In a recent interview with Sally Quinn of The Washington Post, Rob Bell again muddied the waters over the question of the fate of those who’ve never heard about Jesus. In doing so he also greatly misrepresented the evangelical answer to this question. Here are his words:

“If, billions and billions and billions of people, God is going to torture them in hell forever – people who never heard about Jesus are going to suffer in eternal agony because they didn’t believe in the Jesus they never heard of – then at that point we will have far bigger problems than a book from a pastor from Grand Rapids.”

Bell is responding to evangelicals who purportedly believe that people “are going to suffer in eternal agony because they didn’t believe in the Jesus they never heard of.” Let me say this as clearly as I can: No one will ever suffer for any length of time in hell or anywhere else for not believing in the Jesus they never heard of. Should I say that again or is it enough to ask that you go back and read it again?

Bell and others who make this sort of outrageous claim have evidently failed to look closely at Romans 1:18ff. Here we read that the wrath of God revealed from heaven is grounded in the persistent repudiation by mankind of the revelation God has made of himself in the created order. In other words, there is a reason for God’s wrath. It is not capricious. God’s wrath has been deliberately and persistently provoked by man’s willful rejection of God as he has revealed himself.

The revelation is both from God and about God. Therefore, in this case if the pupil does not learn it is not because the teacher did not teach. The phrase “evident to them” (v. 19, NASB), is better rendered either in or among them, probably the latter; i.e., God has made himself known among people (and thus, in a manner of speaking, to them, in their minds and hearts) in his works of creation and providence. 

Observe Paul’s paradoxical language in v. 20: he refers to God’s invisible attributes (1 Tim. 1:17) as clearly seen (oxymoron). Paul’s point is that the invisible is made visible via creation or nature. Divine wisdom, power, eternity and goodness, for example, are not in themselves visible, but their reality is undeniably affirmed and apprehended by the effects they produce in nature. That there is a God, supreme, eternal, infinite in power, personal, wise, independent, worthy of glory and gratitude, is clearly evident in the creation.

How are these truths about God made known and where may we see them? Paul’s answer is, “through what has been made” (v. 20). God has left the indelible mark of his fingerprints all across the vast face of the universe.

Theologian Robert Dabney put it this way: “They who have no Bible may still look up to the moon walking in brightness and the stars watching in obedient order; they may see in the joyous sunbeams the smile of God, and in the fruitful shower the manifestation of his bounty; they hear the rending thunder utter his wrath, and the jubilee of the birds sing his praise; the green hills are swelled with his goodness; the trees of the wood rejoice before him with every quiver of their foliage in the summer air.” Herman Bavinck put it succinctly in declaring that “there is not an atom of the universe in which God’s power and divinity are not revealed.”

Paul’s point here in Romans 1 is that this revelation is sufficiently clear and inescapable that it renders all without excuse (see Rom. 1:20). Consequently, there is no such thing as “an innocent native in Africa” any more than there is “an innocent pagan in America.”

What does Paul mean when he says that all humanity is without excuse? “The excuse that is banished,” notes R. C. Sproul, “the excuse every pagan hopes in vain to use, the excuse that is exploded by God’s self-revelation in nature is the pretended, vacuous, dishonest appeal to ignorance. No one will be able to approach the judgment seat of God justly pleading, ‘If only I had known you existed, I would surely have served you.’ That excuse is annihilated. No one can lightly claim ‘insufficient’ evidence for not believing in God” (Classical Apologetics, 46).

The problem is not a lack of evidence. The problem is the innate, natural, moral antipathy of mankind to God. The problem is not that the evidence is not open to mankind. The problem is that mankind is not open to the evidence.

Note well Paul’s words: “For even though they knew God” (v. 21a). Again, “that which is known about God is evident within them” (not hidden, obscure, uncertain, but disclosed, clear, and inescapable). There is no such thing as an honest atheist! All people know God. There is a distinction, of course, between, on the one hand, a cognitive apprehension of God, i.e., knowing that there is a God and that he is worthy of obedience, worship, gratitude, and, on the other, a saving or redemptive knowledge of God. All people experience the former whereas only the redeemed experience the latter. Thus the problem, again, “is not a failure to honor what was not known, but a refusal to honor what was clearly known” (Sproul, 51).

Paul believed the unbeliever’s knowledge of God was “real” though not “saving”. They have more than an “awareness” of God. They know both that he exists and that he is of a certain moral character and that they themselves are accountable to him. In other words, their knowledge of God brings “subjective” understanding, but not “saving” understanding. The God they truly and “really” know, they hate and refuse to honor. Their response, however, is not borne of ignorance but of willful rebellion and self-centered sinfulness.

But Paul is equally clear that all persistently suppress this knowledge (see vv. 21-32). He does not say they began in darkness and futility and are slowly but surely groping their way toward the light. Rather, they began with the clear, inescapable light of the knowledge of God and regressed into darkness. More on this below.

