Exploring Christianity – Part 4 – Hell

Welcome to visitors from the evolution site!  Thanks for the link.  Be sure to read all of this.  Deep down you know that you’ll be accountable to your creator for your countless sins.  You can pay for them yourself for eternity or trust in what Jesus did for you on the cross. The evidence is clear: He lived, died and rose again.  Eternity is mighty long time.  Don’t let your foolish pride get in the way.

Also, feel free to view any of the apologetics links to the right.

Be sure to read the commenting policy before commenting.  We have several atheists who comment here regularly and we have friendly discussions.  But I’m not really interested in addressing an endless stream of fallacies from the Big Book of Atheist Sound Bites.  Life’s too short to re-hash those ad nauseum.

And remember, even if your definition of evolution is  true (when you aren’t busy equivocating on the term) it doesn’t prove there is no God.  And even if it is true then evolution is 100% to blame for our concept of Hell, my change from atheism to Christianity, everything I write here, etc.  Where else would it have come from?  So any “pride” you feel is completely irrational, and, ironically enough, your concept of rationality is irrational.  Your worldview provides nothing to ground it.



See below to see the latest installment of my friend Nicholas’ interview with me about Christianity or click here for the whole thing.

Nicholas wrote: What happens to those who, through no fault of their own, never experience the Gospel of Christ?  Have entire populations been hell-bound from birth having never had a chance to experience the Bible?

That is a difficult and important question that many Christians wrestle with, including me.   I can explain my theological views but still wonder on occasion exactly how it plays out in real life.  I’ll lay out what I see as the Biblical, orthodox case while conceding that some Christians take a different view.  I’ll be wordy, as usual, and come at it from a clinical standpoint then from a couple other angles.

Once I became a Christian I kept thinking about how I had rejected the Gospel for so many years even with all the advantages I had – growing up with Christian parents, going to church, having a Christian wife and living in a country with religious freedom.  (I didn’t commit my life to Christ until my late 20’s).  Why did I get so many chances when others may not hear the Gospel at all?  Then it hit me one day: That’s why it is called grace. I didn’t deserve anything from God, regardless of when and how I came to believe.  No one else deserves it either, though in our human reasoning we may rationalize that we do.  We deserve judgment.  God is merciful in not judging us immediately.  Grace is unmerited favor.

It is important to point out something basic to ground the discussion: A righteous, ethical judge has no moral obligation to pardon a guilty and justly convicted person. God is a perfect and righteous judge.  He is the epitome of love and mercy, but He is also perfectly Holy and He loves justice.  We are all sinners in thoughts, words, actions and lack of good actions.  Just 10 sins per day for 50 years would add up to 182,500 sins.  Now what righteous judge could overlook that?

So how does the Bible address this?  Chapters 1-3 of the book of Romans (as well as the rest of the book) lay out much of the reasoning.  In Romans 1 we see some of the most important “big picture” passages in the Bible, showing how God reveals himself to us in his creation:

Romans 1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

So in that passage and others the Bible teaches that God has made his existence plain to us and that we are “without excuse.”  If anyone thinks they’ll stand before God and deny that He revealed himself to them in creation they are mistaken.  So every person in every culture for all time has had the light of creation.  Still, countless people reject the existence of God or make up their own gods.

Chapters 2 and 3 of Romans deal with how God revealed himself to us in our consciences.  Some Christians hold that if we accept what God has revealed to us in his creation and our consciences, then He will reveal himself to us in Christ.  Others think that He only opens the eyes of some whom He chooses to give grace to.  I won’t try to resolve that here.

I have heard many stories where God reaches people with the Gospel through unusual or even miraculous means.  One example was of a Muslim Imam who was told in a dream to go to a certain location.  Once there, some police forced some Christians to give the man a ride.  They had a car full of Gospel tracts and videos, so they were certain that they were going to get caught and punished in that Muslim country.  But the man told them he had a received a vision that he would meet them and should listen to what they said about God.  He became a Christian.

