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1 Timothy 2:4 states that God wants everyone to be saved:

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

Furthermore Timothy possibly implies that Jesus also saves those who don't believe:

That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

In Ezekiel 18:23 we read:

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

Ezekiel 18:32

For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!

Ezekiel 33:11

Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?'

Here is my question: it is obvious that lots of people in the world have never heard the gospel. This includes pretty much everyone living in East Asia, Australia and the Americas in the year 50 AD.

These people had NO CHANCE to hear the gospel. Yet the above verses all show that God desires all to be saved.

Doesn't that logically imply that people can be saved without coming to believe in the Gospel? After all, you can't have all three statements being true:

  1. God desires all people to be saved
  2. The only way to get saved is hearing the gospel and accepting Jesus
  3. Many people never heard the gospel.

One of these must not be correct and I think it's #2.

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It would also be nice, if any Calvinists answer the question, you could clarify why we should take care with our choices and accept the good news of the Gospel since man does not override the Will of God, and God says to Moses "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." –  Gregory Magarshak May 9 at 21:53
    
Read the story of Cornelius. It implies that God knows who will accept the gospel if he gets it to them, and he makes sure to get it to them. It demolishes both Calvinism and the strange mixture of Deism and Arminianism that your question seems to assume. –  david brainerd May 10 at 3:19
    
First I think it's a good question... It maybe implied but just to be clear.. you are saying that if you must hear the Gospel to be saved, and God truly desires everyone to be saved, then God should give everyone the opportunity to at least hear the Gospel. Is this correct? –  Darye May 10 at 5:20
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Actually any Protestant or Catholic can answer this question by explaining the doctrine of predestination according to the ancient St. Augustine tradition. I think your request for an explanation of that doctrine could be more objectively phrased. Currently your questions of late are too long because they are combative, leaving those capable of answering less motivated for one can expect further arguments in response to any good posting rather then a 'thank you'. –  Mike May 10 at 6:22
    
There is a fourth possibility. God might 'want' all people to be saved but not all will be saved because most would not even have heard the Gospels. Even today. That is reality. So, I do not understand your question. Are you actually asking if God is unfair or something humanitarian like that? (Lucky you. You get a chance to enter the final draw!) –  gideon marx May 10 at 9:30

9 Answers 9

"3. Many people never heard the gospel." Among them are people who don't want to hear about spiritual matters; they are satisfied with this life. Paul the apostle preached the gospel to the hardened Pharisees and they would not listen. They were not thirsty; they wanted life to remain as is. They heard and did not want to change. So it is with many who are satisfied with life as they know it.

So I posit another line to add your list: 4. Among those who never heard the gospel, God reaches out to those who genuinely hunger for something more than this life. Cornelius is a prime example (Acts 10); this story specifically addresses the charge people have that you raise here. I've read writings by missionary organizations about natives coming to God this way -- that God approaches quietly, one-by-one, those who are thirsty for more, and direct them to the missionaries or the missionaries to them.

You wrote: "These people had NO CHANCE to hear the gospel. Yet the above verses all show that God desires all to be saved. Doesn't that logically imply that people can be saved without coming to believe in the Gospel?"

Those verses logically imply that people can be saved without coming to believe in the gospel. But you did not include another verse, John 14:6, which states that no one goes to the Father but through Jesus. That's why #2 is correct.

With the addition of John 14:6, the logical conclusion changes. God desires all men to be saved. God chooses to save those who believe in Him through Jesus during and after His ministry, and possibly through faith in Himself beforehand. All three points are correct and without contradiction.

You don't state it, but it appears that your real question is one that has been asked thousands of times: "What about those who have never heard the Gospel? Isn't it unfair that they would go to @#!*% when they did not have the chance to hear the gospel and be saved?" If this is your question, you should ask it.

You wrote: "If God desires salvation for all, how come many people died without hearing the gospel?"

There are many answers to this as there are people. God doesn't force His will on His hearers. It's their choice whether they will accept the message, whether through preaching or, if they never heard, through a guilty conscience to seek relief, which God can use to draw to Himself (as I mentioned with the missionaries earlier).

