as a servant…He is by His very nature…a servant (Phil 2).

          Hense, I believe Keller greatly desires to give a much larger picture or explanation of God’s plan, than simple pat answers most Christians have a tendency to give…though sincere as they may be.

          This is one of reasons I think Jesus invited the two disciples to come an see who he was in John 1:35-39 and not directly answer them as he did in John 3, within His conversation with Nicodemas. They most likely needed a bigger picture of His life before placing their confidence and life in His hands. (Truth and grace perfectly balanced by our LORD, in the first 3 quick chapters of JOHN.)

          • royv2k7

            royv2k7 –
            JD4Vikes, while I concur with much of what you said, and while it’s unfortunate that we are now dealing with a more secular audience, how do/can I reach a younger audience (18-30 yrs) if I do not preach that Jesus died for you and me? I agree that OT stories don’t resonate with Gen Y and Gen Z, but these generations still require awareness of what Jesus did for them. Wouldn’t you agree?

            As a new church leader, what message should I use to attract a younger audience to the Gospel?

            Btw, I think your spot-on w/Keller, I have heard him speak in NYC and read a number of his books.

  • Damo

    He didn’t really answer the question. Do u go to eternal hell if you don’t believe in Christ? I believe in Christ I don’t bow beat people with my beliefs but I tell them about what Christ had done for my life. He truly is the prince of peace

  • Rev dale

    The question was is it fair for people who are not Christians to goo to hell. To say that it is not fair is to say that god is not fair. When God the Father sent his son Jesus to die for our sins the question of fairness was dealt with.

    • Clint

      The problem with fair is no one once they know that God is pure and we have sinned against him, want fair. Fair means we all go to hell. What we do want is grace. God had every right to shun all of us because of the sins we commit. When God sent His Son he sent us grace!!

  • archie pennington

    What a waste of an opportunity to express the Gospel. Truth stands on its own. Even if a billion people believe that 2+2=5 it doesn’t matter, even if NO one believes it equals 4. Truth is that it is 4. The true pathway to God is what it is; it is not based on popularity. There is enough historical evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ and for His resurrection that His statement “I am the truth, the way, and the life; no one can come to the Father except by me”, must be accepted as the truth. The fact that God was willing to sacrifice His only Son, out of love for us, shows that He is a totally loving God, but He is also a just One and can not allow sin (and all the terrible damage it causes) go unpunished. There is a balance that must be maintained and it is John 3:16

  • J. W.

    Two problems: 1. Paul deals with this issue in Romans 1 & 2. No one in the world can claim ignorance of the God of the universe who inspired the Bible and is gospel. 2. Everyone on earth had an ancestor who knew and worshiped the God we are discussing, in the way He demands His creation to worship Him. That ancestor is Noah. No wonder the creator is angry-we’re not making the purpose of life up as we go along. ” Let everything that had breath praise The Lord”

  • J. W.

    I meant “it’s gospel”.
    Romans 2:11-13 KJV
    For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
    In this section Paul proves all peoples prove an innate understanding of God’s law by their own legal systems, approving or excusing their moral behavior. ..therefore the wrath of God is revealed against mankind, by God’s turning them over to all kinds of moral corruption. The only escape is in the gospel… The resurrection of Christ is the proof of this truth.

  • Seth reynolds

    Is this even a real question. We have no right to rid the offense of the gospel or to lessen its radical demands to make it more appealing to carnal men and women.

  • WhatPastor

    The camera man should try not to pitch up to work drunk.

  • Robert Schwab

    Tim Keller literally talked himself into a fix here now hey. Or didn’t he? Saying that ONLY the members of the Christian Faith shall NOT go to hell. And then he turns his statement around to actually say NOTHING at all. So VERY confusing you know.

    Surely anyone can NOT say that any religion is better OR worse that any other religion. My take on life would much rather be to have absolutely ALL religions banned and everybody just practice Godliness in stead, don’t you think?

    • Ernie


      Are you suggesting that Christianity, which some consider to be a religion, should be banned? If so, where do you derive your standard for godliness? How is godliness defined? Do you believe in heaven and hell? If so, who are those that go to either place?

    • Ray

      Robert…that’s been tried…and the problem. You could start your own with that statement…and we’d be worse off wouldn’t we…since that is the very view of human religion…as in Mohammed’s point. He didn’t like what he saw…so he started a new way to “godliness”. And…presto! Figure this…Christianity is the only “religion” that is God initiated. He crashed our party…He came to us, we didn’t go seeking Him. Now you may not believe He was of God, or from heaven. (A whole other discussion) But for the sake of discussion, assume He did. If so, we have a God who made the rules… “Can the pottery say to the potter…this is how I want it to be”. So, we have very good argument for the case of Christ rising from the dead, which is clearly a God thing. So, He gets to say what He wants. If He wasn’t a divine…then He’s a liar on the level of Hitler or worse, or a lunatic. But if He’s Lord, He gets to say…we have to listen…and preachers have to start, lead, and preach in HIS churches….as He told us.

