This Saturday, at the first of our writing days for 2005, we'll be looking at the topic of suicide. (Contact me for details.) In preparation, and for the benefit of those who can't make it, lets start thinking about it here.

St. Augustine (354–430) taught that suicide was a terrible sin and St. Thomas Aquinas (1225?–1274) taught that the person who committed it would go to hell because they had no opportunity to repent of a mortal sin.

What do you think? Can a suicider be saved? Does the motive make a difference? Is it ever excusable or even right? What does the Bible say?

Use the comments section below to discuss the issue.

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Comments

That’s a tough one. I guess I will ask a couple of questions to start the ball rolling. What is suicide expressing? Is it giving up on trusting God’s will for your life? Or is it saying that you love God but life’s too hard? Can you trust God in committing suicide? I would say that suicide is definitely a sin, yet Jesus death is sufficient to pay for it, just like any other sin.
More thought on the matter is needed. I would appreciate other people’s thoughts.

Posted by Stuart on 22 February, 2005 7:37 AM

Hope the writing day goes well. I look forward to reading the fruits (if, like tea leaves, fruits can be read).
A teaser for conversation: did Jesus in any sense commit suicide? Or God the Father?

Another question: Do those who suicide recognise more the fallen state of the world, than those who go on living, but at the same time are more blind to the hope God has offered them?

Posted by Paul on 22 February, 2005 5:35 PM

Another question: what does the Bible actually say about suicide? Does anyone in the Bible commit suicide?

The most prominent suicides in the Bible are Saul in the Old Testament and Judas in the New Testament. I think they’re one good place to start in thinking about what the Bible says.

I suspect we’d be safe in saying that neither Saul nor Judas were saved (suicide, or not). Wouldn’t we?

In response to Greg, I think there’s a difference between suicide, and self-sacrifice.

I don’t think we can be so sure. It seems that Judas was repentant in that he tried to return the money but was rejected - is he trying to make up for what he did? is it therefore excusable? I’m not sure we can make a call on Saul’s salvation either.

Well, personally I’ve always thought that suicide was a logical expression of a Christian who understands that we live in a fallen world, and does not feel necessary to the body: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But it is more necessary FOR YOU that I go on living in the body.”  Maybe Paul isn’t speaking specifically about suicide here, but I think Christians always know that there is something better in heaven and should long to go there.  Don’t know what else to say and guess I better get back to work!  See you later (but not tomorrow because if I don’t take a Sabbath rest tomorrow it won’t be good! smile

As someone who recently lost a good Christian friend to suicide, we were really struck by the Romans 8:31-39 passage that _nothing_ can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. In addition, a lot of suicide is contributed to by various mental disorders (in this case, severe depression) and so usually isn’t motivated by rational thought.

Posted by Stephen Bell on 27 February, 2005 4:08 AM

St. Thomas Aquinas is correct, since you cannot repent from this sin then you have choosen to be seperate from God, you choose to reject Gods love, hell is your destination.
There’s nothing difficult about it. Its either true or false, if there is any ambiguity then there is error in the Bible.