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But listen. That still leaves all those who DO want to hear about it. If there is even ONE Chinese person or Native American in 40 AD who would have gotten saved from hearing the gospel then your answer doesn't address why they didn't. If the only way to get saved is hearing and accepting the Gospel, and they didn't hear it, then something is wrong with the doctrine. Calvin said that the "all" in All Men just meant all nations not all peopls. But then what about nations in 40 AD? Are you saying THERE WAS NOT A SINGLE CHINESE PERSON WHO WOULD HAE ACCEPTED THE GOSPEL in 40 AD but they now do?? –  Gregory Magarshak May 10 at 17:16
    
I think this is the beginning of a good answer but it needs to lay out an interpretation that addresses the above verses without logical contradictions. In addition, I'd be grateful if you could say one way or the other whether there were any people at all outside the "cone" of message spreading, who were saved. If so, how? Many people accept the gift of Christianity out of fear of going to hell, not from "being unsatisfied with this life". Isn't it likely at least one of the millions of people in 40AD China would behave like Chinese in the 19th century who converted after hearing the gospel? –  Gregory Magarshak May 10 at 17:58
    
@GregoryMagarshak I hope my answer addresses your comments satisfactorily. –  Steve May 10 at 23:11
    
Did you edit it? –  Gregory Magarshak May 11 at 0:04
    
@GregoryMagarshak Yes. The original only had the first two paras. –  Steve May 11 at 5:05

I see the main flaw in your reasoning is your assumption that it is obvious that many have not heard the Gospel. Actually, Romans 1:19-20 is clear that God gives witness of the Gospel himself; "beside that which is known about God is evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." The assumption that people can only hear the Gospel from Christian ministers is not stated in the Bible. God has many witnesses of the Gospel through out history not the least of which is His own voice speaking directly to a person's heart. God is Holy and perfect in justice. This goes not just for the groups of people mentioned in your question but even those who never are able to understand human language, the mentally incapacitated or people who die before learning language. I see your question as being really about the nature of God. Your question defines God too narrowly. If I were you I would ask God to help you with your understanding of who He is and what He wants from you. God puts a challenge to you and all of us in Isaiah 1:18 "Come let us reason together..." Looks like you are in the same place as Jacob in Genesis 32:22

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Thank you, that's a very interesting possibility. I understand the Gospel as the Good News of Jesus Christ, that he paid for the sins of the world on the cross. As it says "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people" And accepting the Gospel means understanding this and accepting the free gift of salvation. What is the meaning of Acts 4:12? Can you elaborate on what "accepting" the gospel means? –  Gregory Magarshak May 11 at 19:51
    
The interesting word used in Acts 4:12 is "must" - this indicates to me that what Christians normally understand as "the Gospel" offers a level of certainty or assurance in salvation to those who respond in faith to this message. For those who are without the explicit knowledge of Christ, the cross etc., salvation is certainly possible (and also by the grace of God, through faith according to the degree of revealation received) but it is a far more speculative matter. –  bruised reed May 11 at 20:41
    
Acts 4:12 means no one is saved now or in the past by any other name than Jesus Christ. Meaning Jesus gives the gift of salvation to all who will receive it by believing His Gospel, repenting of their sins and confessing that He is Lord. John 5:39 says, "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of me." (see also Hebrews 10:7) So first of all, "accepting the Gospel," means believing that Jesus is God. Secondly, it means believing that Jesus' sacrifice atones for our sins setting us free to rise from death to eternal life. –  Fred May 11 at 21:02
    
All people may be aware of God's power and majesty, but that is only enough to condemn themselves, not to be saved. We need the scriptures to tell us about our sin and God's specific solution for our sin. In order to have faith we need specific promises to trust. –  curiousdannii May 11 at 22:07

The Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans answers this question precisely: "For when the nations which have not law practice by nature the things of the law, they are a law unto themselves; who show the work of the law written in their hearts, bearing witness with their conscience, and between one another accusing or defending their reasonings; in a day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my evangel by Jesus Christ." Romans 2:14-16.

He goes on to describe three separate judgments: Those under the law shall be judged according to the law. Those not under the law shall be judged according to their conscience. Those under the Spirit shall be judged according to the Spirit.

Sometimes, people like to quote from Romans 2:12: "All who sin apart from the law will also perish without the law," and interpret it to mean that those who do not have the law at all will perish no matter what. But the apostle clears this up sufficiently when the verse is read in context. What he means is that not having the law is not an excuse for sin, because there is still the judgment of the conscience.

