Is Gandhi in heaven?

A few weeks ago I posted on whether Gandhi is in hell but the reverse question is also interesting. On what grounds would we have confidence to say that Gandhi is in heaven? Greg Koukl addresses this question in his book Tactics: A game plan for discussing your Christian convictions. Koukl deals with people’s ideas of good and bad (which is the basis most people have for heaven or hell).

“When I was in India, Christian apologist Prakesh Yesudian told me of a conversation he had with a Hindu about Gandhi, who is much revered there…

‘Is Gandhi in heaven?’ the Hindu asked. ‘Heaven would be a very poor place without Gandhi in it.’

‘Well sir,’ Prakesh answered, ‘you must at least believe in Heaven then. And apparently you have done some thinking about what would qualify someone for Heaven. Tell me, what kind of people go to Heaven?’

‘Good people go to heaven,’ he responded.

‘But this idea of what is a good person is very unclear to me. What is good?’

In typical Hindu fashion he replied, ‘Good and bad are relative, there is no clear definition.’

‘If that is true, sir, that goodness is relative and can’t be defined how is it that you assume Gandhi is good and should be in heaven?’

Either Gandhi fulfils some external standard of goodness, thus qualifying for heaven, or goodness is relative and therefore a meaningless term when applied to anyone, including Gandhi. Both cannot be true at the same time.”

Jesus teaches us that God alone is good (Mt 19:17), that the standard is set by His character and goodness. Goodness is indeed relative but it stands in relation to the goodness and holiness of God. So we must obtain somehow the goodness, the righteousness of God either by our own effort (which if we’re at all honest seems highly unlikely) or it seems that it is God alone that can qualify someone else as good and that comes through faith in Christ.

So the question of the whereabouts of Gandhi comes down to did he have faith in Christ because we know Gandhi knew about Christ. He doesn’t fall into the category of never heard, never knew, never lived long enough to find out. For Gandhi the question becomes much clearer, did he trust in Christ?

And the answer? Well ultimately we have no idea, but I’m not sure I have great grounds to be confident that he did. So is Gandhi in heaven? Actually, chances are, if I’m to take the Bible seriously at all (excluding for the moment the possibility of post-mortem chances to place faith in Christ),  probably not.

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9 Thoughts to “Is Gandhi in heaven?”

  1. Malcolm

    Good points here, thanks. I suppose one could also ask the question as to whether Ghandi would *want* to go to heaven? If he did not wish to worship Jesus as Lord on this earth it is unlikely he would take to doing so in heaven. What do you think?

    1. Yes, well that’s the point that Tim Keller & CS Lewis basically make, that someone who rejects Christ in this life is basically unlikely to change their mind in the next, instead they continue on a direction away from him.

    2. Larry Mervyn

      I think this — if we all believe in heaven and hell, then we presumably believe in a purgatory.    I believe good people of all faiths, people who have proved themselves fit for a place such as heaven, though not of a christian tendancy, and who have done nothing but led a good life the best they can, are given a chance to repent in purgatory.   people like Ghandi and the Dali Lama surely deserve it.   And on a point made by phil groom, I would suggest that the vast majority of the people we see as heroes or as pious, no matter their religion, have failed to gain the keys to the gates.    Too often a hero has taken life or a pious person has failed his flock in private, neither escapes the eye of The Big Man.

      1. Hi Larry, thanks for the comment. I’m not sure it’s necessary or follows that a belief in heaven or hell means one should believe in purgatory. I certainly don’t. What you say about our heroes is of course right, all have fallen short and so therefore it’s questionable on what basis we ‘deserve’ more chances than the ones we’ve already had?

  2. Supposedly his last words were “O God!” A last second conversion? We will only know when we get to heaven (or elsewhere) ourselves.

  3. Prepare to be surprised, Phil. I think we’re all going to be surprised at who’s in and who’s out, and sadly I won’t be surprised if many of those who ought to be in walk out in disgust when they discover who’s in … it’s called “Older Brother Syndrome” and I hope with all my heart that you won’t be one of them.

    As you say, of course, none of us can know anything about anyone’s salvation for certain, even our own, when there’s always the opportunity to walk away. The good news is God will never be satisfied with our walking away: he goes after the lost sheep, searches for the lost coin, goes out and pleads with the older brother. It’s called GRACE: God’s radical action changes everything.

    I find it fascinating that in all three of those stories Luke records, there’s very little about faith: the lost sheep probably didn’t even know it was lost until the shepherd found it and brought it into the fold; the lost coin — a coin can do nothing, can’t even be grateful when it is found; and the lost son was far from sure his father would take him back — but not only did he take him back, he ran out to meet him before he even had the chance to run his repentance routine; and what a party!!

    Outrageous, I know, but chances are, if I’m to take Jesus seriously at all, Gandhi’s there…

    1. Hi Phil, of course you have to balance that with Jesus comments about his healing ten and only coming back to say thanks, his parables about the rich fool, the virgins being locked out, the unforgiving servant, the parable of the banquet – there’s plenty there that more than suggests that not everyone will get to enjoy the great feast to come.

  4. I do not have any stance. But I think that his absolute puritanism has one more harm than good, and I think the same about Mother Theresa.

    1. Thanks for the comment Knut, can you say any more? How has Mother Theresa done more harm than good?

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