I have often heard God goes beyond our understanding. Preachers will say we can’t fully understand God because we are finite human beings and He is an infinite God. If we could understand Him fully then He wouldn’t be much of a God. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). I imagine you have heard similar ideas on Sunday morning and I suppose both you and I would agree. To surmise God goes beyond our understanding makes good sense. Of course He does.
However, I struggle to make sense of the traditional perspective saying, on the one hand, that God goes beyond our understanding, and on the other hand, that if we don’t understand and accept God we will be tormented forever. We can’t understand God fully, but if we don’t understand God to a certain and specific degree we are at fault for our lack of understanding . . . and at fault to the degree we deserve eternal conscious torment. Hmmm.
From the traditional perspective, it seems God has revealed Himself sufficiently so as to be justified in condemning us, but has not revealed Himself so much as to be easily understood, since He goes beyond our understanding. Is God merely wanting to justify Himself? Does He not care that He gives humanity ample and abundant opportunity to understand Him sufficiently and thereby accept the message of salvation?
I have the same problem with the question, “What about those who have never heard the gospel?” That we even ask this question suggests all God wants to do is justify our condemnation. The question seems to suggest God would not condemn those who have never heard the gospel, but also implies that all people get is one opportunity. That’s it. If you’ve never heard, God will be gracious to you; but, if you have heard, even once, God is justified in condemning you. It doesn’t matter where you grew up; it makes no difference if you were indoctrinated with another belief system from birth; it doesn’t matter the trouble or difficulty of your life. If you’ve heard the gospel even once, you should have accepted it. If you didn’t God is justified in sending you to hell for all eternity. Is that not what the question implies?
It just doesn’t make sense.
Assuming you agree it doesn’t make sense, then how many separate occasions of hearing the gospel would it take for a person’s opportunity to be considered ample and abundant? Two? Five? Ten? 100? 1000? What if God gives people the opportunity again and again and again . . . forever?
Maybe God is not merely wanting to justify Himself. Maybe God never gives up on anyone but continues to pursue people, continues to reveal Himself, continues to give people opportunities until everyone responds to the message of salvation through His Son. Maybe there is nothing, not even life or death, that can separate us from His love.
Because that would be good news.
Really good news, really.
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