What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

Professor Christopher Ullman
Credit to these
presentations is due:
 www.probe.org/atf/cf/...83AD-
 www.bfcf.de/files/Only%20Way%20Pt%203.p
 http://www.confidentchristians.org/resources_
Text Reviewed in this
 What About Those Who Have Never Heard?
 Three Views on the Destiny of the
 Edited by Gabriel Fackre , Ronald H. Nash and
John Sanders
Relevant teachings…
 "I tell you the truth, anyone who
will not receive the kingdom of
God like a little child will never
enter it." (Mark 10:15)
 "I [Jesus] am the way and the
truth, and the life. No one comes
to the Father except through me."
(John 14:6)
Relevant teachings…
 "Go into all the world and preach
the good news to all creation.
Whoever believes and is baptized
will be saved, but whoever does
not believe will be condemned."
(Mark 16:15-16)
Traditional views…
 For most of its history,
Christianity has been an "exclusive"
religion. That is, it has taught
that salvation is available only to
Christians. Thus, from the very
beginning, Christians attached great
importance to spreading the news
about Christianity through
missionary and evangelistic efforts,
believing that people were lost
without it.
Modern views…
Today, in the age of religious pluralism and
increased knowledge of other faiths, a
significant number of Christians, Catholic and
Protestant alike, believe it is not necessary
that a person believe in Christ in order to be
saved. Such Christians usually maintain belief
in the validity and truth of Christian
salvation, but hold that Christ can save
people whether or not they know his name.
Others hold more conservative views. The
various Christian perspectives of other
religions are sometimes placed in the
categories of pluralism, inclusivism
(sometimes differentiated from particularism),
and exclusivism.
"Exclusivism" is the diametric
opposite of pluralism, holding that
salvation is only through explicit
faith in Christ.
 "Inclusivism" holds that while
Christ is the only way to salvation,
people of other faiths may be saved.
"Pluralism" is the view that there
are many, equally valid paths to
God. Christianity is only one of
these, and is no more superior than
the others. The foremost proponent
of this view is John Hick
 
 ? 
The movement or tendency toward
worldwide Christian unity or cooperation
is known as ecumenism. There is a Greek
word oikos, meaning “household”; and
closely related to it is oikoumene,
meaning “the inhabited world.” From the
latter is derived the relatively modern
term ecumenism, which is used by
Christian denominations to suggest the
whole “household of God.”
The Destiny of the
 Restrictivism
 God doesn’t save those who fail to
hear of Jesus and come to faith in
Him before they die
 Scriptural support
 John 14:6
 Acts 4:12
 Romans 10:13-15
 1 John 5:11-12
Restrictivist: Ronald Nash
 Ronald Nash represents the
restrictivist position
 Nash taught theology and philosophy
for four decades at three schools.
He was chairman of the department of
philosophy and religion and director
of graduate studies in humanities at
Western Kentucky University, where
he was on faculty from 1964-91. He
was a professor at Reformed
Theological Seminary from 1991-2002
and at Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary from 1998-2005.
The Destiny of the
 Universal Opportunity Before Death
 All people are given a chance to be
saved by God’s sending the gospel,
one way or another, or by middle
 Scriptural support
 Daniel 2 – Nebuchadnezzar’s dream
(especially vss. 21 & 47)
 Acts 8:26-39 – Ethiopian eunuch
 Rev. 1:1 – God can send an angel
To be saved today, a person must directly know and accept the
facts about Jesus.
• General revelation is enough to condemn a
person (Romans 1), but not to save a
• What about Old Testament believers?
Scripture is pretty plain that the first
coming and death of the Messiah was not
expected by anyone
• Cornelius may have been saved before
Peter arrived (Acts 10:34-35.
• Non-Jews in the Old Testament did not
have to become part of Israel to be saved
(Job, etc.)
 Inclusivism
 The unevangelized
may be saved by
responding to God
based on the
revelation they
 Scriptural
 John 12:32
 Acts 10:43
 1 Tim. 4:10
 Parables
Inclusivist - John
 Released from Huntington
University for his vigorous
promotion of open theism
 Now a visiting professor at UMC
Hendrix College
 Narrowly avoided expulsion from
 Believes the effects of Christ’s
atonement are not limited to those
who bear the external “badges” of
being “Christians”
Criticisms of Sanders’
 Poor exegesis of the parables, Pharaoh’s
hardening, premessianic believers: they
don’t teach inclusivism, but do teach
God’s love for and desire to save lost
 Premessianic Jews/God =
 Infants/God = Unevangelized/God???
 Mentally incompetent/God =
 Smuggles in a requirement of belief in a
personal God, but can’t account for this
in impersonal Hinduism, nontheistic
Buddhism, etc.
