Christianity -- Christian Living/non-christians
Do you believe that 2/3 of the world who are not Christians and who do not believe Jesus was the son of God, but instead were raised to follow eastern religions such has Buddhism and Hinduism, are going to burn in hell, including children? Thanks
Hi Lee, thank you for your excellent question. It's one that many people ask about Christianity and one of the hardest to really answer. Furthermore, I can understand your concern because it was one of the things that bothered me most before I made the decision to follow Jesus Christ.
There are actually several issues at play here and I'll look at three: (1) What is hell? (2) Is Christianity unfair compared to other world religions? (3) What happens to innocents and those who have not heard?
First, what is hell? Simply stated, hell is separation from God. Even on our worst days on planet Earth, we still experience the common grace of gravity and daytime and nighttime, oxygen, singing birds, warmth of sunshine, and things that make up “life”—the breath in your lungs, the ability to perceive external events, kindness from those people you love, the joys and pains of a world ever in flux, etc. All of these things are bits of grace from a loving God. Take away all those bits of God’s gracious nearness and what are you left with? Nothing but total isolation and awareness of what you once had that’s now gone. It’s like solitary confinement in a prison, only amplified to the maximum possible level. Fiery flames and total agony are just ways of making understandable what is a spiritual thing.
Second, is Christianity unfair? Christianity is not alone is having ways of being near to God and conversely, with failures to follow the way prescribed resulting in separation from God which is what “hell” actually is (as mentioned above).
Other religions, too, have their teachings to help adherents follow and for those who do not pursue those paths, they cannot be near to Allah, or the Mormon God, or ideas of liberation common to Eastern religions, etc. Not being near to Allah or the Mormon God or complete liberation is easily as much of function of where we’re raised and what we’ve been taught as the Christian way, yes? If Islam were correct, for example, I’ll be separated from Allah and stuck with my God and the worthless things I’d been taught, yes? If liberation Dharma style were what is correct, worshipers of Allah will be right alongside worshipers of Jesus—unliberated. The unfairness isn’t in the doctrine prescribing the way or in the separation for not following the way. The unfairness is centered in what one believes about the way. That’s why Christianity doesn’t seem fair. Only Christianity has a Risen Savior whose way raises the question of “Will you follow this way?”
Which brings us to the third and final point I'd like to explore that your question raises, “What happens to innocents and those who have not heard?” It is a good question that I really don’t know the answer to on this side of heaven. Who but God knows, for example, what God’s Holy Spirit can communicate to the heart of an imbecile or a fetus in utero? Who but God knows what happens in the mind of the 94 year old Hindu on his deathbed as a vision or a dream? Who but God really knows what happens in remote areas of the world and whether they're like Abram/Abraham who was from Ur of the Chadeans and didn’t know God at all…until an encounter and then his faith was credited as righteousness? Maybe God communicates in ways we don’t know about.
So how do I reconcile your question…which honestly I think about a lot because my daughter Julia was stillborn…and I wonder, “Is she in heaven?” I go back to the character of God.
He is Creator. Isaiah 42:5 This is what God the LORD says-- he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
He is Love. 1 John 4:16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
He is merciful. He is just. Exodus 34:6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished;
He takes no pleasure in punishing. Ezekiel 18:32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!, 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Given that all these things are true about God, I trust that He will be exactly who He says He is.
Yes, there will be many who will reject these beautiful things about God and seek other ways. They will rebel and hate Him. They hated Him at the Crucifixion. They hate Him today. For people who refused to turn toward God and live, they’ll receive according to the way they chose.
For those who were innocents, incapable, or without opportunity, I believe God’s mercy will not let them pay for what they did not know. They will be like the children inside the Hebrew homes the night of the Passover. They may not have painted the blood personally on the doorposts of their hearts, but a merciful God applies it for them because they were incapable. Incapable is distinctly different from rebellious, yes?
So that is how I’ve personally reconciled things. I want to believe that God, in His mercy, knows that I would have raised her with the Word of God and told her about Jesus. He knows the heart of a mother and the innocence of a baby who hasn’t even left the womb yet. He knows the difference between incapable and rebellious. And He’ll do what is right because He IS holy. He IS love. He IS just; and He IS good.
I hope this helps to reconcile this issue for you. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask a follow-up and I will do my best to clarify things.
Thank you for trusting me with your question! Sincerely, in Christ, Barbara <><