Friend of mine having a crisis of faith due to the following passages

My friend from another forum, a protestant, is having a crisis of faith and asked our help sorting it out. We’re not theologians or anything even remotely close, just regular folk. Could someone here please field the following issue so I can help him out? This is what he said:

**I’ve been struggling in no small measure with my faith the last 6 months. As I’ve mentioned to Dem and Rev, I used to be one of those hard-nosed, hell-fire-and-brimstone, independent, fundamental, Baptist pastors that everyone loves to hate.

For personal reasons, I was asked to step down (not a mistress, no money, no altar boys) and leave the church. I can understand, since I was unable to lead - had no vision, no direction - and was full-blown into a faith-shaking examination of what I really believed - or even if I actually DID believe.

Enough intro… One of the questions/comparisons that I’m really struggling with I will share with you all, in hopes that I can get a good answer. I’ve looked at both liberal and conservative websites looking for a good answer; I can’t seem to find one that makes sense or doesn’t seem to make excuses for God.

I’ll copy and paste the KJ version of the verses with explanation.

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2Pe 3:9)

This verse, in connection with several others of the same vein, seem to communicate that God’s driving purpose in dealing with man is man’s salvation. The New Testament seems to state over and over that God’s “will” - His “theleis”, or driving goal - is man’s salvation.

Normally, I wouldn’t disagree - except for a statement Jesus makes in Matthew 11.

“And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” (Mat 11:23)

Here’s where I’m having great difficulty. I have multiple passages telling me that God loves mankind, that He gave His Son for mankind, that His overall driving goal in dealing with mankind is that mankind would be saved. Yet, here Jesus Himself states that He KNEW exactly what it would have taken for an entire city to be saved, yet He chose to withhold that information.

I’m supposed to trust a God who knows what a person needs to hear to be saved, yet purposefully withholds that one thing that will cause that person to be saved from an eternity in hell? If I’m told (or tell others, as I did for 13 years) that God knows what is best for us, that nothing that He allows or does is anything BUT the best for us - yet here is Jesus being recorded as effectively saying that what was best for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah is that they burn for all eternity in hell?

I’m not trying to sound angry or rebellious or any such thing. My faith is teetering on the edge of dissolution right now. I feel like I’ve been constantly making excuses for God; I’m told to use the critically analytical mental ability that God has given to man, so long as the conclusions I come to are the conclusions I’m told to come to. I’ve patched too many holes…I can’t find enough theological duct tape to seal up the one I’ve just mentioned.

I can’t separate plenary verbal inspiration - I can’t accept mistakes in Scripture; if I do, where do I stop? I’m at a brick wall.**

Well I don’t quite see Jesus making the statement it’s
best that the people burn in hell quite lol.

What I see is an OT type warning from an irritated
Jesus to people refusing to use their free will and
common sense properly. That’s all.

God may give more grace to some and less to others but God always gives a sufficient amount of grace to each person so that if they cooperate with the grace given to them they will be saved.

I see here a problem in trusting God’s Providence which encompasses all things. If He did not appear to the people of Sodom He must have had a reason not to. God after all sees all things, including all possible consequences of actions He could make, even centuries onward from any particular action that could be made. It seems to me that God either avoided some greater future evil or advanced some greater future good by not appearing to the people of Sodom even if they would have been saved by it. It does not follow that God wanted them to be damned as they were simply punished for sins they made out of their free will.

Don’t you need to consider that Jesus had not come unto man AS a man-Son of God, Word made flesh-to Sodom and its residents but had He come doing miracles and proclaiming the Kingdom of God is at hand, even Sodom would have repented unlike those to whom He spoke in Matthew 11.

I think you are very angry at God and its pretty common to get to a point where we have exhausted our personal knowledge and must fall headlong into the Savior at the foot of the cross.

I have a tee shirt for a lot of those places of being “almost out of faith”! :eek:
But I know when I have asked God for justice He has promised in His word that there is no true justice apart from Him and His wisdom shall prevail despite appearances that would cause us to question.

Where in the Matthew 11 text does it say God withheld what they needed to be saved? What is your friend’s view on free will necessitating the possibility of saying no? What is your friend’s view of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, coming to earth to be murdered at the hands of his own creatures?

I don’t fully understand someone who thinks Scripture is coherent on God’s purpose but finds a verse he does not understand how it fits and he’s on the brink of loss of faith? Maybe he is sincerely at a loss with this verse in a way I can’t relate. Based on what you described, his reaction seems extremely disproportionate. And, then he says he sees “mistakes” in Scripture? Could there be more psychology at work here? What is your friend’s view on contraception, sexual teaching, or confession?

Our LORD is in essence saying that had He come in His human body, to Sodom etc, they would have repented; whereas the towns of His childhood, full of people who consider themselves far more righteous, do not repent even in His bodily presence.

Unfortunately, His coming into our temporal world as a human being could be done only once; and God for His own reasons chose that that coming would occur in 6BC. Therefore the advantage of our LORD’s human-bodied presence was denied to the earlier generations, as it is denied to us.


If he can’t accept mistakes in Scripture, that leaves only one other source of mistakes - himself.

Which is more likely?

