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A Choice That Cannot Be Made

When I was in college there was a question which I was fond of putting to people which ran as follows: Suppose that you are offered the choice of choosing eternal bliss for yourself and eternal damnation for all of the rest of humanity or of choosing eternal damnation for yourself and eternal bliss for the rest of humanity. And suppose further that once the choice is made neither you nor the rest of humanity will know of or remember your choice once it is made. The question is: how choose ye?

A few answered that they would choose eternal bliss, but these were few indeed; most people who are cheerfully willing to damn the rest of humanity for their own benefit have the grace to be hypocrites. Some chose without hesitation to save humanity at their own cost but one wonders how thinkingly their choice was made for it is a hard choice. It is easy enough to be noble when it is simply a matter of words. It is much hard when the moment of choosing is upon and the choice must actually be lived with. Most hoped that they would choose to save the rest of humanity but were uncertain that they really would and rightly so, for who knows the true measure of good and evil in their own heart, and who knows for certain before being tested whether or not they will pass the test.

Of all answers the most unusual was that of a Catholic convert who said that he would choose eternal bliss because God has commanded that each person seek their own salvation and that it would be his duty. I thought to myself, “What a convenient religion, that allows one to damn all of the rest of humanity with a clear conscience.” But in this I did him an injustice.

For consider, he was a believer. He believed that God was true and good and that God demands and desires the salvation of each human soul. And if God is true and good, and if He has revealed Himself truly, then this question will not be put by God. And if the question is put, then either God is false, a God of lies, or the question is put by Satan. And in either case neither the choice nor He thats puts it is to be trusted. In such case one may and should choose what knows God has already commanded. And so it can be argued.

And yet it can be argued that God, if He so chose, might still lay this question upon you and judge you by your answer. Indeed, God is not constrained to honor your choice and, if He does, it is He and not you that is responsible. Regardless of what He would do about your choice He may still wish to know how you would choose.

And yet it seems to me that one cannot choose. To choose to damn all of humanity to ensure your own salvation is surely wrong. And yet to choose the other way cannot be right either for it would be an overwhelming sin of pride and presumption. Even Christ did not choose damnation and even Christ did not guarantee salvation, but only offered it. Who, then, are you to decide salvation or damnation for all of humanity or even for yourself? Salvation and damnation are the Lord’s business and not yours. By this token no one has the right to make the choice, either for yea or nay. And so, it seems to me, that the only proper answer is that ancient prayer, “Thy will and not mine be done.”

But suppose, just suppose, that the choice is put and that you so answer and that the reply is, “My will is that you choose.” What then? Now that is left as an exercise for the reader.

This page was last updated September 30, 1997.