Concluding his blog series on the doctrine of hell, North Carolilna megachurch Pastor J.D. Greear reflects on the question whether God would send people who have never heard about Jesus to hell, and other difficult issues related to the reality of hell.
What about the innocent native in Africa who has never heard about God? How could God hold him accountable for what he didn't even know? This question often comes up when we talk about hell, writes the pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, for Between the Times, the official blog of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
But all people have heard about God, Greear argues, quoting Romans 1:19, where Paul says that what can be known about God has been made plain to all people. All have been made aware of God in two ways, creation and conscience, the pastor says.
And the truth is that all people have rejected God, Greear adds.
According to Romans 1:21–25, all of us have rejected the glory of God. We don't seek God's glory above all things; we seek our own glory and our own pleasure. And even those who believe in God don't pay as much attention to Him as they do their jobs or what others think of them, the pastor says.
Therefore, all people are guilty before God, Greear goes on to say.
"Our hearts naturally hate God and reject His rule, a rejection that culminated in the murder of God's Son. We hate God so badly that we put Him on a cross and say, 'Go to hell, God.' Because of this, is it any surprise that we deserve His wrath?"
The "innocent native in Africa" doesn't exist, he says.
In this situation, only Christ can save, which is the resounding theme of the entire Bible, the pastor adds. And God gives salvation as a gift to all who will repent and receive it, Greear says, and quotes Tim Keller as saying, "All religions are exclusive, but Christianity is the most inclusive exclusivity there is."
Greear then argues that a key reason we often dislike the idea that God allows some people to go to hell is that we don't really believe that we ourselves are worthy of hell. "The more we are persuaded of our own righteousness, the more the question of God's justice troubles us."
In fact, it is unfair for those of us who have heard to do nothing, the pastor warns.
As Charles Spurgeon once said, which is very true today, "How can they be saved without ever hearing about Jesus? We should rather ask, how can we be saved if we do nothing to take the gospel to them?"
Pastor Greear also separately deals with the issue of religious exclusivity.
Common objections raised against exclusivity include religion being a matter of personal preference, exclusivity not being a sign of tolerance and it being hateful fundamentalism, Greear notes, responding to each doubt one by one.
In closing thoughts, the pastor acknowledges that "my opinions are not infallible," and says he is open to being persuaded that he is wrong.
"I have read at length about all of the major dissenting views, and I find them unconvincing," Greear adds. "Their ideas are based more on human reasoning (i.e. 'this is what I think God should be like') than deductive conclusions from Scripture … Let God's word stand and our opinions be damned."