Board index Heaven and Hell

What we know about heaven and hell

People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Seize the Day » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:00 pm

The Bible makes it clear that humans will be sorted into one of two places during the final judgement. The lake of fire and heaven. No limbo. No loopholes. Saying generic cop-outs like “God will judge them according to what they know.” or “God is just and I trust him.” are vague and do not fall within the binary afterlife mentioned in the Bible.

If people who have never heard of Jesus go to hell, then God runs a birth lottery where losing means eternal torture. If they go to heaven, then missionaries are cruel and everyone should shut up about Jesus, and Jesus would have died for nothing.
Seize the Day
 

Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:01 pm

You may think you can cavalierly toss off "God will judge them according to what they know," but that's the answer. It's not a generic cop-out at all. You're mistaken that it's just binary, and mistaken that there are no loopholes. God is a God of judgment, but also of mercy and grace. There are plenty of variables at play.

Romans 5.13 says, "for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law." In other words, people cannot be held accountable for what they could not possibly have known. Romans 1.20 lets us know that they will be held accountable for what they do know. Theologians talk about in terms of "common revelation" (what everybody can see and have a knowledge of [things such as order, uniformity, purpose, function, cause and effect, the validity of sense perception, beauty, reason, personality, knowledge, the benefits of moral responsibility, will, and love; as well as a conscience inside of them]) and "special revelation" (the knowledge of things in particular, such as Jesus). Those are different accountability standards, and the Bible teaches that God is just and will be fair with people, considering what they knew and what they did with it.

For instance, we are told that the young people during the wilderness wanderings got a free pass to the Promised Land when others were punished for their rebellion, because they didn't know any better (Dt. 1.37-40: God's people are being judged for their rebellion, but the young ones who didn't have the mental capacity to make a reasoned and moral decision like that don't get judged). Scripture teaches that anyone who is not capable of making a deliberate, reasoned decision is not held accountable as the people who are. Don't get me wrong: they're still accountable, but in a different way and based on a different standard.

Based on Romans 5.13, I think it's fair to say that people who haven't heard of Jesus will not be judged on whether they believed in Christ or not. That doesn't make any sense. They will be judged fairly given their own motivations and actions. People will be judged according to the information they had, what they did with it, and their motives behind it. Every judgment will be fair based on what information people had, what they knew, what their motives were, and how they behaved given what they had access to. Otherwise, it wouldn't be fair. So if someone hasn't heard of Christianity, they can't be held accountable for Christianity. But they will be held accountable for what they do know. As C.S. Lewis said, "We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him."

As far as hell and loopholes, the subject of hell is far more complicated than you allow. Not all Christians, you should know, believe in the traditional concept of hell. There are theories about reconcilationism, semi-restorationism, modified eternalism, and annihilationism, all with some kind of scriptural backing. In other words, hell isn't necessarily eternal for all who enter it. It may only be eternal for those who refused to be reconciled.

I also don't believe that hell is fire. Hell is not "One Fire Tortures All." Fire is just the image of untold suffering, which is what one will experience when separated from God. We have strong hints that there are different degrees of punishment in hell (totally unlike the different levels of hell as in Dante's Divine Comedy, which is not Scripture).

- Matthew 11.22-24 & Luke 10.12: Jesus says it will be “more tolerable” for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah than for the people of Capernaum. That would indicate to me a more harsh punishment and a less harsh punishment.
- Matthew 23.14: Jesus tells the Pharisees they will be punished more severely for the way they are deceiving the people and living as hypocrites.
- Revelation 20.13: Each is going to be judged according to what he has done. Since that is the case, then the punishments and rewards can’t be the same for everybody.
- and finally, Luke 12.47-48 (workers are punished with more or fewer blows). There are degrees of punishment, and even sins of ignorance are treated differently than sins of intention.

