Is it Okay for Christians to Say “RIP” Regarding the Death of an Unbeliever?

Christians responding to unbeliever’s death

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I found a tweet by Saiko Woods on Twitter that stopped me in my tracks. I believe this tweet was in response to tweets about Whitney Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, who died earlier this week:

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What are your thoughts on Mr. Woods’ comment?  What theology is he talking about? How should Christians respond to the death of an unbeliever?

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39 comments on “Is it Okay for Christians to Say “RIP” Regarding the Death of an Unbeliever?

  1. Are we talking about Westboro Christians? Then, “I hope you burn in Hell” would be appropriate. For all other believers, it is good to remember the words to the old Christian hymn, “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love”. Then RIP is very loving.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No, theology doesn’t matter! When Jesus told the thief being crucified next to him that they would be together in paradise, He didn’t care about how the thief felt about all the things we seem to focus on these days, about his understanding of the Trinity, baptism, free will vs election, dispensationalism, etc. He cared that the thief recognized Him and was sorry for his sins.

    Who are we to say that anyone is an unbeliever even if they have said so? That any individual won’t be in paradise that very day? We have no idea what was in their heart, how they felt about doing the right thing, how perhaps they hoped there was a loving God while fearing that there was nothing and we have no idea whether God will welcome them even if they don’t conform to our ideas about the precise theology.

    I follow the theology that I understand which is Christian and pretty much along the lines of NT Wright. But I refuse to say that God is going to condemn others whose understanding may be different. I suspect that His plan is a great deal more vast and complex than we know or are supposed to know.

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  3. Oh, I just read an extremely upsetting thing yesterday. (Trigger warning for surprising lack of humanity + extreme doctrines of hell.)

    I have access to a very sizable ‘library’ of Reconstructionist literature and in a Gary North book I found a truly enlightening paragraph. It talked about how we should not mourn for unbelieving friends or family who are dead, because once the unbeliever is being eternally tortured by God (his phrase), there is nothing good left in them for us to miss or love. He asks if we mourn for demons in hell and implies it’s the same thing. Throw in some VERY telling comments (throughout North’s passages on slavery and hell) about how God is the “cosmic slavemaster” who sets us up on a block and flogs us for eternity, how we should feel confident because “our God is powerful enough to eternally torture most of humanity”, and zero evidence for sorrow about this on North’s part, and you have a nice little package that I think may be the logical end of the doctrine of the ‘eternal torture’ theology of hell.

    North may be unique in his vitriol and seeming complete lack of empathy, but I think he gets there in a logical way. I think most Christians who believe in a conscious-torture type of hell do feel sorrow over it, and do feel discomfort and cognitive dissonance with the idea. But if everything God does is good and perfect including eternal torture, it may be just as logical to take North’s approach of, who cares, they deserved it.

    I have more enraging North quotes where that one came from, Julie Anne, if you want to chat 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Saiko’s words lack compassion. In the end, a person’s life matters to someone. I wish Saiko’s “theology” included Romans 12:15 – “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

    Liked by 6 people

  5. I believe that is Ms. Woods when you click on her picture and enlarge it. Personally I think it is an inaccurate thing to say regardless of the person’s destination ( NOT THAT WE Always Know that either way). The Word says to be absent from the body is to be present with the LORD, for the believer. They aren’t resting in peace, they are meeting the Lord face to face and seeing the savior that went to Calvary for us.

    Recently a 21 year old young man in my family died from a drug overdose. Basicly a situation where my cousin totally blew it as a parent, married a man committed to mocking God and believers in general. Whether they know you or not, if you love the Lord you are a joke to them. A totally secular family unwilling to look at other possibilities, instead taking their kids to Black Sabbath concerts as toddlers and teaching that it’s ok to experiment with sexual promiscuity in the 6th grade. This young man was raised for satan and he embraced that roll. Unfortunately this life choice kills the soul while you are alive and fills you with deep sadness. Thus the need for self medication.

    I grieved for this young man on the drive down for the funeral and I grieve for his soul now. I pray the loss wakes his parents up out of their alcohol numbed exsistence long enough to consider that there is a God that loves them.

    The funeral was the most sickening thing I have ever seen with some very liberal, false teacher claiming that everyone goes to heaven to be with ” the spirit”. I only reason I’m happy that I decided at the last minute to make the 28 hour round trip was the chance to wrap my arms around his parents and silently pray for them.

