The Fall and the existence of other religions
Published: 7 February 2012 (GMT+10)
Maria O. from the Netherlands writes, and CMI’s Lita Cosner responds, interspersed:
Let me tell you that I am an agnostic person. There is a question in my head that I wish you can answer. If there is only one true god, then, how come, the world today has diverse religions?
Because the world is fallen, and some people groups forgot who the true God is. Others consciously rejected Him. Some people still reject Him today. We’re told that even though people should be able to see from creation God exists, they reject Him and worship other things instead—so the revelation in nature is sufficient only to condemn, not save (Romans 1).
And why did he only choose Israel as his chosen people? Why did he ONLY talk to Jewish prophets?
His people were never going to be just Israel; even in the earliest times we can see God working through Israel to save all nations. Indeed, that was part of the original promise to Abraham. And re: speaking only through Jewish prophets, this was the case in the Old Testament, and the majority of the earliest Church was made up of Jewish converts—the apostles themselves were all Jews, and the fact that they wrote so much of the New Testament means that it will be mostly Jewish by default. But many think, and it is my own personal opinion, that Luke was probably a Gentile (based on Colossians 4:10–14 and Philemon 24), and between Luke and Acts, he wrote the largest proportion of the New Testament.
Why did he not talk to Amerindian prophets or East Asian prophets or European prophets? Why only the Jews? What so special about the Jews that other people don’t have?
God didn’t choose Israel because there was something inherently special about them. In fact, the Bible records that they were an extraordinarily stubborn, rebellious people, so much so that God had to be persuaded not to destroy them all on more than one occasion! They repeatedly turned away from Him, and then failed to recognize the Messiah when He came. But the history of the Jewish people serves to show that God can use the most unlikely of peoples, and that God doesn’t choose the most special or deserving, but those by whom He will be glorified by choosing.
And you Christians teach that accepting Jesus Christ as your savior will ensure that you go to heaven. But how about those people who lived before Christ or those people who live in other continents?
Before Christ, people were saved by believing what God had revealed about Himself. This revelation was progressive, culminating in God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. So someone in Isaiah’s day would be accountable for more correct belief of God than someone in Enoch’s day, because God had revealed more by Isaiah’s time. Someone living in Corinth in the first century would be accountable for far more than the person living in Isaiah’s day, because they were living after God had revealed Himself in Christ. The person before Christ was saved through Christ’s sacrifice, even though that had not been revealed in such a way that they could understand what was coming (although Jesus seems to teach that they should have seen that from the Scriptures, it doesn’t seem to be the case that anyone actually did).
As for people on other continents, God commanded us to go and tell them. There’s indication that they’ll be judged according to the light they received. But God’s saving grace isn’t limited by our obedience to the Great Commission; there are stories about instances of entire congregations of former Muslims, for example, which started when one person had a dream about Christ.
Do they also go to hell for that?
No one goes to Hell because he didn’t hear about Christ. The unsaved person goes to Hell not so much for anything he did, but for what he is. The unregenerate person is unrelentingly hostile towards God. There’s the saying that “Hell’s doors are locked, but from the inside.” What this means is that the unsaved, unregenerate person doesn’t want anything to do with God, and if given the choice between Heaven and Hell, they would choose Hell.
And why did god only send Christ after many years? Why didn’t he immediately send his son to save more souls.
You’re assuming that different timing would have saved more souls. But in fact, God sent Christ at just the time when the pax Romana was allowing safe travel throughout the Empire, when Greek was a common language that made spreading the Gospel easier, and when multiple other political and social elements meant that the Gospel could be spread further and faster.
And I also read that the first religions were animism where humans worship a mother goddess. People before worship nature to produce more crops etc. Then that changed as your society expanded. We have the incorporation of different gods like god of wars, god of metals etc. The concept of monotheistic religion (like Christianity, Islam or Judaism) only came later. As times goes by, religion is modified and influenced by the social environment of the people.
This is a common idea about the ‘evolution’ of religion, but it’s wrong. See Archaeologist confirms creation and the Bible, The Importance of Creation in Foreign Missions, and The original unknown god of China.
With this in mind, I think that the concept of religion or god per se is man made. I always hear people saying that that my religion is true and the others are not and I think that person is totally bias on others belief.
Of course, everyone is biased. Everyone who thinks at all is biased on a whole host of issues. But bias has no bearing on truth.