Criticisms of Sanders’
 Strangely silent on the nature of the Fall
 Faith principle lacks support, is contrary to
Rom. 10:9-13
General revelation is made virtually
Inclusivism seems to blend in with
Fallacies employed: strawman, complex
question, false dichotomy, word-loading,
quoting out of context
Inclusivism diminishes greatly the value of
preaching the Gospel
Buddhists in Heaven?
 Christian Inclusivism is the view that
though Jesus is the exclusive Savior,
nonetheless many are included in His
salvation who have never explicitly trusted
in Him, nor perhaps even heard of Him.
Buddhists in Heaven?
 Inclusivists believe that God accepts an
“implicit” faith in lieu of explicit faith in
Christ. This may be in the form of a
response to God’s general revelation
through creation or conscience, or through
truth in other religions . . . or through some
other means. Most inclusivists believe that
Scripture supports their view.
Biblical Inclusivism?
 Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18ff) and Jethro (Exod.
2–3) are referred to as priests of the true God,
outside of Israel.
 But it must be pointed out that these men lived
and served as priests before the founding of the
nation Israel, and that they are described as
believing in the same God as Abraham and
Moses (cf. Gen. 14:19,22).
Biblical Inclusivism?
 Naaman the Syrian is cited as an example of an
“implicit” believer outside of Israel (2 Kings 5).
But it is clear that he came to an explicit faith
in the God of Israel (cf. 2 Kings 5:15,17).
 The repentant Ninevites are often cited as
believers outside Israel (the book of Jonah).
But it is clear that they came to an explicit
faith in the God whom Jonah preached (Jonah
3:5), just as Naaman had.
Biblical Inclusivism?
 The Magi who came to
worship the newborn
Jesus are sometimes
referred to as “implicit”
believers. But it is clear
that though their prior
beliefs were no doubt
pagan in nature, they
were seeking the true
God, and were directed
by Him to His Messiah,
Biblical Inclusivism?
 Cornelius the Centurion
is perhaps cited more
than any biblical figure as
an example of one who
had come to “faith”
before hearing of Christ.
It is true that he is
referred to as a “pious”
man before hearing the
gospel (Acts 10:2).
Biblical Inclusivism?
 But though he was in touch with the true
God, he did not receive salvation until he
heard the message about Christ through
Peter. The angel who prepared Cornelius for
Peter’s visit told him that he would bring him
the message through which he would be
saved (Acts 11:13–14). This is exactly what
occurred (Acts 10:43–44).
Biblical Inclusivism?
 Malachi 1:11
 Acts 10:34-35
 Acts 14:16-17
 Acts 17:23
 Romans 1:18-23
 Romans 2:14-16
 Acts 20:24-26
Postmortem Evangelism
 Postmortem Evangelism
 The unevangelized get a chance to
believe in Jesus after dying
 Scriptural support
 John 3:18 – Whoever believes in Him is
not condemned
 1 Peter 3:18-20 & 4:6 – Christ preached
to the dead
 Romans 8:38
 John 5:25 – The dead will get a chance
to hear
PME’s Gabriel
 Professor of Theology at Andover Newton
Theological Seminary (liberal nondenominational stance)
 Student body is 38% Congregationalist, 24%
Unitarian Universalist
 Ties to American Baptist Churches USA and
United Church of Christ denominations
 Believes a “canonical reading” of Bible
illuminated by the “analogy of faith” will
show Christ preaches the Gospel to the
unevangelized after they die
Criticisms of Fackre’s PME
 Founds a theological doctrine on a
problematic portion of Scripture (1 Peter
3:18-20 and 4:6)
 Extends the Noahic Covenant unbiblically
(pp. 83-84)
 Employs novel interpretations of
 1 Cor. 1:25 (84)
 1 Cor. 15:19 (84)
 John 10:16 (85)
 John 5:25 (85)
 Acts 14:17 (90)
Criticisms of Fackre’s PME
 If Christ preaches to the unevangelized after
death, why risk doing it now?
The Christian missions imperative is gutted
Verges on irrationalism (95)
Depreciates the value of premortem conversion
Depreciates the value of premortem
Seemingly ignores
 Luke 16:19-31
 Heb. 9:27
 Matt. 7:15-20, 21-23, 24-27, 13:24-30,
 Universalism
 All people will in fact be saved by
Jesus. No one is damned forever.