  • Ernie

    While I respect Keller, here he seems to be saying so much without really saying anything. Jesus said the gospel is an offense to some, and for some it doesn’t matter how many quaint analogies you offer them, they’re still offended! While Christianity may be seen as narrow by many, it is everything but exclusive. Jesus said, whosever will, let him come. The door to heaven is open to all. Jesus is that DOOR, there is no other!

  • VinceLavello

    Lame watered down completely devoid of any gospel content – in other words no good news – but no bad news either. Why not either accept or reject Christ why try to fashion him into a neutered generic religious leader.

    Joh 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

    Joh_8:24 “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

    Mat 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;

  • http://www.facebook.com/nate.hogan Nate Hogan

    In reading the comments I observe that some are offended that Keller did not make a direct statement concerning the souls of those who refuse Christ. It seems to me that Keller approach to the questions was to address the presumption behind the asking of the question. That is, is all religions, or religious views are equally valid, then why does Christianity claim exclusiveness to heaven. Keller points out the the question is based on a presumption that all religious views are equal. They are not.

    By utilizing the elephant metaphor, he presents the sustaining lie that post modernism has manifested – that real truth, since it can only be ascertained by reason an observation, is impossible to ascertain since we are all limited. Post modernism stems from the modernistic assumption that all truth can be gleaned by human means. In short – there is no revelation.

    By dissecting the elephant metaphor, Keller exposes the lie behind post modern thought.The interviewer did not appreciate the response (he said I don’t agree) because Keller’s response challenged his basic assumption.

    Now, with this assumption properly challenged, the announcer has to confront his preconception and consider the truth. This, I believe, is where the Holy Spirit convicts. This point, intellectually, is where truth is confronted – when we understand that some of our most basic preconceptions are in fact not true. This is the place of offense.

    Perhaps it was not evident to some of the those who commented, but the announcer was offended – though he tried to be gracious. He understood that in the end, Keller left him without excuse and that being reconciled to God was not available simply because “any path is a good path.”

    This is why Keller addressed the answer as he did. It is clear that he said:

    – not all go to heaven
    – the gospel is the only way to be reconciled to God
    – many do face eternal judgement, its just that Keller says he doesn’t make the call on who goes and who does not.

  • seamaster

    Well, was his answer yes or no? He skirted the issue and never answered it. Nice political move.

    • Fernando Villegas

      It’s interesting that Jesus on occasion skirted issues and never answered questions as well. Was he making political moves when he did so?

      Or could it be that some questions have no easy, yes-or-no answers?

  • roythomas99

    No religion can save us from eternal damnation. Only Jesus, the son of God can. He said: ALL POWER IS GIVEN UNTO ME. Go ye into ALL THE WORLD and preach the gospel. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be damned. Mark 16:16. Jesus said: I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE. John 14:6. Not one man can come to the Father, except by Jesus. Sin has corrupted our thinking center. We think we are not too bad. We think we just need a little clean up. Isaiah 64:6 shouts: “we are all as an unclean thing and we do fade as a leaf; our works of righteousness are as filthy rags.” The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s son cleanses us from ALL sin! 1 John 1:7. We find so many ways to run from the truth! There is no need to argue about water while we have opportunity to apply it.

  • Dntheos

    The one thing I think we all missed is the fact that all opinions are man made. The only opinion that is completely without bias is the opinion of the Son of God-Jesus. The thing is that in the well known apologetic defense either Jesus was a liar, or he was a lunatic, or He was actually who He said he was…The Lord! If Jesus is the Lord then His viewpoint on this is the only correct one. Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the father but by ME! We can argue about other viewpoints till the cows come home but in the end only Jesus has the truth. “I am the Door”. Try as we might no other door opens to the father. Not my opinion…Jesus’

  • ounbbl

    I have read so many writings and video-clips and sermon clips, I don’t find at least right now to see what Tim is telling. But after 60 years since the Bible came into my hand this much I can say. Since ‘hell’ as such is not in the Scripture but in some English Bibles, people should stop talking, one saying for and one denying. As far as a concept ‘hell’ is not a place to go sometime, like after one dies (- all colored by Dante’s Inferno). It is a state in which human beings find themselves, unless they are taken out of by the grace of God.

    • Pastor D

      I think you need to take some courses on Old Testament Hebrew and Ancient Greek and get a better understanding of the words that were translated into the English form of hell. Also you need to learn what most people who have taken languages and literature understand already – that grammar and context play a large part in understanding meaning of words, sentences, metaphors etc. The Bible is quite clear about hell.

      • ounbbl

        Clear about which hell? Your hell? or my hell? Please define the word ‘hell’. The word is not in the Scripture but is some English Bibles to translate several different Greek words. BTW, Gehenna is the valley of Hinnom running south of Jerusalem, a garbage burning site in the ancient time. It is used figuratively in N.T. It aint ‘hell’.

  • Stephen Williams

    Hell as the progressive changes that happen to our humanity as a result of habitually saying no to Gods image in our lives. The end game of choices… very C S Lewis