By: Pastor Greg Miller
The Source Of Our Title:
In his novel titled, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” author Mark Twain produced an incredible yarn about Huck Finn and his runaway slave-friend, Jim. The adventures involve the travels of Huck and Jim along the mighty Mississippi and, without going into great detail, as most of those reading this should be familiar with the story (if not, click here for, “Cliffs Notes“), Huck faces a choice: whether or not to do “the right thing” and inform Jim’s owner, Mrs. Watson, if Jim’s whereabouts or to, “Go to Hell”.
Huck sits down and writes a letter, signing his name, “Huck Finn”. He then contemplates and agonizes over the matter. He remembers the camaraderie and ultimate friendship that has grown between himself and “nigger Jim”. He has seen Jim demonstrate his humanity (to a young Huck who was raised to think of slaves as less-than-human) as the runaway slave grieves over his wife and children, separated and sent off to other places as slaves, themselves.
Huck becomes convinced than Jim is a human being just like himself only with dark skin and a terribly difficult life by comparison. Jim has said that Huck is the best friend he has ever had and the only friend he has left in his life.
Huck is convinced that helping Jim run was tantamount to helping someone commit theft as Jim is considered the property of Mrs. Watson. He sees his choice in terms of divine judgment, thinking that if he’d been raised properly in Sunday School, Church services, prayer and Bible study, he’d be able to do the “right thing” (I put that in quotes for reasons you will see momentarily) and turn Jim in. But, since he is ignorant of such things, he just decides to honor his friendship.
It is at this point that Twain describes Huck Finn’s final decision: “”All right, then, I’ll GO to hell” – and tore it up.”
And Then Comes The Philosophical Commentary…
More than 130 years later, you will find that single sentence to have been seized upon by folks who, without regard for the context or INTENT of that statement, have adopted it as a rallying cry of revolution. Some quote Huck and cry out against God. Others wrest the quotation to use against, “the man”. Others simply use it as a general statement of defiance against culture, parental authority, laws that they deem “unjust”, etc.
Here are some examples (if one link is broken, simply try another):
- Is it used to preach political non-conformity: “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” What Americans Must Utter to Reclaim the Human by Kathleen Wallace Peine (May 12th, 2011)
- It is used in support of “gay Christians” taking communion: “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” by Rachel Held Evans (May 23, 2012)
- It is used to support Humanism (Atheism) and Ammorality: “All Right Then, I’ll Go to Hell,” Mark Twain’s Unchained Years by Dale Debakcsy (April 19, 2016)
The reader, hearer or viewer of such calls are simply told: ““All right, then, I’ll go to hell”. Say it … because it truly is the path to redemption.” In a perverted twist, people are told that the way to redemption is to assume Lucifer’s attitude as demonstrated in Isaiah 14:12.
And therein lies the “rub”. Huck’s statement is based upon a fallacy. And upon that fallacy, hordes of deceived and unregenerate readers build their “truth” on a fallacy. A fallacy taken from FICTION, ironically, becomes the basis of complete deception.
Huck’s Statement Is A Confession… of Ignorance.
When I say that Huck’s statement is a confession of his ignorance, I am not saying that to demean or insult the fictional character. Granting that it is actually pretty typical of young men (and women) in America of 1884 and onward, I use the word “ignorance” as a matter of fact. Not really understanding Biblical redemption, they hold an idea of what decides one’s entrance into Heaven or Hell and then, based upon that lack of understanding, make a decision to… “go to Hell”. It’s a decision based upon deception.
Therefore, the lesson to be learned by the Bible believer who is informed and educated in the word of God is NOT going to be the same as that taken away from Twain’s novel by so many of Twain’s readers. As a matter of fact, it is likely that Twain may have put his own thoughts and words into Huck Finn’s mouth and truly held this same attitude: That to hold Huck Finn’s opinions (whether you ever actually had the opportunity to help a slave run free) is somehow to, “… go to Hell”.