The reference to them as “futile” and “fools” (vv. 21-22) does not mean all pagans are stupid. It is not man’s intelligence that is in view but his disposition. The problem with the unsaved isn’t that he can’t think with his head. The problem is that he refuses to believe with his heart. The unsaved man is a fool not because he is of questionable intelligence. He is a fool because of his immoral refusal to acknowledge and bow to what he knows is true.

What is the response of the human heart to this revelatory activity of God? Paul describes it in vv. 21-23. What he has in mind involves a distortion or deliberate mutation when one substitutes something artificial or counterfeit for that which is genuine. Clearly, then, when man rejects God he does not cease to be religious. Indeed, he becomes religious in order to reject God. He substitutes for God a deity of his own making, often himself.

This leads to three important conclusions.

First, the revelation of God in creation and conscience is sufficient to render all men without excuse, sufficient to lead to their condemnation if they repudiate it, but not sufficient to save. No one will be saved solely because of their acknowledgment of God in nature, but many will be lost because of their refusal of him as revealed there. In other words, general revelation lacks redemptive content. It is epistemically adequate but soteriologically inadequate. It makes known that there is a God who punishes sin but not that he pardons it.

Second, and please note this well, the so-called heathen are not condemned for rejecting Jesus, about whom they have heard nothing, but for rejecting the Father, about whom they have heard and seen much. Whatever about God is included in Paul’s words, “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature” (Rom. 1:20), the knowledge of such is universal and inescapable and renders all mankind without an excuse for their unbelief, without an excuse for their failure to honor God, without an excuse for their refusal to thank God, and without an excuse for turning from the one true God to the worship of idols.

Third, general revelation is the essential prerequisite to special revelation. And special revelation is that which redemptively supplements and interprets general revelation. Therefore, if by God’s gracious and sovereign enablement and enlightenment, any unbeliever responds positively to the revelation of God in nature (and conscience), God will take the necessary steps to reach him or her with the good news of Christ whereby they may be saved.

What we have seen from this brief look at Romans 1 is that God has made his existence and attributes known to all mankind in every age: people of every religion in every nation on earth. These people may never hear the name of Jesus. They may never hear the gospel proclaimed. They may never hear of the cross or the resurrection. They may never hold in their hands a Bible in their own language. But they are totally and justly and righteously “without excuse” before God for their failure to honor him as God and their subsequent idolatrous turn to created things as a substitute for the Creator.

They will not be judged for their rejection of Jesus, of whom they have heard nothing. For Rob Bell or anyone else to suggest that we believe people will suffer eternally in hell for not believing in a Jesus of whom they know nothing is a distortion of what we affirm, and worse still is a distortion of what Paul clearly taught. People will be held accountable and judged on the basis of the revelation that God has made of himself to them. And this revelation is unmistakable, unavoidable, and sufficiently pervasive and clear that the failure to respond as well as the turn to idolatry renders them “without excuse.” They will be righteously judged for rejecting the Father, not for rejecting the Son.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    162 replies to "Bell’s Hell and the Destiny of Those Who’ve Never Heard of Jesus"

    • Chuck


    • Steve Douglas

      In AD 300 in the Amazon, if the natives had not rejected the Father, what would have happened? Would that have been enough?

      In other words, if Rob Bell had said,

      “If, billions and billions and billions of people, God is going to torture them in hell forever – people who never heard about [the Father] are going to suffer in eternal agony because they didn’t believe in the [Father] they never heard of…

      …would you be ok with that? Unless you’re an inclusivist, you’ve got to say that even that wouldn’t have been enough: they’d have to believe on the name of Jesus, and then your objection to Rob Bell’s remarks become a little harder to understand.

    • John Hobbins


      This post is not convincing. As so often has been done in the past, the beginning of Romans is being read without proper attention to Romans 8, Romans 9-11, not to mention the broader witness of the NT, from Matthew to Revelation. The broader witness calls your exegesis, however traditional, into question.

      I find much to object to in Bell’s presentation of the gospel. But if your presentation of the gospel is as unsparing as this, I find more to object to in yours.

    • […] This article, written by Sam Storms provides a brilliantly clear explanation for how these objections are explicitly and categorically unbiblical. […]

    • Becky

      “For Rob Bell or anyone else to suggest that we believe people will suffer eternally in hell for not believing in a Jesus of whom they know nothing is a distortion of what we affirm,”

      I find it bazaar that you feel justified in making this kind of statement when it is exactly what you and others you associate with have done to Bell. You claim to know his whole theology based on a quote you took out of context with part of the Bible you basically took out of context to make a not very solid argument.

    • Dan

      Potato, Potahto. You’re not saying that people are condemned for not believing in Jesus, but you still say that they are denied redemption by Jesus. You say that they are given enough knowledge about God to be condemned, but not enough to know the way to escape condemnation. God has arbitrarily closed the way of salvation to them, refusing to rehabilitate them from a sinful depravity which they are positively incapable of fixing themselves and which they supposedly inherited from Adam. Somehow, I doubt that your clarification would alleviate the inequity inherent in this theology that Bell is criticizing.

    • C Michael Patton


      Thanks for commenting. Theology is not the pursuit of alleviating people’s belief anxiety, it is the pursuit of truth. So I find the motives behind your comment somewhat disturbing.

