What about those who never heard? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
We continue our look at Glenton Jelbert’s book with a chapter responding to Mike Licona on those who never heard. One statement at the start is Hell is infinite punishment for a finite sin. This is false. For one thing, I think those in Hell are continuing sinning in rebelling against God. For another, the punishment of a crime is not determined by the length of time it takes to commit the crime. There are also degrees of separation in Hell. Jelbert mentions nothing of this and sees saying eternal separation instead of punishment as trying to soften the case for Hell. I see no reason to think such.
Jelbert says that Licona softens the claims of the pluralist in the previous chapter who say Jesus is not the only way. Is Licona doing the same thing when he offers speculation about what happens to those who never heard? Not really. For one thing, many of the pluralists are saying what they say in spite of Jesus’s claims. Licona is not doing the same thing in his speculation. He is trying to answer a valid question. He admits the question is speculation and is not treating it as gospel truth.
Next, Jelbert says that God does not hold accountable those who lack judgment seems to go against some commands in Scripture. Let’s look at them. The first is the destruction of the Amalekites since the young are said to be killed, but the Amalekites were hardly peaceful folk to Israel and had been plundering them in the previous chapter. The city attacked was a fortress city and there was plenty of warning given so that even a neighboring people could get away. The language I suspect is hyperbolic.
Noah’s flood is also not a good example since Noah would have been preaching for 120 years and judgment would come because people did what they knew they should not do, unless Jelbert wants to say that we don’t possess moral knowledge apart from divine revelation, which I doubt he wants to say. If he doesn’t, then these people are guilty.
Hosea 9:16 says that YHWH will slay Ephraim’s children, Indeed, but this is God saying that He will judge Ephraim for what they have done. Nothing is said about the eternal fate of any such children so it’s a mystery how this applies to Jelbert’s argument.
In 2 Samuel 12, David’s infant son dies instead of David, but David is also a unique case. What would it mean to all of Israel if the king died? Any data on the fate of David’s son indicates the son is with God since David says he will go to him someday.
2 Kings 17:26 says lions came in to kill the people who lived in the land because they did not know what God required. First, nothing is said again about eternal fate. Second, if you went to any ancient land, it would be proper protocol to learn the ways of the god of that land in proper honor. This would be like going to another country today and making sure you know customs that should be followed before you go.
Licona in the end says we should ask what we are going to do with Jesus. Jelbert says this is a fear tactic. Why? We can’t say anything for those on the outside, but we can say about ourselves. Don’t we owe it to ourselves to at least consider the claim? Jelbert seems to fall back to this “Believe or else” mindset that he claims to see which tells more about him than the positions he’s critiquing.
We’ll say more next time we go through a chapter.