Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Truth about "Joe India"

Once upon a time, I wrote a post about whether or not people who never hear the gospel, read the gospel, or in some way find out about the gospel, go to hell. I answered that yes, they perish without hope. Of all the posts I've written, I have gotten more 'late' comments on it than any other. Mostly, people are opposed to my answer because they believe it to be unjust. I want to challenge that notion.

I have a character that I call "Joe India" or "Joe Africa" or "Joe Brazil". It doesn't matter where he's from, the thing about the guy is that he has never come into contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I tell people that "Joe" will certainly perish in his sin and go to everlasting torment. I do not relish this thought in the least, and I have invested time and money and prayers to see to it that as many hear the gospel as possible. But is it unfair that such a person should go to hell without a 'chance' at being saved?

Here's why it is just: Joe India is a sinner who hates God. There's the problem. Joe India does not 'deserve' a 'chance' to be saved. If he did deserve a chance to be saved, then the gospel would not be grace: it would be something that God owed Joe India. He does not owe anyone anything, and therefore it is perfectly just to allow a pagan to die in his trespass.

I know that people who object to this often point out that my stance seems to make God out to be cruel or unjust. I do not believe that God is either cruel or unjust. I believe that He is merciful and compassionate. I submit that my position does not make God cruel or unjust, but it is the only position that can make Him both merciful and just at the same time.

Most evangelicals will agree that sinners deserve hell. Indeed, most will agree that everyone on earth deserves hell. If they did not truly deserve hell, then there is no need for them to have a savior in Jesus Christ. Yet, many of these same folks will irrationally argue that it is unfair for someone to perish who has not heard the gospel. It cannot be both just and unjust for someone to go to hell at the same time. Therefore, if Joe India deserves hell, never hears the gospel, and perishes in his sin, then he will certainly go to hell as he deserves. This establishes that God is just.

How does it establish His mercy? It establishes His mercy because I, for one, am not going to the hell that I deserve. I did hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, and by God's grace, I believed it. I should have gone to hell, and I did not deserve the opportunity to repent. Yet God, in His mercy, allowed me to both hear and believe the gospel. He did not allow this privilege to Joe India. That does not make God unjust or cruel. It makes Him just towards Joe India and merciful toward me. He did have a degree of mercy on Joe India by allowing him to live life as a God-hater, but God did not extend to Him the same sort of mercy that He did to me. God was not obligated to do that.


St.Lee said...

I couldn't agree more, Brad. I think the problem is that while they admit that we are all sinners deserving hell, their heart tells them something different(and we know how deceitful the heart can be). Sin has not become exceeding sinful to them (to borrow Paul's words). And I do not mean to say that they are necessarily unsaved, just that the full weight of the law has not manifested itself to them yet.

One Salient Oversight said...

Very well put.

Eugene said...

Brad, allow me for a moment to use Dawkins as "devil's advocate" in this video (please, cut and paste since the comment box doesn't allow me to link - sorry!). It's a simple question that's supposed to give Dawkins a "run for his money". Of course he dodges the question; of course he makes fun of the girl; of course he doesn't have an answer - how could he? He's an agnostic! That much is self-evident. But! What if, despite his obnoxious attitude and agnosticism et al. we take the essence of his question seriously? Isn't it ultimately a mystery that you and I were born into an age and circumstance where hearing of Christ was at the very least a possibility and actually more of a probability? I wholeheartedly agree with you that people will be condemned because they are sinners and hate God. But you seem to be saying something more, i.e. that the reason people are condemned is because they have not heard the name/gospel of Christ (and hence didn't believe on it) and that is where I'm not sure I'm understanding the basis of your argument (Acts 4:12 perhaps?).