Okay, my dears, gather round me while I talk of things many do not know, things argued about among Christians, scripture interpretations, and all that stuff that doesn’t matter much in the light of eternity. Our question is: “How can a loving God send innocent people to hell?” My answer is that he does not. Many say he doesn’t send anybody to hell; they choose to go there. Okay, but what about the ones who do not choose?
John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son, has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” Here we have two groups: those who believe and those who reject. Those who believe have eternal life with rewards in heaven. But God’s wrath remains upon those who reject and the Bible clearly teaches eternal punishment as the end for those who face God’s wrath. Between those two groups, I consider God’s mercy zone. In that zone are babies, children, those who never attain mental ability to know right from wrong, those who have never heard the gospel, those who have never had the opportunity to choose.
Let’s consider a newborn baby. It lives one day, it has life, it is born as all are, with a sinful nature. It dies. Those who are strict pre-destinationists might say the baby would go to hell. Granted some theorize that the baby does not have a sinful nature, but he is born with a clean slate. I will not get into that argument. I am basing my beliefs on what the Bible teaches, and I readily admit there are many questions the answers to which I just leave to God. I cannot know, my understanding is not big enough even if he were to tell me.
I can’t buy pre-destination at all, as most of you, my readers, cannot believe that. I grant you that there are scriptures, at least one, that seems to teach that, but the heavy weight of scripture teach free will. I say the blood of Jesus atoned (paid for) all people. But all people do not accept his atonement? Where do they fit? If you are reading my blog, that in itself pretty much proves that you as well as me (the writer) has perfect understanding to realize the choice that is put before us.
Back to the baby. One incident in the Bible proves to me that the baby is going to heaven. That is the story of David and Bathsheba’s baby. The child was born as a result of a grievous sin of his mother and father, he was a baby born with a sin nature, yet David said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” All reason would imply to us that the baby went to heaven. God’s amazing grace and Jesus’ sacrifice cover that child. There are groups of Christians who believe the child’s eternal life is based on the parent’s action such as baptism. I do not believe that. Again, I believe it has eternal life in heaven because of God’s grace and Jesus’ sacrifice.
Many of you are with me on the newborn, but how about the temper throwing two year old, or the rebellious three year old, or the “I-want-my-own-way” pubescent? Or the fourteen year old who breaks into houses? Or, what about those of any age who do not have the mental capacity to understand their need for a Savior?
We’ll be on to that later. Join me in the scriptural journey in a study of what is generally called, “The Age of Accountability.” I will begin with a record of what I recall about my own journey into an awareness that I would call my Age of Accountability. You’re going to enjoy my confessions of my sinful nature in childhood.
I agree with you that those going to hell choose to go there. We have enough free will to make such choices. I also agree with you that babies and others like them are covered by God’s grace and Jesus’ sacrifice.
Thanks for adding your perspective. Of course, I like that it agrees with mine. But we are both searching for truth even if we were wrong at this point. More to come.
R.C.Sproul, a theologian with more smarts than you and me put together, wrote that a person who has never heard of Jesus will not be punished for not having heard of Him, but he will certainly be punished for not responding to what he already knew about God (as in Romans 1).
The “inclusivist” view is that since the OT saints never heard of Jesus, yet they are saved, cannot the aborigine who never heard of Him be saved the same way?
In “True For You, But Not For Me,” Paul Copan presents this case that the inclusivist still relies on Jesus’ atoning sacrifice the same way those who died before Jesus rely on Him.
But he warns of dangers with this view, including minimizing the importance of missions as we are commanded to do; equating other religions with Christianity; sincerity being ‘necessary’ but not ‘sufficient’ for salvation.
However, (my note:) Ezekiel warns of what will happen when a message is NOT given to someone who needs it. See Ezekiel 3:18-21.
Fortunately, God is good, He is just, He is merciful, and He understands the heart better even than Brother Sproul or Paul Copan. 😉
Sproul, I know. Ezekiel, I know. Copan, I don’t. 😀 Hopefully I will be touching on this problem (missions being necessary for the salvation of “those who have not heard”) before I am through. Comments are helpful for me to fill in some blanks; however, I am well aware that there are volumes of books and hours of sermons from people much smarter than I.