Judaism, the Holocaust, and the Great Christian Enigma

Posted on May 7, 2018

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By David Ettinger

Note: This is a rerun of a blog I wrote 18 months ago. The issues contained within have been strongly on my mind again. If you have any opinion, please feel free to express it!

“Never Again”
Growing up Jewish in New York, I attended Yeshiva, the Hebrew word for “Hebrew School.”

When I attended Yeshiva in the 1960s and 1970s, the specter of the Holocaust loomed menacingly over the Jewish mindset, the prevailing attitude among the Jewish community summed up in two words: “Never Again!” This meant that never again would the Jewish people allow themselves to be annihilated – as were 6 million in the Holocaust – without a fight. Some Hitler-like ruler may one day arise, but if he thinks the Jews are going to be led like sheep to the slaughter again, he better think again. This is the “Never Again” mentality.

holocaustThe Yeshiva I attended championed (rightly, I believe) the “Never Again” disposition and taught it to us young, impressionable boys and girls. One way they did this was by showing us Holocaust documentaries and footage beginning when we were very young and continuing the practice throughout high school. By the time I graduated, I was well-versed in Holocaust history.

Pondering the Implications
At age 28, I gave my life to Jesus Christ, and for the first year or so, I consumed all I could of the Bible and strove to learn the basic tenets of Christianity. Sometime into my second year as a believer, I began considering my Jewish upbringing and education.

As I pondered, I remember developing a train of thought which went as follows. Christianity teaches that all humans are born sinners and thereby destined for eternal damnation in Hell. However, Jesus Christ died for the sins of humanity, and those who accept Christ as their Lord and Savior will avoid the eternal punishment of Hell and secure eternity in Heaven.

As I considered the Holocaust and the unspeakable atrocities perpetrated upon its victims, I asked myself, “What if those who died such horrible deaths did not know Jesus Christ? What are the implications of this?” If I hold to basic Christian doctrine, this means that upon death the victims would go to the same place as their murderers. Even if those victims were the kindest people on earth, they would – along with their satanic killers – spend eternity in Hell.

I took it a step further, to the present. What if two killers break into the apartment of a 20-year-old woman who is the most wonderful individual you will ever meet, but never evil eyeaccepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior? What if she were brutally raped, tortured, and murdered? And what if, a few weeks later, the two perpetrators were gunned down? According to Christian doctrine, all three would spend eternity in the same place. Or what if the two criminals are never caught and live for another 50 years? So long as they breathe, they have the opportunity to be redeemed, and if they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, they would go to Heaven while their victim goes to Hell.

The Great Enigma
How does this strike you? Unfair? Complicated? Beyond reason? This is the great enigma of Christianity, that the “good” – by human standards – can go to Hell while the “bad” can go to Heaven. We all know wonderful unbelievers – atheists, agnostics, humanists, adherents of sundry religions – who can put us to shame by their “goodness.” These are truly wonderful people who are loving, caring, and contribute much to the world.

And yet, if they die having never accept Christ, they will never see an inch of Heaven. How do we know this? John 3:36 tells us: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (italic added). 1 John 5:11-12 says: “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (italic added).

QuestionHow will you explain this enigma to unbelievers if they should happen to ask about it? How do you deal with it in your own understanding?

Accepting Your Mortal Reality
The key lies in accepting the fact you are limited, finite, and mortal, while God is unlimited, infinite, and deity. He declares, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” (Isaiah 55:8). He proclaims, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). The prophet tells us, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable” (Isaiah 40:28). The Psalmist affirms, “Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5).

Though I have pondered Judaism, the Holocaust, and the great Christian enigma, I have never struggled with them. I have always taken God at His word, and have done so with a peaceful heart. I suppose this comes with being “elected” by Him, that He has endowed His children with not the ability to understand the infinite, but to accept it.

In Genesis 18:25, Abraham asks God: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” The answer is a resounding “Yes! The eternal Judge and Creator of the Universe WILL deal justly with all of His creation!” And in His justice, He boils down the issue of Heaven and Hell and all things connected to them to one towering declaration: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Do you believe in the Lord Jesus?