    Amazingly his sister was just lead to the Lord by a young lady on campus and baptized. This incredible young lady came by and took her to church and is following up with discipleship. I’m so thankful for the kid being serious about her faith and evangelistic. She accomplished what family could NOT after years of trying.

    With respect to Bobbie Brown’s passing, it’s a tragedy. Another drug related tragedy that sickens me. I’m not going to assume she is an unbeliever. Her momma grew up in the church and once regularly took Bobbie to VBS and Sunday school. One would like to think that enough seeds were planted that these very hurting ladies are both reunited now with the Lord.

    I’m not going to make that judgement either way as we just don’t know. It angers me greatly when I see professing believers making comments about situations like the Houston’s and smugly saying ” well I know where they are now ” or “they got their just reward”. It’s like some Christians are rejoicing at the eventual judgment of the unregenerate. The church is all about outreach, witnessing and “soul winning” until a celebrity or well known person passes. They have forgotten what our just reward would be without Christ’s death on Calvary. The admonishment from the apostle Paul to not take our faith with an attitude of personal favoritism has been disregarded , as other people are dismissed as ” getting their just reward”. God forgive us, we know EXACTLY what we do and do it anyway because we are broken people in need of redemption, forgiveness, cleansing and healing . We at damaged goods, just like Bobbi and her mother. I hope to see them both one day and praise my Lord for their beautiful, totally healed countenances.

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  6. @SiliconValleyGal:

    Hopefully Saiko is not considering a career as a Grief Counselor.

    Only if it’s a Biblical/Nouthetic Grief Counselor.
    Then his attitude would fit right in.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Just the statement “one of their own” says a lot. We’re to show love and compassion to all, not just those we’ve, by our own opinion, deemed “one of our own”. Grieving with others by stating RIP is showing love and compassion. Yikes! What is going on with this thinking?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ‘Rest in Peace’ comes from the Latin epitaph ‘Requiescal in pace’. The phrase has only been commonly found on gravestones, in it’s English form, since the 18th century; generally on those gravestones belonging to Roman Catholics. Those words appear several times in the Requiem Mass and from part of the Roman Catholic liturgy. Rest in peace was an offered prayer to God, in the hope that the soul of the deceased person would find peace in the next life. It was simply a prayer for the dead and was *only* for those who were Roman Catholic.

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  9. God doesn’t want anyone to perish but all come to repentance.

    I think we insult God and the redemptive power of the cross when we think we know where someone is going.

    As far as theology goes, if it isn’t love or isn’t loving, it’s a pile of crap.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. FYI: Ozzy Osbourne is an Anglican, and if you listen to Black Sabbath lyrics they are mostly theologically accurate. I love their music! It appeals to my need for heavy metal.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Ok, I’ve done more digging on the origins and it looks like the expression has been used within High Church Anglicans and cannot be found on tombstones before the 8th century.

    If the intended use is to pray for the soul of the deceased, then I can see why Saiko Woods would post #theology matters. I highly suspect that was not where he was going with it because he was talking about believers vs. unbelievers.

    My first encounter with RIP was as a child when watching Saturday morning cartoons! Maybe it was during the Bugs Bunny Roadrunner hour. LOL But I have definitely seen it commonly used as an expression of “rest in peace” – just a nice thing to say, hoping that the deceased person is free from pain/torment.

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  12. According to an atheist blog, in response to “what do you say to a grieving non-believer?” — it wouldn’t be anything to do with an afterlife. Tell them you care about them and offer practical help.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is also from the atheist’s blog to answer the question as to what you say to a grieving non-believer: “I remember when….” Atheists don’t believe in an afterlife: for us the only thing that we have that approaches immortality is the work we’ve done, the memories people have of us, the way the world is different because we were here. Because that is where the dead live on—in our hearts, our memories, and if we were family— our genes. In the throes of gut-wrenching loss, knowing that a loved one will always be remembered and that his or her passions, talents, and quirks touched so many lives can be a powerful comfort—-one rooted in this world and this life.

    1 Thessalonians 4:13
    But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as THOSE WHO HAVE NO HOPE.

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  14. “How should Christians respond to the death of an unbeliever?”

