Questions from seekers - short answers to common questions (Part 3)

This is a continuation of my previous post. The same caveats mentioned there apply.



Q: What happens to people who never hear about God?

A: This is essentially asking what happens to those who are not given enough knowledge to be held accountable. Quite honestly, I'm not sure. But there are some guidelines that we can see from the Bible concerning how God judges such people.

First, we know that God is a God of love. He will certainly judge such people with his love, and his justice.

Second, we are told that what may be known about God is plainly seen in his creation, so that people are without excuse. So even if someone did not receive formal instruction in Christianity, that does not excuse them from remaining ignorant about God.

Also, we know that salvation comes through Christ, and that there is no other way. Now, this does not mean that someone who doesn't hear about Jesus is necessarily condemned, just that if such a person is saved, even that salvation is through Jesus.

God also tells us he judges according to how much we know. To those who knows much (like us, who have access to the Bible and all the teachings of the church), much is demanded. To those who know little, less is demanded. He also tells us that we will be judged according to the standards that we ourselves use.

We also know that at least some people in the Old Testament, such as Moses and Elijah, are saved, although they didn't know Jesus as we know him now.

Lastly, there is a controversial verse that seems to say that Jesus preached to those who are dead after he was crucified. Perhaps this could be interpreted to mean that those who die without hearing the gospel get a second chance.

Overall, then, we can conclude that, among those who never hear about God, some are saved while some are not, depending on their actions. Exactly what the criteria for salvation is for such people, we are not told (and I doubt there is a general criteria). The only thing that we do know is that for us, there is a specific criteria, which is faith.



Q: What does the Bible say about...
Suicide
Pain, where it's from
Tragic events
Sex
Lust
Greed
Addiction
Indulgence

A: On suicide: The Bible doesn't speak directly on suicide, but we can infer a few things about it. The Bible essentially says that our lives belong to God. This would put suicide in the same category as murder, since they would both be the unlawful killing of a life that you have no right to. However, suicide is a special case, because by its very mechanism it excludes the possibility of repentance. So the question now becomes, "what happens when someone does not repent for a murder?". I personally think such a person can be forgiven if he is a Christian, but the fact that he committed suicide would make me wonder if he really was a Christian in the first place.

On pain, and where it's from: First, it should be noted that not all types of pain are bad or evil. For example, I think it's a good thing that we feel pain when we put our hand on a dangerously hot object. Also, the aches after a hard workout are sometimes quite satisfying and pleasurable.

Having said that, we now ask, "what about the evil kind of pain, or needless suffering?" Then the questions turns into the problem of evil. Why does God allow evil? The simple answer to this question is that evil is a necessary side effect of creating beings with free will. This is another topic on which much could be said, and I encourage you to look elsewhere for a more complete treatment.

On tragic events: This is closely related to the topic of pain and evil. Basically, tragic events happen as a consequence of the sinfulness of the human condition, as a consequence of free will. But one great comfort about tragic events is that God is in control. Nothing happens apart from the will of God, even tragic events, and we know that although an event may be tragic, all things work together for the good of those who love God.

On sex: The Bible's guideline for sex is found in Genesis and parts of Paul's letters. Basically, sex is the ceremony that causes a husband and wife to be joined in one flesh. The Bible also says that if someone wants to withhold himself from sex and marriage for the sake of God, that is a noble thing, but nothing should be detracted from someone who decides to get married and have sex. As a part of God's creation, sex is one of those things that God decreed to be very good.

On lust: Lust is the sinful condition that develops when sex and sexual desire is corrupted. Notice this immediately implies that not all sexual thought or activity is lustful, so it's not as if we have to repress our sexuality in order to avoid lust. Rather, lust emerges when sex is corrupted and twisted in such a way that it interferes with your relationship with God.

On greed: Like Lust, greed is a corrupted form of what is, in itself, proper and good. We should have a certain respect for money, and know how much we should earn, spend, and save. When this respect for money and your finances becomes corrupted into the love of money, all kinds of evil comes forth. The Bible thoroughly speaks against greed.

On addiction / indulgence: I'll answer these together, since the answers are related. Basically, there's this guiding principle in the Bible, laid out by Paul: " 'Everything is permissible', but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible', but not everything is constructive. 'Everything is permissible', but I will not be mastered by anything". Basically, there are things which are not specifically prohibited, and therefore are not a sin. Things like smoking, alcohol, gambling, or other things that we can 'indulge' in fall into this category. But allowing any one of these things to master us in some way, such as in an addiction, is a sin. Also, even if our partaking of such things doesn't go as far as an addiction, we still have to examine ourselves and ask, 'Is this beneficial? Is this constructive? Could I be doing something more beneficial or constructive?'.