The context of the entire chapter tells us what will happen at each of the judgments: those who fail to either practice the law, live according to their conscience, or live according to the Spirit will suffer. Those who follow the law, obey their conscience, or live according to the Spirit will be saved. This is the delineation the apostle makes.

What seems remarkable is that the Apostle seems to be saying that it is possible to be saved without the gospel. In fact, he is saying exactly that. He goes on to defend the idea that the gospel must nevertheless be spread. (A long portion of Romans is dedicated to this. Romans is a tedious book to read, and it is easy to get lost in that tedium, or even to focus on one or two verses.)

A succinct summary might be this: imagine if you had the choice to be judged according to the law, or according to your conscience without knowledge of Christ, or according to the Spirit. Which would you choose? For me, the answer is easy. I would completely fail at upholding the law (good gracious, who could accomplish that feat other than Christ himself?); my conscience scorns me daily; but I have hope in the mercy of Christ. This is the message of Romans, and it is a primary part of the argument Paul makes for evangelizing the Romans in the first place.

But back to the idea that those without the gospel can be saved, this seems like a very shocking idea. Is there evidence in the scriptures for the salvation of those who have not heard the gospel in all its fullness? There are many, in fact. Job is the first that comes to mind. He was not part of the covenant, but was rather a descendant of Esau. Yet, there was none like him on the whole earth.

A bigger stretch would be the case of Nebuchadnezzar. God refers to him as "My servant, Nebuchadnezzar," and while we do not know his final fate, God does put him through many trials and tribulations to humble him, which seem to be the telltale marks of his salvation.

But the most glaring example is that of the magi. The magi clearly have another religion, and they have used astrology to come to the conclusion that the Son of God would be born in Israel. This is actually an important part of the gospel, and one that is largely forgotten today, at least in terms of its meaning. The lesson we are to learn from it is that there are bits and pieces of the truth found in the world's religions, even though they are not the fullness of the truth. We may leverage these truths to great effect in spreading the gospel, just as the Apostles did in Greece, when they appealed to the story of "the unknown God."

Early Christians in Greece often made depictions of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other famous philosophers at the entrance to their churches. Painted in the iconographic style, they do not appear with haloes. This is to show two things: first, that they were not saints in the fullness of truth; second, that they still pointed the way to the truth. The entire first chapter of the gospel of John builds upon Greek philosophy: "In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God and the logos was God." The idea of the logos--the ideal, the concept, the word--was Platonic. This message was written to a people that had been primed to receive it. So, early Christians in Greece felt that they had been prepared, in some way, to receive the gospels by the philosophers.

A similar thing happened in China. Christians there often express that they were primed to receive the gospel by truths they found in Confucius or Lao Tse.

But all this must be tempered with Acts 4:12: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." If someone is saved while practicing another religion, it is not BECAUSE of that religion. Rather, it is by a clear conscience and often in spite of the religion. The religion may have some bits of truth to help solidify the conscience, but there is no other name whereby we must be saved than the name of Jesus Christ.

I should add as a final note that oral tradition is not very consistent regarding the magi as far as their respective names and origins. However, it does seem to be consistent in saying that there were three and that they were converted. If that's true, it wasn't particularly fair to use them as an example of salvation outside the church. But I did so primarily to introduce an idea that was not foreign to the early church--that of glimmers of truth upon which we may build--but that seems to be missing from today's evangelism and understanding of the human condition.

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That's an awesome find. So is there any information on the consequence of the judgments? Can a person who never believed in Jesus, never heard about Jesus, actually wind up in Heaven? And how do we know there isn't an intermediate result of the judgment, such as Purgatory, finite cleansing for finite sins? I am wondering about the consequences and how it logically can be reconciled with Acts 4:12 etc. –  Gregory Magarshak May 12 at 19:22
    
Yes sir, I'm glad you asked! The two verses are in wonderful harmony with each other. When someone is saved outside of the church, Acts 4:12 indicates that this was not done by an appeal to any other name. Rather, it is by the indwelling of God in everyone--the conscience. I would like to answer this more fully, because it ties in very closely with the significance of the reception by Christ of the magi, as well as early icons of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle without haloes at the entrance of churches. However, I will run out of characters. Shall I answer below, or wait for another question? –  sambolic May 12 at 20:00
    
sambolic - you can edit your answer to include this information, and elaborate on it so that everyone can see exactly what is happening when someone is saved without hearing the Gospel or perhaps even if they heard it but they are having trouble believing the facts about Jesus (perhaps due to not encountering very convincing missionaries or evidence). That's a great thing about StackOverflow, and I use the comments to request improvements to answers. –  Gregory Magarshak May 12 at 22:08
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Thank you, sir. I'm just getting used to this forum. I appreciate your help! I have edited the piece as you requested. :-) –  sambolic May 13 at 0:11
    
