Reasons Why People Do Not Believe in Jesus

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. [1]  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. [2]  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). [3]  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. [4]  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.


[1]   John Sanders, What About Those Who Have Never Heard? (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1995), p. 9.

[2]   Don Richardson, Eternity in Their Hearts (Ventura, CA:  Regal Books, 1984), pp. 41-108.

[3]   Gabriel Fackre, “Divine Perseverance”, ed. John Sanders, What About Those Who Have Never Heard? (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1995), pp. 71-95.

[4]   Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), pp. 173-174.

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7 Responses to Reasons Why People Do Not Believe in Jesus

  1. Craig says:

    Two thoughts.. 1) Rom.2:14-16 has caused me to reconsider a lot of what I grew up believing regarding God’s grace being inclusive of only people that have heard and accepted Jesus. As I understand that passage, each of us has God’s law written on our hearts and will be judged by God according to how we live with the knowledge we have. More importantly, Paul says this will happen “through Jesus.” I’m still chewing on that.

    2) Could it be that God’s plan to circumvent the communication issues is that evangelism is best spoken without words? “the second is like it, love others as you love yourself.” Loving kindness translates into any language or culture and you don’t have to be a scholar to do it.

    Just my $.02.

    • Nihad says:

      I have studied this suecjbt intensely for about forty years now (I turn fifty this month). When you say nobody was “there” you are a bit mistaken, because “there” is “here.” The past leaves traces that persist to the present and can be studied. I like the spirit of the comment that even if Genesis is metaphor rather than literal history the point is that God created us and God loves us. The bottom line is that evolution is quite possibly the most well-proven fact known to man, and it shames America that nearly half the adults are so misinformed about this. It is just as ridiculous and just as wrong as if half the adults insisted the earth is flat in spite of all evidence to the contrary.if Christianity does depend on every detail being literally true (as some people insist), then I have to reject a God who would plant so much physical evidence of so many different types that flatly contradicts such an interpretation. Why worship someone who tries so hard to trick us when eternal damnation is the punishment for being fooled? I still hear in conversations withhardcore Bible thumpers that the evidence for evolution doesn’t exist.I am always reminded of that scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” where King Arthur cuts off the arm of the Black Knight, and the Black Knight denies it. King Arthur: “Your arm’s off.” Black Knight:”No it isn’t.” Nested hierarchies of many types of data, numerous transitional forms in the fossil record, endogenous retroviruses and pseudogenes the list of evidence for evolution is incredibly overwhelming, each piece standing alone yet sometimes corroborating other pieces in stunning fashion. It has been my experience that most people who deny the fact of evolution do so because they have been LIED to about this suecjbt by sources they thought they could trust. What they argue against is a strawman caricature of evolution easy to knock down because it is based on lies and misunderstandings of what science is and how it works. Science need not be in conflict with religion, but it it must: We have the fossils. We win.

      • admin says:

        That is quite a statement that “evolution is the most well-proven fact known to man”. Given what we know about the human condition and given the very definition of inductive logic upon which most of science is based, I don’t see how you can make such a statement. The human condition tells us we are finite and prone to errors even in our scientific reasoning. Look at the history of science. Science has been wrong many times in the past and just because a majority of scientists believe in a particular “fact” does not make it true. Webster’s in their definition of inductive logic states: “the truth of the conclusion is verifiable only in terms of future experience and certainty is attainable only if all possible instances have been examined”. Have we examined all the fossils on earth or even a substantial percentage of them? The only truly scientific position to hold on the origin of life in agnosticism. We simply do not have all the facts we need to form a definitive conclusion.

        • Victor says:

          Jeremiah 1:55 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and berfoe thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.In other words, God knew Jeremiah berfoe he was born, so he existed berfoe he was born.

          • admin says:

            There are other passages in the Bible that talk about our existence before our birth. See Ezekiel 28:11-19 and John 9:1-7. Some might argue these passages teach reincarnation but it seems that Hebrews 9:27 argues against that. Given our limits, I’m not sure what we can conclude from these passages.

      • Ashish says:

        As I have been reading James, he seems to touch on this as well. For our faith to mean annytihg it must be evidenced by our works. The works do not save, faith in Christ saves. That faith however, if it is real will produce works. Works is the evidence of our faith.

        • admin says:

          Does the Bible really teach that faith in Jesus is the only way of salvation? Reread my blog of March 17, 2011. In it I have listed several other ways the Bible tells us we can be saved: Our repentance, belief in God (separate from a belief in Jesus), our conduct, our pattern of behavior, and the use of our abilities. There are over 70 verses in the New Testament that teach salvation is by means other than faith in Jesus (look at the heading entitled “What the Bible Says about Salvation” on the home page if you want to read them all).

          Our guide to what is true should be the Bible and not some doctrinal statement or a pronouncement from some church official. The question we must ask is why God put in the Bible all the verses that teach salvation is through means other than a belief in Jesus.

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