      As well, there is nothing arbitrary about divine election. It just has nothing to do with us.

      Having said that I do appreciate your heart and desire for all people to have a chance. It does make emotional sense.

      Michael. (writing from my iPhone very slowly!)

    • C Michael Patton

      Sam, I regret to do this but I am now subscribing to comments! Thanks in advance for filling up my inbox!

    • John Lollard

      So then is natural revelation enough? Can natural revelation teach us that not only is God powerful, merciful, loving and kind, but that he stepped in to creation and died for sinful men in order to redeem them? Can it teach us well enough to repent of our sins and turn to this powerful, merciful God for salvation?

      Can God grant the gift of irresistible saving grace to someone who has never heard the name of Jesus?

      I’m with you on Romans 1 and people being without excuse, but I’m curious how much further this should go.

    • Cliff Martin

      “If, billions and billions and billions of people, God is going to torture them in hell forever – people whose condemnation lies solely in the misfortune of being birthed into Adam’s hopelessly depraved race, with no possible access to the only lifeline of salvation, Jesus – then at that point we will have far bigger problems than a book from a pastor from Grand Rapids.”

      There. Does that work better for you, Sam? Cleans up Bell’s befuddled theology! But semantics and technical systematic theologies aside, what does it change?

    • rayner markley

      ‘God has made His existence and attributes known to all mankind…’
      Not clear on this. To the human mind the evidence in nature is ambiguous as regards order/disorder or justice/injustice. Men are the ones who determine what is known to them, and therefore they can ascertain God from nature if they are inclined to. And many are indeed inclined to, though in reality the evidence isn’t conclusive.

    • David
    • Jeremy Kidder

      Paul disagrees with you on this point. Romans 1:88ff states not just that the information about God is there to be seen, but that it “Has been clearly understood.” The very thing that arouses God’s wrath in this passage is man’s suppression of this truth. So Paul certainly does expect that men will declare they have not seen this evidence, and that they will try to use this claim as an excuse to avoid culpabuility for judgment, the question left to us is simple; will believe them on this matter or God?

    • bethyada

      I agree with much of this, but I also think that the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of all men. So while general revelation convicts men of God’s existence, God also woos men thru his activity on their spirits. There is some reason to suspect that people who have not heard of Jesus respond to God, both now and especially prior to his incarnation.

      People who have not heard of Jesus may not recognise him directly, but indirectly such that when they meet him they will now he is who they have been trying to listen to and obey.

      Many do not respond to God thru his general revelation and we must tell them about Jesus, compel them to enter the kingdom.

    • John from Down Under

      Michael you’re my favorite blogger & theologian, but your response to Dan confuses me.

      To a non-Calvinist reader the thrust of this article sounds self-contradictory. It would have made perfect sense if it wasn’t written by a Calvinist. I guess what I’m saying is you can’t have it both ways. If God doesn’t grant you saving grace/gift of faith, what does it matter whether you acknowledge his existence in creation or not, you’re still doomed for hell. Listen to the following statements:

      “The God they truly and “really” know, they hate and refuse to honor” – How can they, since they haven’t been granted saving grace?

      “The problem with the unsaved isn’t that he can’t think with his head. The problem is that he refuses to believe with his heart” – Isn’t he incapable to believe unless he is given the gift of faith?

    • John from Down Under

      And here’s the MOST confusing statement: “Therefore, if by God’s gracious and sovereign enablement and enlightenment, any unbeliever responds positively to the revelation of God in nature (and conscience), God will take the necessary steps to reach him or her with the good news of Christ whereby they may be saved.” – So they can ONLY “respond positively to the revelation of God in nature” IF he sovereignly enables and enlightens them. So how can you say that they are “without excuse” then?

      If God withholds saving grace/gift of faith from someone, how can he be “without excuse” since his default disposition is to reject God amidst his depravity? Conversely, even if he DOES acknowledge God in nature, what does it matter? Unless he is among the elect, his fate is sealed. And if God “reaches him” if he responds positively to the revelation in nature, then the election becomes conditional.

      Unless the answer is staring me in the face, I think I’m missing something.

    • Mitchell Hammonds

      It appears that Rom:1 is speaking of the general revelation of God that all men are capable of seeing. The Gospel, however, is something very specific not revealed in nature or by observing the world in which we live. The gospel must be communicated by “word of mouth” from speaker to the listener (Romans 10:14-17).
      John 6:22-71 is specifically about the “inability of man” to approach Christ. Acts 4 speaks of the depth of the sovereignty of God in the affairs of men stating that “… all that your (God’s) hand predestined to take place long ago.”

    • rayner markley


      And besides, believing that God will somehow reach with the Gospel of Jesus anyone who responds positively to the revelation in nature is unsupported wishful thinking. The apostles did a fine job of evangelizing all parts of the Roman Empire quickly (according to tradition), but thousands of tribes lived beyond. And by the time the Gospel reached China it (Nestorianism) was condemned as an error in the West.