This is a good answer, except that you call Romans tedious! Which it isn't! –  curiousdannii Jun 8 at 4:53

Your question belies two very important things about God that obliterates your contentions.

  1. God is omniscient and omnipotent.

  2. God is omnibenevolent.

God who knows all things and has the power to accomplish all things. We as mere humans will never be able to fathom God in his entirety. Therefore your reasoning is basically flawed.

Some people like to make a argument about predestination, or the concept that some people are created only to be fodder for the fire while others God has predestined for Glory. This is a fallacious concept. Predestination is a part of Gods Omniscience, In that God knew throughout Eternity exactly which of his creations would accept his Lordship. God does not create without a purpose, and none of his creation is created to be fodder for the fire.

In response to your three ideas which you say cannot all be true, you are disputing God's omnipotence. By that I mean you are not giving credit to God for his ability to spread the Gospel where it will be heard by all who are predestined to enter his kingdom.

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

This is not just a statement that Jesus made it is a promise. That being that the world will not end until the Gospel is preached in the whole World. This does not say to all people, but to the whole world. If we expand this to it proper perspective, it is that the whole World will have been given the opportunity to accept God's lordship.

The fact that this has not yet been accomplished is not an inability on God's part, but a failure on the part of Christians to carry out the great commission.

Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

That does not mean every person will accept it, for God in his infinite knowledge always knew who would and who would not accept him, and God, gentleman as he is, will never override our free will.

"Who has ever contemplated the magnitude of the stars and not wondered about its maker" That is a quote from something I read in my youth, and may not be completely accurate word for word.

The concept though is that who even never having been preached the Gospel has not contemplated the existence of God.

The true meaning of accepting the Gospel is in the belief that God loved us so much that he provided a way for us to be reconciled to him, and in the Old testament it was the belief that God would make that provision in the future, and in the New testament it is the belief that God did in fact provide a way for our reconciliation.

Jesus never claimed to be salvation, only the way to salvation;

John 6:65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

These Scriptures taken together, dispute your objection about Jesus being the only way to salvation. These are the words of Jesus and from them we determine that the only route to salvation is through Jesus, and that the Father through his omniscience shows them that path either as a future event or in the arrival of his son in his creation.

The key to salvation is belief, which may be further defined as the conviction that God so love his creation that he was willing to put his only son through a living Hell to save our souls, and Jesus life death and resurrection are the proof of that love. A love that we mere humans can never comprehend.

That too should dispel any doubts about God not wanting everyone to be saved.

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You seem to be answering a straw man. I didn't ask whether the gospel has been preached to the whole world yet. Even if it reached Chinese now, my question is about all the Chinese who lived BEFORE the first missionaries arrived. Thats a huge number of people in the world who NEVER heard it. How do you square predestination with verses I quoted above about God's Will for all people to be saved? Calvin says all nations but that doesnt take care of the problem, eg Mayans disappeared having NEVER heard the gospel. –  Gregory Magarshak May 10 at 17:25
    
Are you saying NOT A SINGLE ONE was predestined to be saved because of where they were born? Or is your answer that the contradiction between those three things is "wrong" primarily because HUMAN LOGIC cannot be used to ask about God? So you arent sure how to resolve that contradiction? I am asking about a human doctrine, which is fallible and you seem to be equating it to God. If Christian doctrine is equal to God and it's above logic why do we have this site at all? Moreover, isn't your pastor using logic in his sermons? Why is it wrong to point out a logical contradiction in a doctrine? –  Gregory Magarshak May 10 at 17:27
    
@GregoryMagarshak I do not answer questions on this site to argue, and if that is the purpose of you question you are wasting your time on this site. You posted a question I gave you my understanding of the Scriptures as they pertain to your question. Shouting your dissent, which is what all caps indicates, does not add any validity to them. If you disagree with my answer the proper response is to down vote it. Since you have taken the tack you have I will not bother you with any other of my opinions and will no longer consider answering your questions. –  Bye May 10 at 17:45
    
