“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4
“…what may be known about God is plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:18b-20
As a college sophomore I spent part of a summer on the beaches of southern California witnessing to and discussing the gospel and matters of religion with a whole variety of individuals enjoying a day in the sun. It wasn’t very difficult to initiate conversation. Many were interested in talking about life and death and life beyond the grave. But when the person of Jesus Christ and the claims of the gospel entered the discussion invariably the question would arise: “How can Jesus Christ be the only way to heaven and salvation when there are “millions” around the world who have never even heard His name?” That was the summer of 1966, and again this week in 2009 a 90 year old gentleman expressed the same thought to me. I have heard the same “question” countless times in the intervening 43 years. It is normally introduced as a question, but it becomes quite clear that the person speaking already has their answer; which is apparently reason enough for them to reject the claims of Christ and the Bible.
Perhaps the largest religious poll ever taken in America on religion was begun in 2007 and completed in 2008 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Of those who claimed to be Christian (76 % of America says it is), that is, those who say they made some profession to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, an astounding 52% said that at least some non-Christian faiths can also lead to eternal life, while 65% agreed that many other religions can lead to salvation and its reward. By what authority do they presume to make this claim? Certainly not on the authority of the Scriptures! One would have to do great violence to the text and the unanimity of its authors to support such an opinion. Consequently, their “authority” has to arise from their own reasoning persuaded by a personal sense of “fairness” and their personally conceived idea of who God is, quite apart from His own revelation. It isn’t “fair” they say for Jesus Christ to be the only way of salvation when there are so many religions in the world and so many people who have not had the opportunity, as far as they perceive, to find out about Jesus. Yet the Bible declares that men everywhere throughout the world in every age are without excuse. It says that what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. But they suppress the truth even as it presents itself to their senses and their own consciences.
The question is, if the creation that all human beings may observe and contemplate tells us that God is, and even what He is like, how does man proceed to the knowledge of God’s special revelation, His Word, which culminates in His Son, Jesus: who He is, why He came, what He did, and that He alone is the perfect, visible expression of God? I can, of course, answer this for myself, from my own experience. I can answer it about others who have given similar testimony of their own experiences. But I cannot answer for the many I have no knowledge about, either from ages past or from far-flung parts of the globe. Nor can anyone say with any certainty that the faceless multitudes have had no opportunity to know Him, whom to know is life eternal. I must rest on the veracity of the Scriptures and the character of the God who made the universe and revealed Himself in his own fashion to His creatures. Just as He inexplicably provided a lamb at the appropriate moment for Abraham, or ordered the movement of the planets in the heavens to arrest the attention and faith of the Magi from a distant land, or by any myriad of ways in which He chose to reveal Himself, His message, and His Son apart from the written Word of God, so God is able to make Himself known where the Bible or a Christian messenger is not readily available.
In any case it is foolishness to reject the truth yourself because of mere perception, unsubstantiated perception, that there are multitudes who have no opportunity to learn of the God who created them and the world, and sent His One and Only Son for the purpose of man's salvation. Each individual must answer for him or herself, and not flee personal accountability on the lame excuse that nameless others have not been accorded fairness or justice. Leave that with the God of the universe, while you respond personally to the evidence God has paraded before your own eyes and heart. You know what it is; and if you conveniently forget or ignore it now, you will be reminded of it at the Judgment. "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers." Psalm 1:1
by Stephen Leonard