Who among us would be willing to admit that they really, really want to believe in a Jesus who says, “If you have never heard of me – no matter how kind and loving and generous you are – if you have never heard of me, I will see to it that you fry in hell forever”?
I do, in fact, believe in Him; that He is the Son of God. But I do not believe His Word reveals Him to have said any such thing — either in His life here, or through the writers inspired by His Holy Spirit.
Yet many believers insist that this is what He means … placing an unbearably heavy burden on both the hearer to speak and convert, and upon the willing listener to hear where no one has spoken. What He says is that all come to the Father by Him, will be judged by Them, according to what they have said and done.
Belief in Him is never listed as some sort of prerequisite for those who have never heard of Him. It is, however, described as the naturally-expected response of those who have.
And for the believer, there is a promise of reconciliation with God and unending life that is never described as an impossibility for those who have never heard. That’s where the importance of the gospel resides: in transforming what’s possible to what’s promised.
I don’t know of anyone who would not exchange the possibility of receiving a treasure of immeasurable value for the promise of receiving it from Someone who lives and believes in them to spend it wisely and well.
Once they hear about it.
I think it’s time to put to rest the twin but oppositional
misconceptions lies of universalism and the damnation of all souls who have never heard of Him.
One leads to an unhealthy disregard for the importance of living to please God and win others’ hearts with Christ’s love.
The other leads to an unhealthy arrogance about one’s salvation and an unhealthy presentation of God’s nature as uncaring toward those He does not choose to bless with messengers of His promise.
Both can sabotage the purity of that message as stated in scripture and its effectiveness, and I am convinced that Satan likes nothing better than doing so by distorting the Word through extremes of interpretation arrived at by great flaws of logic.