If Belief in Jesus is Required for Salvation, How is that Fair to Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel?

This is a question I have heard numerous times over the years and that I have even asked myself and I did not know the answer. Why would God send people to Hell if they hadn’t heard about Jesus? What about people in third world countries? This is a question that people struggle with. I hope my answers here based on what I have learned while earning my MA in Apologetics can provide some clarity.

People at all times have had some revelation about God through the natural world around them and through God’s law written on their hearts. From these evidences, we should see that God exists and know something of His attributes and power. Seeing how the natural world works should make it obvious that there is a creator.

Also, in our hearts, we have a sense of “ought”. Of right and wrong. All of us do. Everyone knows that some things are right and others are wrong. When we do something wrong, our conscience tells us. This is apparent in all countries, everywhere on the earth. Everyone knows that murder is wrong. Author John Feinberg tells us that, “Everyone has enough revelation to know that there is a God, something of what He is like, and a sense of right and wrong…On judgment day, no one can tell God that he would have believed in God but had no idea whatsoever of His existence.” Man is without excuse.

In addition, God doesn’t just show us one form of revelation then stops. He continues it. He gives us ample evidence. For example, God gave the Jews the Mosaic Law. God sent His son Jesus into the world. In Hebrews 1:1-3 Jesus says that whoever has seen Him has seen the Father. Most Jews and Gentiles rejected God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus. But God continued to reveal Himself through the New Testament. So God has given the world several forms of revelation over the centuries that have been available to anyone who wants it.

Chairman and Professor of the Department of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, John Feinberg, contends that,

“Those who don’t receive the information about God don’t fail to get it because it was impossible to do so, but because they rejected the truth they already had and didn’t seek God further. So it is right to condemn those who have never heard the gospel because they have rejected the truth they do possess, and because more is available if they would ask God for it.”[1]

God has other ways of communicating his truth to someone who has never heard it. God gives some information through dreams and visions. Many Muslims learn of the one true God this way. I personally know of two Muslims who had dreams and visions of God before they abandoned their Muslim faith and became Christians.

I believe we must pray for those who have never heard of Jesus. We must pray that Jesus will reveal himself to them either through Missionaries or through one of the above mentioned ways. Moreover, we must pray that those who have never heard, will have the desire to seek God. The greatest right that man has is the right to know God. God will give man what he needs to know to save him from hell. Then it is man’s decision to accept or reject God and His claims.

            [1] John S. Feinberg, The Many Faces of Evil: Theological Systems and the Problem of Evil (Wheaton, Ill., Crossway Books, 2004) 437

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