Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: What about those who have never heard?’

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Published: Thursday, June 13 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

I agree with Dr. Peterson. I would add that the God some proclaim is a narcissist and illogical. He created us for the purpose of worshiping Him forever. Further, he puts us on earth with families and trials of all sorts only to later put us in heaven (but only if we are lucky enough to know about Christ and accept him) without our families and without getting to use the knowledge and wisdom gained from our time here.

Simply put, if our purpose is to sing and worship God forever, what does this earth life have to do with preparing us for that end? Like Dr. Peterson, I would find such a God unworthy of worship. As Abraham asked "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

When we do one day see the end from the beginning and see God's justice and mercy (for which he sent his Son) I believe we will be compelled to acknowledge (not by force but by the sheer logic of it) that God has been more than merciful, more than just, more than kind. That we will see the far reaching power of the Atonement and be fully amazed.

Unwieldy Toaster
Bluffdale, UT

What if I could conceive of a God that is even more just and efficient than your God? Does that make my God more true? Or more real? Whenever you compare religious ideas things break down pretty quickly for me and it seems that your just arguing about the color of unicorns.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

The Mormon concept of multi-tiered degrees of glory is too convoluted for orthodox Christianity to want to do anything with other than dismiss as fanciful theological nonsense. But its vision of God’s judgment making allowances for individuals on a case by case basis sounds more like justice than the heaven or hell divide that seals one’s fate for eternity. It seems to me that the concept of eternal progression begs for some measure of philosophical consideration.

It’s hypothetical, of course, as are all theories of salvation. I don’t know if there is a life after death or what awaits us if there is. But Joseph Smith’s religious imagination truly was revolutionary.

“Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?" (Robert Browning)

Window Rock, AZ

I read a story of one of those big bad motorcyle gang types, not the wannabe type but the real thing. He had a bad accident to which he died and came back to life. When in Heaven the spririt which he calle Jesus said that his mangled arm will heal on this date. Sure enough his arm was healed on that date. He said that Jesus is cool. This shows that our God is merciful to all; no matter what stage in life we are at. A Waylon Jennings song quotes that he would rather be with a merciful God than to be with one who condemn to hell those who have sinned ultimately. I feel God is accepting and merciful to all no matter what.

layton, UT

RE: Is a person punished eternally by God for not believing in a Christ of whom he never heard?
The answer is NO!
If God is just, that cannot be the case. If God were to punish a person for not responding to a message he had no possibility of hearing, that would be a gross injustice; it would be radically inconsistent with God’s own revealed justice. We can rest assured that no one is ever punished for rejecting Christ if they’ve never heard of Him” (R.C. Sproul).

"That there exists in the human minds and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of Deity, we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead, the memory of which he constantly renews and occasionally enlarges, that all to a man being aware that there is a God, and that he is their Maker, may be condemned by their own conscience when they neither worship him nor consecrate their lives to his service." (John Calvin institutes)

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

Great article!
But we can easily extend this idea further – what about those who have heard but don’t believe for a whole bunch of reasons that have nothing to do with character (i.e., their heart not being in the right place)? The two main reasons being 1) they are strongly attached to their own tradition (and have even had spiritual experiences within that tradition – which ALWAYS acts as confirmation for a tradition’s truth), or 2) they simply cannot buy all the supernatural stuff.

A God that would torture people for all eternity, not because of their actions but based on whether or not they believed this or that, is a monster.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY


"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?"

For Paul, the answer was obvious for the Jews. But what of the Gentiles (the rest of us)? Paul did his best to become that preacher to the Gentiles, but millions before and since were never reached.

It is nice to think that one could conjure the idea of Christ on their own, with no scriptures and none to preach, but that is simply not how it has worked. The idea of God (generally) sure. but the specifics of the gospel? No.

If that were the case, there would be little need for missionaries. Nor for sending Bibles to poor or cloistered countries. In fact, there would be hardly any need for scriptures at all.

The gospel would erupt spontaneously all over the world and would have preceded the introduction of Christian missionaries. When Christian missionaries arrived in a new land, instead of teaching the native peoples the gospel, they would have been taught instead.

Hayden, ID

As a missionary I have often read 1 Peter 3:18 and then 1 Peter 4:6 to answer these questions to our fellow Christians. Most were amazed that this doctrine is taught in their own Bibles. A few attempted to dance around with their own interpretation, but like all truth, in the end, there it is!

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Consider all the various images the human race has ever had of God down through the ages. Who came up with them in the first place? Priests? Tribal elders? Warriors? Artists?

Belief in the divine matters to us. To God, it's no big deal. Certainly nothing worth persecuting someone over for not believing. Nothing to enable Tribe A to curry greater favor with unseen power over Tribe B with whom there happens to be fierce competition for control of a territory.

If we humans knew the real stories of how some of these cast-in-granite understandings of a God of wrath and judgment got started in the first place, we might feel embarrassed.

layton, UT

RE: Twin Lights, The mission of the Christian church is to preach the Gospel to all people in every nation. Because He is just, God will not punish a person for not responding to a message they have never heard.