    • jim

      JFDU, I was having the same problem with Michael’s post as well.
      “All people know God. There is a distinction, of course, between, on the one hand, a cognitive apprehension of God, i.e., knowing that there is a God and that he is worthy of obedience, worship, gratitude, and, on the other, a saving or redemptive knowledge of God.”
      When you require this redemptive knowledge to only be offered to a few and not all then the wheels come off the bus for me. That would be a pretty good excuse outside of the general revelation of nature that you offer in light of Bell’s article. I feel we do have general revelation of God in nature and that alone is what makes one without excuse, people choose to not follow up on this revelation

    • Dan

      I have trouble seeing how it’s not arbitrary. Or if it is not arbitrary, how it is not something worse. You could say that God chooses on the basis of what glorifies him the most (whatever that means), but that’s still completely disconnected from anything approaching what we might call justice, not to mention massively inequitable and callous. What I don’t get about Calvinist theology is that it doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there are ways that mercy can still be free and undeserved while not being arbitrary. It’s very simple: grant mercy to those who are repentant. The Bible suggests as much. By repenting, the sinner hasn’t done anything to deserve mercy, but it gives God a sensible way to decide who receives mercy and who does not. Universal clemency is not just, but unilateral pardon of some based solely on the preference of an all-powerful ruler is not just either. Granting a second chance to the penitent? That can be just. What’s not to understand?

    • cherylu

      Sam, (or maybe Michael?),

      I have been wondering too how you know that anyone that responds to God positively in nuture will be given the full saving revelation of Jesus? Is there some specific Scripture that you are basing that on?

    • Mitchell Hammonds

      The “wheels come off of the bus” for those following Jesus around in John 6:21-71. It is odd that Jesus chooses to offend the crowd following him… severely I will add… rather than “nurturing their curiosities” to bring them into saving faith. As someone who is reformed I must admit having some natural”uneasiness” about the doctrine of election… but I don’t see how Scripture can be more clear about the “particular and specific nature” with which God saves individuals. Romans 9, 10, 11… John 6:21-71… John 10:22-30…
      Eph 2… 1Peter 1:3 ” God has “caused” us to be born again. There are many more.

    • SPP

      Don’t know why this is bothering me – but here goes.

      Please notice the words at the top “by Sam Storms” indicating the original post was not written by Michael. Carry on.

      Also, thought the post was spot on, Michael.

    • RCofield

      “I have trouble seeing how it’s not arbitrary. Or if it is not arbitrary, how it is not something worse. You could say that God chooses on the basis of what glorifies him the most (whatever that means), but that’s still completely disconnected from anything approaching what we might call justice, not to mention massively inequitable and callous.”

      Justice demands that all without exception are condemned for sin.

      Roman 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

      There is no injustice in that God savingly reveals himself to those whom he has chosen. Rather, it is amazing grace.

      To demand justice at the hand of a perfectly holy God is to demand our own eternal damnation.

      Give me mercy…give me grace…and I will worship Him forever.

    • Steve Cornell

      It’s best not to try to say more than what the text is saying. Clearly there is sufficient revelation of God in creation and conscience to leave one without excuse but the text is not saying anything about what happens to those who respond in faith to God’s self-disclosure on this level. To say that, “God will take the necessary steps to reach him or her with the good news of Christ” is saying more than the text is saying. I am not sure if this is being offered as a logical inference from putting together other strands of biblical truth. This text doesn’t tell us about those who respond favorably. Are they the “Cornelius kind”? Is it possible to respond favorably and to die without hearing the gospel? If not, why not? If so, then what? Is condemnation rooted in universal sinfulness (Jew and Gentile), human rejection, Adamic connection, election?

      See: The Destiny of those unable to believe

    • Sean

      In Romans 1 Paul is speaking about man’s rejection of God. This includes the rejection of God the Son, Jesus (the) Christ, who is the creator of all things, both visible and invisible (Col 1:16), not just God the Father. This response to Bell potentially divides the purpose of the Trinity, which Ephesians 1 tells us is according to God’s will for the greatest purpose, which is God’s glory. The pouring out of God’s grace is not for the happiness of man or so that poor, ignorant man can get to heaven if they only have the chance to choose between Hell and Jesus. Men are punished in Hell for their sins, which are the result of their fallen state. Only those God chose before the foundation of the world to raise to spiritual life are the recipients of this saving grace. God is not unjust to pardon some, while withholding His grace from others, because it is according to His will and purpose (laid out before the foundation of the world) which is always holy and just.

    • Dr Michael

      Notice how all the objections to Sam’s post come in the form of human reasoning, and none deal with the text. Are the objector’s saying Paul is mistaken here? The text is pretty clear, God has revealed himself to everyone and they are without excuse. Taken with John 14:6, it’s not really that hard to get a proper theology on this issue.

      We should have a heart for the lost, but this should not be the foundation of our theology. A heart for the lost comes out of the theology revealed in the Bible. See Todd Miles new book, “A God of Many Understandings?”

