While growing up in a Western Michigan town, my Sunday School classes frequently addressed complex and challenging issues. One question we focused on during a discussion on Romans was, “What about those who have never heard?” This question challenges our concept of God’s fairness and justice in light of the untold billions throughout history who’ve died without having heard the gospel. Christians have posed versions of this question in times past and it will no doubt continue surfacing well into the future. Some attempt to reconcile the exclusivity of the cross with the availability of the message, while others come dangerously close to accusing God of injustice. Others ignore the boundary, cross the line, and plunge head-first into contempt. An inquiring and less accusative way to ask the question is, “Does general revelation provide, by itself, salvific truth?”
So begins my first stab at writing a research paper for my Seminary education. What about those who've never heard? What about those who lived, say, in the Americas, cut off from the gospel message until after 1492? Even when the gospel message came to the Americas it was more of an afterthought. Is it fair to think that the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, and other Native Americans lived their lives, not even having a chance at believing in Christ, and are now suffering intolerable torment in hell? They didn't even have a chance, did they? Or are we to believe that if they truly sought after God, albeit not knowing his true revelation in Christ, they were saved? This question requires some thought. Though it should be discussed at length, I have my short research paper here for you to enjoy. I also recommend reading, "Let the Nations Be Glad" by John Piper for more on the subject.