Why I bother to point this out is because often those who consider hell to be unfair are picturing the same punishment for all, which is most likely not the case, and infinite punishment for finite crimes, which may also not be the case. People will be punished according to the works they have done (2 Corinthians 5.10).
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4957
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Regnis Numis » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:05 pm

> Based on Romans 5.13, I think it's fair to say that people who haven't heard of Jesus will not be judged on whether they believed in Christ or not. That doesn't make any sense. They will be judged fairly given their own motivations and actions. People will be judged according to the information they had, what they did with it, and their motives behind it. Every judgment will be fair based on what information people had, what they knew, what their motives were, and how they behaved given what they had access to. Otherwise, it wouldn't be fair. So if someone hasn't heard of Christianity, they can't be held accountable for Christianity. But they will be held accountable for what they do know. As C.S. Lewis said, "We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him."

If God could have judged people based on their motives and deeds all along, then what was the purpose of Christ's sacrifice? If faith in Christ isn't necessary for salvation, then what did He die for? And how could people be saved through Christ if they do not know Him?
Regnis Numis
 

Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:11 pm

Christ's sacrifice was to atone for our sins. Even if God lets people into heaven on different bases that may be fair for their situation doesn't negate the fact that atonement is necessary. Our country's immigration policy may let some people in for asylum, some for work visas, and some by sheer kindness, but that doesn't mean that the borders should be open or that the administration should have no policy. Different criteria doesn't invalidate the reason it's possible. Atonement is the necessary piece no matter what the conditions or allowances.

> If faith in Christ isn't necessary for salvation, then what did He die for?

For those who have heard, faith in Christ is necessary. For those who have not heard, the only way to be fair is to use different criteria for gauging entrance. Jesus's atonement is the only element that makes either of these possible.

> And how could people be saved through Christ if they do not know Him?

We have no idea about all the ramifications and possibilities of God's grace and mercy. Several things we can be sure of: God wants as many as people as possible to be with him, He is a God of mercy and grace just as sure as He is a God of judgment, and He is going to be completely fair in the final judgment.
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4957
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Thunder Butt » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:16 pm

> [...] people cannot be held accountable for what they could not possibly have known

So, the worst thing a Christian could ever do is tell some savage native about Jesus. Before these horrible people open their mouth and spew the Word of God and pass out the Chic Trac, these noble native people are going to paradise without question.
Thunder Butt
 

Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:16 pm

Not so. You seem to be missing many pieces of the project, or you would not have responded the way you did. Since people will be rewarded in heaven according to what they deserve, and people will be punished in hell only according to what they deserve, it's wiser to tell as many as possible, knowing that many will come to Christ and their experience in heaven will be so much richer than would have otherwise been possible. Why live in dingy flat when you could have the Penthouse? Coming to Christ enriches life as well as eternity.

You seem to think "these noble native people are going to paradise without question," but that's not at all what I said, or what the Bible would support. They will be evaluated on a different criteria is all I claimed. No one gets a free pass. They are better off hearing the truth and getting an opportunity to respond to the truth for all the benefits that affords.
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4957
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Bust A Kitten » Wed Jun 13, 2018 3:37 pm

> You may think you can cavalierly toss off "God will judge them according to what they know," but that's the answer. It's not a generic cop-out at all. You're mistaken that it's just binary, and mistaken that there are no loopholes. God is a God of judgment, but also of mercy and grace. There are plenty of variables at play.

Romans 5.13 says, "for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law." In other words, people cannot be held accountable for what they could not possibly have known. Romans 1.20 lets us know that they will be held accountable for what they do know. Theologians talk about in terms of "common revelation" (what everybody can see and have a knowledge of [things such as order, uniformity, purpose, function, cause and effect, the validity of sense perception, beauty, reason, personality, knowledge, the benefits of moral responsibility, will, and love; as well as a conscience inside of them]) and "special revelation" (the knowledge of things in particular, such as Jesus). Those are different accountability standards, and the Bible teaches that God is just and will be fair with people, considering what they knew and what they did with it.

Ok, so in short, Romans 5:13 states that I can't be judged for what I don't know. Then you mentioned Romans 1:20, and said that it lets us know that we can be held accountable for what we do know. What you failed to mention is that Romans 1:20 says that we all know. It asserts it. I read a good few translations just now, and they all assert the same thing. The verse says that we all know that god exists. That is simply not true. We don't even all believe that god exists, let alone know.

