I was listening to a podcast the other day of a discussion on the “Destiny of the Unevangelized” from Reclaiming the Mind Ministries’ “Theology Unplugged” series. This particular podcast was a cross-over with their “Conversing with Scholars” program and they were talking with Rob Bowman, the new executive director of the Institute for Religious Research.
One particular thing really stood out to me during their discussion. At one point, Bowman was describing some common types of conversations between Christians and those “checking out” Christianity and discussing the issue of those who have not heard the name of Jesus Christ. There continues to be a good deal of debate about the fate of those people who have never heard the name of Jesus and whether or not they are “saved.”
In the situation Bowman described, “seekers” may commonly have an objection similar to saying, “So, are you telling me that young our un-born children are to be consigned to hell because they’ve never put their faith in Jesus when they wouldn’t be able to comprehend the concept of Jesus in the first place?” I’m paraphrasing there, but the point that I’d like to make is with regards to the idea of who actually consigns anyone to hell?
This was not the first time that I had heard an “outsiders” perspective stating that it was us Christians who would damn a particular person to eternal torment. I don’t know where you may stand on how rigid you believe salvation is with regards to this concept (i.e. can people who are mentally incapable of understanding sin or salvation still be saved, or what about people who have, by no fault of their own, never heard of Christ?). Regardless, though, I think we can all agree that whether or not someone will suffer for eternity is not up to us. That is God’s choice.
I suppose, what I’m getting at is…if you’re talking to someone and this objection comes up, it is really (I believe) incumbent upon us to clarify that God is sovereign. He can choose to save whom He will save. We may be able to offer our own belief about who will or will not be saved, but ultimately, this is God’s call. Not ours. We do not have the authority to consign someone to hell. Nor do we have the authority to reward someone with heaven. The long and the short of it is…we just don’t really know. This decision is, to quote a popular individual, “above our pay-grade.”
So, as a Church, let’s be aware of these types of things as well as any other incorrect assumptions that seekers, skeptics or others have about Christianity and help them to clarify such things when their assumptions may be leading them down a path that will allow them to make poor decisions based on poor information. Let’s be messengers of truth and bring the most true gospel message possible to those who have not really heard it. We may never be able to share a 100% pure gospel, but we do serve a big God who can use our own flawed, imperfect communications for the good of those who would believe.
Grace, love and peace.