Posted by philip andrew on 27 February, 2005 12:33 PM

What an interesting topic. Last year a guy I’d been at youth group with committed suicide after a long battle with depression. Having had clinical depression myself for 16 years there have been times I’ve longed for God to sort of zap me up and take me to Heaven because I couldn’t kill myself for some reason. Anyway, “philip andrew wrote: “St. Thomas Aquinas is correct, since you cannot repent from this sin then you have chosen to be seperate from God, you choose to reject Gods love, hell is your destination.” Just a thought on that…Does that mean that if I sin and then I get hit by a car and die before I have repented of my sin, that I am not saved because I failed to repent for that sin (rhetorical - don’t blast me with e-mails!)? Doesn’t our salvation depend on what JESUS has done for us, not what we have done (or failed to do). Yes Jesus’ death didn’t automatically let everyone into Heaven because some will still reject Him and we need to respond to it with repentance but if we hear His message of our sinful state and His saving grace, repent and trust in what He has done, aren’t we then saved? So if we then go and commit another sin (suicide included), didn’t Jesus’ death atone for that too and we are still His? I figure if we truly repent then we need to be obedient in living God’s way but surely we must not kid ourselves that we are never going to sin and think that if we do, Jesus death isn’t enough to atone for it. How is suicide different to other sin? I am not saying it is or isn’t. I am wondering. Hmmm, this is a very interesting subject and a tough one. What I have concluded so far is this…
I do not know enough of the relevant bible passages and I am not a scholar to be able to say that there is a definitive answer as to whether or not a Christian can take their own life and go to heaven. What I do know from the bible is that all people have failed to meet God’s perfect standard and to recognize Him as King of their lives. I also know that God is a just judge and we all deserve to be separated from Him. I know that He is abundant in mercy and is patient, desiring all men to come to a knowledge of Jesus and be saved. I know that He has made it possible for men’s sin to be paid for and for them to be reconciled to Him. I know that to be saved we need to trust in what Jesus has done and make Him our King. Therefore, the thing I conclude is that, whilst it is interesting to ponder whether someone who has suicided will be in Heaven or not, it is ultimately out of our hands. There is NOTHING we can do once they’re gone. HOWEVER, there are still MILLIONS of people who haven’t suicided and are living on this planet but are still facing an eternal separation from their Creator because they have rejected Him. I reckon they need to hear about Jesus before they die. So we should tell them. Otherwise, it won’t matter whether they suicide or die of natural causes, they are gonna be in Hell either way if they haven’t trusted in Jesus. Romans 13:13-14…for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Let’s make sure we don’t keep the message to ourselves. God is the one who saves people but He is gracious to us, using our weak selves to acheive His purposes and we are privileged enough to be His workers, sharing the gospel with others so that they might turn back to Him.

Posted by Hezza Boyle on 06 March, 2005 7:25 AM

I think St Thomas Aqunias needs to do some reading in Romans on Justification by Faith. I believe that the bible is clear that in Christ, God declares us righteous. Our sins committed beforehand and sins we will ever commit have been put on Jesus and God is able to declare us righteous - God cannot lie. After we are declared righteous, our lives should be lived as a response to what has been done for us, not to make sure that we are saved.
Therefore I believe that although someone who commits suicide sins, they are still not outside God’s saving power that is in Jesus. And so, i think that if they are a Christian (have the Holy Spirit and have their name written in the book of life) they will go to heaven, sad though the situation is when someone commits suicide, for I believe that people can have wonderful effects on others even if they cant see it themselves. Jesus lived a life of other person centredness and if we are to live lives for him we will see the point of life not to enjoy it ourselves, but to see others grow in Christ. From someone who has prayed with all sincerity that God kill me somehow, and it not happen, I can only conclude that it is better for me to remain. Not for my own benefit but for the benefit of others in the good works that God has prepared in advance for me to do.
When I feel like crap, I am encouraged by 2 Corinthians 16-18. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Posted by Stuart on 08 March, 2005 10:20 AM

” Doesn’t our salvation depend on what JESUS has done for us, not what we have done “...

There does exist a unforgivable sin.

Matthew 12:31-32
31And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Also by your actions you will be condemned.

Mt.12:37
  “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

So the Bibles fairly clear on this.

Posted by Philip on 09 March, 2005 10:20 AM

Jesus promises in John6:39 that he will lose none of those whom God has given unto him.  Along with a basic understanding of predestination I take this to mean that if a person is genuinely saved then no matter what happens the moment before they die, whether they say a word in anger, have a lustfull thought, a moment of greed, or a moment of extreme depression, they will be in glory resting in God’s eternal love.

Posted by Tim on 09 March, 2005 1:57 PM

Philip, I am totally confused by what you said “so the the Bibles fairly clear on this”...The Bible’s fairly clear on what? Also are you saying in your first lines that suicide is the unforgivable sin and therefore is blaspheming against the Spirit?
Could you shed some light on what you said please? smile

Posted by Hezza on 09 March, 2005 7:39 PM

Until a couple of years ago I believed that if you committed suicide you would go to hell. Not because it was an “unforgiveable sin” but because if you got to the point of succeeding in an attempt to kill yourself, surely that meant you were not in a relationship with God. Surely if you had God as your saviour he would prevent you from taking your life. Certain things I have seen since then have made me question this belief.

Posted by wayne on 18 March, 2005 2:07 AM

No Suicide is not the unforgiveable sin when we become christains we can never ever lose our salvation christ died for our sins once and for all past and present thier is nothing that will seaperate us from the love of God however if we aren’t christains then we would end up in hell

Posted by barry on 31 March, 2005 6:54 AM

Yes, it’s quite clear from the passage in Matthew 12 that the unforgiveable sin is that of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. In context, it’s the sin of the Pharisees and of Herod, i.e. stubborn unbelief of who Jesus is and attributing Jesus’ work by the Spirit to the devil.

