Josh McDowell answers a number of relevant questions for parents and Christian leaders. Here’s one: “Some question whether a person who has committed suicide will go to heaven or if it is the unforgivable sin. Lloyd and Gwendolyn Carr address this in their book, The Fierce Goodbye:
“Nowhere in the Bible, either Old Testament or New Testament, is the act or attempt of suicide explicitly condemned. There are several suicides recorded in Scripture and without exception they are treated just as any other death. The victim is given a normal burial, mourning, at least for some of them, is recorded, and there is no stigma attached to the act itself.” (p.95)
Some of the suicides recorded in the Bible are Samson, who killed himself along with all the Philistines in the temple of Dagon, King Saul who fell on his own sword, and Ahithophel, a counselor of King David. Because the sanctity of human life is affirmed in Scripture, these suicides were not the Lord’s answer, but neither were they the unforgivable sin. See quotes below:
“The evidence, then, is that there is neither valid biblical nor natural grounds for the church’s condemnation of suicide as an unforgivable sin. It is an act which we do not want to condone or encourage, yet there is no evidence that it brings eternal damnation to its successful practitioners.” (p. 97)
You would need to read the entire book to become familiar with all the guidance given for those who worry about the eternal fate of loved ones who have committed suicide.
Baker and Nester, authors of Depression: Finding Hope and Meaning in Life’s Darkest Shadow, said the following about suicide:
Many feel that suicide is the ultimate sin for which there is no forgiveness. . . This is obviously a misunderstanding of the gospel of God’s grace. The only sin that truly keeps one from God’s presence is the sin of unbelief—of not trusting the work of Christ personally. The inability to confess suicide as a sin is not a real issue.
If salvation depended upon confessing every sin committed as a believers, no one would qualify! The unfortunate and sad ending of an individual’s life of his own hand does not nullify the effect of the grace of God in his life. Suicide victims who are children of God are redeemed souls in the presence of their Heavenly Father.
This is just a glimpse of some statements about the issue from a variety of sources.”
In addition to Josh’s answer, here is some further research from his sources.
Here are just a few key elements in recognizing and preventing suicide in a loved one from Lloyd and Gwendolyn Carr:
If someone you know:
- Threatens suicide
- Talks or writes about wanting to die
- Appears depressed, sad, withdrawn, hopeless
- Shows significant changes in behavior, appearance, mood (either from being “normal” to being depressed or the reverse)
- Abuses drugs, alcohol
- Deliberately injures himself or herself
- Says he or she will not be missed if gone
- Gives away treasured belonging
You can help:
- Stay calm and listen
- Take threats seriously
- Let him or her talk about his or her feelings
- Be accepting; do not judge
- Ask if he or she has suicidal thoughts
- Ask how intense and frequent these thoughts are
- Ask if he or she has a plan
- Ask if he or she has a means to carry out the plan
- Don’t swear secrecy – tell someone
- Assure the person it is OK and necessary to get help
Copyright (c) November, 1999, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (http://www.elca.org/dcs/suicide_prevention.html) Produced by the Department for Studies, Division for Church in Society.
Get help: You cannot do it alone.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – a prevention hotline dedicated to providing immediate assistance. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).