Is God fair? Does He even care?
These two questions are the heart of our objection to Christianity regarding those who have never heard the gospel. As a result, we need to address them as we look at the issue, examining the grace and justice of God in our response.
Part of the problem of answering arises when we use our own methods of evaluation instead of trying to understand God’s ways. The truth is, God is not fair: He is gracious. He cares so much that He made a way for us out of our sin. He brought us from death to life, from alienation to intimacy with Him through Jesus Christ. At the same time, God is just—He is holy, and can have no part with sin.
Our answer to the issue of those who have never heard, then, needs to take into account both God’s justice and His mercy, remembering His provision of salvation in Christ.
Option 1: God Will Not Judge Those Who Have Not Heard
The first option to respond to the issue of those who have never heard the gospel is to say that God will not judge them. This option, however, does not make sense in light of the commands in Scripture to go and tell everyone about Jesus:
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20)
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
If those who never heard the gospel will not be judged, then we would have no reason to go and preach. As it is, Scripture makes clear that everyone needs to hear the good news, which is divine revelation rather than human opinion. The problem is not simply that people have not heard the gospel, but that they are in need of salvation. Every one of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and we are dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1). Every one of us needs a cure, and the only cure is Jesus Christ. He paid the price for us and gave us His righteousness so that we could have eternal life in Him (John 3:16). In Christ, we view both the grace and justice of God.
The Problem of Sin
As we address this issue, we need to recognize that no one is fully ignorant of God. Due to general revelation, everyone knows enough about God to seek Him (Romans 1:18–25). God has revealed Himself to everyone though the conscience and through nature, and these point to our need for Him.
Regarding general revelation, those opposed to Christianity often make the claim that religion evolved from polytheism to monotheism, and that there is now no need for religion at all. However, in looking at historical accounts, we find the opposite. We find that people turned from the one true God to worship other gods. We are still in need of the grace and justice of God now as they were then.
As we wrestle with this issue, we need to look at the utter sinfulness of sin. God is holy, and the righteousness He requires is that righteousness which His righteousness requires. In other words, He cannot (and should not) compromise. He is perfect and holy, and underwrote the cost Himself to make us perfect and holy in Christ. Only God could bridge the gap that our sin created between us and Him. Only God could bring us to Himself, and He will make a way.
For more on apologetics, read Ken Boa’s I’m Glad You Asked.
Want to hear more about how to turn objections into opportunities? Check out Ken Boa’s apologetics archives.