How is it fair of God to send people to hell who have never heard the gospel?

The previous post addressed the question of the eternal fate of those who die without hearing of Jesus. The real question at the root of the original question questions the fairness and love of God to punish people that have had no chance to be saved. The question seeks to undermine the justice or the goodness of God. Later articles will address the goodness of God towards those who never hear the gospel. This essay will consider the justice of God towards those who have never heard the gospel.

The question is not really about fairness. Fair is that which treats everyone exactly the same. Nothing in the Bible says God is fair, at least in the way we commonly think of it. Everyone does not get an equal slice of the pie or an equal opportunity. Fairness is not the issue. The issue is justice. Justice is doing that which is right and equitable. A just judge does not go easy on the rich man because he has made substantial campaign contributions. A just judge responds to the circumstances of the crime regardless of the benefit he might or might not gain from the accused. God’s justice is that which responds to sin the same regardless of the person and does not overlook a crime because of the personal advantages of the particular sinner. The justice of God responds righteously and equitably to all sinners. Those who say God should not condemn to hell people who have never heard the gospel are asserting that God is unjust and unkind. Is it unjust for God to send someone to hell who never had the opportunity to be saved? Does God respond disproportionately to the sin of those who have not heard the gospel?

Several answers can be given to this. The first answer is that God is Creator. Man is God’s creation and thus God can justly do anything He wants with man. (Romans 9:14-21) A second answer is that given in the previous article. God is just in condemning men to hell because all have sinned. Justice does not require the possibility of escape from punishment. The justice of God condemns all because all are guilty, just as the Old Testament law reveals. These answers are true but emotionally unsatisfying to many. To understand the justice of God one must fully consider all the Bible says about His dealings with men. The justice of God is most evident in this: He condemns none to hell that have not had opportunity to know Him.

All men continually have paraded before them the evidences of the existence and power of God. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3) Every time the sun rises it shows God’s power. Every time the stars appear in the night sky they show the power of God. Every passing of day to night, season to season, year to year is a declaration that God exists and His glory is great being description. That men refuse this evidence and ascribe God’s glory to lesser beings is not indicative of God’s injustice but of man’s iniquity.

Because the existence of God and sin are self-evident, each person is responsible for how he responds to those apparent truths. It is this author’s opinion that God will send the truth to those who seek to know the truth. The erroneous assumption sometimes found in this and similar questions is those who have no chance to hear the gospel are innocent. Many imagine that people are basically good and would worship God if they had the chance. This is not the case. There are none that are good and there are none that seek after God. (Romans 3) All the world is guilty before God.

The guilty cannot plead their mistaken beliefs as an excuse for acquittal. The thief who believes it unjust for others to have things he does not is still a thief. His mistaken worldview does not eliminate his guilt. A mistaken view of God and salvation does not eliminate guilt. God is not unjust in condemning those who reject the available knowledge of Him and worship a creature instead the Creator.