    Probably an expression of sorrow or even saying you don’t what to say.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Reminds me of the Seventh Day Adventist (Ellen White branch) acquaintance who talked about attending a neighbor’s funeral, and when the wife said something about taking comfort that her husband was in paradise, was quick to lecture her on how we can never really know until the moment of death, where we’re going to end up. I don’t know if that’s SDA theology, or what. (Assurance of salvation, anyone? When we talked about it, she called that idea “aberrant” and “heresy”)

    She was almost bragging about it. That poor widow…

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  16. I have never been able to reconcile my feelings on hell. It has never made any sense to me, and I’ve been in situations where the threat of eternal hellfire was used to coerce people to do things. I agree with CS Lewis that some people follow the ideals of Christ without knowing it, and may very well be more like him than a lot of self-professed Christians. The bottom line is that if we can’t know for certain where anyone will end up, we shouldn’t say anything. Death is tragic enough – what’s wrong with saying “I’m sorry for your loss” and leave it at that?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Good Gravy Moses!! Some people just run out of things to hate on other Christians about. Its a flipping figure of speech for crying out loud, Saiko, and you are sounding like a Pharisee.

    By the way, by saying “good gravy Moses”, I am not putting much thought into whether Moses actually ate or produced good gravy in his kitchen. It was just an utterance. These people are the type of ones that want you to overthink every little thing that comes out of your mouth until you are absolutely afraid that you are going to offend God if you say anything. You know….don’t say “golly” because that is a euphemism and you might indirectly be taking God’s name in vain even though that was not what you did or what you were thinking.

    I am commenting less and less these days, mostly because the stupidity of these self professed Twitter theologians angers me less and has just become so laughable and irrelevant to the majority of the Christian world outside of their little fan base.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. “Good gravy Moses!” LOL I can definitely relate to that. I don’t say God Bless You when someone sneezes, or I love soup, or OMG, or for heaven’s sake. Once I liked someone’s meme on Facebook and ten minutes later someone called me on the phone to rebuke me. Unbelievable!

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  19. When most people, Christians included, say “RIP” or “Rest in Peace” they are simply wishing well of the deceased, hoping they have entered their eternal rest. It doesn’t mean that they are denying the Gospel message or stating that all people go to heaven. It’s an expression of hope that they are in fact written in the Lamb’s Book of Life – something that won’t be known for sure until we all cross over. It’s true that if you know for a fact that the deceased was an unbeliever, you know they won’t be resting in peace and should not say it, still, it’s become a cliche to say it regardless. You aren’t going to say “BIH” (Burn in Hell) unless you belong to Westbro Baptist (who I understand to be hyper-Calvinists) because most normal people just aren’t that mean. Too bad there’s no middle-ground saying to use in these situations that conveys the fact that you care about the departed person and their family and want to say something nice, even when you don’t know ultimately where there soul has ended up.

    All that to say, I sort of “get” where Saiko is coming from in this, but I think he’s assuming that everyone that says “RIP” is thinking the person is in heaven therefore compromising theologically, and I don’t think that’s true. People are just trying to be nice and pay their respects.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. In my old faith tradition grief, outside of the apologetic, was viewed with, well utter contempt. It was seen as a vile human emotion devoid of any redeemable expression. What I mean by outside of the apologetic, we should grieve over our personal sin, the fact that we hate God and that we are basically vile soulless pieces of trash unworthy of the air we breath. A little chuckle given the RIP for non-believers was Roasting in Perdition. That always brought a bit of a smile to some folks. I can say this, I learned it well, I am not able to really grieve myself. I was able to get through the long drawn out death of many students and my family members and not shed a tear at all. Now inside I was dying, which goes to show just how apostate I really am, at least according to some of the true believers I use to know.

    Three verses always come to mind in these situations as they were quoted to me at times with great passion and conviction, concerning myself it was “I am a dog returning to its own vomit, there is no room at the inn, referring to my lack of a place in heaven, and let the dead bury their dead which was just a general reminder that Christ finds grief, again outside of the apologetic, useless. If we partake of worldly grief we are spitting in Jesus’ face by not trusting His divine will.

    Like Job when his kids all got snuffed out and Job broke down it was seen as weakness and let’s face it he got new kids so all is well with the world. He did lose livestock as well and that was much more traumatic and the servants, well that was an afterthought o no big. I won’t go into the non-covenant babies who pass before becoming Christian and how the first go to something akin to a soul hell, then at the end they are given adult bodies say about 30 years old and they will be condemned at the white throne judgement for them dying in the first Adam’s sin and rebellion.

    I also won’t go into the whole your family member is in hell because of you (me) not witnessing to them better and their blood is on your (my) soul. Yes grief is very hard but I am getting better at dealing with it now, thanks to many on several blogs and in real life and of course, most of all. The Grace of God.