 Scriptural support
 Rom. 5:18 – Life for all men
 1 Cor. 15:22 – All will be made alive
 1 John 2:2 – For the sins of the whole
Five Scriptural Teachings
 Find the Bible verses that teach the
following lessons
Five Scriptural Teachings
 The True Light enlightens everyone:
everyone has heard
 People love darkness more than God’s
light: turn deaf ear to God’s voice
Five Scriptural Teachings
Judgment is proportionate to
intensity of light seen and clarity
of Word heard
What God does is just by definition
God judges on what we do with what we
have, not what have not
People will be judged on basis of what
they have done with divine revelation
Five Scriptural Teachings
Missionary calling to proclaim gospel is
vital (not essential) to plan of God
Paul’s “Silver Chain” of Exclusivism –
Rom ?:13-16
Everyone who calls on Lord will be saved
How will they call on one they have not believed
How can they believe in one they have not heard of
How can they hear without someone proclaiming
How can they proclaim without someone being sent
Possible that grace may be effective apart
from typical Gospel proclamation
God may save for the sake of Christ, those who
never heard, but responded fully and faithfully to
light they had – in obedience to truth known
Five Scriptural Teachings
 Only by hearing and believing in
Christ during this life can we be
 Lord’s commission leaves believers with
no alternative
 Must proclaim
 Lord’s command leaves unbelievers with
no alternative
 Must hear and believe
The Case of Cornelius
Acts 10:1 – 11:18
 Was Peter’s trip to Caesarea to preach
to the God-fearing Cornelius
 Some say NO
 Mercy arguments for un-evangelized righteous
 Some say YES
 Cornelius already “saved” in some sense, but
lesson for Peter and Church
 As opportunity to affirm age of Holy Spirit
 Cornelius still lost, as God-fearing Gentile
(vs. 13-14 )
The Case of the Athenians
Acts 17:16-34
 Was Paul’s sermon necessary in Athens?
 “All religions shine considerable
spiritual light on the character of true
 “Don’t discount the spiritual and ethical
currency in non-Christian traditions”
 Sermon is clear on point of need of
salvation message
 In day of ignorance, God winked… now
commanding repentance
 Men must respond to as much light as God
has given or lose the light.
The Soteriological Problem of
1. God is
All-loving (omnibenevolent)
All-knowing (omniscient)
All-powerful (omnipotent)
2. Jesus is the only Savior
3. No one is saved who has not
professed faith in Jesus
4. Those who don’t hear about Jesus
cannot profess their faith in Jesus
5. A large proportion of those who
have lived will not be saved
6. “Statement 5 conflicts with
Statement 1”
One Solution
 God loves us so much as His
creation that He will not coerce
us to choose Him
 Coercion would violate the precious
faculty of choice He endowed us with
 Coercion would be tantamount to
divine rape
 He chooses rather to woo us
So … where does all this leave us?
• God is all good, powerful, and knowing. We should not believe He
is limited by geography or historical times with respect to Him
calling Christ’s Bride to Himself
• Humankind knows that God exists and are without excuse
• The only salvation path to God exists in the finished work of Jesus
• Humankind is fallen and incapable of receiving God’s gift of
salvation on its own. Prevenient grace is the only way a person
comes to seek God – they are first sought by Him
• God’s plan of salvation includes a design where not all will be
saved; in fact, few will be saved, and many will be lost, but all
nations will be represented in God’s eternity
• Post-mortem evangelism is an untenable position to hold
• In prior eras, God called to Himself those who put their trust in
Him with no direct knowledge of Jesus
• After the cross, the pattern in Scripture appears to be a sending of
the Gospel message to those who respond to whatever light they
are given
Nine Questions:
People before Christ?
Mentally deficient?
Sincere people?
Second chance?
Unreached, like OT saints?
How many will be saved?
The Bible, God’s Word, is
our ultimate authority in
answering these questions.
“What does the Scripture say?”
Romans 4:3
“[The Bereans] searched the
Scriptures daily to find out
whether these things were so.”
Acts 17:11
“The secret things belong to the
LORD our God, but those things
which are revealed belong to us and
to our children forever, that we may
do all the words of this law.”
Deuteronomy 29:29
People before Christ
(Revelation 13:8; Galatians 3:6-9;
Hebrews 10:12,14)
Before the Death of Christ
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things
not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.”
(Heb 11:1-2).
• “Then he [Abraham] believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as
righteousness. (Gen 15:6)
• “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord Will be
delivered; “ (Joel 2:32)
• “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
(Heb 10:4).