God is not limited in the way we are.  He can work through dreams and visions if He likes.   If someone is earnestly seeking the one true God they will find him.  Jesus promised the following in Matthew 7:7-8

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Another important theme is that we are saved by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Romans 4:3 says, What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, had faith in God and gained salvation through that.   Hebrews 11:6 says, And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

God doesn’t want people to perish, but as C.S. Lewis pointed out, He won’t force someone to be in Heaven who doesn’t want to be there.  1 Timothy 2:3-4 says, This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Here are the three main things I tell Christians who are concerned about those who haven’t heard of Jesus:

1. God is in control of every molecule in the universe and over every moment of history.  You can trust that He will be perfectly just and reach anyone who is open to the Gospel.  I encourage everyone to be familiar with this passage where Paul is speaking to the Athenians (The whole section in Acts 17 where the Apostle Paul addresses Athenians who worship all kinds of gods plus an unknown god is worth a read).

Acts 17:26-27 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

God knows where you are, where the native on the Island is and where everyone else is as well.  And he knows exactly how long you’ll be there.  He has put us all in the best possible place to come to know him.

2. Ensure you have made the right decision about Jesus.  It is like being on an airplane when the oxygen masks come down.  You can’t help others until you’ve taken care of yourself.  If you haven’t committed your life to Jesus, today would be a good day to take care of that.

3. If you are sincerely worried about those who haven’t heard the Gospel, that is great.  Be sure you are doing something about it.  Pray for the Lord of the harvest to send workers out into his harvest field (Matthew 9:38).  Go tell people about Jesus.  Work on your evangelism skills.  Go on a mission trip if you can.  Fund missionaries.  Contribute to organizations that get the Bible out around the world.  But whatever you do, don’t use this question as an excuse not to share the truth of Jesus.

Some people think that those who haven’t heard of the Gospel are saved but those who reject it are not.  But that leads to some pretty bizarre theology.  It would mean that we would never want to share the Gospel, because we could be taking someone from a saved state to a potentially unsaved state.  That hardly lines up with the Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

While we’re on the topic, here are some random thoughts on Hell:

  1. Some people won’t consider Christianity because it contains the doctrine of Hell.  But Hell either exists or it doesn’t; we don’t get to vote on it.
  2. There are degrees of punishment in Hell so that the punishments fit the crimes.
  3. Hell is punishment, not torture.
  4. One doesn’t need the whole Bible to be saved – just authentic faith in Christ.  The criminal crucified alongside Jesus attained salvation though he probably had little, if any, Bible training (and of course the New Testament hadn’t even been written).

In summary, there is a little mystery to it (in my opinion), but God will reach who He will reach, his judgment is perfectly fair and no one will be able to claim ignorance of the law.  God created us such that we “would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”

23 thoughts on “Exploring Christianity – Part 4 – Hell”

  1. Not all “Christians” have the truth and after death, as those whom are not Christians, become seeking souls. God has provided for them, read 1 Cor. 15 v 29. In the book of Revelations 7 v 9, you can read about the number of souls, from all nations, that no one can count.
    We are saved by grace, yet, many “Christians” have not yet received the grace of God, due to their ignorance. Read Ephs. 4 v 7. Who has received a messure of the gift of Christ and how was it administered and by what athority?
    The verses you have quoted are applicable to Christians and others, who know the truth and have chosen to reject it and not to those who are still ignorent of the truth. The reason they choose to reject the truth, is because they don’t want to commit and change their way of life.


  2. I think it scares many to say that perhaps God gives everyone the chance to accept Him before they die, because if so, why evangelize and give or participate in missions.

    Personally, I think that perhaps God gives everyone that chance. I hope He does, anyways. Yet how are we really to know?

    God doesn’t owe any of us anything. So it’s not like anybody is deserving of that last call. Hmmm…

    This has really made me think.


  3. The logical issue is that, if God is all just and merciful (those two are, IMHO, synonymous), and if God condemns those who do not accept Jesus as their Saviour, then how can it be that those who lack the opportunity to know the Bible will be damned (through no fault of their own – i.e. unmercifully) or saved, even though they did not accept Christ as their Saviour (i.e. unjustly)?

    The early Christians believed in reincarnation. This could be some of the issue – that those who did not have the chance to accept Christ in one life (for example, those who die at a young age or are born in an illiterate, pagan community) could have another chance.

