Today the world was saddened by the heart-wrenching news of Leonard Nimoy’s death. Most fell in love with the American actor for his portrayal of Spock, a half-human, half-Vulcan First Officer on the starship Enterprise. Others of us remember Nimoy for his more obscure roles, like his brilliant performance as a heart surgeon turned murderer in the Columbo episode, “A Stitch In Crime.” Virtually everyone agrees that Nimoy was a rare talent who touched the most meaningful parts of our hearts with his sincere performances. He will most certainly be missed.
Because of this, it is no surprise that social media is lighting up today with sentimental status updates and tweets about Spock being “beamed up to God” and enjoying the “heavenly home he long sought after.” These kinds of remarks are expected upon the death of such a beloved icon and surely demonstrate the best wishes from generations of people who welcomed Nimoy into their lives. My concern is how many of these tweets and updates are coming from evangelical Christians.
My hunch is when an atheist reads how Spock has been “beamed up to God”, they simply roll their eyes. My hunch is when a Christian Universalist reads how Spock has been “beamed up to God”, they nod in agreement. My hunch is when a postmodern pluralist reads how Spock has been “beamed up to God”, they count his Jewish faith as one spoke on the wheel of faith leading to the same hub. But I’m not sure what evangelical Christians are thinking when they write or read how Spock has been “beamed up to God.”
I have no problem with those other groups who would respond based on their beliefs. But for those of us who maintain the exclusivity of Jesus Christ for reconciliation with the Father – an orthodox Christian soteriology – this is at best a confusing case of sentimentality or at worst a sneak peak into what we actually believe about the lives of those who pass on into the next life. It is one thing to affirm the reality of hell for the theoretical person who denies faith by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It is quite another thing when it is the gentle voice of the one who taught us to “live long and prosper.”
C.S. Lewis once remarked how there are no ordinary humans. We are all immortal, we will all live forever. Indeed, the eternality of our soul is not in question; the haunting question is what we are becoming and will become in eternity. As Lewis says, we are becoming “noble beyond imagination or vile beyond redemption.” Although Facebook and Twitter updates might simply be an innocent way to express thanksgiving and grief for the loss of a dear friend, I am concerned their presence among evangelicals signals something far more sinister; that we don’t really believe the God of heaven and earth would pour his wrath on on this harmless Vulcan who promoted peace and prosperity his entire life.
I sure hope that is the case. I hope Nimoy has, in fact, been “beamed up to God” and is today found in that inexpressible joy of Paradise. But regardless of the peace he promoted on earth, if he did not find eternal peace by placing faith in Jesus Christ, then no such joy is available for him.
Christian mission will never fully connect with the local church evangelical until we see each living person as either under the blessing or under the curse. If the thought of Leonard Nimoy separated from God in hell seems horrific to you, then ask God to increase your desire to purposefully, intentionally, radically, and unashamedly share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who are perishing.
I don’t know Leonard Nimoy’s resting place; only God judges the heart and only God separates the sheep from the goats. What I do know is that faith in Christ Jesus is essential. My profound hope is that Nimoy expressed that faith. That power alone will enable the transportation of us all into the heavenly places.
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