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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Regnis Numis » Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:20 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.

Why was atonement necessary for God to allow people into Heaven? If He is omnipotent, couldn't He have simply permitted people into Heaven by evaluating their motives and deeds alone?

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 what about those who have heard of Christianity, but aren't convinced of its factuality by the limited information they had at the time? What about those who hold misconceptions toward Christianity that could easily be rectified? Why would God judge them based on their lack of faith when He could simply correct them using the necessary information, assuming He truly does judge people by the information they had?
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:36 pm

Atonement was necessary because there had been a breach. The ordered world had become disordered. The cosmos was now out of balance and needed to be restored to balance. But you can't just restore balance and order with any element willy-nilly. It has to fit the situation. If your inner ear gets out of kilter, you can't just say, "Well, I'll drink some Coke and that should take care of it." No, there's a specific way to re-balance the inner ear so your vertigo goes away.

Atonement was necessary because of the type of disorder that had entered the universe—an imbalance with the consequent of death. Therefore conquering death was the path to restoration.

> If He is omnipotent, couldn't He have simply permitted people into Heaven by evaluating their motives and deeds alone?

Omnipotence doesn't mean God can do anything he wants. Realities have to be dealt with via other necessary realities, not by haphazard strategies. If death is the force at hand, then redemption of death has to be the mechanism. If love is the necessary strategy, then simple evaluation isn't adequate.

> And what about those who have heard of Christianity, but aren't convinced of its factuality by the limited information they had at the time?

They will face the appropriate consequences for their choices based on an accurate assessment of how they were thinking, what motivated them to make the decisions they did, and what they did with the information given to them.

> What about those who hold misconceptions toward Christianity that could easily be rectified?

That's why I stay active on this forum. I want to help people understand the truth and to straighten out misconceptions.

> Why would God judge them based on their lack of faith when He could simply correct them using the necessary information, assuming He truly does judge people by the information they had?

God will not judge people superficially or based on trite criteria. There's nothing in the Bible to suggest that.
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Freddy Johns » Sun Jun 17, 2018 4:37 pm

Don't take it tongue-in-cheek. Assuming the divine exists, it is here with us right now probably in a way that we can't even comprehend. Be in touch with this "spirituality" at all times if possible. I'm not too sure how reliable the Bible is as a source of information, however. The historicity of Moses is quite controversial (you mentioned him). Paul certainly existed but his letters are just that- letters. The gospel stories were written decades after the death of Jesus by people putting words in his mouth. Did Jesus actually say these things? Maybe a few of them.
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Sun Jun 17, 2018 4:48 pm

> Don't take it tongue-in-cheek.

OK

> Assuming the divine exists, it is here with us right now probably in a way that we can't even comprehend.

Yes. True. But also many ways we can comprehend.

> Be in touch with this "spirituality" at all times if possible.

Yes. I'm with you.

> I'm not too sure how reliable the Bible is as a source of information, however.

Whoa, what happened here—change of direction?

1\. Ask God yourself. OK, did that.
2\. God is here with me right now. OK, you're right.
3\. I'm in touch with this spirituality. OK, you're right.
4\. Therefore, the Bible is not a reliable source of information.

What? You lost me.

> The historicity of Moses is quite controversial (you mentioned him).

Yes it is. No extrabiblical evidence of him has been found. That's true. It doesn't mean he didn't exist. For instance, the massive tomb of Aper-el has recently been discovered in Egypt. He was a Semite official; there is no corroboration for this guy. James Hoffmeier, Egyptologist, comments, "If such a high ranking official as Vizier Aper-el was completely unknown to modern scholarship until the late 1980s, despite the fact that he lived in one of the better documented periods of Egyptian history (14th century), and was buried in arguably the most excavated site in Egypt, it is wrong to demand, as some have, that direct archaeological evidence for Joseph [or Moses] should be available if he were in fact a historical figure."

> Paul certainly existed but his letters are just that- letters.

This may be your opinion, but obviously Christians disagree. We have a different perspective on them.

> The gospel stories were written decades after the death of Jesus by people putting words in his mouth.

Again, this may be your opinion, but there's no proof of it. Of course they were written decades after Jesus's death, but that's like claiming we can't reliable information about President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky (or Ronald Reagan, or Watergate, or the Vietnam war) because it was decades ago.

> Did Jesus actually say these things? Maybe a few of them.

I have no proof that he did, and you have no proof that he didn't. So you assume guilty until proven innocent? You assume minimalism? I would call that bias.
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Regnis Numis » Sun Jun 17, 2018 5:16 pm

> They will face the appropriate consequences for their choices based on an accurate assessment of how they were thinking, what motivated them to make the decisions they did, and what they did with the information given to them.