To believe something is to be convinced that a thing exists, or that a proposition is true. To know it, is to also be able to demonstrate it to be more likely than not. If you ask me, I don't believe that a god exists. I am not certain that a god doesn't exist, but I think it is highly likely that that's the case. As far as the Christian deity, I am as certain that it doesn't exist as I am that the moon isn't made of cheese. I can't go up and touch or taste the moon, nor can I go back in time to 1st century Judea, and see if the new testament miracles actually occurred, as written.

So for one who grew up Catholic, dropped his religion, but has read chunks of the bible, and in the intervening years has looked at the doctrines of other Christian denominations and found no truth in them either, am I without excuse like Romans 1:20 says?
Romans 1:20 doesn't even excuse those who haven't heard of Christianity, as it says that the truth of it is seen in everything. I certainly can't even claim that, as I grew up in a Christian household. I believed, and now I don't. I believe the likelihood that Christianity is true is equal to the likelihood that Islam, or Mormonism are true. The reasons for that are:

1. Since those 3 religions are all mutually incompatible, the only possibilities are that 1 is true, or none are true.
2. The fact that at least 2 of them must be false also demonstrates that under the right circumstances, people in large numbers can be conned into believing fantastical falsehoods, and perpetuate them through many generations through childhood indoctrination, and other methods. Those other methods are seen clearly in the fact that the two of those 3 religions that have the biggest numbers of followers world-wide featured massive empires perpetuating them over the course of their history. While Christianity is the odd man out in terms of origin story (since the other two are, in summary, a dude wrote a book after speaking to an angel), Mormonism is the odd man out in terms of its spreading. And even with a unique story, if Muhammad could make up sightings (or convince people in his delusion, we're not sure which) of the archangel Gabriel, and Joseph Smith could make up sightings of an angel named Moroni, then early Christians could make things up too. In Christianity it's unclear whether it was made up by one person, or by a small like-minded group, but there is nothing unique about it that eliminates that possibility. Jesus could have been made up entirely, or whoever concocted what became the eventual gospels exaggerated a somewhat popular real self-proclaimed prophet into the divine son of god.

Sorry about the long paragraph but, in short, there is nothing unique about the growth of early Christianity that made it more likely that it was true. Were it the only large religion of the sort, or the only one with an origin story where even the early followers died for their beliefs, then a point could be made. However, that's not the case. As a result of all of the above, I believe it likely that those 3 monotheisms, and all other religions, are products of human imagination and delusion. There is nothing indicating any one of them to be more likely to be true than any other, and thus I am convinced that they are all false. Until such evidence comes out suggesting that one of them is actually very likely to be true, I will remain that way unless I suffer some sort of a brain injury that impairs my judgement.

Given all that, am I going to hell, will I be tortured after I die, and do I deserve it for mere disbelief despite having heard many arguments in support of Christianity?
Bust A Kitten
 

Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Wed Jun 13, 2018 3:40 pm

> The verse says that we all know that god exists. That is simply not true. We don't even all believe that god exists, let alone know.

What's true is that there is ample evidence for the existence of God in nature itself. Paul mentions power, but there are other evidences as well. The universe (and life) exhibits order, regularity, purpose, balance, beauty, and personality, among other attributes. Through an observation of nature God has given plausible evidence of his existence. While some don't believe it (which the text is not referring to), there is enough evidence to make the existence of God possible if not plausible. The text (Rom. 1.19) that certain attributes of God can be inferred from nature, which is true. It is not claiming, as you have stated, that the existence of God can be *known*. It claims that there is enough evidence to plausibly infer His existence so that everyone is accountable for at least something.

> As far as the Christian deity, I am as certain that it doesn't exist as I am that the moon isn't made of cheese.

Paul would argue that you are suppressing the truth (Rom. 1.18), since there is ample evidence to think otherwise. An assessment of the logical arguments for the existence of God posit a much stronger case for theism than for atheism, and considering the philosophy of science, theism is a more plausible explanation for what we see than scientific naturalism, which is ultimately self-defeating.