    • Matt

      -Karl Barth

    • cherylu


      To the non Calvinist, myself and obviously others posting here, there is simply no way that our minds wrap themselves around a concept of “just” that punishes some for things they can not help, (“….their sins which are a result of their fallen state,”) while choosing to save others. To determine to withhold the necessary means of salvation from many while giving it to the few does not seem “just” to those folks in our minds at all. If they could choose to be born with a fallen state or not, it would be different. But to be born with an incurable disease that can only result in sin and then to be punished for it eternally while others are offered a remedy has no resemblance to any human form of “justice” that I know of. That is only one reason why many of us think there has to be another way of understanding certain Scriptures then the Calvinist way.

    • Steve Douglas

      By now you probably know what they’re going to say the problem is: you’re holding God to human standards of justice. Unfortunately, since we’re also using human language and approaching our interpretation of Scripture with human brains, I don’t see how we have much other choice. If the biblical authors were so sure that God is “just”, why did they not use an entirely different word to describe what they’re referring to, since the Calvinist understanding of God’s justice means something very much like “not justice”? If we can’t begin to understand God’s ways because of the human/divine divide, we’re all wasting our time trying to figure anything out, including what the Bible says. If my spirit and intellect have been taught of God to love the things He loves and hate the things He hates, to value what’s good and reject what’s wrong, I would be doing Him wrong to believe something about Him that, theological contrivances aside, I know good and well makes Him out…

    • Steve Douglas

      …to be a monster.

      (Darned character limit!)

    • Vijai

      Isn’t this similar to the “age of accountability”? I can see that people who have never heard of Jesus still have ‘general revelation’ as a necessary first step; and most people around the world being those who think there is a ‘first cause’ and an extant moral law, they now need to understand the saving work of Jesus. Babies who die before achieving reasoning ability or even cognitive ability to interpret the moral law from the created order may not be in the same boat as the adults who have never heard of Jesus.

      How do you square these things theologically? To be clear about what I think on the subject, I think we are simply meant to live with the tension that the Bible is explicit on those who have heard of Jesus, understand the dynamics of salvation and consciously reject Him as the Savior; but silent on those who have not heard of Him.

      A related idea is found in Romans 10:14 (‘how shall they hear..”) which places the responsibility for getting the message out on…

    • cherylu


      I’m not at all sure I follow your point.

      If we as humans don’t have any real understandng of what justice means, then we don’t have a clue what love means or what any other word means either when it is referring to God. So, yeah, you are right. There would be no sense in trying to understand what the Bible means if the words used there have no correspondence with our understanding of them.

      So what do we do? Admit that words when used in reference to God don’t have the same meaning at all as when used in normal human conversation and so God’s ways can’t be understood at all with our normal understanding by the language He has used to reveal Himself?

      Or do we assume the words used to reveal God to us in the bible do have correspondence to our normal understanding of them and try to make sense of what is said in light of them?

      Words such as “justice” and “love” have to be redefined greatly from the norm to make them fit with the Calvinist…

    • Cliff Martin

      Sean writes,
      “Men are punished in Hell for their sins, which are the result of their fallen state. ”

      The logic could not be more precise! Men are punished in Hell for something over which they had no control!! And have no hope of altering!! and this best serves the glory of God!

      Will one of your Calvinists please explain to me how this state of affairs is any less troublesome than that which Ron Bell describes which set off all this fury?

      How is eternal torment as a punishment for merely existing in a “fallen state” any less troublesome to you than eternal torment as a punishment for “failing to believe in a Jesus they never heard of?”

      Seems to me the potential for God’s glory is pretty much equal either way.

    • Steve Douglas

      cherylu, we are in complete agreement.

    • Steve Martin

      NOWHERE in the Bible does it SAY that “if you don’t believe in Jesus you will go to hell.”

      That is not in there.

      What is in there is this, “No one gets to the Father but by me”

      Christ Jesus will decide. Only He knows the hearts of men/women.

    • jim

      Mitchell, I fail to see the corelation you mentioned in
      John 6: 21 & on. My bus would grind to a halt with that concept.

    • cherylu

      Steve Martin,

      How do you understand this verse?

      John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

    • Steve Martin

      Even the devil believes in Him.

      What about those who said to Jesus (the Judge), “we did such and such in YOUR NAME” And He said depart from me I never knew you.

      God is free to save whom He will save. He will do it. He knows the hearts of men and is able to judge justly because He sees everything. We don’t.

      That is why it is important to leave that job up to Him.

    • cherylu


      What does being condemned mean in the verse I quoted? That is what I am wondering in connection with the statement you made about the Bible never saying those that don’t believe go to hell. If they are condemened, what happens to them?

    • Cliff Martin

      Steve Martin, I have no problem with leaving the matters of ultimate judgement in God’s hands. He is so much better at such things!

      However, in his wisdom, God has appointed us to be his representatives here on earth, his emissaries. As such, we must represent his character and his purposes and plans to a waiting, wondering world. Do we have nothing to offer the world in the way of reconciling a loving God to his plans for creation? Are we really just left shrugging our shoulders, admitting the apparent injustice of his ways, while assuring people that we couldn’t possibly understand anyway, so just get over it? Are we, as the appointed ambassadors of Heaven’s Kingdom, left with nothing better than that?