I am happy to receive logically consistent answers, as you can see in my other questions on this site and Mi Yodeya. The role of the comments is to suggest improvements to answers. Your answer contains a number of things that can be improved, most notably it either doesn't address the question or it is ambiguous as to what the actual answer is. I therefore asked for clarification through editing your answer, which is a common practice. I tried to be very clear as to what exact issues I am bringing up. The caps are to EMPHASIZE words since BOLD isnt supported in comments. If you dont want to-ok –  Gregory Magarshak May 10 at 18:05
    
What do you mean? –  Gregory Magarshak May 10 at 20:16

Keep in mind even when Christianity was at it's finest (the time of the apostles) they only accounted "the earth" as the biblical lands known at that time. It didn't account those far, far away such as the Americas and such.

Consider:

Acts 17:30

30 Such [former] ages of ignorance God, it is true, ignored and allowed to pass unnoticed; but now He charges all people everywhere to repent ([a]to change their minds for the better and heartily to amend their ways, with abhorrence of their past sins),

31 Because He has fixed a day when He will judge the world righteously (justly) by a Man Whom He has destined and appointed for that task, and He has made this credible and given conviction and assurance and evidence to everyone by raising Him from the dead.

So you can see here that God overlooks times of ignorance, which thanks to the apostasy that came in after the apostles (Acts 20:29, 30), much of the world is still largely ignorant of the truth primarily of God.

What many do not perceive is that all mankind will be resurrected to life on earth, to see God's goodness and generosity.

Notice:

Isaiah 11:6

And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatted domestic animal together; and a little child shall lead them.

Still, man has choices to make. The house of God will be fully restored to oneness again, making known the future. Man being well-aged (even individuall) will not be ignorant and without testimony to God's justice. Generations upon generations of prodigal sons will be returning when a world-wide famine occurs. There will be no more ransom left, it having already restored man once. People will make a final, educated decision.

When the final judgement is made, people will have made informed decisions, and the wicked will go to their eternal graves cursing God in word and action. God's loyal ones will take hold of the investment given to them by the Christ and benefit from it forever.

I could give an exhaustive rundown of scriptures, but the bible as a whole must be understood before these things start to manifest to the reader.


The answer to your question:

We are still living in times of ignorance. Like so many events in the bible, the time of the first Christians up until the death of the apostles was in many ways a drama of things to come. The final judgement will occur upon every man who has ever walked the earth (resurrected man) after they have had the finest testimony to God's goodness. At that time there will be no question as to who has followed God or not, willingly, and with good.

On a very simple level though, who can condemn a person for not following churches that stumble and molest little ones, defraud followers, etc? These are indeed wicked times, but also largely ignorant ones. Everyone will get a second chance. See - 1 Timothy 1:13

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Interesting, I didn't know about those verses to include them. I have to reread the book of Acts in its entirety, as well as Timothy. In any case this resolves the contradiction by saying that although 3 is true today, everyone will hear the gospel after they are resurrected. Can you elaborate on anything you know about this? Do you have a lot more support for this claim, and who do you think would reject the finest testimony to God's goodness? I think no one! –  Gregory Magarshak May 11 at 20:48
    
The reason why it's not more easily found is that it's largely buried in parables. For instance, the parable of the Faithful Steward is an allegorical extension of Joseph in Egypt. Notice how Joseph buys up the entire "earth" by the end of the famine. The famine extends the "Prodigal son" and Joseph's brother's return represent returning ones to the house of God. It would be hard to give an exhaustive rundown on these things in a mere stackexchange answer - but if you read Paul's letters pretending you were freshly ressurected within the nations - they'd sound very different. –  1Up May 11 at 21:24
    
Stackexchange does not like lengthy conversations, so look into the subjects of Isaiah - see where it speaks of the opening of deserts into reedy pools. Last day's prophesies in Daniel refer to nations making an escape that we know as long dead. The only answer is that they will live again. Again - way too much to cover in a simple stackexchange answer. –  1Up May 11 at 21:32
    
Is there a name for your kind of views? Universalism? What denomination of Christianity do you belong to, if any? I haven't heard these views being expressed in mainstream Christian doctrines, which is unfortunate imho. –  Gregory Magarshak May 11 at 22:59
    
2 Timothy 4:3, Luke 6:26 - Great apostasy. Luke 16:15 - Mainstream. New revelations: Revelation 10:4, Daniel 12:4 compare to: 48:5-7 –  1Up May 11 at 23:41

All 3 conclusions are correct. It's not man's place to pick one section of the scripture as truth and discard another. All scripture is divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore complete and without contradiction. Otherwise anyone's opinion on spiritual matters could be taken at the same level at the scriptures themselves.