Posted by SK on 04 April, 2005 3:14 PM

I challenge anyone to find a verse in the bible that says that suicide means you are going to hell! I know the bible say about Judas that it would be better off if he had not been born which probably indicates he went to hell but it doesnt mean that suicide is unforgivable. Here is my point! If all sin is equal! Meaning that all sin on it’s own leads to hell. then how is suicide any worse then stealing lying cheating or even murdering! So firstly suicide isnt some mystic sin that God cant forgive! secondly as Christians we sin all the time! If sin is not trusting in God for something think about how often we leave God out of the picture! Gods standards are so high that if i was to be hit by a car at lunch time then there would be litually thousands of moments i have sinned by not fully trusting God in something even if it’s ever so minor in the last week! imagine if i havent asked for Gods forgiveness in that week! God forgives us for once and for all for good reason! even though we want to live Godly lives he knows that even the strongest Christian is going to fail in many ways every day! Suicide is just another moment of sin! another sin which God through Jesus will forgive!

Posted by Sinman on 07 April, 2005 5:01 AM

My sentiments exactly. Well said.

Posted by Stuart on 12 April, 2005 7:12 AM

This is an interesting discussion, but I think the issue that has hardly been given any hearing that actually has a lot of bearing on the discussion is the issue of depression.

Many Chrisitians are affected by depression, either through suffering from it personally, or caring for friends and family members dealing with depression.

If a person who loves God nevertheless because of medical and social factors reaches a situation where their confidence in their own abilities shrouds the power of God’s grace, then surely, as many of the respondents have pointed out, God’s grace still covers them at this point.

There are many times when I lose my focus on God’s grace because I am caught up again in my fallen-ness. At these times I recognise that I need to go to God in repentance to be refreshed in faith. However, I do not struggle with depression.

My mother and brother both have depression. They are Christians, and in many ways, stronger in their faith than I because of their illness. They have to daily resist negative thoughts and inclinations that come as a result of chemical imbalances. God is holding on to them with all His might, and they are holding on likewise.

Two of my cousins however were not in the same situation. They had nothing to hold on to, and they didn’t know that God’s love is stronger than death. They have both suicided.

The pain which their deaths have caused myself and our family and their friends is deep and desperate.

If a child of God reaches such a moment of terror and desperation and commits a fatal mistake, I cannot see that the God who gave His Son for them would let them slip away because of one moment of lost confidence.

Our brothers and sisters with depression often struggle against great odds. However, God’s Grace is sufficient for them and for me.

Hallelujah!

Posted by Joanna on 11 May, 2005 8:00 AM

At one time I was planning to write a book with my brother on the topic of suicide.  He is a psychologist. There are too many suicide these day, and a lot of misinformation. 

With regard to suicide in the Bible, there are actually eight people who committed suicide in Scripture….

With regard to this issue of hell, I strongly believe that our primary role here on earth has to do with being agents of healing and hope, and that the statement “Your son is going to hell because he killed himself” is the most heartless, despair-making thing we can say or do.  I once wrote an article “To Heal Broken Wings” which was designed to make this point.

In point of fact, we do not know what will happen regarding hell.  A close friend of ours shot herself in the head with a pistol, but in the moments before she died she scrawled a note saying she was sorry she did it and asked forgiveness.  Her suicide was a sign of her weakness, but grace was evident even after her irreversible initial act.  If the Lord’s grace was available to the thief on the cross in his last moments, who can say what final transactions will occur in the heart before death in a suicide. 

For sure, there are many lessons for the living when these things happen… such as being more discerning about what our friends are going through, etc. 

In the Reformation Martin Luther brought to the forefront the importance of Faith as opposed to works being the door to the Kingdom.  It was an essential message for his time.  The essential message for our time is Hope.  May God help us to be agents of Hope leading to Life in Christ in this confused, post Christian age.

It should not be ambiguous whether a person who commits this act of sin goes to hell or not.
They either do or do not. Just because the Bible does not say anything directly about this doesn’t mean they will avoid hell.

Its either true or false, hell or heaven. God is one to be feared as judgment will come upon all of us. Giving people hopes based upon a theologically and doctrinally ambiguous point could be considered a miss-use of Gods word.

Discussion of ambiguous points is an invitation to error.

Posted by philip on 23 May, 2005 9:39 AM

I’m planning to post a follow-up article to this discussion soon. Thanks for your comments.

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