Where do we draw the line?

I have a test this Friday. My first test in seminary, in my Christian Theology course. I can’t remember the last time I studied this hard for a test, but don’t tell my undergrad profs that. We are mostly covering some basic theological concepts and areas of study. I’m going to focus in on general and specific revelation. For those who don’t know what these are I’ll give a basic intro.

General revelation: God is shown in ways available to all people, i.e. nature
Specific revelation: God is shown to some people in various ways, i.e. The Bible

I don’t immediately have a problem with either. God created earth and it was good, it says in The Bible, so therefore we must be able to “see” Him through nature. God has also given us The Bible in written (and audible in the 21st century) form which is not available to everywhere.

There are still people groups with which the Bible has not been translated to.

It does get more confusing to me when people say that all people must be held accountable where they have heard the good news of Jesus Christ or read the Bible. This is because God has shown himself through nature and people should be able to come to believe the one true God. But let me draw this example up for us. There is a kid born in a remote village in India, who is immediately introduced into Islamic culture and this is all he ever knows. No missionary ever visits his village and he never travels outside his village. At age 18 he dies somehow, having never read the Bible or had the good news of Jesus Christ proclaimed to him. However, he has seen the wheat fields and trees and the mountains in the distance. He goes to his death believing in Muhammad and the god of Islam, but he is held accountable for not accepting the God of Jacob and Abraham. If forced…how could I tell his family that he will is certainly not be in heaven?

How can we be sure that he experienced the one true God in nature?

I believe whole heartily that everyone is accountable and everyone is given a chance to accept God. No one questions whether Moses and Abraham will make it to heaven, yet they never had a chance to meet Jesus or read of his works and resurrection. But I really become confused as to where to draw the line and how on earth I condemn this 18 year old Indian that he denied the one true God.

There is no easy answer, even intellectually. I would rather say argue that everyone is accountable than to say God cannot show himself through nature. Clearly the creation is a glimpse of the Almighty. But it feels hard for me to know that the God I praise might deny someone who has not heard the good news outside of the trees of the forest.
I see myself as appreciating nature because of my relationship with Christ. I find it hard to believe that I could have found the one true God without prior knowledge of who this God is.

The obvious statement is that I struggle balancing all this.

  • mirandita

    I have wondered the same thing about people in remote areas and how they get the chance to know who God really is, and thus make a choice to accept vs. deny. I never thought about nature being a way to know God, and yes I don’t doubt that God is big enough to show himself in nature but… wow, what if you missed it, misstook it for just another beautiful sunset, or the miracle of a flower growing, that it isn’t from the gods of the land or the gods of the sun, or islam. It doesn’t seem fair. Here in America there is a church on every corner and yet millions deny, and millions live on the fence, but at least they have chance after chance to accept.

    those in remote areas… gosh, that is hard to wrap my mind around.

  • deut-x

    Hi Tyler,

    If I can put in my two cents worth… (which with todays economy isn’t much).

    I think it has to come down to that I trust God to do what is right, even if I can’t understand it.

    I too have struggled with what are concepts I can grasp and then explain to others vs. what is considered a mystery. In the end, I have to trust that God is both intelligent enough to have considered this, powerful enough to provide a way, loving and graceful enough to truly care about those that are lost.

  • Anonymous

    so….this is a really tough issue for me, along with a lot of other people, i know…. When I think about people that are out there in this HUGE world that we live in ….who have not heard the gospel yet, and I am siting in comfortable little America ( “one nation under God”- as valid or invalid as that is)…it makes me almost sick to my stomach. I feel like jumping on the next plane to some remote village and opening their eyes. But the problem is, it’s not that simple….Sadly I am not fluent in any language but my own, where would I even start in trying to relay the message of the gospel to someone who has never even heard of such a thing? I know that in scripture it says that we will all have a chance to hear the good news….but like you wrote in your blog- what if you miss that chance. God is such a loving God that he gives us freedom to accept or deny him, that is the scary truth. Since I feel so helpless here….I can start by living out my faith today-and making a difference where God has planted me- and pray, pray, pray for those far away.

    – Rose

  • chad

    I don’t have any new thoughts to add. I just wanted to say thanks. I was taking a break from studying for that same test and thought I would just take my mind off of it and read some blogs… my mind is now back on the test.

  • Slaton

    God is an intelligent God; we can agree on that. As I sit here in the DR and ponder those thoughts I can only think of the tools that God gave us that we many times fail to realize we have. It’s true that there are still unreached people groups out there (including the US), and that our work is far from over.

    Have you ever seen someone and thought, “There’s something different about him/her” or “I see Christ in them”? God has asked us, believers in Him, to reflect His name and love each and every day through us—His greatest tool. The old cliche, actions speak louder than words, is a vital key in advancing the Gospel. How many times in our lives have we never spoken to someone, but have felt their love, their presence? I hope that the boy in India had encountered someone in his short life that would have shared the love of Christ; not necessarily spoke directly about the Gospel, but had shown the Gospel. The more naitonals we have showing the love of Christ, showing the Gospel, the more effective we will be in advancing the coming of our Lord.

    I often think about how complicated we have made such a simple message. He loved, so we can love. Show it. Live it.