I was twenty years old when I first raised the objection against Christianity, “If Jesus is the only way, what about all the people who have never heard?” I was pretty proud of my logic. And I think I half-believed that I was the first one to come up with the argument. ‘Had I single-handedly proven the inconsistency of a religion that spanned thousands of years and had duped hundreds of millions of followers?’ It felt like it at the time, but I eventually came to think otherwise. I now believe I had a number of things wrong. Let me explain.
- I thought everyone was looking at part of the elephant. Various religions are often compared to blind men describing various parts of an elephant and the point is that they all get it a little wrong. But I realized how proud it was to make that statement. I was saying that the followers of all world religions are blind, except for me! I somehow knew that they were all wrong and what they were describing was actually an elephant without any evidence or support.
- I thought all religions were the same. I figured religions essentially were about the same thing. As I looked into them though I realized that all religions are not fundamentally the same with superficial differences but in fact fundamentally different with superficial similarities. Christianity is rooted in a belief in the Creator, Buddhism denies the existence of one. Islam believes in one God, Hinduism has millions. To discount the profound differences between religions and assume that they’re all basically teaching about how to be a better person is an insult to any of those faiths.
- I thought everyone deserved to go to heaven. I thought that everyone was basically good and deserved to go to heaven. It seemed like a happy eternity should be everyone’s right. What I learned was that since the creation of the world, humanity has turned its back on God, crossed the boundaries He has laid out, and rejected His will for their lives. I thought I was a pretty good person until I saw that love for God was what our Creator most desires from us and in two decades I hadn’t given Him a second thought. Having ignored God in this life what right did I have to think He would accept me in the next? The reality is no one deserves heaven so it’s amazing that God accepts anyone.
- I thought God was sending people to hell because they hadn’t trusted in Jesus. I felt that if someone hadn’t heard about the need to put their faith in Jesus, it would be wrong for God to fault them for that. I figured that if people went to hell because they hadn’t trusted Jesus then it was God’s fault for not telling them. What I came to realize is that Christianity doesn’t teach that people are sent to hell because they haven’t believed in Jesus. Rather it teaches that people who haven’t believed in Jesus are sent to hell – but the reason they’re sent to hell is because of their sin against God not their lack of faith in Jesus.
I’ve come to see the invitation of heaven as a wonder of God’s grace. Even though I’ve fallen short of God’s standards and often turned my back on Him, He’s provided a means of forgiveness for my sin. My forgiveness cost Jesus His life and involved profound pain, rejection and humiliation.
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39
In the garden His prayer was essentially, ‘Father if there’s any other way we can provide for human salvation, please spare me this pain. But either way, I’m submitted to your plan.’ He prayed so earnestly that He sweat drops of blood. If there was any other way, surely the Father would have spared Him the agony. But there was no other way. And there still isn’t. Jesus is still the One who calls to us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Such a precious way, such powerful truth, such fullness of life needs to be shared with all who will hear.
For more help in thinking through these things Biblically, check out the following article from Matt Themurst entitled, What Happens to Those Who Never Hear the Gospel? https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-happens-to-those-who-never-hear-gospel
In awe of Him,