As the evangelical community continues to grapple with the news about the suicide of Pastor Rick Warren's son, a respected theologian and author believes the Christian community needs to respond to suicide with "deepest compassion."
Dr. R.T. Kendall, author of the 2005 book Once Saved, Always Saved, told The Christian Post that "is what Jesus would feel and show."
"One should weep for the bereaved parents. We should pray for them in this their darkest hour," said Kendall, who was pastor of Westminster Chapel for 25 years and the author of over 50 books.
"It would be cruel to imply or even hint that this young man would be lost because he took his own life. Any Christian is capable of doing unthinkable sin and injury apart from the grace of God."
Kendall, who previously subscribed to Arminian theology, including that a person can lose their salvation, but later joined the Reformed Tradition and became a Southern Baptist, also told CP that he felt that suicide was as pardonable as any sin a Christian may commit, noting that the Bible does not directly mention the act.
"King Saul committed suicide. According to Samuel – who was with the Lord, Saul would join him the next day (1 Sam.28:19). This means Saul went to heaven," said Kendall.
"As for suicide and salvation, there is no sin that is unforgivable. It is not the heinousness of the sin that has anything to do with whether a person is saved or lost; it all depends on whether that person was granted saving faith."
Last weekend Matthew Warren, the 27-year-old son of Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a longstanding struggle with depression and mental illness.
While the vast majority of the responses to the news have been that of encouragement and sympathy for the Warren family, a minority have argued that as a suicide, Matthew Warren did not go to heaven.
For centuries, many churches have treated suicide as an unforgiveable act and would deny church burial for those who took their lives.
Kendall believes that suicide being considered an unpardonable sin derived from murder being considered an unpardonable sin due to it being applied to Jesus' remarks that a "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" would not be forgiven.
"If you take murder to be the unpardonable sin, so too would committing suicide, according to some traditions. I don't agree," said Kendall, adding that "when Jesus said 'all' sins will be forgiven he meant 'all' – including suicide."
"The sin against the Spirit had nothing to do with the Moral Law but rather refusing to confess that Jesus is God since it is the testimony of the Spirit that Jesus is God."
Kendall's book Once Saved, Always Saved will be republished by LifeWay, and he also has two soon-to-be-released books: These Are The Days of Elijah: How God Uses Ordinary People to Do Extraordinary Things (Chosen Books, April 15, 2013) and Finding Your Heart's Desire: Ambition, Motivation and True Success (Chosen Books, Oct. 1, 2013).