    Atheist that I am, I have little knowledge of the Bible. Does it mandate that ALL people accept Christ as their Saviour before death? Or, do people who had no opportunity (i.e. children & illiterates in pagan cultures) during life have the chance, in death, to accept Christ?

    I’m actually fascinated. Thank you, Neil & others, for insightful comments.


  4. Acts 17 is such a wonderful and revealing section of scripture. Lots of stuff in this post that one could write several books in a couple of life times.

    “God created us such that we “would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” ”

    This verse reminds me a lot of a statement made by St. Augustine:
    “It is true that you have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”


  5. Chocolate lover (aka theobromophile):

    The bible says:

    Everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23) which qualifies all of us in need of a Savior.

    Additionally it says:

    And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this {comes} judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without {reference to} sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
    Hebrews 9:27-28

    And one more:

    “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

    Keep asking questions. He’ll answer.



  6. Hi Josh – I’ve heard the “last chance” hypothesis before but haven’t found anything in the Bible to support it. Perhaps there is a cosmic loophole but it does not appear to be in keeping with God’s nature not to reveal something like that. I take no pleasure in communicating the doctrine of Hell. I do know that people can turn to him at any time before they die – and the sooner, the better, in my experience. Life has its ups and downs, but I remember life without Jesus and I’m not going back.

    Hi Delany – you are correct – one could go on and on with this topic!

    Hi Bridget – great questions. One of the key points is that someone condemned to Hell couldn’t claim it was no fault of their own. They would simply be accountable for their rejection of and rebellion against God’s revelation. I find these distinctions helpful:

    Justice = getting what I deserve (we typically want that for everyone else but not for ourselves)
    Mercy = not getting the punishment I deserve
    Grace = getting incredible favor that I didn’t deserve (e.g., Heaven).

    I don’t doubt that some early Christians believed in reincarnation. Much of the New Testament letters were written to correct false theology (the church wasn’t even 20 years old and heresies had already crept in).

    Re. children – there isn’t a crystal-clear verse I can point to, but Christians typically hold that there is an “age of accountability” (early teens?) where people become culpable for their sins. There is a passage where King David’s son from his affair with Bathsheba dies (only a week or so old) and he notes that he’ll see the child again. I would think the same thing would apply to mentally handicapped people.

    I try not to shout where the Bible just speaks or whispers, though. When faced with questions like this I typically rely on what I know about God – his grace / love / justice / mercy – and I can just project from there. But I am not as confident in these views as I would be if the Bible addressed them directly.

    P.S. I’d love to have you visit the Bible Study Blog sometime. It isn’t as personal as a live Bible study, but I’d be interested in the perspectives of a clear-thinking atheist like yourself.


  7. Thanks for your answers, Neil. I’m fascinated by the idea of an internally consistent religion (of any sort, atheism included). Very few people take the time to explore inconsistencies in their belief system.

    In our justice system, we presume knowledge of the violated law. If you are in this country, it is your job to be aware of the laws and possible violations thereof. It is hard for us to think outside of this framework, where not knowing the laws is an excuse for inadvertent, good-faith violation.

    If you’ve read all of the Chronicles of Narnia series, CS Lewis answers the Heaven for non-believers question (obviously, Mr. Lewis did not write the Bible, but it’s still interesting) in his final book. Aslan and Tash (I think) were worshipped by either residents of Narnia or another village. Tash is the bad god; nevertheless, some of the residents of the other village worshipped him and did good acts in his name. Some of the Narnians rejected Aslan. The latter group was banned from Heaven at the apocolypse; the former group was saved. Aslan said to a young man, “You cannot do good and pure things in the name of Tash, and you cannot do bad things in my name. Whatever is good is done in my honour.” It was something to that effect, at least.

    I’ve heard of the age of reason (often age seven), although that does conflict with the idea that baptism is necessary for salvation (well, at least in Catholic doctrine). I’ve never been a fan of the idea that circumstances that are in the control of other humans determine one’s afterlife. Really, that’s just silly and contravenes any idea of personal accountability.