Q: How does a God of Love send his people to hell? Isn't he sad?

A: Just the same, we can ask, 'How does a God of Justice send anyone to heaven? Don't we all deserve hell?'. And when we ask this question, the flaw in both questions is immediately seen. They are both one-sided representations of God's character. It's true that mercy triumphs over judgement, but to talk only of God's love without his justice is a misrepresentation of God.

In fact, it is probably more appropriate to ask the second question rather than the first. For we should remember that in some sense, God is under no obligation to be loving. None of us are without sin. It would be good and right for God to send the entire humanity to hell. This is the default condition. If God was somehow required to save us, then he would not be a loving God, but merely a dutiful God.

But this is what makes God's love amazing. Out of his love for us, when we were by nature objects of his wrath, when we where by nature his enemies, when he was not required to, God chose to go out of his way to save us.

So, then, the quick answer to "Why does God send people to hell?" is "because he is a just God". The answer to "Why does God send people to heaven?" is "because he is a loving God". The next question that would get asked is, "How are God's Love and Justice reconciled?", and, of course, the answer is "in Jesus Christ, in that Jesus takes upon himself the judgement of God that comes from his justice and gives out the favor of God that comes from his Love, for everyone who is in Christ".

This gives us another way to answer the question. God's love is manifest in Jesus Christ. What if someone were to reject Jesus? When God offers salvation through Jesus to us, he offers every good thing that he has to give. And when someone rejects Jesus, God will withdraw from him, according to his wishes. And since all goodness comes from God, when God withdraws, the man who rejects God will be left alone with just his sin and its consequences, with nothing good left. In other words, he will be in hell.

So God doesn't really "send" people to hell. It's not as if he's gleefully throwing people into the fiery pit. Rather, hell is a condition that a man brings about to himself by rejecting the love of God. And the love of God can do nothing for the man in hell, since it is by the rejection of that love that he is in hell in the first place.

Is God sad because of this? I'm not sure exactly how God could be sad, since there is a poor correlation between human emotions and the "emotions" of God. But to put it in a crude way, I guess you can say that people in hell make God sad. But apparently, when God thought this whole thing up, he thought the world was still worth creating. I guess that means that God happiness over the people in heaven outweighs the sadness over the people in hell.


You may next want to read:
Orthodoxy vs. living out the Gospel: which is more important?
The Gospel: the central message of Christianity (part 1)
Another post, from the table of contents

3 comments :

  1. Hi,
    I'm come again.
    Concerning the judgement of those who haven't heard the Gospel, since all have sinned, everyone deserves hellfire. But Salvation is grace, a free gift (costs us nothing but costs Jesus everything). Those haven't heard it are dead in their sins, whosoever believes is not condemned, but have everlasting life. In the OT time, people believed that they're hell-deserving sinners and God forgives sin then they can be saved, they believed what the Messiah would do for them! That is why the Lam of God is slain before the foundation of the world.
    Anyone can't blame God for not preach the Gospel to him, for he deserves the second death and God has no duty to save him. Salvation is a free gift, if missed it, one get eternally condemned. So preaching the gospel and win souls to Christ is the most important thing in the world.

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    Replies
    1. Hello! Glad to hear from you again!

      My position on those who lack sufficient knowledge is "weaker" than yours, in that it makes fewer statements than yours. I just don't think there's enough Biblical evidence to say more. But the parts we do know, such as Christ saying "no one comes to the Father but through me", gives us confidence in the Gospel as we currently understand it.

      But it's always good to hear from you. What do you think happened to, say, Naaman, in 2 Kings 5? Did he have an understanding of the Messiah, that the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world?

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    2. Whether or not Naaman was saved, only God knows his heart. We can only judge from the appearance and guess from some evidence. Things happened in ancient times may be more fascinating than our knowledge. From the metaphor behind that story, I guess, Naaman was really saved.
      Naaman knew God and feared Him. He must had thought a lot on this subject since he was convinced there is no god but in Israel. So he came for cleanse. He finally obeyed God's command on "Salvation" and refused Lordship Salvation (perverted gospel, salvation that includes any self-righteous work, i.e. going to Syria to wash in another water).
      This story is a picture of Salvation. We believe there is only one God, Abraham's God. My personal experience is a detour. I received a false gospel, the Lordship Salvation. I found several months ago that Salvation is because of Grace and solely by faith in Christ and excludes any kind of works or "holiness" and that Salvation is of the Lord so we can not lose it, according to the Bible.

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