Last evening I had a long conversation with an atheist who asked how a loving God could allow other religions to even form, since sometimes individuals in a local culture may only hear about the community’s God. Its an age old question, but one that I’ve never heard thoroughly explained. I welcome all perspectives!
Hey there, Brittany! What a great question. Thanks for the ask. Lemme see if I can, perhaps, add a lil brief something to the pot to consider.
So, LOVE is the supreme ethic. It is the peak of all intellectual and emotional alignment. Love – true God-designed love – places value upon the other person of worth. Similarly, TRUTH is the supreme point of judgment. Lose either LOVE or TRUTH and you lose God.
Again, the supreme ethic that God has given to all of humanity is the ethic of love. Where there is the possibility of love, there must be the reality of free will. Where there is the reality of free will, there will inevitably be the possibility of sin. And this is where the possibility…no the inevitability of other religions come into play. All throughout Scripture, God commands (not suggests) that His people love Him. (John 13:34; 15:12 among others). There’s also the command to worship Him, only. (Luke 4:8) Inherent in any command is the choice to obey or not to obey. Otherwise it isn’t a command that we’re yielding to but rather a compulsion. So we have the choice to love God or not. We have the choice to obey Him or not. We have the choice to follow Him, alone…or not (enter other religions). The formation of other religions is a result of God’s infinite love and humanities bent towards sin and disobedience.
I hope that offers a bit of clarity and consideration. Please continue to explore this and other questions. Thanks, so much for the ask! Every blessing…
Thank you for your help, @WarnerMiller. I appreciate you taking time to post such an insightful perspective. The person has been asking questions again this morning, and it was such an encouragement to log on and see your wisdom.
I’m struggling a bit to follow what you are saying. Do you mean people who do not know God can still uphold His will by showing love and truth? I saw this article by InterVarsity, and I’m curious on your thoughts?
Hey there, Brittany! I’m sorry for the confusion. Let me attempt to clarify. What I’m saying is that because God IS love and from His love, He’s given humanity the gift of free will, ie the choice to choose to love Him or not; follow Him or not, etc…humanity then has the free will – the CHOICE to create, found and follow other religions. Their choice to choose AGAINST God has actually come from and out of God’s love. That make a bit more sense? I’ll be sure to look into the link and respond tomorrow. Thanks, again!
Ah, free will is a great point. Thank you @WarnerMiller. Hope you have a blessed day.
To give a bit more clarity in where I think where my friend is struggling, though, is because in some situations where people have not been informed of the existence of Christianity’s God, they may blindly follow other religions. Such a situation would be a consequence of humanity’s free will, but not necessarily of the person’s free will, as they did not willfully choose to reject God.
Hey @Brittany_Bowman1, I do think @WarnerMiller made a great point about why other religions exist in the first place. In a sense, when Adam and Eve believed the snake instead of God they had created the first false religion with a false view of God’s goodness. However, I have also been asked by a Hindu friend of mine how God can judge people who have been born, lived and died in a place with zero access to knowledge about Jesus. Is that similar to your friend’s concern?
Generally I address this question from two angles. The first is that God has a plan for the nations and has been working through history to draw all people to Himself. The second is that on the day of judgment God will judge people according to the truth they had and the Judge of all the earth will surely do what is right! Below are a few more details.
God has a Plan for the Nations
It is a constant theme throughout Scripture that God has a purpose for each nation - even nations like Egypt and Assyria. God had mercy on Nineveh through Jonah. As the passage from Acts below points out, God has placed all nations in their place that they might find God. And as it says in Galatians, God sent Jesus at the appropriate time.
The article that you posted mentioned that spiritual forces of evil were behind false religions. Galatians points out that we are all slaves to the elemental spiritual forces apart from God. However, I think just like Adam and Eve, while there are lies from the enemy out there, it is we who choose to follow them and then somehow integrate them into our thinking.
How does this address your friends question? God may move slower than we would like, but He is on the move. And He has a plan for every people, tongue, tribe and nation.