.. “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.(Romans 9:13-16)He will save the elect.

RE: Mountanman. 1Peter 3:18. Some of the angels who fell with Satan were not content with their ‘proper abode’ and therefore began to live among men (and women) as men. God’s judgment upon them was to place them in bonds so that they can no longer promote Satan’s purposes on earth.

Spirits is only used of human beings when qualifying terms are added, otherwise the term is restricted to supernatural beings. …the unclean spirits,…(Luke 4;36)

Rikki Michelle
London, 00

When I was 15 my dad died of a massive coronary attack. Being a man of science he personally had trouble with the belief of God but never once discouraged my in my relationship with God. My Catholic Priest at the time, rather than console me following the loss of my father, blatantly informed me that my beloved father was in Hell because he chose not to believe in God... That was my last time attending a Catholic Church!! I am a Christian and believe that having Made Us, God Knows our Hearts and Souls and it makes sense to me that He judges us based on our Heart and Soul and the lives we live!! My Dad was a Gift from God & I look forward to seeing him again in Heaven!!

Phoenix, AZ

What about those who have never heard, don't want or need to hear and are totally happy with their own religion and superstitions and have no desire or us for others. Why can't others leave them in peace and just mind their own relationship with adopted religion and superstitions. The whole idea of if you don't agree with my believes then I have to change you is just nonsense. If there is a god who created all things for what they are then he has no preference for one or another's religion or superstitions he would just view them all equally absurd.

Mission Viejo, CA

This was something that always bothered me growing up in a protestant church. I asked my Mom about it and her answer was "Well, we send missionaries and do the best we can". Not really an answer that addresses fairness. When the missionaries taught me the truth of God's plan I was so excited. Your story is one I have experienced as well, since my baptism. You said it well. Thank you.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

Tyler D,

As you may know, Mormonism does not look at most people suffering what we call Outer Darkness. It is reserved for those in “open rebellion” (knowingly opposing God). For the rest are Kingdoms of varying glory. We are told that the glory of the least of these “surpasses all understanding”.


If “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” Then our free will is moot. We are simply puppets on God’s stage and for reasons unexplained He who loves us and sent his Son to save us condemns some of us unmercifully to hell and others he decides to save. We are like pieces of china, some to be held in a lovely cabinet, others to be tossed and broken and neither for anything to do with us.

If God were to have made us to purely so we could suffer, then He would be cruel and unworthy of his station. If you or I knew a father on earth who had kids and treated them so disparately, we would call him unfit. I believe better of God.

Bakersfield, CA

Suechology: When in doubt, go to The Book for the answers. Humans aren't perfected yet. God promises to answer and save "All who seek after Me." (John 3:12-21)

Skeptic: Why are you weighing in on issues and doctrines that you reject? Are you attracted to the possibilty that you don't have all the answers yet? You pose good questions about why Christians (or any religious evangelist) takes their message to anyone. Read each religion's mandate for your answer. Jesus told His followers to share, defend and protect His Word, because He loves all men and came to take their guilty verdict. But you can keep yours and take your chances at a Judgment Day. (Matthew 28:19; Revelation 19:11-20:15).

Dr. Petersen: Interesting article and opinion. From the first century to the present men have been accepting, rejecting or rewriting their own gospels. God is gracious with His liberty. He gives you your choice. Just not the choice to plagerize His Word. Thank you for making your distinctions with His original document.

Bakersfield, CA

Below are some Biblical teachings that are essential to this topic of those who (theoretically) didn't get the memo. You are free to reject them, just not to rewrite them and call them the originals.

(Thank you, Dr. Petersen, for keeping the distinction clear between Mormon Christianity and Biblical Christianity. That clarifies the issue and allows free men to know between what they are choosing: Joseph Smith's 19th-century revelations or that poor old, reworked, fallacious Biblical document. Yeah, the one with over 10,000 evidentiary fragments.)

1- You err because you know not The Truth.
2- You perish because of unbelief.
3- Man is without excuse; God is clearly revealed and evident from His Creation. (Romans 1)
4- Man cannot respond if his ears are closed to God's Word.
5- "If you will hear His Voice Today, do not harden your heart, as in the rebellion." (Heb. 3:7,8)

So Dr. Petersen is correct in not liking the Biblical message. If you don't hear His voice, someone is responsible.

Nashville, TN

@OnlytheCross --

But there is also:

""If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world." John 12:47

sandy, ut


Where is the source for this story? It sounds to me more like a story that was either given after the arm healed, or embellished as these types of stories usually are. I admit miracles do happen, but telling him it would be healed by a certain day seems silly to me.

Brigham City, UT

No man would ever invent fasting or keeping the Sabbath holy or tithing or law of chastity or marriage; must have come from above.

Pleasanton, CA

I used to listen to a lot of Christian radio, and i remember on a talk show I listened to, the host saying that we should be glad anyone gets to be saved, because no one deserves it. I like Brother Peterson's answer better though.

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