1.) God desires all people to be saved.

"9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." - 2 Peter 3:9

2.) Only through Christ can people receive salvation.

"6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." John 14:6

3.) Many people never heard nor have heard the gospel.

"14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?" -Romans 10:14

The point is we could sit here and debate the humanity vs deity complex all day. Human nature says, "Well it's not fair to the countless people who died never knowing who Christ was how could they be held accountable for what they do not know. But Paul clearly said even men without the law are held accountable to the law. Much like our own laws here in the U.S. and most other government systems. Ignorance isn't an excuse.

So then the argument becomes are we guilty in God's eyes without knowing Christ? The answer is yes. Because of Adam the first man, who sinned we are all born into sin and death because we are all from Adam. Because of Christ (aka Second Adam) we have atonement for sin because of his blood being shed upon the cross and his living a sinless life and offering it freely for us. He said, "No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down."

The question then shifts to. If we are all guilty that are outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ how can we remedy this? Or more importantly if I'm saved how can help others to become saved?

Easy. The great commission. We are charged as believers to share the gospel, the "good news" with as many people as we possibly can. Some humanitarians/atheists/agnostics whatever they wish to call themselves call God unfair for not saving everyone collectively. But Paul said, "Can creation say to it's creator why have you made me this way?" essentially saying How can the thing which was created say to the creator what's fair and what is not fair? God is fair, and just in all things. That's why we have a will of our own, and that's why some things are predestined. We will never be able to say to our Holy Father, "I'm guiltless because you made me sin" Or "It's not fair that you forgive them and not me." What the lost world doesn't realize is every time the shut the mouth of a believer trying to share with them the gospel they close yet another door that God had opened to them wanting only to bring them into the fold with his other children.

The other thing people need to remember is the same God who hands out mercy, grace, and love to sinners today is the same God who burned Sodom and Gommorah from the outside in, the God who told the Levites to kill 3000 of their brethren in the book of Exodus for worshiping a graven image. The God who flooded the entire earth for sinfulness just to basically hit the reset button. To call that God unfair would be a very very brave statement for a man to make, especially one who believes that he will stand face to face with that God. The other side of the coin is that everything has been taken care of. The price and punishment for yours, mine, and everyone else's sin was paid when Jesus hung on the cross. All we have to do is believe it and BAM it's all gone. All washed away. It so easy but we like to make it as complicated as possible. God created everything, thus he has authority over all things, thus what he decides is fair, is fair, and what he decides is unfair is unfair. God's ways are not man's way. His ways are higher sometimes so we can't comprehend them.

"For I will mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Romans 9:15

For a good reference to all matters concerning this I would read Romans 9 altogether.

I hope this helps. God bless.

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Since no one has given this information yet, I will submit an answer to my own question.

There are many different views that Christians have regarding the fate of those who have never heard the gospel. See these two Wikipedia articles:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fate_of_the_unlearned

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtuous_pagan

Many of the original ideas were developed in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. The idea is that all people are born under Original Sin and therefore do not a priori get to go to Heaven. Authors like Dante portray Virtuous Pagans who lived before Jesus as not even able to get into Purgatory but are in the first circle of Hell.

The Roman Cathecism issued by the Council of Trent, based on the opinion of Thomas Aquinas, believe that they may have been in Limbo (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limbo) and the virtuous pagans would have been caught up to Heaven during the http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrowing_of_Hell by Jesus in the three days between the crucifixion and resurrection.

Clement of Alexandria taught a similar doctrine, saying "It is not right that these should be condemned without trial, and that those alone who lived after the coming should have the advantage of the divine righteousness."

Jesus himself says things like the passage in John 15:

"If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father."

This implies that those who do not hear the gospel may not be guilty of sin. John speaks of Jesus as a Paraclete (intercessor and comforter) in John 2:1 and then of the Holy Spirit as a Paraclete (comforter and teacher) in John 14:16, implying that Jesus is the first and primary Paraclete.