• “whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through
faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the
forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;”
(Rom. 3:25). Greek: “passed over” = “letting go unpunished”
• “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now
declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,” (Acts 17:30)
• “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own
ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness” (Acts 14:16)
• Only Jews? No, Jonah sent to the Gentile city of Nineveh
Before the Death of Christ
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee
and the other a tax collector. “The Pharisee stood and was
praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like
other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like
this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all
that I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing some distance
away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but
was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me,
the sinner!’ “I tell you, this man went to his house justified
rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will
be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:10-14)
δικαιόω;dikaioo: same word
used in Romans 3:28
1. Acknowledgement of God
2. Acknowledgement of sin
3. Acknowledgement of faith
After the Death of Christ
“Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what
was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with
all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to
God continually. About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision
an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” And
fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it,
Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a
memorial before God. “Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a
man named Simon, who is also called Peter; ” (Acts 10:1–5)
“There was an Ethiopian eunuch . . . and he had come to Jerusalem to
worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading
the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this
chariot.” Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said,
“Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could
I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit
with him. ” (Acts 8:27–31)
After the Death of Christ
“But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—
that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your
mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead,
you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness,
and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says,
“Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction
between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all
who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they
believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a
preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How
beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” However,
they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our
report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. But I say,
surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; “Their voice has gone
out into all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.” But I say, surely
Israel did not know, did they? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous by that
which is not a nation, By a nation without understanding will I anger you.” And
Isaiah is very bold and says, “I was found by those who did not seek Me, I became
manifest to those who did not ask for Me.” ” (Romans 10:8–20)
After the Death of Christ
A few other Scriptures to consider…
• “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now
declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,” (Acts
• “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their
own ways; “ (Acts 14:16)
• The pattern of divine direction and intervention beyond Cornelius
and the Ethiopian eunich: Paul’s Macedonian vision (Acts 16): “A
vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was
standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to
Macedonia and help us.” ” (Acts 16:9)
• Sovereignty of God: “From one man he made every nation of men,
that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the
times set for them and the exact places where they should live. “
(Acts 17:26, NIV)
Infants and People with mental
(Romans 3:23; Psalm 51:5;
Isaiah 7:15, 16; Romans 5:18)
So … what happens to babies/small children when they die?
The most accepted view is that all babies/small children
who prematurely die enter Heaven. The key teaching
appears to be that punishment in the next life is predicated
on the evils committed in this life and not for the inherited
sin nature, and that infants/small children cannot believe
with faith.
• “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons,
who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give
it to them and they shall possess it.” (Deut. 1:39)
• “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and
books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life;
and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books,
according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and
death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged,
every one of them according to their deeds. “ (Rev. 20:12-13)
• “But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to
him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Sam. 12:23). David went to Heaven: “For
You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;” (Psalm 16:11)
• “For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good…” (Isaiah
• “Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you
say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains’”. (John 9:41)
So … what happens to the mentally challenged when they die?
There is no clear directive from Scripture on this note,
however some of the concepts that apply to infants /
children apply here as some of those operate on the same
level with respect to having a knowledge of true good/evil.
• “Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would
have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin
remains’”. (John 9:41)
1. Are lost.
2. Are not promised a second
3. Will be judged according to
their knowledge of God.
4. Will experience varying
degrees of punishment in Hell.
5. Are loved by God.
6. If responsive, will hear the
7. Will remain unreached unless
we reach them.
One Last Assertion…
If you had been born in Saudi Arabia, you’d be a
Muslim just like you’re a Christian since you’ve been
born in America…
Answer: No, how many people have been born in
America who reject Christianity? There are many
different political systems in the world, yet being born
in a Communist country doesn’t negate a person’s
ability to perceive the superiority of a better political
system like democracy. If anything, what is true is the
judgment America and other “Christian” nations will
get for their rejection of God (Matt. 11:21-24)
Those who have never heard
the gospel:
1. Are lost.
(Romans 3:23; John 3:18)
Those who have never heard
the gospel:
2. Are never promised a
second chance after death.
(Luke 16:19-31; Hebrews 9:27)
Those who have never heard the
3. Will be judged according to the
knowledge of God that they
already have.
(Romans 1-3)
All people have the knowledge
of God
Through creation (Romans 1:20)
Through conscience (Romans 2:14,15)
Those who have never heard
the gospel:
4. After death will experience
varying degrees of punishment in
(Romans 2:5; Matthew 11:20-24;
Luke 12:47,48)
Those who have never heard
the gospel:
5. Are loved by God who is not
willing that any should perish.
(John 3:1; II Peter 3:9;
I Timothy 2:4)
Those who have never heard
the gospel:
6. Will be given more light if they
respond positively to the light they
already have.
(Matt 5:6; Matt 7:7; Jeremiah 29:13;
John 9:1-41; Hebrews 11:6)
Those who haven’t heard
 We sin with or without the Law, Rom. 2:12-15
 None are innocent, Rom. 3:10-12, 23
 Are those who ”live well” saved by works?
 “Seek and you will find,” He will send a –
missionary, Acts 8:26-40, Acts 10 – a Bible, Ps.
119:130 – a vision, Dan 2:7 – an angel, Rev. 14
Three unreached seekers who
heard the gospel:
- The Ethiopian eunuch
(Acts 8:26-39)
- Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48; 11:1-18)
- Lydia (Acts 16:13-15, 40)
Those who have never heard
the gospel:
7. Will remain unreached unless we
take the gospel of Jesus to them.
(Romans 10:13-17)