    Okay, new question: what about the people born before Christ?


  8. I’ll add a Catholic perspective to the understanding how grace saves. The following is taken from another blog (evangelical-cath@licism.c@m) and summarizes it better than I ever could:

    The Christian’s old sinful ways are crucified and put to death. The Christian now is reconciled to God (Rom 8:5-11; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 2 Cor 5:18-19; Heb 12:26), to be offered in grace as a pure sacrifice in imitation of the Master (Rom 12:1; 1 Pt 2:22-25). The Christian is to be afflicted, becoming like Christ in death (Phil 3:10) so that Christ may be manifested in the flesh (2 Cor 4:10-11) and so that the Christian may be glorified (Rom 8:17). While the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is all sufficient for forgiveness and redemption (Heb 7:27, 9:12-26), the suffering of the Christian is the actualization and application of Christ’s merit (Acts 14:22; 1 Thes 3:3-7).

    The Christian must persevere, remaining unwavering in his conviction in order to obtain the salvation that is promised (Hab 2:4; Mark 13:13; Heb 10:36; Rom 11:22-23). Ultimately, the Chirstian must conform to Christ, participating in his sufferings in order to fully put to death the sins of the flesh and to live by the Spirit and inherit that which he is now heir to (cf. Rom 8:12-17; 2 Cor 1:5-7; Mt 5:11-12, 16:24). It is by the Holy Spirit that the Christian’s sufferings are meaningful and redemptive (1 Cor 12:13-26), and through the same Spirit that the Christian is made a child of God (Rom 8:14-17).

    The Christian is not saved by faith alone (Jas 2:14-26), but by grace alone (Eph 2:8-9) through a faith that is not mere belief, but through a faith that is completed by obedience (Rom 1:5, 16:26) and love (Gal 5:6), that is, by keeping the commandments of the Lord (Jn 15:6-10; Gal 5:17-21) and working out salvation in acts of charity and goodwill (Mt 25:31-46; Phil 2:12-13). Indeed, faith is never without works.

    Salvation is only by Jesus the Lord, only through a commitment to faith by means of grace, and only through suffering in conformity with he who conquers death and desires to exult humanity within himself. To imitate Christ is to believe in the plan of God, to obey the plan of God and to act out the plan of God. To reject any aspect of this imitation as necessary for salvation is to reject the very Word that saves.


  9. As usual, Bridget brings clarity and well thought-out arguments to the conversation.

    I would argue that the fundamental difference between the laws of man and those of God are that one is verifiable (whether or not you agree with them) while the other involves an assumption of divine authorship. Clearly, this was the subject of the entire first question in our interview, but ultimately the Constitution does not claim divine inspiration and is therefore not subject to the same doubts as the Bible.


  10. …and may I just add that this is exaclty what I was hoping to achive with this interview…a conversation with a protestant, a catholic and two athiests…all this and no threats of violence yet! 🙂


  11. Upon reading this post I also thought of that part of C.S. Lewis’ writing with regard to those who go to heaven.

    I wish I could find an answer to “who will be in heaven” but then I realize that when I try to act like I am God, I may in fact be ticking the real one off, so I try not to dwell on that concept, among others too frequently. However, I do believe one thing about God, and that is the tremendous capacity he has for love of his special creation.

    For myself, I draw from many wells to help myself in trying to understand the truly incomprehensible, God. While there is something to be said for these expressions of man reaching to God, perhaps it is best to remember that God’s love reached out to me, and to any who would have it, and that he desires to call me friend. Sometimes, many times, that concept gives me hope.


  12. Thanks, Nicholas.

    I would further add that the Bible is meant to be unchanged and unchanging, while the Constitution explicitly contains methods of interpretation and amendment. If the Constitution doesn’t work for you, change it. If there is an inconsistency, then the Supreme Court can interpret so as to remove that inconsistency.


    Your last paragraph seems to be saying “tough luck” to anyone who, through no fault of his own, is unaware of Christ’s existence.

    There are degrees of punishment in Hell so that the punishments fit the crimes.

