student from the Far East says, “What about
all of the religions that have come before Christianity? And if you grant that the Christian
message is exclusive, isn’t this vastly unfair to claim that all these people are
damned to hell because they don’t believe in Jesus?” What would you say to that?
Zacharias: It’s a good question. In logic, it’s called the fallacy of calendar, or
time, however you want to put it. If that is assumed to be therefore the guidepost for
truth—that this came before—think of all the things people have believed before whatever
we believed now that were so fallacious? You can’t really go by the calendar. What happens
to Islam? Because Christianity predated Islam by six centuries, you know. What happens to
the Gita over against the Vedas? The Vedas came centuries before, they were monistic;
the Gita is more theistic. What happens to the Vedas after that? What happens to Hinduism
after Buddhism comes on the scene? Or then, after Buddhism comes Jainism; and then a latecomer
was Sikhism to all that believed things before. So it’s a fallacious starting point.
I think what we need to also correct, this idea that Jesus Christ came 2,000 years ago,
and therefore anything that predates that would have to take precedence. Actually, 3,000
years before Jesus was Abraham who lived by faith. We talk about the Judeo-Christian worldview.
You go back 1400s before Jesus and you’ve got Moses giving the Law and talking about
how ultimately how the Law points to a Redeemer, and so on. So, even that is fallaciously believed,
that it was something new that just came 2,000 years ago. The Bible says “God, who at sundry
times and diverse manners has spoken to us through the prophets, in the last days has
spoken to us through the Son.” Here’s the illustration I like to give,
John, and my friends in India would appreciate it. It’s like this: One of our servants
went to see a movie for the first time. And he walked into the theater and was looking
in the wrong direction. And he thought he’d paid money to look at beams of light coming
out through holes in the wall, until he turned to the right and looked at the screen and
said, “Oh, my word, what am I seeing? I’m seeing a face.”
Many religious worldviews could have been those beams coming out of the wall. Ultimately
the light shines on the person and the face of Jesus Christ, in whom was the culmination
and the consummation of all truth. There may be hints of truth in these other worldviews,
but the totality of it was in the person of Jesus Christ. So, to the person listening,
I just say, take the Gospel of John, start reading it. See what it says about Jesus;
see his answers to your questions; and you’ll find the consummate expression of truth in
his person. Ankerberg: What about the part, what about
those that have lived in the past and they didn’t believe in Jesus. Is it fair or unfair
for them to be separated from God for eternity? Zacharias: However we answer that, the most
important part of the answer is this: that the Bible says “the judge of all the earth
will do that which is right.” It’s interesting that that statement comes in the context of
the judgment that was coming upon Sodom and Gomorrah. God is more fair than you or I.
God will do that which is right. But it also tells us historically how people,… What
did Abraham know? He was raised in a culture of polytheism and so on. But he “looked
for a city whose builder and maker was God.” Where did he come up with that idea from?
God speaks to us within our own consciences. God speaks to us in the privacy of our own
lives. And the fact is that he speaks through conscience; he speaks through creation; he
speaks ultimately through his word; and then in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
But having said that, God really doesn’t send anybody to hell, John. This is a very
important truth. We make our choice. C.S. Lewis says there are two kinds of people in
this world—those who bend their knee to God and say to him, “Your will be done;”
or those who refuse to bend their knee to God, and God says to him (or her), “Your
will be done.” Ultimately, the choice we make for eternity is made by the submission
of our wills to our heavenly Father. He will not violate our wills. Even heaven will be
hell to the person who doesn’t want to spend eternity with God. That sacred gift of my
freedom is given to me by God. I invite the listener to bend your knee and say to him,
“Your will be done.” His will is the most beautiful thing you can pursue.