|Q77 : Lost Peoples|
If God made humankind, why is he (she?) not universally known to all humankind and never has been?
A good father does not remain a stranger to his children, right? As an example, the ancient native Hawaiians lived in paradise without the knowledge of the Judeo/Christian God. Mark Twain observed: How sad it is to think of the multitudes who have gone to their graves in this beautiful island and never knew there was a hell.
|A77 : by Tony Garland |
There are several biblical answers to your question:
- You ask why there never has been a universal knowledge of God. This is an assumption you are making about God which is not supported by history as recorded in the Bible. In fact, there have been two times in history where every single person living personally knew of God. The first was at creation (Adam and Eve and their family). The second time was immediately following the global flood where Noah and his family all personally knew God.
- The Bible records that it is mankind, not God, who has walked away from the universal knowledge of Him. Therefore, lost peoples are truly lost—that is, their ancestors once knew God but did not care to retain that knowledge and knowingly walked away from His light thereby subjecting their offspring to a darkened and hazy notion of the Creator.
- In his letter to the Church at Rome, the Apostle Paul indicated that God's attributes can be discerned from the natural evidence of His creation. Yet mankind has consistently, knowingly, rejected God.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead so that they are without excuse. (See Romans 1:18-32 for the full context.)
- Psalm 19 indicates that evidence for God is not lacking in the natural realm:
The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their force is not heard. Their line [or sound] has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-3a)
This form of natural revelation is generally available to all peoples in all places at all times in history. This general revelation is intended to cause people to recognize that God exists and to seek to know Him at which point He promises to provide additional revelation.
- Many passages in the Bible indicate God's promise to reveal Himself to those who seek him. Lost peoples who respond to the general revelation of God in nature are promised to be given more revelation. This is what missionary activity is all about and why many cultures have had greater or lesser light in relation to their knowledge of the Bible. Take for example, the Apostle Paul's missionary work where he made the statement:
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshiped with men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he gives to all life, and breath, and all things; And has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: (Ac 17:24-27 KJ2000)
In our particular country, we have had the benefit of this special revelation (the Bible) and our heritage was founded upon beliefs derived from God's message to man. However, we are rapidly moving away from that knowledge—even actively tearing every shred of it out of our culture. Unless checked, we will be on our way to becoming a lost people group groping in the same darkness as those which you mention in your question.
Each generation is responsible for passing on the knowledge of God to the generation which follows. Where this does not take place, lost peoples are the result. When parents reject God, their influence extends to the children and often to their children and so on. This often results in a chain of rejection. This is what God was conveying in the warning attached to the second commandment:
You shall not make unto yourself any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Ex 20:4-6 KJ2000)
At the base of your question lies the belief that people are inherently good and it is God that must be bad. Yet the Bible (and experience) indicate just the opposite. This same idea was promoted in Satan's tempting of Eve (Gen. 3:4-5)—that God was holding back information or being unfair to humans in his warning about the forbidden tree.
We can be sure that God's sadness over Hawaiian's who never knew there was a hell far exceeds any Mark Twain might have had. But, their destination didn't depend solely on lack of knowledge as it might seem. It was founded primarily on active rejection of His natural revelation.
Evidence of this is easily found in our own country, where in addition to general revelation, God's special revelation (the Bible) has been more accessible than at any other place or time in history. Yet people like yourself continue to imagine God as being genderless or female and pose the question about how He could be fair if lost peoples truly go to hell. This is clear evidence that the problem isn't a passive lack of knowledge of God, but an active rebellion and rejection of what God has already revealed to man. Truly, the responsibility for lost peoples lies with people, not God.
...although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor where thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools... (Rom. 1:21b-22)