    Very Hellenic, actually. We all remember the stories of Tantalus and Sisyphus, who were punished in Hades in accordance with their crimes. Very few crimes would merit eternal punishment; one had to offend the Gods to earn that. Otherwise, punishment was temporary but, again, designed for the sin.


  13. “a conversation with a protestant, a catholic and two athiests…all this and no threats of violence yet!”

    LOL. I thought you were about to launch into an extended joke: “A protestant, a catholic and two atheists walk into a bar . . .”

    Eric – welcome!, and thanks for the Catholic perspective. I married a Catholic (the Pope is still ticked at me ’cause she converted) and have many Catholic friends. Interestingly, when we just “talk” without our doctrine in front of us we tend to have similar views on the essentials – i.e., saved by grace through faith that results in works. I think it gets more challenging when you get into the stuff that people wrote down outside the Bible and have to reconcile that. That could be an interesting thread someday.

    “when I try to act like I am God, I may in fact be ticking the real one off”

    Great point, Voice. I try to stay very disciplined about not judging who is saved and who isn’t, and just focusing on what God clearly revealed in his Word. As the saying goes, we’ll all be surprised who is in Heaven and who isn’t. I was a good fake when I was in my early twenties – going to church, wearing a nice suit, leading a finance committee, etc. I was such a good fake I didn’t even realize I was a fake at times.


  14. Bridget,

    Re. “If you are in this country, it is your job to be aware of the laws and possible violations thereof. ”

    I think the Christian theological response would be somewhat similar, starting with the law written on our hearts (i.e., conscience). Perhaps we have inadvertent sins, but most of what we do (lie, steal, lust, etc.) we know is wrong.

    That is really interesting that you brought up that C.S. Lewis passage. I’m a big Lewis fan, though Narnia wasn’t my genre. I only read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and it was enough for me. You might like Mere Christianity (a real classic of the faith). Nicholas, didn’t you read that?

    But the quote you mentioned popped up in a book I was reading on world religions a few weeks back. That is the first C.S. Lewis quote I staunchly disagreed with. I am curious as to what Biblical basis he had for that. I can’t even think of verses that I could twist to try and support that.

    I don’t believe in infant baptism (though my denomination does). I think it often turns into a superstitious exercise (“Hurry up and baptize the baby!!”) where parents show up once and never come back. Technically, baptism isn’t required for salvation (though some think it is); it is just a logical response to publicly declaring one’s faith in Christ.

    “Okay, new question: what about the people born before Christ?”

    That’s an extra tough one. The technical answer is that they were saved by faith in God and by looking forward to Christ (i.e., Jesus died for their sins, just after the fact). There are many people in the Old Testament who were saved by faith in the one true God (and Jesus is God). I’ll concede that isn’t the most crystal clear explanation. If I find a good link on this I’ll post it.

    A guy named Abraham lived a couple thousand years before Jesus. Abraham was considered the father of the Jews. The Bible says that Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” There are examples of non-Jews who were part of the lineage of Jesus (Ruth, who got her own book of the Bible, and Rahab, a prostitute). They had faith in God and were saved.

    I think Jesus’ statement that “if you seek, you will find” applied in the Old Testament times as well.


  15. Bridget,
    I don’t know if the way that you pose, “unchangied and unchanging” is how I go about reading Scripture. I would pose that there are some aspects of the Bible which is meant to be unchanging, and from this I would think that the basic ethical framework posed by it – more of the template for behavior among believers and a code for civil and personal ethics. However, there are many parts of Scripture, which are often used as some part of proof text, that is highly personal. Many of the N.T. epistles are that way, and candidly I think they have cultural or particular people in mind. While all Scripture is from the “breath of God”, a person using their mental talents, also given by God, “should” be able to easily see which parts are which. Then again, that presumes people would use their mind, and that’s a big presupposition.


  16. Thanks, Voice. I’ve heard people say that the entire Bible is the word of God, unedited, and we simply cannot pick and choose which pieces we like.