In short, it is indeed possible that Premise 2 in the list is wrong: one does not have to hear about Jesus to be saved. However, this still doesn't take care of the contradictions in every case, if not everyone winds up in Heaven. For that, we must investigate further.

Calvinism (and classical Armenianism) holds strongly to Paul's doctrine of Original Sin and furthermore says that salvation is ultimately decided by God in advance, and does not depend on human decisions at all. They would point to epistles of Paul such as Ephesians 2:8

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Molinists (such as William Lane Craig) on the other hand believe that God knows what a person would choose in any given situation. They point to passages like Matthew 11:20-24

"Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."

Here again we see Jesus supporting the idea that the amount of revelation plays a vital role and determines the consequences.

We have seen Jesus teach twice now that people who were exposed to miracles and his direct teachings and nevertheless reject them are held more responsible than those who didn't.

We see that Abraham's faith was counted to him as righteneousness, and of course we know that Abraham was God's friend and had experienced God's revelation directly. Because of this direct experience and revelation, he was willing to stop relying on his reason and go up to sacrifice his son Isaac. From this we learn once again that the level of personal experience and revelation plays a crucial role in judging someone's actions.

In my opinion, it is very hard to resolve the contradiction between "God desires all to be saved" and the reality that not everyone is saved. It seems to me that human decisions somehow play a role. But for the Molinist, Calvinist etc we still have the question of WHY God would place people in situations where He knows they will choose to sin. And for everyone else there is the question of God hardening Pharaoh's heart, or using sinful actions (such as Joseph's brothers throwing him in a pit, or David's sleeping with Bathsheba and getting her husband Uriah the Hittite killed in battle) to bring about great things later in in the story. What happens to these imperfect people after they die?

Consider 1 Peter 4:

"But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit."

My own personal opinion is that there is Purgatory and everyone is cleansed for a finite amount of time before they can enter the Kingdom of God. Jews have to follow the Law of Moses as described in the first five books of the Bible, as this is the Eternal Covenant of God with the Jews. Gentiles have only to observe the http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Laws_of_Noah

I think there is strong support for the above requirements for Jews and Gentiles found in Acts 15. It includes an official communication from the Church to all "Gentile Believers" (their words) from James the Just. See interpretations here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Jerusalem

But as for the soteriology, there are many opinons and no one really knows. My own personal opinion is that many people can get saved without having heard the gospel. They are judged and can atone for their sins in what is translated as "hell" but is "geol" or "gehinnom" in the original.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvation_(Christianity)

I guess in some respects I am a Christian Universalist:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Universalist

Other Universalists include groups like http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seventh-day_Adventist_Church

At the end of the day, my answer to the question is that either God doesn't really desire all to be saved -- because He ultimately is capable of creating a world where everyone is saved -- or He desires all to be saved, in which case everyone is eventually saved.

My personal view is that being saved means eternal reconciliation to God and being in the Kingdom of God forever. Since God is all good, and just, and merciful, it seems very strong to me that God will save everyone who desires to be saved, or would have desired it if they had the choice. Even if they had incomplete information, they will eventually be saved. They may have to pay for their sins but eventually everyone will be in the Kingdom of God forever who would have wanted to be in it if they knew what that meant.

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I didn't see your answer before I posted...but I did post an answer. –  1Up May 11 at 20:37
    
I see yours, and I think it's interesting. If you likem mine, would you upvote it? –  Gregory Magarshak May 11 at 20:45
    
"If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin." This means that they would not have felt guilty before Christ showed them the truth. Before, they were confident that their sinful ways were right, but not after they saw and heard the Christ. See Romans 7:7-21. –  Steve May 11 at 22:43
    
@gregory-magarshak: many good points and clearly a loving God would not let one go to hell for that which he had no awareness of the Gospel. The reality is that hundreds of thousands never heard the Gospel after Jesus resurrected. All South America did hear of him until much later...clearly there is more to God than we can know. –  Greg McNulty May 12 at 4:34
    
@Steve right. But other passages like 1 Timothy 1:13 - which was suggested by another answerer - lends further support that people who have never heard the gospel are forgiven and that it's probably not all or nothing in the afterlife. Greg McNulty yeah otherwise a nice old man in a pagan society would get the same fate as Hitler which doesnt seem right... Greg I agree with you but then why do many Christians insist the only way to heaven is to accept the gospel as they understand it? What if they're right? –  Gregory Magarshak May 12 at 4:55

Greg, thanks for the clarification. I don't know if I'm the best person to answer but here is my attempt.