    • Steve Martin

      What does, “No one gets to the Father but by me, mean?”

      It means He will decide. Our job is to witness to Him.

      We (well some of us) are not biblicists. We don’t lift every text out and focus on that text. We lift the gospel out of the text.

      Yes, people will go to hell. But a lot of people will be shocked at who they see there (Heaven) and who is not there. There will be a whole lot of church people who thought they had it made, who will find out otherwise. Oh sure, they were big on Christian religion…but lacking in any trust.

    • Dave Z

      From comment 29:

      If we can’t begin to understand God’s ways because of the human/divine divide…

      I think that divide is not as large as some would say. When something seems unjust to us, we can’t just say “you’re holding God to human standards of justice.” After all, where do we get our human sense of Justice? I think Orthodoxy would say we get it from God – it’s a communicable attribute. I think it’s part of the imago Dei. Corrupted, yes, but still finding its source in God’s sense of justice. Though we have to recognize our limited understanding and fallen nature, what seems unjust to us, probably is.

    • Steve Martin

      We preach about hell (although that is NOT our focus).

      We preach the full council of God, His Law and His gospel.

      But Jesus told us not to judge. So we don’t judge anyone’s salvation.

      We can’t know who the believers are anyway. But He certainly does.

      Besides, I know so many people who “made their decision for Christ”, not out of love for God, but because they were afraid of going to hell. Out of fear. Is that what God is looking for from His children?

    • Steve Douglas

      Agreed, Dave Z. This was my point as well. And by no human standard of justice is it a permissible option, much less the only permissible option, to condemn someone for doing something that you required that s/he do. The issue, I’m afraid, is that certain texts in the Bible seem to imply this, and an inerrantist either has to come up with a system for resolving those problems or allow that perhaps the biblical authors themselves didn’t always get it right.

    • Steve Cornell

      It’s best not to try to say more than what the text is saying. Clearly we learn that there is sufficient revelation of God in creation and conscience to leave one without excuse but the text is not saying anything about what happens to those who respond in faith to God’s self-disclosure on this level. To say, “God will take the necessary steps to reach him or her with the good news of Christ” is saying more than the text is saying. I am not sure if this is being offered as logical inference from putting together other pieces of biblical truth. This text doesn’t tell us about those who respond favorably. Are they the “Cornelius kind”? Is it possible to respond favorably and to die without hearing the gospel? If not, why not? If so, then what? Is condemnation rooted in universal sinfulness, human rejection, Adamic identity, election? As you know, these are taken up as the book continues.

      Check this out: The Destiny of those unable to believe

    • rayner markley

      How about if God’s greatest purpose isn’t His own glory? That might be the way of a self-centered autocrat, a successful oriental potentate. Better, and He has shown this by His humility and sacrifice, God’s greatest purpose is to love His creation, as our greatest purpose is to love Him. Love doesn’t seek its own glory or benefit.

    • John from Down Under

      @ RAYNER M #18 and DR MICHAEL #26

      Rayner I think you missed my point. What I’m getting at is that Calvinists seem to want it both ways. Back to Sam’s statement: “Therefore, if by God’s gracious and sovereign enablement and enlightenment, any unbeliever responds positively to the revelation of God in nature (and conscience), God will take the necessary steps to reach him or her with the good news of Christ whereby they may be saved.”

      If the ONLY WAY they can “respond positively” is by divine “enablement and enlightenment” and no other way, how can they be without excuse? They have NO OTHER choice! Furthermore, whether they acknowledge God or not, unless they’re ‘elect’ they are doomed to the fires of hell, so what difference does it make in the end?

      And no Dr Michael, Paul is not mistaken but this logic is utterly confusing to some of us.
      I know the Calvinist gap filler between those two is Compatibilism, but incomprehensible nonetheless.

    • Barry passmore

      After hearing plenty of men’s ideas, what saith our Saviour and his apostles?

    • Dr Michael

      @ Steve Martin,

      I want to think you just accidentally misquoted it, but the verse actually reads, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me”. Notice the “through”, not by. Not only will he judge, but going through Him is the only way. There is not other.

      @ John Down Under

      Paul’s logic is God’s logic when written in Scripture. I know not trying to be contentious, but my point is that we have to take the Scripture at face value and build our theology from there. We cannot start our foundation by questioning God’s righteousness when it is so clearly revealed in Scripture. Read Romans 1-3, seeking for truth, until it makes sense.

    • Cliff Martin

      Dr Michael, the word is dia, and it means “by” or “through”. Though the NAS and NIV choose “through” the RSV and KJV (and others) choose “by”. In terms of the point you are trying to make, I see little difference.

      As for your second point, there are numerous Scriptures which you likely do not take at face value. You understand them in term of what the whole of Scripture, and your own experience of God, tell you about his character. Are you suggesting we should not read the Scriptures through the lens of his revealed character?