    Oddly, one of the largest problems I’ve had with Christianity is its unwillingness to explain how ancient doctrine is applicable today. Take, for example, the prohibition against premarital sex. Back when women used to marry by age 15, it made sense to restrict them from having sex before marriage. There was, at most, a year of hormones that she would have to live with. Now, when women marry in their 30s, that same prohibition puts a larger burden on them. Should this be a cultural part of the Bible? Or, should it be explained as (in the words of Queen of Swords) the fact that what God asks you to do is often good for you? There are psychological and physical repercussions – cultures change, but basic human nature (the good and the bad of it) and our psyches do not change.

    Pardon any ramblings – it’s getting late in Cali.


    If one is required to believe in Christ in order to be saved, one needs to be aware of Christ’s existence. That is what I’m talking about with ignorance of the law.

    You’re right about baptism leading to a superstition. Just ask any parents who have a kid in a neonatal ward. You hope that he makes it and lives to be baptised; otherwise, it’s Purgatory. That, to me, has nothing to do with morality and everything to do with ritualistic silliness on the order of hopping around in counterclockwise circles so as to bring the rainy season.

    I read most of Mere Christianity. The problem with it is that it’s essentially a transcript of his radio shows; each chapter is quite short and doesn’t lend itself well to much besides (pardon me for saying this) bumper sticker reasoning. As I recall, his answer to the “What about those who, through no fault of their own, have never heard of Christ or the Gospels?” is a very abrupt line about how that apparent inconsistency should not prevent us from believing in God and the necessity of believing in Christ for Salvation. It was a very unsatisfactory answer to a very legitimate question.

    I almost think that you would have to allow for either reincarnation OR some sort of post-death, pre-judgment knowledge of Christ (and therefore, the opportunity to accept him) in order to not have an unjust system. (It seems quite cruel to damn a person by reason of birth – much like, for example, death before baptism should not preclude a person from salvation.)


  17. I believe that the Bible needs to be viewed through the filter of the Holy Spirit. But I also believe that God will not contradict himself, that is how we know we are not being guided by a false spirit or our own desires.
    As far as I can tell from statistics and personal observation (unfortunately including my daughter) sex outside of marriage is still as destructive as it ever was. I think that is why it is a sin.

    “I almost think that you would have to allow for either reincarnation OR some sort of post-death, pre-judgment knowledge of Christ (and therefore, the opportunity to accept him) in order to not have an unjust system. ”

    This area has been one of my biggest struggles. However, God invented justice and says that he is just.

    Isaiah 55:8
    “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. (New Living Translation)

    So the best I can do is use what God has given me and devote the time and energy to getting to know God and the evidence that proves who he is and what he has done.

    If God chooses to return me to the dust from which I came, can I say that he is wrong or unjust. I think the best thing I can do; is to do all I can, according to my abilities and calling, to fulfill “The Great Commission”. Beyond that, I just have to trust God.

    God bless you, Neil for the use of your abilities to give us this forum.


  18. I agree that purgatory is a bad concept. It may sound benign at first, but anything that says you need Jesus’ death and resurrection PLUS something else is a heresy (likewise, anything saying his death and resurrection are a nice-to-have or just another option is a Christian heresy).

    Interesting points re. cultural parts of the Bible. There are illustrations in the Bible that are relevant to the culture being written to (e.g., men with long hair). The no-sex-before-marriage thing is a universal thing, though. I’m not suggesting 15 is a great age to be married, but perhaps waiting until the 30’s brings up new issues and challenges. Paul lays out the criteria pretty well in 1 Corinthians 7 (being single is fine because one can devote more time to the Lord, but they must be chaste).

    Re. ignorance of the law – thanks for the clarification, I think I follow now. This may seem like splitting hairs, but it isn’t that not believing in Jesus is the sin that condemns us. Ignoring Jesus for a moment, we are condemned by the countless other sins we commit and could be rightly punished for those. It is Good News that Jesus offers us a way out.

    I still see why some might consider it unfair that some people wouldn’t hear the Gospel. But consider how many millions of people hear the Gospel many times and reject it. I’m confident that the God of the Bible will get the Gospel to anyone who would respond to it.

    Some people do think there is a post-death / pre-judgment “2nd chance.” I can’t find a shred of Biblical support for that, but I’ve been wrong before.