In that case, wouldn't it be more accurate to claim God judges everybody differently based on their motivations, decisions, and the information available to them? When you stated earlier that faith in Christ is necessary for those who have heard, it almost sounded like people who've heard of Christianity will automatically face condemnation for their lack of faith. Rather than asserting only those who haven't heard will be judged by a different criteria, perhaps it should be clarified that everyone, including those who've heard, will be gauged by different standards. Plus, if those who haven't heard of Christ (and thus lack belief in Him) can still be saved through Him, then maybe it'd be accurate to surmise that belief in Christ is simply a matter of fact/truth than salvation. Since most humans are driven by a pursuit for the truth, I'd say proving the factuality of Christianity should be reason enough for belief.

> That's why I stay active on this forum. I want to help people understand the truth and to straighten out misconceptions.

I'm aware of that; however, I'm referring to those who've died without having their misconceptions rectified. For example, I know you've argued that God was using hyperbole when seemingly ordering the annihilation of men, women, and children from enemy tribes of the Israelites. However, what if somebody had never learned this information and truly believed Yahweh was a genocidal tyrant who wasn't above commanding the deaths of helpless innocents? And the only response he/she ever received from Christians within his/her local area was that God has the right to take human life as He pleases? Assuming this individual has otherwise lived virtuously, how would he/she be judged if he/she passed away in an untimely accident before having his/her misconceptions corrected?
Regnis Numis
 

Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Sun Jun 17, 2018 5:31 pm

> In that case, wouldn't it be more accurate to claim God judges everybody differently based on their motivations, decisions, and the information available to them?

I don't think so. The Bible is clear that Jesus is the standard, Jesus is the way, and Jesus is the one in whom one must believe to see eternal life. So there's something about Jesus, in particular, that is crucial to the equation. It is our relationship with Jesus that stands at the center of how God judges everyone. But we have to deal realistically with the reality that some people not only haven't heard but had no chance to know anything about Jesus. The Bible doesn't really address the question, so we are left to piece together principles from the Bible to guide us to a reasonable answer. Those principles are:

1\. God is always fair all the time.

2\. God has made allowances of criteria where the criteria of Jesus cannot fairly be a factor.

3\. We know hardly anything about those criteria, but where in doubt about point 2, please see point 1.

> I'm referring to those who've died without having their misconceptions rectified.

You know, these are great questions, and ones that I and many other have wrestled with for millennia. It's difficult to know how Jesus interacts with people after death. Again, we have some Scriptural principles, but not a whole lot.

Heb. 9.27 says that we after we die we face judgment. OK, it doesn't sound like second chances are part of the picture, but since God has a goal of reconciling all things to himself, we just don't know. Reconciliation doesn't mean all will be saved, but we can trust that God will be fair, and if it's a simple thing that will turn people to him, we figure He'll do it. God shows over and over again in the Bible how he's trying hard to be gracious and merciful (Jonah 3-4 as a classic example). Jesus even told a parable about people being admitted on rules not told or even acceptable to other people (Mt. 20.1-16). It's just impossible for us to know how these things will play out. But we do know that believing in Jesus is taught as the necessary clincher; we are also told that God will be merciful, gracious, and fair. We are told that not everyone will see life, and we are told that God is just as much as judge as He is merciful. It's tough to put it all together. But for those who have heard of Jesus and have had ample opportunity to consider His claims, we say, "Please turn to Jesus. He is the truth, the life, and the way. Nobody comes to God except through Him."

C.S. Lewis, whom I consider to be a fascinating thinker, said (my summary, not a quote): You object to the doctrine of hell. What are you asking God to do? To wipe out past sins at all costs and to give anyone who wants it a fresh start, smoothing difficulties and offering help? But He has DONE that. That's what his death and resurrection were all about. OK, then, are you asking God to forgive you? It's a RELATIONSHIP. He will forgive anyone who wants it, and cannot forgive those who choose not to be forgiven. To leave you alone then? Well, I’m afraid that’s what hell is. If a game is played, it must be possible to lose it. If there is a way that must be found by the will, and by love, then it must be possible to refuse it. If the happiness of a person is honestly the result of self-surrender, then no one can make that decision except himself, and he may refuse. I would love to say everyone will be saved. But then I’d have to ask, "Will they be saved against their will, or with it?" If I say "against their will," I'm in the middle of a contradiction; how can self-surrender and love be involuntary? But if the answer is "With their will," it begs the question: "What if they will not give in?"
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Chill Out » Sun Jun 17, 2018 5:49 pm

Sure, I agree that it would be best to judge based on the entirety of a person's behaviors and motivations. My only point was if there are two options for judgment critera:

1. Behaviors and motivations
2. Behaviors and motivations, plus your best guess on the origins of the universe

then option 1 is clearly the better deal.
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Sun Jun 17, 2018 5:49 pm

I agree with you that we won't be judged on our theory of the origins of the universe. What people think about creation or evolution or causality is a small piece. The Bible says we have either the nature of sin or the nature of Jesus. Those who have the nature of Jesus who are in love relationship with him are the ones who go to heaven. Heaven has nothing to do with our thoughts about the origins of the universe, how good we are, or how religious we are.

