King's Evangelical Divinity School

23 December 2009

What Happens to the Unevangelised?

As promised, a little more blogging this week, specifically something I said I'd raise a month or two ago. I've been really interested for a while in Evangelical responses to what happens to the unevangelised. For a movement which is absolutist and anti-postmodern, replies are surprisingly varied and pluralist. Anyway, let's look at some options. The fundamentalist says tough, they're going to hell. Problem is, what about the poor lady seeking to live righteously and do good in a society where the Gospel is never preached? The Calvinist says it matters not, as God has determined beforehand who goes to heaven or hell, regardless of our actions and beliefs beforehand. So what about free will, then? Doesn't such a view place all the blame on God? Lest the Arminian feel a little smug here, doesn't their approach shift people's chances of eternal bliss away from God (the Calvinist position) to everyone of us? I mean, by simply reading this blog (or sleeping six hours instead of seven, taking an hour lunch break instead of 30 minutes, ad infinitum) aren't we as Christians not doing our job of evangelising and thus as a result humans are being condemned to hell for eternity? Then there is the universalist approach, which says everyone shall be saved. The problem here is, why bother being a Christian in the first place? And what about the inevitable question of what happens to Hitler and Stalin? There are alternatives, of course, for example, the concept of postmorten salvation (didn't CS Lewis subscribe to a version of this?). Or else those who seek God shall find him. Problem: prior to salvation we are all dead in trespasses and sins, so how can we even look for Him? And isn't such a view drawing on works rather than faith in Christ?

Of course, I've parodied to a certain extent the views above with the aim of encouraging you to express your views. I've wrestled with this issue for some time and will candidly (and gladly) share my current position with you, but first I'd like to hear some of your views and thoughts first.


Anonymous said...

Is it possible to be a charismatic neo-calvinist univeralist ?

I think you can make a case such as this; that those who have not heard the gospel will be judged by the knowledge they have been given. Those destined for hell are those who have resisted the Holy Spirit unto death - i.e. the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, because they deny and resist the Spirit's conviction while alive.
Universalists make some interesting comments about the words Gehenna, and Hades. The first speaks of a rubbish dump in Jerusalem which is the inheritance on this earth for those who reject Christ. Hades is seen as a place where the dead await judgement. The word for eternal 'ainion' does not necessarily mean everlasting, but an age.
Andrew Sibley

Anonymous said...

Act 17:26-27 And He made every nation of men of one blood, to live on all the face of the earth, ordaining fore-appointed seasons and boundaries of their dwelling, to seek the Lord, if perhaps they might feel after Him and might find Him, though indeed He not being far from each one of us.

Does the above verse say that even in sin one can seek out the Lord? That's how I read it. If we can seek out the Lord even in sin then that is a starting point of God revealing Himself isn't it?

Calvin L. Smith said...

Nothing like a late response (Christmas has passed, time to get back into the swing of things).

Andrew, I'm no universalist (though I believe many are driven by genuine compassion). But I do agree with you that we are judged according to our knowledge (hence Paul's statement about the pagans, who don't have the law, still living by its central tents and being judged on that basis on the Day of Judgment).

Vee, might such a view be reconciled with the point and passage you raise? It seems both positions are not mutually exclusive.

Anyone else have views on this?

Anonymous said...

Paul's comments in Acts 17 would semm to work against the strong Calvinistic doctrine of 'total depravity.'

Perhaps all of us have a small measure of knowledge of God, if only through general revelation that comes out of the created order. Perhaps the Holy Spirit gives all that small measure of knowledge, but some supress it as Paul pointed out in Romans 1.

But was Paul using a Jewish apologetic in Acts 17 or a modified Stoic one? I believe it does in fact come out of the prophets (Isaiah ref? ), but the Stoics had developed a similar argument as well about intelligent causality from their logos spermatikos - I am trying to dig this out some more. Paul was though willing to start his preaching on what he saw as good and seek to correct what was bad pointing the hearers to Christ.
Andrew S

Anonymous said...


I'm interested in your view! C'mon.. let us hear what you think on this subject.