Acts 17:26-27 - From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
Galatians 4:3-4 - So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
God will Judge Justly
I think one of the major concerns your friend may have is that these people who have never heard of Jesus will be punished for what they never had a chance to believe. I simply do not believe this is the case!
Abraham was upset with God over this very issue when he found out Sodom was going to be destroyed. Abraham challenged God - “Far be it from you to do such a thing–to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25) And of course the answer is yes, God saved the righteous from destruction.
If we examine Scripture, we see that God’s judgment will in the end be based upon the secrets of men’s hearts. Romans points out that Gentiles are a law to themselves and many passages point out that God will judge men based upon their inner thoughts - their hearts.
Romans 2:14-16 - (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
Ecclesiastes 12:14 - For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Hebrews 4:13 - Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Luke 8:17 - For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
Also consider the Old Testament saints before Moses and the law - Enoch - how was he saved? He did not know about Jesus - neither did Abraham. They were saved by faith in God - in the Creator.
Someone may make the objection at this point that there is no need for Jesus, but that is simply false! Jesus made it clear that if you know God the Father you know Him, because He and the Father are one. To reject Jesus is to reject God and to accept God is to accept Jesus.
If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. -John 14:7
Are those thoughts helpful? Do you have any further questions? May Christ grant you wisdom and insight into your friend’s heart to address their questions with wisdom and grace!
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@SeanO, I’m floored by your thoughtful response. Thank you. You pinned my friend’s question exactly, and I look forward to sharing it. I appreciate how much research you have done and your Scriptural references.
This has impacted me personally, too. A high school teacher frequently brought up this point, and I’ve been carrying the weight in the back of my mind for years, unable to find a solution. This is what is such a blessing of RZIM. I’ve believed for many years and seen Jesus’ witness in my life, but I’ve had to leave deeper topics like this simply as a trust in God’s all-knowing wisdom because I couldn’t find the answers from my church. The more I learn here on Connect, the joy feels like I’m almost being born again. The topics I’ve left to faith over the years, now I can point to in Scripture, and its like the parable of the lost coin- I’m overwhelmed with a passion to invite my friends to the party. Before RZIM, I wouldn’t have had the courage to start this conversation with my friend.
Thank you! Your service, along with the other facilitators is awesome. I learn so much each day!
@Brittany_Bowman1 Praise the Lord! I am also thankful each day for @CarsonWeitnauer taking the initiative to start this wonderful community of saints. May God bless it more each day as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus together!
Thank you for the insightful response. Just wanted to add a couple more verses. As a former Hindu, I find Matt 10:42 encouraging when I think of Hindus who have passed away not personally confessing Christ as the only Savior but those who were nevertheless open to praying to Jesus, encouraged me in my own Christian walk and strongly believed in God-the Creator. (Matt 10: 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is My disciple, truly I tell you, he will never lose his reward). However, I also know of many religious Hindu family members who have passed away who did not pay much heed to the gospel even when it was given to them. The gospel was veiled to them as in 2 Cor 4:3 - And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.
@Lakshmismehta I appreciate your perspective on this issue. I had never thought of Matthew 10:42 in this light before. I think it is always so difficult to be clear that we worship The Creator - the God of the Bible - who is like no other god and yet to leave judgment to God who will judge the secrets of all men’s hearts and knows the hairs on each person’s head and their whole life story. When Jesus met the woman at the well He was clear that the god the Samaritan’s worshiped was not the true God - “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22) and in Acts 4:12 Peter confessed “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”. And yet we see that even the apostle Paul demonstrated such humility in relation to the day of judgment in the book of Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 4:3-5 - I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
I pray I may have the clarity of Christ about the true God and the humility of Paul as regards the day of judgment when Christ will judge the secrets of peoples’ hearts. I believe that allows us to urge are unsaved friends to come to Christ who is the only true way and yet to leave their souls in the hands of our merciful Father who gave His Son for us when they die without confessing Him.
Is that helpful? What do others think? Again, I appreciate your thoughts! Keep’em coming.