The Bible says we are born with a sin nature, which just means we are born separated from God. But he offers us a free gift of change to the nature of Jesus anytime anyone wants it. Any sin can be forgiven. What he asks is that we love him and accept his love for us. Jesus is the key piece of all of this. So if someone refuses Jesus, they've missed the crux. What of those who haven't heard?

The Bible is clear that Jesus is the standard, Jesus is the way, and Jesus is the one in whom one must believe to see eternal life. So there's something about Jesus, in particular, that is crucial to the equation. It is our relationship with Jesus that stands at the center of how God judges everyone. But we have to deal realistically with the reality that some people not only haven't heard but had no chance to know anything about Jesus. The Bible doesn't really address the question, so we are left to piece together principles from the Bible to guide us to a reasonable answer. Those principles are:

1. God is always fair all the time.
2. God has made allowances of criteria where the criteria of Jesus cannot fairly be a factor.
3. We know hardly anything about those criteria, but where in doubt about point 2, please see point 1.

You know, these are great questions, and ones that I and many other have wrestled with for millennia. It's difficult to know how Jesus interacts with people after death. Again, we have some Scriptural principles, but not a whole lot.

Heb. 9.27 says that we after we die we face judgment. OK, it doesn't sound like second chances are part of the picture, but since God has a goal of reconciling all things to himself, we just don't know. Reconciliation doesn't mean all will be saved, but we can trust that God will be fair, and if it's a simple thing that will turn people to him, we figure He'll do it. God shows over and over again in the Bible how he's trying hard to be gracious and merciful (Jonah 3-4 as a classic example). Jesus even told a parable about people being admitted on rules not told or even acceptable to other people (Mt. 20.1-16). It's just impossible for us to know how these things will play out. But we do know that believing in Jesus is taught as the necessary clincher; we are also told that God will be merciful, gracious, and fair. We are told that not everyone will see life, and we are told that God is just as much as judge as He is merciful. It's tough to put it all together. But for those who have heard of Jesus and have had ample opportunity to consider His claims, we say, "Please turn to Jesus. He is the truth, the life, and the way. Nobody comes to God except through Him."

C.S. Lewis, whom I consider to be a fascinating thinker, said (my summary, not a quote): You object to the doctrine of hell. What are you asking God to do? To wipe out past sins at all costs and to give anyone who wants it a fresh start, smoothing difficulties and offering help? But He has DONE that. That's what his death and resurrection were all about. OK, then, are you asking God to forgive you? It's a RELATIONSHIP. He will forgive anyone who wants it, and cannot forgive those who choose not to be forgiven. To leave you alone then? Well, I’m afraid that’s what hell is. If a game is played, it must be possible to lose it. If there is a way that must be found by the will, and by love, then it must be possible to refuse it. If the happiness of a person is honestly the result of self-surrender, then no one can make that decision except himself, and he may refuse. I would love to say everyone will be saved. But then I’d have to ask, "Will they be saved against their will, or with it?" If I say "against their will," I'm in the middle of a contradiction; how can self-surrender and love be involuntary? But if the answer is "With their will," it begs the question: "What if they will not give in?"
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Regnis Numis » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:01 pm

> I don't think so. The Bible is clear that Jesus is the standard, Jesus is the way, and Jesus is the one in whom one must believe to see eternal life. So there's something about Jesus, in particular, that is crucial to the equation.

If we must believe in Jesus to receive eternal life, then how is it possible for God to make allowances of criteria for those who haven't heard and thus lack belief in Christ? Isn't this a contradiction? Or do such people simply receive a lesser reward than eternal life, depending on their life choices? Or if we accept that God does make such allowances, then couldn't God also make allowances with those who have heard yet do not believe by gauging their motivations, decisions, and the information available to them?

> God is always fair all the time.

And to be a fair judge, wouldn't God need to evaluate everybody individually based on their motivations, decisions, and the information available to them regarding Christianity? Since you've stated the following about those who've heard:

> They will face the appropriate consequences for their choices based on an accurate assessment of how they were thinking, what motivated them to make the decisions they did, and what they did with the information given to them.

