How do we pray for and reach those who love the outdoors/nature and who know the word of God yet do not believe? Do we remind them of scripture? Do we shake the dust off our shoes and move on?
Creation declares that there is a Creator. The Bible says this is true and obvious to anyone who is willing to stop and think about it. But often our presuppositions get in the way of our understanding of God’s creation and his principle part in the process. But the primary reason people don’t connect creation with the Creator is that they are “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1.18). I talked briefly about this in this blog post (see question 2). In other words, for people to recognize that God exists by way of creation, they must first admit that there is a Creator. But to do that they must realize that there is someone to whom they must give an account. This is simply something a hard, pride-filled heart will not do. Furthermore, if a person recognizes a Creator, it means that such a person would have to submit to his demands, such as turning from sin and toward righteousness, which is another thing that a hard heart can’t do.
So then, how do we reach out to people who glory in creation but not the Creator? How do we share the gospel with outdoor enthusiasts? It might be beneficial to bring up verses like Psalm 19.1, and logical arguments (such as how creation proves that there’s a Creator) are beneficial, but they ultimately won’t address a person’s sin problem, which is what is primarily needed. Outdoor enthusiasts have a sin problem just like the rest of us. Their refusal to acknowledge the Creator is symptomatic of that sin problem. If there is someone who loves the outdoors but doesn’t see the connection to a Creator, it may actually be most beneficial to not talk about creation at all. Instead, focus on sin, righteousness and judgment. Use God’s law as a means of exposing sin and the person’s need for a Savior. Pray that the person’s heart will be humbled to acknowledge the Creator and enter into his plan of redemption through the gospel.
What about people with cognitive disabilities who can’t understand the gospel or make the connection between creation and Creator? Where will these people spend eternity?
A common objection to the gospel is that there are billions of people in the world who have never heard of Jesus – will they be condemned to hell simply for never hearing the gospel? This question is premature, and assumes that “not hearing about Jesus” is what sends people to hell. Instead, the Bible tells us that people will be sent to hell as punishment for their sin – not because they have never heard the gospel. I believe that God is faithful, and that he will – if someone who has “never heard about Jesus” acknowledges a Creator and reasons that such a Creator has demands of him or her – send that person a missionary or direct him or her to a church where he or she can hear the gospel and be saved. God does not condemn people without just cause – ever.
Moreover, in Matthew 11 Jesus pronounces “woes” over certain cities which had seen his miracles but not believed. He says that it will be better for other cities – who existed prior to his time on earth – on the day of judgment than it will be for those who saw his wonders but did not believe. In other words, Jesus is saying that people will be held accountable for the level of revelation they received and responded to. Those who have much revelation (such as those of us in the Western world) will be held to a higher account on judgment day than those who live in deep jungles who have never seen the face of an outsider. Also, those who have working minds that are able to grasp truth will be held to a higher standard than those who have impaired minds and are not able to comprehend deeper thinking.
Using these principles and others from the Bible that tell us of God’s justice and mercy, we can conclude that God will not hold an individual accountable to a standard that that individual cannot achieve. In other words, God will not hold those who live in countries where the Bible does not exist accountable for knowing what scripture says. Nor will God hold those accountable who are physically and cognitively unable to comprehend the message of the gospel to the same standard which a person of a sound mind will be held. All of this is to say that I believe that God will save those people with cognitive disabilities because he is merciful and he is just. He will not condemn those who are not able to mentally ascend to knowledge of the gospel due to disability.
We can at the very least take heart in this: however God deals with people who have never heard the gospel, people with cognitive disabilities, and you and I, it will be just, right, and fair, because God always does what is right.