Thank you for sharing, @Lakshmishmehta. I know it must be challenging when your loved ones are not yet saved, so know someone else is also now praying for both you and them. Matthew 10:42 is such a great reminder. John 9’s diverse audience/reactions is a neat fit into this conversation. The disciples’ perspectives were glued within the confines of their tradition, the Pharisees rejected the gift of understanding, and the crowd watched dumb-founded. I see an analogy to our diverse global population and our conversations here, as God intended for his glory to be displayed. Perhaps why I have reread this passage so many times is the reminder that even before the blind man recognized Him as Lord, Jesus was pursuing him.
@SeanO, I love “to urge unsaved friends to come to Christ who is the only true way and yet to leave their souls in the hands of our merciful Father who gave His son for us when they die without confessing Him.” 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 is both convicting and hope-inspiring, and I’ll be digging into it more in the next few weeks.
Thank you to both of you!!
@Brittany_Bowman1 Thank you so much for your prayers. Yes, John 9 captures the spectrum of responses for the same message as we encounter with the gospel. I love what you shared about Jesus pursuing even before blind man recognized him as Lord. We can be always hopeful despite the circumstances. @SeanO- thanks for further clarification on the importance of distinguishing between God of the Bible and other ideas of Creator God .
Hi there, Brittany! Good morning! So, I read through the thread and was so pleased to see that not only was your query fully answered…but also answered in a way that’s very representative of The Body of Christ. It was a team effort! Grateful I got to witness. I also hope that your friend would be blessed by your diligent research and effort. To God be the glory!
I wanted to quickly follow-up, tho, on the Intervarsity article. I read through it and am in total agreement. I think in my initial explanation, I was attempting to explain what was so clearly summed up in this:
Based on his examination of history, McDermott concludes that God’s first intention was for him to be worshiped alone. Because of his love, God gave us free will with which to worship him. It was not God that abandoned his intention to be solely worshiped by humankind; it was humankind who abandoned its desire to worship God. McDermott explains, ‘God permits what is less than the best because his creatures refuse to accept the best’ (160). In our free will, we chose to follow partial truths over the full Truth.”
Grace and peace and continued blessings, my sister!
Nice to hear your perspective. I don’t know too many converted Hindus, though I kn0ow a lot of Hindu/Indian students and older. I am a little curious about the process of your conversion, if I may ask. One Indian friend I know cited his grandmother and a miraculous healing that directed his family towards the Christian faith. I hear that is not uncommon (in fact Lee Strobel’s “Case for Miracles” due out soon if not already reportedly cites how half of Chinese conversions involve such stories), but am sure that there are other avenues as well.
I did get to travel to India once, with the RZIM team, years ago, ostensibly to carry luggage!. I recall hearing him talk in a message about some OT story about how one man’s decision can lead an entire nation astray; that has stuck with me some. Anyway, I always enjoy hearing other people’s stories, esp. Indians! I’m sure it will help me in approaching my various friends. One of my brothers’ undergrad Philosophy Prof. from Taylor University I believe, a Winfred Corduan, started a site (now it looks like several, anonymous contributors are involved) - www.karma2grace.org - which seems to have other similar stories. Now I feel obliged to try to look at it again, it’s been a while …
Hi @Seth_Myers ! Praise the Lord for your heart to reach out to your Hindu friends. Glad to share a few highlights about the process of my conversion. The process of my conversion took at least 3 years and was through one (& only) Christian friend I had growing up who was part of a church choir. The starting point was when she introduced me to a song based on Is 43: 1-2 called " Fear not" which uplifted my spirits on difficult days at school. It opened my heart to learning more about Chrtistianity. Hinduism was expressed in my family in the form of daily pujas ( prayer to deities at an altar at home), observing festivals, activities like making images of gods out of clay/coconut, community worship through songs, visiting temples, encouraging universal values such as truth, compassion, peace but the philosophical reasons behind Hindu faith weren’t discussed in depth. Though I prayed to the gods, I found the stories of the gods ( like that of god Ganesh getting an elephant head) too