It sounds like your friend may believe in some form of the error of universal salvation. The key that he is missing is found only two verses earlier:

Matthew 11:21
King James Version (KJV)
21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Capernaum lacked repentance. Loook at the story of the tower of Siloam:

Luke 13:4-5
King James Version (KJV)
4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

It is all about repentance, which John the Baptist hammered on:

Matthew 3:6-10
King James Version (KJV)
6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Repentance is absolutely necessary for salvation.

Have your friend sign up here. Once he realizes the error of his current beliefs, I think his faith will be restored.

The key is God’s foreknowledge, for He knows how man will use his free will and how he would use it in any circumstance. God is all knowing. If God knows that a person will reject Him no matter how merciful He is to them, then He will sometimes strip them from any graces and mercy as a means of punishment, and as a means of using their wickedness for a purpose that only He knows. If God knows that no matter what He does that the person will choose evil instead of Him, then the all knowing God will be pre-emptive and take away.

I agree with this advice.

What seems to throw him for a loop is Jesus speaking about whole cities either being saved or condemned. I would take this to mean wheather or not a city produces a parish community, not that every single resident either believes or doesnt.


Abraham tried to intercede for Sodom too. That’s how bad it was so to be compared to Sodom having been more receptive to the miracles that Jesus performed and the proclamation of the Kingdom then the Pharisees is a most heinous indictment.

There is surely some exaggeration in his words. Much like when we say that someone makes Hitler look like a saint. His point was that although both sets of people are evil, the ones to see even more proof of God are more guilty.

Also, it is not certain who will be saved or not, so just because we see “evil” condemned, we do not know the individual judgments of those people. Wickedness being condemned is needed for us to know the consequences of sin and to fight against it. We need examples or else it is just empty threats, hence Lot’s wife and others. Whether or not their example of evil is enough to not merit Heaven, I don’t believe we really know. God must look at the whole person’s life and motivations.

Your friend needs to distinguish, as implied above, between physical, worldly, punishment or death and complete spiritual condemnation into hell.

We don’t know with certainty if the people in Sodom went to hell.
Or if they ALL went to hell.
Yes, they were committing serious sin, but were they fully responsible for their sins ?
Only God can judge their soul in regards to their individual responsibility.

There is a weakness in fire and brimstone theology here.

It is possible that some of those in Sodom, or maybe even most, will end up in heaven as they obviously would need to pass through purgatory.

My impression is that your friend is dealing with a lot of suffering, and that might be an even more important issue for him.


NotCrazyDan, your friend is having a crisis of faith. Such attacks are usually from the evil one. The best medicine is to take him to the divine Physician. Have you spent an hour in adoration lately? If not, go yourself and pray for him - or better yet, take him along. There, he can ask our Lord directly if He is truly present in the Holy Eucharist. Then just have him be as patient with the Lord as the Lord has been with him.

As Fr. Benedict Groeschel says, “When youare aware that He is there, you will be cahnged.”

Jesus is indirectly making a very theological statement when he compares Capernaum with Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus is implying that it was he who was the LORD who bargained with Abraham, peradventure there be 50. He is implying that he passed judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, he is also implying that he is to be the one who would pass judgment on Capernaum, he is implying that he knows the people of Sodom and Gomorrah personally, and how they would have reacted under certain conditions. He is implying that he is omniscient and omnipresent and more importantly omnipotent (as he also did with the statement before Abraham was I Am).

Because you have seen me, you have believed, blessed are they that HAVE NOT SEEN and have believed.

Your friend at a brick wall, needs to ask himself a question. Why has Jesus Christ gone away to heaven? Couldn’t he just stay here instead and witness? Show us all? Wouldn’t we all believe? Why go away and limit his interaction to Capernaum and others?

Jesus was speaking figuratively comparing towns, not a literal statement of fact or action.

Read in context.

Hi NotCrazyDan,

I’m sorry your friend is having a crisis of faith. You’ve had a lot of good responses here.

When you look at the context here, it should be clearer.

**Matthew 11: **[20] Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein were done the most of his miracles, for that they had not done penance.

[21] Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. [22] But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. [23] And thou Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if in Sodom had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in thee, perhaps it had remained unto this day. [24] But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

Jesus is talking about repentance. The suggestion He is making is that the kinds of miracles He’d been performing in their presence might have caused Sodom to repent. The essential point, though, is that it’s repentance that’s important.

In fact, let’s consider what Christ is saying more closely. Look at verse 22, and verse 24: “It will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you” and “it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.”

God destroyed those cities, but Christ is suggesting here that the souls of those cities may not be lost in the day of judgment. And he’s linking this to the fact that they weren’t witness to the miracles of Christ. They were not exposed to the Gospel, and as so didn’t have the opportunity to reject it, and thus may in the end not face eternal damnation. But those cities that have witnessed the Gospel, the miracles that Christ performed, and remain unrepentant, they face hell.

The Gospel is about relationship with God. The only thing necessary for salvation, on our part, is repentance. Christ did everything else. And every prophet, the prophets of the OT, Christ, Himself, all preached repentance. Thus, God in fact did/does give everyone the “information” necessary for their salvation: repentance.

hello notcrazydan,
The text you quote from Matthew 11:23 doesn’t say anything about the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah buring for an eternity in hell. It says Capernaum shall be brought down to hell. It is reasonable to suppose that on Judgement Day, the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are going to be judged with more mercy than Capernaum who beheld the mighty works of Jesus.

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