G.T. from the United States writes:
If we use Romans 5:12 as a proof text for death. Are we limited to death of all of creation or only for man?
Reason being, if all of creation then nothing could have died prior to the fall of man, therefore, evolution could not have occurred since no animals would have died prior to Adam and Eve’s fall.
If we are not limited to death prior to the fall then one might be able to build a theistic evolution case. If one does not buy into evolution. So what other proof texts could one use to develop a case for death not preceding the fall of man?
CMI’s Lita Cosner responds:
Romans 5:12 is only speaking about human death. But Romans 8 speaks about the whole creation being subjected to the Curse. In Genesis 3, thorns and thistles are an effect of the Fall, as well as cultivation of vegetation being harder, so clearly the Curse wasn’t limited to humanity.
The final solution to the Curse and the Fall also tells us about its extent. The Bible tells us that the creation will be destroyed in fire and fervent heat, and God will re-create a universe which will never be touched by sin or death, including a new Earth where God will dwell with mankind once again. If the Fall had only affected humanity, this would seem like an extreme solution, but it makes sense if we understand that the whole universe was tainted by Adam’s sin. There are Edenic allusions when the Bible talks about the new creation; there is no death, no sin, God dwells with humanity, the Tree of Life is available to eat from again, animals that are carnivorous in the fallen world are once again vegetarian. But it is more and better than Eden, not least because the inhabitants of the new Earth will not have the potential to sin and fall again.
God’s attitude toward death also tells us about whether He would have allowed it in a creation He called “very good”. In 1 Corinthians 15, death is unambiguously declared an enemy, the last one to be destroyed before Christ’s reign is fully realized and manifested. Death is such a problem that Christ hasn’t shown His victory over death (though we believe He did gain victory over death through His death and resurrection; it just has not been fully manifested) while a single Christian remains in the grave. Jesus wept over the tragedy of death, even when He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus that very day. In God’s new universe, there will be no death, no suffering. Revelation specifically mentions Death and Hades being thrown into the lake of fire.
But I think the most important thing that shows us how God feels about death is this: Death is so repugnant to God that God Himself (God the Son) became incarnate and died so that He could defeat it and so that He could redeem His creation back to Himself.
There is no verse in the whole of Scripture that portrays death as anything other than an evil thing that is a result of sin. So why would we incorporate death as a means God used to create?
A print-quality PDF copy of the brochure 15 Questions for Evolutionists can be downloaded here.
I hope this is helpful.
I could very well see how someone might thing you were propounding the view that knowledge rather than faith is what saved people in Old Testament times … am I misunderstanding you?
You seem to suggest that the unevangelized may be saved if they respond in faith to God based on the revelation they have. Would the following view be more scripturally accurate particularly in view of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus about the necessity of being “born again” … though God may provide a way of salvation for some of the unevangelized, we have no reason to think He will.
“So someone in Isaiah’s day would be accountable for more correct belief of God than someone in Enoch’s day, because God had revealed more by Isaiah’s time” seems an odd statement … again is there not a danger that someone might get the impression from that statement that Adam was less accountable than Enoch or Isaiah?. … I would have thought that they were all equally accountable based on whether or not they had faith in the promise (Genesis 3:15) of a Redeemer.
I very much enjoy reading your articles so please do not think this is a criticism. Keep up the good work.
Thanks for writing in and raising this comment. I think you’ve maybe misunderstood what I’m saying; I didn’t say that people were saved by knowing the correct things about God, but by believing them. In the Greek, the word for “believe” is a verb related to the noun meaning “faith”. In other words, the Old Testament saints were saved by believing—having faith in—what God had revealed about himself. This of course presupposes a minimum amount of correct knowledge—if someone today claimed they love Jesus and worship Him, but they also think He was part of the Greek pantheon and the son of Zeus, that would not be saving faith. But it’s not the knowledge that saves; it’s the belief—I.e. faith—that saves.
Regarding those who never hear, I simply wanted to point out that God isn’t limited by our obedience or disobedience regarding who He saves. He doesn’t need us in order to save anyone, even if his usual means of spreading the Gospel is through missionaries (and missionary work is important and urgent).
Regarding God’s progressive revelation of Himself, someone in Isaiah’s day and Enoch’s day would be qualitatively accountable for the same thing–believing what God has revealed about Himself. But someone in Isaiah’s day would be accountable for quantitatively more correct belief, because God revealed more by then. Does that make sense?
I hope this clarifies things.