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  21. Rest in Peace. A nice way of wishing a person well on their journey, no matter who they are. We are all on a journey through this life and afterlife. We cannot see what is in a person’s heart. Only God can do that. I will mourn those that I love and have gone on before me and have hope that I will see them again.

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  22. If you peruse the internet you will discover that some atheists use the phrase, and Roman Catholics don’t understand why Protestants use it because it comes from the Mass. Scripture does not present a separate head and heart theology. Salvation isn’t a matter of feelings. Since God is the One who knows what a person believes, perhaps it would be wiser for humans to not pronounce their judgement by wishing RIP? Death is difficult for anyone to deal with and it seems many comfort themselves with the thought the loved one is in heaven regardless of evidence. RIP is a subjective platitude. ” I’m sorry for your loss” is what comes up again and again as to what people prefer to hear.

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  23. All that to say, I sort of “get” where Saiko is coming from in this, but I think he’s assuming that everyone that says “RIP” is thinking the person is in heaven therefore compromising theologically, and I don’t think that’s true. People are just trying to be nice and pay their respects.

    But when all you have is a Theological Purity Hammer, everything looks like a Heresy nail.

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  24. I was raised in a home that viewed RIP as a Roman Catholic phrase. We didn’t use it — at all — for anyone.

    “We can NEVER say that because ENEMY Christians do” —
    “NO POPERY!” taken to its farthest and most sterile extreme?

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  25. Been There Done That,
    The thought floating around the internet is they are raising money for the lawsuit filed by the non-sister who was molested.

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  26. One of my facebook *friends* just wished her dog RIP, and they will meet again…but for now the dog is frolicking without pain and is at rest. No, the dog doesn’t belong to a religious family. Well, they go to church on Christmas Eve. Does that count?

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I have a hard time believing they don’t have $$. Didn’t they buy homes for their 2 eldest daughters? So “God” will provide for them by way of Duggar sympathizers? I better stop before I get in the dog house.

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  28. Beth Caplin wrote:

    “…I have never been able to reconcile my feelings on hell. It has never made any sense to me, and I’ve been in situations where the threat of eternal hellfire was used to coerce people to do things…”

    It never made much sense to me either Beth, I mean… why create and maintain a monument (hell) to the hatred and cruelty of the Devil?

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  29. Julie Anne, it’s your blog. You can land in the dog house? Mr. Duggar ( I can’t keep up the Jim Bob stuff) is a real estate agent- owns property. BUT the tabloids say he really was given most of what he has from his father. You have noticed his mother lives with them. Did she get anything when her husband died? The lawsuit could cost them big bucks, and why should they pay the settlement from their own bank account. Shouldn’t people contribute because they have suffered enough?

    What’s the dog house like? What do I have to do to land there ?

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  30. I don’t believe in G/god, but I DO know that, based on my experience helping my mother die (I’m a trained doula and it felt like doula’ing), we humans have NO concept as to the enormity and possibilities of the Universe. Time and place are but human concepts, and I think death allows us to transcend them. Jesus doesn’t have to have anything to do with death, and the expression “rest in peace” has no more to do with Jesus than it has to do with Allah. People of other religions, as well as people of no religion at all, wish that someone who has died rests in peace. That expression is in no way a Christian one, and really has nothing whatsoever to do with religion, in my humble opinion.

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  31. I like Pastor Wade Burleson’s (conservative Baptist pastor in Oklahoma) touching article about the death of Whitney Houston a few years back and her service.
    (Wade is the pastor on EChurch on The Wartburg Watch blog.)
    http://www.wadeburleson.org/2012/02/perspective-on-funeral-of-whitney.html

    Wade pointed out that everybody has sin in their life and just be glad folks aren’t planning your funeral.

    Saiko Woods should be glad that folks aren’t planning his funeral and all of the stuff they could say about him. By the way (I haven’t read all of the comments here) but when I looked up Saiko Woods I came across this youtube video about him being an abusive pastor:

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  32. Velour, if that video is from Not Your Typical Negro, I have seen it before. NYTN is Kevin Oliver and he is very knowledgable about spiritual abuse. I also have been in touch with someone who attended Saiko’s church and wasn’t treated very well. I’ve had a couple of run-ins on Twitter with Saiko Woods. He reminds me of JD Hall. It should come as no surprise that he is part of JD Hall’s Bunker. (Or at least he was when I had a 24-hour “guest pass.”)

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