Either way, whether speaking in reference to the fictional Huck or the non-fictional author who used the pen name of Mark Twain or speaking directly to the man behind it all, Samuel Clemons, the point is the same. No one ever went to Hell for freeing slaves, helping escaped slaves or agreeing with the act.
To then go on to develop an entire lifestyle, philosophy and attitude upon such a deception is very sad, indeed. But MILLIONS have done this same thing, not necessarily upon the words of Huck Finn or the “sin” of freeing slaves, but rebelling against a complete FABRICATION of God and His word and not really anything God or His word actually says or teaches.
Examples Of Ways To Go To Hell By Deception:
Let me give you a few examples of what I am talking about. I am not making these up. I have been told by otherwise intelligent people that they believe they are going to Hell (and that there was no HOPE for them) because of the following:
- Blaspheming the Holy Ghost by making fun of Pentecostals and Charismatics.
- Not being elect.
- Blasphemy (using God’s name in vain, sometimes “too much” or in a certain situation).
- Being homosexual.
- Committing adultery.
- Not giving up smoking.
The list could go on and on. I have sat with these people and opened my Bible and read the Scriptures that clearly show that NONE of the above is a “soul-damning” sin that cannot be washed by the shed blood of the Saviour, Jesus Christ, who conquered the effects of sin and death with the power of His bodily resurrection to the saving of all who repent and believe on Him .
They could not be convinced. Why? They don’t believe the Bible.
Now, consider the irony of that! Each one of these people (including Finn, Twain or Clemons, whoever you want to credit with holding the opinion expressed in the title of this article) BASE their belief on an ERRANT view of what the Bible says, but they don’t even really believe the Bible to begin with and reject correction from the very Book they claim to have originally gathered their errant view from in the first place!
Sometimes, a preacher just can’t win. Matthew 13:58. “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”
What Is The “Right Thing”?
In the fourth paragraph of my comments, I referred to Huck thinking he was doing the “right thing”. Notice the quotes. The reason I used quotation marks isn’t because what Huck did wasn’t really the right thing. I put them in quotes because he believed that doing the right thing INCLUDED the consequence that he would have to “go to Hell”. And that is ludicrous.
Since we’re talking about a (fictional) character named Huck, let’s just keep this about him. What would send Huck Finn to Hell? Well, according to the Bible, one thing that we can be certain would not send Huck to Hell is helping a runaway slave reach freedom.
Huck’s error is describe (approvingly) in the article cited above, written by an author named Rachel Held Evans:
“Huck goes back to the raft to figure out what to do next, and there he gets to thinking about the lessons he learned in Sunday school about what happens to people like him who assist runaway slaves.
“People that acts as I’d been acting about [Jim],” he’d been told, “goes to everlasting fire.”
“(After all, the Bible is clear: “Slaves obey your earthly masters with respect and fear”- Ephesians 6:5.)
“Huck feels genuine conviction regarding his sin and, fearful of his certain fate in hell unless he changes course,…”
The problem with this claim is that Ephesians 6:5 is not a text about Heaven and Hell. The context of this statement to slaves is in a letter written to Christians who are already assured of Heaven. This is a letter written by Paul to those IN the family of God who, to borrow a phrase from many preachers on this subject, “Couldn’t go to Hell if they tried!”
So, even if one made the argument that slavery was not inherently sinful (denouncing the abuses such as beatings, lynchings, rape, etc., but defending a “civilized, respectful treatment of slaves” as I have heard from some) AND considered Huck to be an accomplice in an act of theft, this is STILL not a question of Huck’s eternal state. There is a discussion of right and wrong, and there are then consequences to be considered if caught. But this is in the context of THIS mortal life and the question of gaining or losing “reward” at Judgment, not a question of losing one’s SOUL to Hell for eternity.
Why Was Huck RIGHT?