And issued a similar claim in your original post regarding those who haven't heard: "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."

Yet you disagree with my point here: "In that case, wouldn't it be more accurate to claim God judges everybody differently based on their motivations, decisions, and the information available to them?"

I'd like to know where exactly you believe our points diverge.

"C.S. Lewis, whom I consider to be a fascinating thinker, said (my summary, not a quote): You object to the doctrine of hell. What are you asking God to do? To wipe out past sins at all costs and to give anyone who wants it a fresh start, smoothing difficulties and offering help? But He has DONE that. That's what his death and resurrection were all about. OK, then, are you asking God to forgive you? It's a RELATIONSHIP. He will forgive anyone who wants it, and cannot forgive those who choose not to be forgiven. To leave you alone then? Well, I’m afraid that’s what hell is. If a game is played, it must be possible to lose it. If there is a way that must be found by the will, and by love, then it must be possible to refuse it. If the happiness of a person is honestly the result of self-surrender, then no one can make that decision except himself, and he may refuse. I would love to say everyone will be saved. But then I’d have to ask, "Will they be saved against their will, or with it?" If I say "against their will," I'm in the middle of a contradiction; how can self-surrender and love be involuntary? But if the answer is "With their will," it begs the question: "What if they will not give in?"

I have a few thoughts. First of all, doesn't this mean it's entirely possible that those who've never heard of Christ in life may reject Him upon discovering His existence in the afterlife? Secondly, if Hell simply means God leaving us alone, then doesn't this diminish His role as a judge? Judges never punish offenders by "leaving them alone", but through administering harsh penalties. Speaking of which, if Hell is merely separation from God, then why are there varying degrees of punishment in Hell? Where do these various forms of punishment originate from? Did God design them? Or Satan? Or do human souls each carve their own version of Hell somehow through their wickedness?
Regnis Numis
 

Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:20 pm

> If we must believe in Jesus to receive eternal life, then how is it possible for God to make allowances of criteria for those who haven't heard and thus lack belief in Christ? Isn't this a contradiction?

This is what the entire conversation has been about with numerous contributors over the course of 3 days now. You yourself referenced quote by Lewis that I communicated: "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." Lewis speculates that there logically has to be another mode by which those who had not heard of Christ get an opportunity to make their decision about him. We have no idea what that mechanism might be because the Bible doesn't talk about it. It just guarantees us that God will be fair because He will take everything into account.

> Or do such people simply receive a lesser reward than eternal life, depending on their life choices?

Some theologians speculate that this might be true.

> Or if we accept that God does make such allowances, then couldn't God also make allowances with those who have heard yet do not believe by gauging their motivations, decisions, and the information available to them?

This is a different category altogether. This person has heard of Jesus and has had opportunity to critique and decide, and chooses to reject. In your particular case, for instance, I would imagine you've had a ton of information, opportunity to research, think, and interact. You and I have had many conversations. If you choose to reject, why do you want a bye or an allowance?

> And to be a fair judge, wouldn't God need to evaluate everybody individually based on their motivations, decisions, and the information available to them regarding Christianity?

Even more than that. God will take everything into account. 2 Cor. 5.10.

> I'd like to know where exactly you believe our points diverge.

It's more than just information, motives, and decision. As I said, every part of you will come into play. God's omniscience won't allow any hidden information (1 Cor. 4.5).

I just don't want it to sound simplistic, like, "He'll look at the information you had, your motives, and what you decided." Every piece of life will be part of how God evaluates each person. That's one of the things omniscience is for.

> doesn't this mean it's entirely possible that those who've never heard of Christ in life may reject Him upon discovering His existence in the afterlife?

I would interpret it that way.

> Secondly, if Hell simply means God leaving us alone, then doesn't this diminish His role as a judge? Judges never punish offenders by "leaving them alone", but through administering harsh penalties.

In this case, separation from God who is life, goodness, and joy, etc., leaves a person totally devoid of those things.

> if Hell is merely separation from God, then why are there varying degrees of punishment in Hell?

Because there are varying degrees of separation. Also, according to some theologians, there is still some reconciliatory efforts God is undertaking. Third, if the punishment fits the crime, then all of what goes on in hell is not eternal. Some theologians speculate that hell is eternal only for those who insist on staying separated from God eternally.

> Where do these various forms of punishment originate from? Did God design them? Or Satan?

Satan doesn't punish anyone in hell. He is not in charge there. I wouldn't say God "designed" them. Some philosophers define evil as the absence of good. Evil isn't being defined by good-doers, then, but is the unavoidable consequence of its absence.
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