> Romans 1:20 doesn't even excuse those who haven't heard of Christianity, as it says that the truth of it is seen in everything.

Paul deals with that in Romans 5, as you know. He can't deal with every subject in every chapter.

> Since those 3 religions are all mutually incompatible, the only possibilities are that 1 is true, or none are true.

This is correct.

> In Christianity it's unclear whether it was made up by one person, or by a small like-minded group, but there is nothing unique about it that eliminates that possibility.

Having been invented by 1 person is both illogical and historically implausible.

> Jesus could have been made up entirely

The historicity of Jesus is well enough established to rule this out.

> there is nothing unique about the growth of early Christianity that made it more likely that it was true.

You're right. The truth of it doesn't rest on its proliferation but rather on the historical evidence for the resurrection.

> I believe it likely that those 3 monotheisms, and all other religions, are products of human imagination and delusion.

I'm sorry you've come to that conclusion. I (obviously) believe otherwise and think that somewhere along the way you came across too much misinformation, but that's a longer discussion.

> Until such evidence comes out suggesting that one of them is actually very likely to be true

The logical, scientific, and historical evidence is overwhelming in favor of the truth of Christianity. We can talk further as you wish.

> Given all that, am I going to hell, will I be tortured after I die, and do I deserve it for mere disbelief despite having heard many arguments in support of Christianity?

So it seems. You have tossed off the truth in favor of whatever else it was you heard. Ephesians 2 is pretty clear. Those who are "saved" are the ones who will see the "heavenly realms". Those who are separated from Christ, "without God in the world" are not reconciled and don't have access. In Jesus's teaching, such as the Parable of the Tenants (Matt. 21.33-44 and parallels), those who reject Jesus come to a "wretched end." Revelation 21.8 says that the destiny of those who are "faithless" (without faith) is the fiery lake of burning sulfur.

Everyone makes their choices and lives with the consequences of those choices. It's not "mere disbelief" but outright rejection and repudiation to the point of "I am as certain that it doesn't exist as I am that the moon isn't made of cheese." That's not mere disbelief, but is rather something much stronger.
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4957
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Armor of the Cosmos » Wed Jun 13, 2018 4:14 pm

Unless - you dare deny the Holy Spirit... no Heaven for you.

Mark 3:28-30: "Truly I tell you, all sins and blasphemes will be forgiven for the sons of men. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin. He said this because they [the Pharisees] were saying, 'He has an evil spirit'."

Even if your god is all merciful, I will never be forgiven for my blasphemy, according to your god’s holy book.
Armor of the Cosmos
 

Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Wed Jun 13, 2018 4:15 pm

Let me explain Mk. 3.28-29 to you. Knowing the truth about it could possibly change your life. First you read in v. 28 that all sins are open to forgiveness, a testament to Jesus's mercy and grace. It’s not the single incidents or momentary lapses that condemn you. Everyone has those. We can’t be expected to be perfect, and we will not be judged for being imperfect.

The sin that can't be forgiven (v. 29) is the sin of never wanting to be forgiven. The verse is talking about a continuing, relentless, total, malignant opposition to Jesus that twists all the evidence of his life-giving power into contrary evidence. Any sin can be forgiven except a defiant hostility to God of which the person refuses to repent. It's not a single event that, once done, is too late to undo. It is not simply making an insulting remark about God or Jesus. Rather, it is a sustained stance of rebellion against God and Jesus. Even this stance can be altered if the person will repent of it. But the unrepentant person is the person who cannot be forgiven.

So, there's still a chance for you. If you turn to Jesus, even today, you can be forgiven for whatever "blasphemy" you may have committed. Any rebellion or sin can be forgiven if you will just ask God for forgiveness for it. Even now while you read you can pray and ask forgiveness and it will be done. But you cannot be forgiven if you never ask for forgiveness. That's what the verse is talking about.
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4957
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Next

Return to Heaven and Hell

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests


cron