    • Dr Michael

      Yes, dia can mean “by the means of”, which is quite different than the way Steve Martin used it. Christ is the means by which we get to the Father. Although Christ will be the judge, the judgment is not what’s in view in John 14:6. The context is “how do we get to the Father?” Jesus says it’s by Him, through Him.

      Cliff, when a Scripture is difficult to understand, we turn to other Scriptures to help us determine its interpretation. What part of Romans 1:18ff is difficult and needs other Scriptures to help interpret it?

      Indeed we do not jump to the whole of Scripture, we first look at what the sentence means in context of that passage. Then we go to the letter as a whole. Then Paul’s other writings. Then the whole of the NT. Then the whole of the Bible.

    • Steve Martin

      No, that is NOT different than the way I and my Bible (RSV) used it.

      “but by me” means that He (Jesus) will be the One to decide.

    • John from Down Under

      @ Dr Michael

      It’s not Paul’s logic I’m questioning, it’s the Calvinistic logic. It makes perfect sense that people are held accountable for refusing to acknowledge and glorify God, but it doesn’t make sense that they be rendered ‘without excuse’ when they have no choice but turn their backs on God since saving grace has been withheld from them.

      I hope that’s a little clearer now.

    • James Alphaeus

      I think it makes us all a little uncomfortable when we realize just how sovereign and big God really is and how small and bound man is to his sinful nature.

      Perhaps these truths should spur us on to evangelism rather than debate?

    • Amish Bill

      Let us not make hold God accountable to what we think is “fair”. God is not subject to fallen man’s idea of fairness. There is nothing higher than God. He is the source of all truth, justice and mercy. Paul mentions this specifically in Romans 9:14-20:

      14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

    • Amish Bill

      @ John from Down Under

      I’ve tried to post a longer response several times with no luck. Please read Romans 9:14-20 (actually the whole chapter). Paul addresses your specific concern.

    • Dr Michael

      @Steve Martin

      What support do you have that the judgment is in view here? Context? No. Greek semantical use? No. Not even lexical use, because you are not using the Greek word dia correctly. Here are some lexicons giving its top 3 meanings:
      BDAG: via, through, throughout
      Louw-Nida: by (agent); by (instrument); through (means)

      @John Down Under,

      Yes, somewhat clearer. I think it would be more helpful (and more biblical) to think in terms of “never wanting to choose”. They do not want to choose God (Romans 3:10ff) because their hearts are slaves to sin. How does a slave choose not to be a slave in the ancient world? Also there is the federal headship of Adam, who represented us in the first sin. Why are we held accountable for Adam? Because he is our representative. Could you or anyone else have done better than Adam and Eve, if put in the same situation?

    • Steve Martin

      Common reason tells me that’s what it means.

      Don’t you think that Christ has that right? To be the
      One who decides?

      That is ALL that I am saying. Why any Christian would have a problem with that just blows my mind.

    • Barry

      Dr Michael @ 26…”We should have a heart for the lost, but this should not be the foundation of our theology”…

      Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost…

      perhaps the foundation for our theology should not be the needs of the world and the lost but rather should be rooted in sound theological frameworks upon which which we can stand and boldly claim we are correct and true… because above all else Jesus died so that we might analyse its meaning and articulate it well in textbooks…

      I love theology…but not when the love of thinking about God replaces the love of God to the point where we fall for the original sin of thinking that we too know good from evil…

      I prefer to leave the fate of all who lived in the hands of the one who died for the world and begged forgiveness for those who were murdering Him… He will decide who the impentient and wicked are and who are deserving of punishment…

    • Mike B.

      Given the extensive thought that Michael has devoted to understanding Christians who doubt or leave the faith, I wonder how he would respond to Sam’s assertion that there is no such thing as an honest atheist.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      @Mike B
      It is not Sam’s assertion it is Paul’s and therefore God’s.
      What part of “Suppress the truth” is unclear. The whole point is that they we are all epistemological weasels!

      The whole thing that raises God’s ire in this passage is not that men do not believe in Jesus, but what they do with the truth they have already received. They hold it down and suppress it, they distort it, and they trade it for a lie.

      How is that not the obvious prima-facia reading of the passage? How many times does Paul have to say “they are without excuse” in this passage for people to get that he actually means it. And why are you surprised when you encounter people who say they do not believe in God when the whole point of this passage is that men are not honest about what they already know. You should expect exactly this to happen.

      Look guys, either we submit our minds to the text and what God has said or we place ourselves and what seems right to us over the text.

    • John Lollard

      Question: why is it that God doesn’t forgive everyone that makes him unjust? Isn’t it rather the fact that God has forgiven anyone at all that makes him unjust? Isn’t it also a “moral monster” who opens up the jails and lets all the murderers, drug dealers, theives, and rapists out on the streets? If we’re going to complain about injustice, shouldn’t we complain about our own salvation?

      Just something that came to me.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      Exactly! It seems that all those opposed to this blog post are of the opinion that God is obliged to offer a means of salvation or else his judgement is not just.

      But if that is true then our salvation would no longer be of grace since grace by definition cannot be owed or obligated. It God “aught” to do something or “must” do something then is ceases ot be grace whatever else it is.

