Every week I receive wonderful questions from believers and skeptics alike. I publish one of those questions with my attempt to answer it here every week. This past week I was asked, “What about those who have never heard the Gospel? Are they just unlucky? Don’t they have a chance to avoid hell?” This is an excellent question!
The answer depends on which doctrine one believes best reflects Scripture (i.e., Calvinism, Arminianism or Molinism). I will try to do justice to each of these great theological traditions although there are a number of strands within each of these camps, so I will have to oversimplify things a bit.
If Calvinists are right, God chooses who is to be saved. He does so even though none save Jesus have ever lived a life worthy of an eternity with God, so He mercifully chooses some via the work of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 9, Ephesians 1-2, etc.). So, those in the Reformed camp would tell you that this isn’t a problem at all because only those who are chosen by God and regenerated by His Spirit would ever come to faith anyway (see John 6:65).
What about Arminians? Most classical Arminians believe God foreknows those who would choose to respond to the Gospel, so He makes sure they are exposed to the Gospel in order to come to faith. So, this isn’t a problem for Classical Arminians. Some Arminians are “open theists” who believe God is a temporal being who either doesn’t know the future or chooses not to know the future in order to grant us all true libertarian free will. Many of these respond to this problem that people who do not hear the Gospel will be judged on the way they respond to the amount of natural revelation of God they have had access to during their lifetime. So, this is not an insurmountable problem for open theists.
What about Molinism or “Middle Knowledge”? This approach is not widely known but is growing thanks to apostles like apologist William Lane Craig and philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Molinism breaks down like this:
1.God creates the best possible world where the most people will freely choose to be in relationship with Him.