In the last blog, we listed three contradictions within the Christian doctrine of salvation. In this blog, we will explore the first contradiction which we have stated as follows: How can a loving and just God condemn people to hell because they do not believe in Jesus if that reason is because they either have never heard of Jesus or their culture and/or religion tells them Jesus is irrelevant.
Those Who Have Never Heard
There are a multitude of examples of people around the world who have lived and died without ever hearing of Christ. St. Patrick did not bring the message of Christ to Ireland until around 430 AD. The Aborigine people have lived in Australia for thousands of years and the European settlers did not arrive until the 1700’s. So for hundreds of years the Irish and the Aborigine people lived and died without a chance to accept Christ. The fact is the majority of people who have ever lived have never heard of the God of Israel or of Jesus.  Faced with the injustice illustrated in these facts, Christians often quote Romans 1:20-25 which states God has revealed himself to everyone on earth through nature and therefore everyone on earth is without excuse. The problem is there is a huge difference between believing in God, and believing in Jesus and his death for our sins. Don Richardson, in Eternity in Their Hearts, tells us of the Gedeo in Ethiopia; the Mbaka in the Central Africa Republic; the Karen, Kachin, Lahu, and Wa of Burma; the Lisu of China; the Santal, Naga and Mizo of India; and many others, all of whom had traditions of the one true God who created the world. These peoples believed in a supreme God but for generations no one told them about Christ. Many of these cultures, when they heard of Christ, turned to him in vast numbers.  Previous generations would undoubtedly have done the same. If God truly wants everyone to be saved, why did he not inform them of Jesus?
It is so easy for Christians to hold the current view of salvation because they know it will never affect them. So let us state this in a more personal way. Imagine that you, the reader, were born in Central America in the year 800 AD. You lived your whole life believing in the Mayan religion you in which you were raised. You lived your whole life doing your best to follow the teachings of your religion: you fasted, prayed, offered sacrifices, and participated in religious ceremonies to the many gods the Mayans worshipped. When you stand before the judgment seat of God, he tells you he is sending you to hell for eternity because you did not accept Jesus as your Savior. You respond that you never heard of Jesus and ask: Who he is? God tells you who Jesus is but states that you are still going to hell. Is this fair? Is this just? Is this the action of a God of love?
Those Who Have Heard
Some Christians, when faced with the obvious injustice described above, concede that God will make exceptions for those who have never heard of Christ and offer ways in which this might happen (e.g. I Peter 3:18-20, I Peter 4:6, Ephesians 4:7-9 might indicate that God will give people a chance to accept Christ after they die).  However, most will assert those who have heard of Christ but do not accept him as their Savior will face eternal damnation. Is this belief valid?
In his book on the defense of Christianity, The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel interviews Louis S. Lapides. Mr. Lapides was raised in the Jewish religion and reports that issue of the Messiah never was discussed in his family. If the topic of Jesus came up in his family or in Hebrew school, it was only in a derogatory manner. As a consequence, he developed negative attitudes toward Christians and expected the New Testament to be a handbook on anti-Semitism.  Dr. Laura is a radio personality who gives moral advice to her listeners. Most Christians agree with her moral stance but her religious beliefs are Jewish. Will God eternally condemn those who believe in the Jewish religion and live their lives in accordance with the Old Testament because their upbringing taught them Jesus was not relevant?
People who have heard of Jesus do have valid reasons for not believing in him. Certain cultures and religions teach Jesus was just a prophet or a good man. If we grew up in such a culture, how would we know it was in error? All of us find it difficult to question the culture in which we are brought up. As we grow up, our culture presents us with its view of the world and most of the time we simply accept (believe) that worldview. There is a reason we are so accepting of our culture: It facilitates human progress. If each of us did not learn from our culture, we would repeat the same experiences and make the same mistakes throughout our life that our ancestors did. By assimilating the knowledge, values, and norms of our culture, we and our culture advance. For example, our telephones, cars, houses, and all of our modern conveniences did not spring up overnight. They are the result of scientific discoveries and business ideas that have been centuries in the making as one generation teaches another what they have learned.
Adopting the norms of our society does have a negative side: We accept what our society tells us without any analysis of the validity of those norms. When those norms are challenged, it is so easy to automatically assume our beliefs are right and that includes our religious beliefs. Christians are no different than anyone else in the world. How many Christians do you know who have seriously studied Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism to determine if they are superior to Christianity? Very few have. So how can Christians criticize people of other religions for not considering Christianity?
God obviously knows the difficulty of transmitting ideas from one culture to another and from one age to another because he made us the way we are. So why did he not send Jesus to every culture and age if he truly wants everyone to be saved?
In the next blog we will examine the problems with proving Jesus rose from the dead.
 John Sanders, What About Those Who Have Never Heard? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), p. 9.
 Don Richardson, Eternity in Their Hearts (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1984), pp. 41-108.
 Gabriel Fackre, “Divine Perseverance”, ed. John Sanders, What About Those Who Have Never Heard? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), pp. 71-95.
 Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), pp. 173-174.