mythical, found people too superstitious, elaborate rituals to deities questionable and don’t remember having a prayer answered. So, I was amazed to learn about personal relationship with God through Jesus - a historic living Savior. Also the omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence of God as in Psalm 139 was clearly not the description of most Hindu gods, supposedly expressions of God. Ephesians 2 that talks about ‘grace and sacrificial love from God’ and ‘one life’ made more sense than ‘karma’ and ‘many lives’ because of our natural human longing for worth and unconditional love that is independent of our actions. The turning point was when I read Isaiah 44, chapter on idolatry, specifically verse 19. The Holy spirit convicted me of the fallacy of making an image of the Almighty God and I was filled with mixed emotions of joy, sorrow and conviction that moved me to accept Jesus as Lord. After the prayer, I developed a hunger for reading the Bible and God did confirm my decision in many ways. I witnessed miracles personally and experienced the spiritual realm because of other religious people I knew. God spoke in a supernatural way through Bible verses during a family crisis at my home and once my friend’s maid got into a trance as we prayed and she later got delivered and came to Christ. Another time, I felt a puff of spiritual force come at me that I had to move away from, after a guru who believed " God is in all " and who claimed to have special powers said he would show me god. I got convinced that whatever spiritual force he had, it couldn’t be God, as God can’t be a puppet in man’s hands. I haven’t experienced the same kind of miracles after coming to the U.S. but God has answered my prayers and at least one prayer that I thought was impossible. This is my testimony in short and I hope it will be useful for your Hindu friends. Thanks for your question.
These are all wonderful answers! The only thing I would add is to consider showing your friend Paul’s answer in Roman’s. There he makes the argument that since we are all created by God, we all know there is God. He speaks of general revelation, knowing something about Him through His creation, and we know God in a general sense in our hearts, because He created us!
Therefore, Paul stated that ALL humanity is without excuse when it comes to knowing God generally. This is where Satan places his block and throws humans into all kinds of religions and interpretations that have been present throughout all history.
The specific knowledge of God is through His Son, the revealed Word of Truth given to us in scripture.
As Christians we are not somehow superhuman, able to answer for everyone else’s salvation. We know that the Holy Spirit can do anything God pleases. We know that in John, Jesus tells us that no one comes to the Father except that the Father “draws” him. My old world Greek scholar friend tells me that the Greek and Aramaic texts suggest a 'difficult effort or pulling"
We love our sin and have to be pulled from it to Him.
The good news is that your friend knows God is Love. Clearly, Jesus is at the door and knocking at your atheist friends heart or they would have never asked!
Now they just have to see that God’s love is for them personally.!
God bless you for being there for your friend.
@Steven_Roberts, your words are so encouraging. Romans is a good book- do you know which chapter I should begin reading? If you have some down time, you may enjoy this Online Mentor program. It reminds me a bit of Connect, but we go out into other forums.
Thanks for sharing. I’ll be praying they see God’s love, too.
Thanks for responding and the kind words.
Concerning the “general” non saving knowledge of God I would point you to Romans 1:19-21. Here is where Paul speaks of the fact that we know God and are without excuse but have wilfully chosen to exchange God’s revealed truth for lies. Pretty strong words. In Chapter 2:14 he tells us that God has written the law on the hearts of all (even Gentiles!). This is the fulfillment of the prophesy of Jeremiah in chapter 31:33 where God said there would come a time when He will write the law on each person’s heart. Jeremiah Chapters 30-32 are wonderful reading.
In Roman’s, Paul brings this to the amazing conclusion that in Christ we are free from the burdens of the law, not because of anything we have done, but because of what Christ did for us.
In 2013 the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod produced an excellent little book called “The Natural Knowledge of God” which I like having as a reference.
For specific revelation that leads to Salvation, I love the Gospel of John.
God bless you in your studies and witness.
Thank you for the suggestion. I will see if I can find more info.
Thank you! I’m looking forward to jumping to reading. If you have questions about the program would be happy to answer them