You bring up a lot in your question so it's important to break it down a bit. Because to get to your logical conclusion, we have to answer a few questions.

1) How are people really saved?

In order to answer your question you have to answer this question. To keep it short, we can read Hebrews 11, and see that everything is always about faith, all who had a "relationship" with God believed in Him. Specifically verse 6, we cannot please God without faith. Ephesians 2:8, we are saved through faith. In all the Gospels, Jesus is saying to believe in Him.

Jesus dying on the cross was the provision God made for man kind, but if God prescribed something else it would be that (even though He didn't).

Not enough room for exposition, but Hebrews 11 does a great job of explaining how each person acted because of their faith in Him, it shows they had a relationship with God. However, if God never sent Christ, then there still would be no atonement for sin even for those before Christ who believed in Him. Now if you say you believe in God, but don't accept His atonement, then sorry there is no salvation for you. 1 John 2:23 - No one who denies the Son has the Father.

2) Is it fair if God doesn't give everyone the "opportunity" to be saved?

This is a hard question. Because there's a lot to it. But in general just because God is omnipotent and sovereign, doesn't mean He chooses to do all of His "desires". I think we must also consider His omniscience. In short God knows best, is always right, and He always does what is right. He also knows who will accept Him and when.

The truth is that God is omnipotent and can actually make everyone believe in Him instantly, but He chooses not to, what is that about? Is that fair? It's not like we even asked to be born, He made us this way, etc.

Things get more "unfair" in Romans 9. God has mercy on whom He has mercy on, but Paul says who are we the clay to question God, the Potter. But what if God set the world in order so that the maximum amount of people would be saved, by sending Christ at the exact time He sent Him?

Deut. 29:9 - “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."

Isaiah 55:8 - “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

3) Does everybody have a chance?

I think yes according to Romans 1. It says that all are without excuse, and (in short) everyone knew God, but they turned away from Him. So it appears that God has witnessed to them and everyone else in history.

Summary

I think you have to believe in God and accept His Son in order to be saved. For those who truly believed in God in the old testament would also accept His Son. Why do I believe that? Because they believed everything else God said on faith. True faith means you accept God's Word, and of course Jesus is the Word.

I believe God has witnessed to all men according to Romans 1:19-21. I believe, according to Hebrews 11:6, He is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him. So since he has witnessed to everyone, and a person genuinely seeks Him out, I believe God will provide someone to inform Him of salvation. Two examples would be the Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch, and Cornelius and Peter.

I also believe that no matter what we say, our understanding of what is fair and not fair will always be wrong. Only God knows what is fair and right. Therefore I don't think it would be unfair that you must hear the Gospel to be saved. So I guess I believe that all points in your final statement 1-3 can be true. Mainly because God is omnipotent, but he is also omniscient and He has a sovereign will and a moral will. and I think when He says desires He is referring to His moral will, which we disobey all the time unfortunately.

Thanks for the question. I am sure there are all kind of holes in my argument, but those are my thoughts.

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God is a just God and no respecter of persons. All will hear the gospel whether in this life or in the next

1 Peter 4:6

For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

Now going into LDS Specific Doctrine. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believe that while Christ was laid in the tomb, his spirit went to the spirit world and organized his forces for missionary work.

Doctrine and Covenants 138:30-37

Background: On October 3, 1918, President Joseph F. Smith in Salt Lake City, Utah, was pondering on the words of 1 Peter 3:18–20 and 1 Peter 4:6. While he was thus in the spirit, he received revelation concerning the Savior’s visit to the spirits of the dead while His body was in the tomb. I have not quoted the whole passage and would recommend you follow the link to read the full passage.

30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.

31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.

32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.

This revelation makes sense to me and fits into the truth that God is no respecter of persons and gives everyone an equal chance to hear the Gospel of Christ.

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what was the cause of the downvote? In the past it has been because of being out of scope. If that is the case, please explain how it is out of scope. If not, why? --- I am not challenging, I am questioning. –  staples May 12 at 18:35

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