Pastor Rick Warren's book, "What On Earth Am I Here For - the purpose driven life" has sold over 32 million copies. His church in California has a congregation of 30,000. As a theologian, he has lectured in many universities including Oxford and Cambridge. As a recognised global strategist, he has spoken to the United Nations and the US Congress.
Yet, sadly, despite all this, his youngest son, Matthew, recently committed suicide.
Matthew had struggled with both depression and suicidal tendencies for many years. Because of Pastor Rick's influence, Matthew had been treated by America's top doctors, getting the best counselling and the best medication. He was prayed with by every big name in the Evangelical healing ministry. So he had got the very best available treatment both medically and spiritually. Yet he committed suicide.
Admittedly Matthew was not helped by the major flaws in the Evangelical's theology of salvation. They incorrectly believe that once one is 'saved' one is permanently 'saved', so regardless of what one does after one is 'saved', they believe that one goes straight to Heaven once one dies.
They do not believe in Purgatory, or in the need to pray for the dead. Often too, there is an inadequate understanding of the role of suffering in the Christian life. So if you are 'saved' and then commit suicide, (or have an abortion, or abandon your marriage), they think you still go straight up.
That this faulty understanding of salvation may have played a significant role in Matthew's death can be seen in the statement his father, Pastor Rick, released after his death. In it Pastor Rick said, "I'll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said 'Dad, I know I'm going to heaven. Why can't I just die and end this pain?'"
I would question the wisdom of the inclusion of this quotation in the statement released by his father, Pastor Rick, a spiritual leader looked up to by millions. It minimises the seriousness of suicide, including the possible grave spiritual consequences of suicide.
God is infinitely merciful. God desires the salvation of every soul, including the souls of those who commit suicide. But such salvation should not be taken for granted - not even by those who think that they are 'saved'.
There often are factors which diminish personal responsibility, yet there is a serious degree of self-absorption in every suicide.
One gets so caught up in one's own pain and in one's own despair, that one is not merely unable to see that one can make a positive contribution here on earth, but also one is unable to feel for the pain that one's suicide will cause to those left behind.
It also involves a loss of trust in God; trust being replaced by despair, and it sometimes may involve the rejection of God or turning one's back on Him..
God is merciful. God desires the person's salvation, but all these things have to be dealt with on the other side. One cannot enter Heaven until one is delivered from one's enslavement to self-absorption. One cannot enter Heaven without facing the hurt that one has brought into the lives of others. One cannot enter Heaven until one is delivered from the spirit of despair.
I know that this will make painful reading for the relatives of those who have committed suicide, and I am truly sorry for the pain which I know that some will experience on reading my article, yet it is important that the truth be spoken.
It is important for people to know that if they commit suicide, there will be consequences, (possibly serious), on the other side.
It is important that people know that suicide may not end their suffering, and that is may sometimes lead to even far greater suffering. In my book,"I want to go to Heaven the moment I die", there is the near-death experience of Angie Fenimore who had attempted suicide. Angie had been the victim of much abuse by her dysfunctional parents. She felt that she couldn't cope any longer with the pain in her heart and attempted suicide.
After her attempted suicide, she first found herself in a place of great darkness and desolation.
It was scary, terrifying. She had suffered much on earth, but this was worse, far worse. She knew that her eternal destiny was at risk, but thankfully she managed to open her heart to Jesus, repent of her suicide attempt and be embraced by His love on the other side. Thankfully, too, she came back into her body and so lived to tell the tale. But she will never forget the dark place in which she found herself, surrounded by souls in deep anguish, some of whom appeared to have been there for countless ages.
But coming back to the case of Matthew Warren, everything that could be done to help him, (within the limitations of Evangelical theology), was done for him. He was given every possible medical, psychiatric, and spiritual help available. Yet he committed suicide.
Often those left behind feel enormous guilt. Of course, it is better to feel
guilt than not to care, for guilt shows that one does care deeply. Yet it often happens that it is those who have no need whatsoever to feel guilty who are the one's who feel the most guilt.
For more on how evil spirits will tempt people to experience irrational
guilt, see extract from Deborah Lipsky's book on page 14.
Yours, in Christ,
Thaddeus Doyle (Rev.)
Footnote:- Rick Warren's lovely book, "What On Earth Am I Here For" is on
sale in God's Cottage for c12.50 or can be had by post from the Diary office
for c15.00. See quotation from it on top of P. 3.
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