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Is Phil Donahue Going to Heaven?

Somebody whom I know in the real world asked to hear my thoughts on a transcript from a Phil Donahue show dealing with Christians who believe that Jesus is the one door to Heaven. My first thought is, "Stop watching that stuff, it'll turn your brain into mush." If you were writing a paper about the incoherent mess that is modern liberal ideology, Phil Donahue could be your thesis. Looking for theological insight from him or the people whom he invites to his show is like looking to a clown and his troop of poodles for lessons in trigonometry. I didn't make it through the whole transcript.

When I read Donahue's introduction of his first two guests, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, national talk radio host and author of Judaism is for Everybody, I expected the show to be cast as a dogma-preaching fundamentalist versus the reasonable and tolerant Jew. That would have been an improvement. Here are the first words out of Boteach's mouth:

Well, Phil, sadly, Reverend Mohler is a spiritual racist. And it's not enough for him for Jews to be at the back of the heavenly bus, and not only can they not drink from the good old water fountain, he wants nothing less than a spiritual lynching. The Jewish soul is going to burn in hell forever and ever.


I don't think it goes too far to suggest that anybody who watched that episode of Donahue with even an ounce of credulity likely took a few steps back from understanding religion, itself, and God, Himself. It shows a profound misunderstanding of religious belief to even have to ask Christians Donahue's question. To a Christian, Jesus was the messiah, the Son of God, and, indeed, as one perspective of the Trinity, God Himself. Suggesting that one could get into Heaven without acknowledging that would be as much spiritual nonsense as suggesting that one could get into Heaven while denying God.

That said, this belief as it relates to people of other faiths involves two theological questions: the natures of Heaven and Hell and the definition of what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ. This is still relatively new territory for me, theologically, but, as I commented on Mark Shea's site, "I can't formulate a consistent theology without believing that we must face what we've done wrong, hell being the refusal to do so and purgatory being the process of doing so." This relates to the issue of people of other faiths in that their coming to accept the Christian God would be facing something that they got wrong. Those who were truly open to God's voice in life, as evidenced in their behavior in society and quests within their own faiths, would be open to whatever revelations come after death.

To a Christian, God's voice might as well be synonymous with Jesus. It seems to me that fundamentalists such as Rev. Mohler go too far in separating the persons of the Trinity. Christ is not merely a litmus test, but an aspect of God — a constituent part of the whole of God's nature. In other words, God will not explicitly ask us whether we believe in His son; rather, He will judge whether we are able to see Him as He is. People whose faith was not a matter of belonging to a religious club will likely be able to do so — in essence, making a post-mortem conversion.

That's my thinking on the issue, anyway.

(Note: the views expressed in this entry are purely the opinions of Justin Katz, who bears no responsibility, based thereon, for the ability of those following his advice to gain access to Heaven.)

Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:37 PM EST


Justin -

As you are well aware, there is only One who can judge whether one man is going to hell and another is going heaven. He is God.

Both the Reverend and the Rabbi have been used and made fools of, at least that's how this Donahue show analysis would seem to me.

I enjoyed your disclaimer too.


John Venlet @ 12/19/2002 04:04 PM EST


Yes, I considered qualifying that we can only really speak on this topic in the sense of our judgement of what will be and what that means for how we should act now.

I suppose it is worth explicitly restating, on occasion, that we don't have full access to the mind of God and shouldn't act as if we do.

Justin Katz @ 12/19/2002 04:12 PM EST

Thanks Justin, I actually lost sleep after watching this episode. I very rarely watch Donahue, but when I saw the preview for the show it sparked my interest. Unfortunately for me I sat through the whole thing. I knew you would make light of it for me!


Lori Griffiths @ 12/20/2002 10:20 AM EST