    Either way, the truth of the Gospel isn’t dependent on whether in our human view we think it is fair. We’ll be judged based on what we knew and what we did with it.

    “Then again, that presumes people would use their mind, and that’s a big presupposition.”

    Ha! You are right. I wish more people followed all the commands in the Bible to use our minds: “Test everything, hold onto the good.” “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they examined the scriptures each day to see if what Paul said was true.” “Love the Lord with all your . . . mind.” And so on. There are many warnings of false teachers and the importance of sound doctrine.


  19. theobromophile,
    I guess what I posted was misleading. Here’s what John Paull II said to a general audience that addresses your concern.

    “For those too who through no fault of their own do not know Christ and are not recognized as Christians, the divine plan has provided a way of salvation. As we read in the Council’s Decree Ad Gentes, we believe that “God in ways known to himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel” to the faith necessary for salvation (AG 7). Certainly, the condition “inculpably ignorant” cannot be verified nor weighed by human evaluation, but must be left to the divine judgment alone. For this reason, the Council states in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes that in the heart of every man of good will, “Grace works in an unseen way…. The Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (GS 22).”

    But he also says,
    “It is important to stress that the way of salvation taken by those who do not know the Gospel is not a way apart from Christ and the Church. The universal salvific will is linked to the one mediation of Christ. “God our Savior…wants all men to be saved and come to know the truth. And the truth is this: God is one. One also is the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:3-6). Peter proclaimed this when he said: “There is no salvation in anyone else” and called Jesus the “cornerstone” (Acts 4:11-12), emphasizing Christ’s necessary role at the basis of the Church.”

    Lastly I would like to add that the Catholic Church doesn’t actually claim to know who all will be saved. We can discern whether we ourselves are being saved, by whether we have done our best to follow God’s way to the best of our understanding, and whether we have repented and been absolved of our sins – but no Catholic knows or thinks he knows anyone else’s fate.

    The only exeption to that would be the greatest Saints, who make themselves known to the Church as a whole through miracles.


  20. “While the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is all sufficient for forgiveness and redemption (Heb 7:27, 9:12-26), the suffering of the Christian is the actualization and application of Christ’s merit (Acts 14:22; 1 Thes 3:3-7).

    It is by the Holy Spirit that the Christian’s sufferings are meaningful and redemptive.”

    Eric, Free Methodist Pastor here. I think we have a lot in common, however I have one question about the two quotes above. How can Christ’s suffering by all sufficient for the redemption of man to God but at the same time the Christians sufferings be redemptive? If Christ’s suffering is all suffient how can the Christian contribute to what Christ has done? My theological take on it would be that the Christians sufferings are redemptive to him and his sanctification. As expected, we have some differences with justification and sanctification.
    Grace and Peace,


  21. Hi, on baptisem, I would just like to share my understanding on this with you: I read of about 10 baptizems in the Bibel, yet in Ephes. 4 v 7 it states there is one baptizem. What simbolic manner you use, is irrelevant. The fact is, should the minister/priest or whatever, not utter a word, during the process, would the person/child be baptized? I should think not, as the water simbolizes the word of gospel. Before the gospel can be preached, one must first learn words. We speak words to children from the day they are born, so we are baptizing them from that moment. For the minister/priest to administer the simble thereof and, as a parent, to take on the resposability thereof, until the child can be self resposable, can be, in no way, incorrect. Weather the parents follow through with the promise they make, does not make the baptizem of children incorrect. I would not stand in the way of children, to come unto Jesus.
    In regard to judgment: Man can only be judged on what he understands. Should one not seek the Kingdom of God, one can’t expect to inherred it. By grace we are saved and not by what we do, but rather by what God does though us.
    Only my body will return to dust, but the inner man shall inherret the eternal. When Christ, the Gospel, appears to you on the cloud (Heb 12 v1 old translation), that will be your day of judgment. You will become part of that cloud or you will reject the Gospel (Colos. 1 v 24). Should you become part of the cloud of witnesses, you will the can say “death were is thy sting” and by allowing God’s will in your life, in the place of your will (the will of man), you will know suffering. You will know what it means, to offer your life for others.
    Hope you understand what I am trying to say.


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