The justice of God's sending in-the-moment "cowards" to Hell

When thinking of the persecution of Christians going on in Iraq I’ve thought of some of the implications of what we believe that I have a very hard time accepting.

The Bible could not be more clear that those who deny Christ facing persecution will go to Hell. In general, the idea of someone going to Hell because they didn’t die for their faith troubles me. It just doesn’t seem right. But in particular there are some contexts where it seems utterly reprehensible.

Say we have someone in Roman times in their preteen years. They are past the age of accountability and therefore can commit a mortal sin, but obviously they are petrified when they are taken to the Roman authorities. Perhaps they are taken to see their parents being tortured and killed for their faith in Christ. After they see the terrible things that happen to their parents the Roman authorities tell them that they must either deny Christ or they themselves will suffer everything they just saw their parents go through. Petrified, the child denies their faith in Christ in public to the authorities but they still believe in the truth of Christianity. The child is a bad liar so the authorities know that the child still believes in the truth of Christianity although they denied Christ, so they kill the child instead.

Would God be just in sending that child to Hell?

I think that Catholic theology in general is pretty clear in spelling out that mitigating factors lessen or even cancel out the degree of sin through various examples.

The question is nonsense. God is justice itself. He is literally incapable of doing that which is unjust – to what standard of justice would it even be reasonable to hold him who is the very measure of justness?

Perhaps I should have worded the question differently:

Would a just God send send that child to Hell?

If it is then we have a big problem, because Jesus didn’t seem to know of any such factors when it comes to denying Him.
[BIBLEDRB]Matthew 10:33[/BIBLEDRB]
(Matthew 10:33)

Can you please post chapter and verse where this is clearly stated in the Bible? It would certainly help if you could, because I can’t find it, anywhere.


**If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 10:33)**

Maybe I said it too strongly, but nonetheless I don’t see how we can take the Bible seriously and deny that those that choose their own lives over Christ will be damned if they don’t repent of so doing.

Matthew 10: [33] But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven.

OK, I see you posted this while I was composing my last post.

Is there any mention of persecution in that passage? Nope. I don’t think this is related to persecution, at all. I’m pretty sure this passage is directed at those who clearly know of the Gospel teachings about Jesus, but still deny that He is the true Messiah.

Persecution to the point of someone facing death, is a completely different situation. Not all who faced the Romans had the faith and courage to lay down their lives for their faith. Many of them did whatever they had to do to stay alive, because they were afraid. I’m not so sure that God would not take pity on them. He knows that we are all weak, and sometimes fail to do what we should. Considering the circumstances, I doubt they would not be forgiven if they repented their sin. God is merciful to all of us, because he loves us.

Footnotes in the Douay-Rheims for that line in Luke says this:[26] Hate not: The law of Christ does not allow us to hate even our enemies, much less our parents: but the meaning of the text is, that we must be in that disposition of soul, as to be willing to renounce, and part with every thing, how near or dear soever it may be to us, that would keep us from following Christ.
As I said in my prior post, God understands our weakness. Even Peter denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, but he was still forgiven by Jesus, because He knew what was truly in Peter’s heart. God will not condemn anyone that falls to weakness, as long as they repent.


Read John 12:44-50. Answered this quandary for me when I questioned God and His plan

The “coward” is not necessarily consigned to hell.

Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice [CCC 1859, emphasis mine]

The “coward” who denies Christ under threat of death is probably not doing so as a matter of personal choice (meaning the “coward” would deny Christ even if there were no threat). The threat potentially (and probably) mitigates the mortal nature of the act, and reduces it to nothing more than a venial sin (which does not result in damnation).


I would point out, however, that your stipulation of the child being “Petrified” does seem to violate the “full consent” criterion of mortal sin.

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