You Are Here: 'But What About Those Who've Never Heard?'
'But What About Those Who've Never Heard?'
What About Those Who've Never Heard...?"
hosting my daily "call-in-with-your-question" radio program, I
receive many questions from listeners who want to know about the fate
of those who reject Christ.
But there is another part to that question that I also often am
asked. It's what I call the "Africa" question: The caller
will say, "But Alex, what about all the people in Africa, Asia or
any remote place who never hear about Jesus? How could God send them
me to share a couple of personal examples to shed some light on this.
A few years ago, I met a man from Papua New Guinea. He grew up as an
aborigine, having never heard the name of God or Jesus Christ. Yet
even as a young boy, he would look to the sky and pray, "God, I
want to know you." Was he specifically praying to Yaweh, the
Biblical God? Did he know anything about the gospel story? Of course
not. But he was aware of his need, so much so that he would try to
appease the gods - any god - by cutting himself. His tribe believed
that there were spirits alive in the woods. So in an act of
sacrifice, he would viciously gouge his arms, thinking the more pain
he brought on himself, the more pleased these gods that haunted him
as I did that, I knew it wasn't right," he told me. "I wanted
to know the true god. I knew there had to be a real God beyond the
gods in the trees." Years later he heard of some Christian
missionaries visiting in his area and went to see them. As soon as
they told him about Jesus, he knew this was
the one true God he'd been waiting to meet.
another occasion, I was privileged to travel to Shabwalala, a small
dusty town 100 miles outside of the capital of Zambia. As I was
standing in a field talking with a group of African boys, we heard a
clanging noise slowly coming down the nearby path. I turned to find a
rail-thin cow with a bell around its neck. An old, disheveled-looking
man was leading it down the road with a frayed rope. The man
immediately came up to me and began rattling off words in his native
Bebma dialect as if I understood him. Obviously, I didn't, so I
turned to my translator, Abel Tembo, for the story...
man has walked a day and a half to meet with you," Abel relayed. "He heard there were white missionaries from America visiting, and
he has a question he wants to ask you."
I asked Abel about the cow, he said the man couldn't leave his only
cow behind or it would be stolen, so he brought it all the way with
him. As Abel was telling me this, the man began to point up at the
sky and around him while rattling off more unfamiliar words.
know there's a god," he said to me through Abel, "because all
of this had to come from somewhere. It couldn't have come from
nothing. But I don't know where to take it from there..."
nearly burst into tears. Here was a man nearing the end of his life,
certainly weathered by its trials and storms. He obviously had little
to eat, maybe wasn't even sure where his next meal was going to
come from. And yet the burning inside him had caused him to leave
everything at the chance that maybe a strange foreigner might have an
answer to his soul-searing question.
was probably the most intelligent man I've ever met - more so than
any of the university professors I was used to meeting on American
campuses. Because he knew enough about what he didn't
seek out an answer. He recognized the stark contrast between the
fullness of his surroundings and the emptiness inside him.
was a matter of words before he accepted Jesus into his heart.
have sought this for my whole life," he said with tears in his
eyes, his life now changed forever and the weight of the world now
lifted off his shoulders. He then asked if I would come to his
village. "There are 13 more who need to know this," he pleaded.
We went and saw 13 more souls added to the kingdom of God.
don't tell these stories to lather up an emotional response. I tell
them because they are proof of a truth all of us, at our core,
already know. Having been to the "Africas" of this world, to the
farthest regions and most remote places, I can say this having
experienced it: People know God. They also know their dire need for
Him. Romans 1:20 says of these people, "Since the creation of the
world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by
the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that
they are without excuse."
may be known by a different name. He may even be shown in a different
manner. But God has been revealed to all souls, no matter where or
how. And those who will honestly seek Him will honestly find Him.
Nobody goes to hell because they couldn't be reached; they go
because they didn't want God. The wonderful news is that anyone who
wants God will find Him.
you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your
heart. I will be found by you." - Jeremiah 29:13-14
truth of Christianity is not contingent upon how many have or have
not heard. Likewise, the truth of hell isn't dependent upon whether
the noble savage in the jungle or your atheist neighbor receives
Jesus as Lord. Hell still exists, whether one person is headed there
or a trillion. And the Bible still defines that salvation - the way
to avoid hell - is through Jesus only.
of puts a different spin on the fiery afterlife, doesn't it? Rather
than causing us to react with indifference, the reality of hell
should serve as a mandate for missions. With one word - Jesus - we
can be a part of lifting the burden of souls in anguish. We should
work to depopulate
to accept the reality of hell:
Greg Garrison, "Heated Debate: Do Hell's Fires Still Burn?
Theologians Argue Over Nature, Definition of Bible's Destination
for the Wicked," The
Holland Sentinel Archives,
Peter Kreeft and Ron Tacelli, Handbook
of Christian Apologetics. Downer's
Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1994, 327.
C.S. Lewis, The
Problem of Pain. New
York: MacMillan Publishers, 1962, 118.
a more complete response to this issue, see Alex McFarland's book,The
Ten Most Common Objections to Christianity (Regal Books, Ventura,