For the record, I cheered Huck on as I read Twain’s classic novel. I only decried his false impressions regarding his charitable act toward Jim. And to set that record straight, allow me to produce an abbreviated, bulleted outline of my view of slavery and Huck Finn’s actions:
- God establishes the law of the land. Romans 13:1, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”
- The very idea of slavery was outlawed (in principle, even if not recognized by it’s citizens) by the States who United to form a new nation with, “The Declaration of Independence,” which states in part, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, …”
- Consistent with the Declaration of Independence, the original Articles of Confederation made no mention of slavery. Slavery was NOT established legally by the federal government. Most states, on the other hand, gave legal recognition or continued the policy of regulation with the intent to end slavery at some future date.
- With the passage of the U.S. Constitution in The Enumeration Clause (Article I, Section 2,Clause 3), the Importation Ban Clause (Article 1, Section 9) in effect until 1808 and then made permanent law at that time, as well as the The Fugitive Slave Clause (Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3) were compromises that LIMITED the slave trade and ultimately lead to the end of slavery (although the abolitionists and Republican extremists, along with southern secessionist extremists, pushed this along forcibly and through America into an unnecessary “War Between The States” and a “War of Northern Agression” that is called our, “Civil War” and resulted in the deaths of more than 600,000 American soldiers).
- Specifically, the Fugitive Slave Clause (Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3) violated the God-ordained standard of the Declaration of Independence. Ignoring this law, as Huck Finn does, is NOT a “sin” and is in accordance with the Biblical standard demonstrated by the Apostles in Acts 5:29, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
- The 13th Amendment was not a change but the legal enshrinement of the standard already established in the original founding document called, “The Declaration of Independence.” Legalized slavery was NEVER established directly in the United States of America (much like polygamy, gay marriage and abortion which are found nowhere in the Constitution but are in practice, today) but did require additional, clear legal action to bring it to an end among it’s citizens.
In the story being discussed, Huck Finn was actually doing the RIGHT (and “righteous”) thing. But here’s the other side of the coin: Doing the right thing STILL does not determine whether Huck goes to Heaven or Hell!
“How Do I Go To Hell, Then?”
That leads us to the POINT. Huck may THINK he’s going to Hell for helping Jim, but that’s just not the case. IF Huck went to Hell (and we know that Huck is a fictional character, but he represents all those who think in this same manner), then HOW did Huck end up in Hell? WHAT would land Huck in Hell, if helping a runaway slave escape didn’t do the job?
The fact is, there is only one way to Hell. Jesus said it’s a “broad…way”. Matthew 7:13, Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:“
But the broadness and wideness is not because many “things” or “acts” put you in Hell. No, the gate is wide and the way is broad because so “many there be which go in therat”.
We’ll put it this way: The gate is wide but there is only ONE ticket that gets you in. That ticket is your rejection of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
The apostle Paul preached this Gospel and made it clear that THIS is the only way to eternal life. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Paul wrote, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”
Paul wanted professing Christians to understand that IF you were saved and not going to Hell, it was ONLY because you had received “the gospel which I preached unto you”. It had nothing to do with whether or not you helped a runaway slave (whether or not that was even a “sin”) or whether or not you committed any other ACT of sin. Our “works”, whether good or evil, play no part in our salvation. As Paul goes on to explain, Jesus has done the work:
1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”
If Huck were a real person, I would tell Huck that Jesus died for his sins. All of them. And He not only paid the price but won the victory over sin, death AND HELL by rising from the dead after three days.
Then I’d say, “Huck, you are a sinner. You know you sin. And you’ve never received the Gospel in order to be saved. If you will face your condition, Paul calls on all sinners to respond with, “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21)
Will you repent and believe the Gospel? With a humble heart and sorry for what you are (your sinful nature), the deeds that you have done (sinful acts) and turning from your unbelief in order to believe in, trust in and receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ, will you be saved?
If you say, “No.” Then you are saying, “All right, then, I’ll GO to hell.”
But if you will say, “Yes.” Then you are saved from Hell at this very moment.