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What Happens to the Heathen Who’ve Never Heard the Gospel?
The following excerpt is transcribed from the audio version of a debate held before about 8000 persons at the Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC) in Willow Creek, Illinois, on June 27, 1993. This debate was first broadcast live on The Moody Broadcasting Network. The debater for atheism was Frank R. Zindler, and the debater for Christianity (whose response is recorded here) was William Lane Craig. Dr. Craig is presently a visiting scholar at the University of Leuven in Belgium. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Birmingham, England, and another doctorate in theology from the University of Munich, Germany. He is a member of the Society of Christian Philosophers and the American Philosophical Association. He is the author of numerous books. The entire cassette version of this debate may be ordered from Moody Cassette Ministry at (312) 329-8010. AIIA’s use of this material is authorized by WCCC, but does not necessarily constitute our endorsement of the views of Dr. Craig regarding matters unrelated to this subject.
“Dr. Craig… why would a benevolent God reveal His glory to only a portion of the population and create other people whose only purpose is basically to burn in hell, because they have very little chance of ever hearing the glories of Jesus Christ, and they really will never have a chance to make it?”
“I think this is an excellent question, but I disagree with the premise that this represents the Christian view. I don’t think the Christian view is that these other people don’t have a chance to make it.
“The Book of Romans, in the first two chapters, says that God will give eternal life to anyone who responds to His general revelation in nature and in conscience, and that all persons are responsible for knowing two facts-that there is a Creator-God who exists, is evident in nature, and secondly, that they are morally accountable to this God.
“And the Scripture says that if a person will respond in faith to those two truths, that God will give him eternal life. Now that doesn’t mean that a person can be saved apart from Christ. It would be that the blood of Christ or the sacrifice of Christ was applied to that person even though he did not have any conscious knowledge of Christ. So that the offer of salvation is there in general revelation.
“Now unfortunately, the sad testimony of the Scripture is also that people do not respond to this-that in their sinful proclivities they suppress this truth, they turn away from God, they turn to idols-gods of their own making, etc.
“But God doesn’t send anybody to hell because of lack of information, or because they are born in a geographical or historical time in which the Gospel wasn’t available to them. The offer of salvation is universal for all people, but the means of its proclamation may differ from place to place and time to time. And its up to us whether or not we appropriate God’s salvation, however that message comes to us. It’s not God who sends us to heaven or hell. It’s ourselves. It’s our own choice. And so I think this is entirely compatible with a loving and just God who wants you-who wants you-and wants you to respond.”