      The scriptural proof for this point is seen in these two verse from Romans

      So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. (Rom 11:5-6 ESV)

      Grace and works are completely incompatible concepts the presence of the one nullifies the other. And at the heart of works is the notion of debt or obligation.

      Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted (lit. ‘kata’: “according to”) as a gift (lit. “grace”) but as his due (lit. “debt”). (Rom 4:4 ESV)
      Thus if…

    • Jeremy Kidder

      Thus if God is indebted in any way to supply a means of salvation it cannot be by grace as it is not a free choice on his part. However, if our salvation is of grace (and it is!) then it can only be because we all truly deserve God’s wrath and judgment apart from any offer of salvation. And how is this not the consistent picture of unsaved man presented in Scripture? What gospel witness did the Amalekites get? Or the sons of Anek for that matter? God is not indebted to save (or offer to save) anyone!

    • cherylu

      Grace would not cease to be grace because God chose to offer it to everyone instead of only to a few.

      And I will never understand what is just about punishing men for something that they do because they are born that way and have no choice in the matter. Now IF they have a choice and refuse it, that is different. But IF they have no choice in the matter but to sin because they were born sinners, (a fact that they had no choice in obviously), then why is it just to punish them for only being what they were born as? If they can not do otherwise, and are given no opportunity to do otherwise, how is it just to punish them for it?

      I simply do not see any logic or justice in that whatsoever.

    • Jeremy Kidder


      I agree that God “could have” made sure that every living person was presented with the gospel and it still be by grace. But many here (and it would seem you yourself) are arguing that this is what God MUST do or else he cannot justly judge man. And I have argued that if God MUST do it then it cannot be an act of grace. Do you follow.

      Cheryl, it sounds like you are stuggling with the issue of original sin (cf Rom 5:12ff: Ps 51:3-4) and coming down on the side of Pelagius (ie that man is born innocent and without sin).

      If man is not born guilty and desrving judgment from conception (as David afirms) then how is it that infants can die? How has death spread to non-sinners?

    • cherylu

      I am NOT struggling with the idea of original sin. And I am NOT coming down on the side of Pelagius. And very frankly, Calvinists constantly accusing others of being Pelagians or coming down on his side just because they are not Calvinists and don’t agree with the Calvinist understanding of things is getting really old. In effect having a “heretic” card thrown at us for not agreeing with you.

      I never said there was no original sin. My whole point is exactly that there is original sin–people can’t help being born that way and therefore people will sin–they can’t help it. Is it just to punish people for something they can not help but do? For being born the way they were and not having any choice? Is it just to give some a choice and say to the rest, “Tough luck. You were born that way and so can’t help but act that way. Now pay the eternal penalty for it?” Is that just??

    • Jeremy Kidder

      You seem to want to have it both ways. Either man is a sinner and thus guilty in the eyes of divine justince and deserving of wrath of he is not. How can man be born a sinner and not be guilty at the same time. This is a very strange deffenition of sin you seem to have.

      I was not trying to slander you or call you a herretic, but honestly this is EXACTLY the issue Pelaguis wrestled with. I am just trying to point you to the historical context of this debate and identify some of the correlative of your position.

      Original Sin as Taught By Paul in Romans 5:12ff follows htis logical argument:
      1. Only sinners die thus If you can die then you are proved to be a sinner
      2. If you are a sinner then you must first have been a law breaker
      3. The only law those who died before Moses could have broken is the Edenic law.
      4. Thus in Adam we all sinned and are thus truly guilty.

      Only guily sinners (or those who take the sin of others upon themselves) can die. If a perosn can die they are a sinner and deserve wrath.

    • […] Will people suffer in hell for not believing in the Jesus they never heard of? — Sam Storms gives a great answer to this question. (HT: Trevin Wax) […]

    • […] Sam Storms, “Bell’s Hell and the Destiny of Those Who’ve Never Heard of Jesus“ […]

    • Cliff Martin

      If I found a way to create little life-forms, and I predestined them to hate me, rebel against me, and then in my rage tortured them for that rebellion; and if I went on endlessly creating such creatures, condemning them with everlasting torture for their misdeeds, you would all call me a horrendous monster.

      But, John, Jeremy and others continue to beat the drum that God is fully justified in condemning his creatures to everlasting torture because it is, after all, what we all deserve. Strange logic.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      Cliff I have not breathed a word about predestination.

      The drum I beat is the plain and clear teaching of Romans 1:88ff and Romans 5:12ff. Until anyone here offers some alternate exegesis this entire discussion seams to boil down to a dispute between those who believe the Bible and those who don’t like what it says. If that is the case then leave me alone and take up your problem with God directly.

      Let me be clear on this point. I have no other goal than to rightly understand what the Bible teaches and then to submit my whole person to it. If you are not reasoning with me FROM the text (and not TO it) then we have very little to talk about.

    • Cliff Martin


      If your conclusion is the only valid way to read those text, and your reading of them leads you to the inescapable conclusion that God is a monster, what exactly holds you to the Christian Faith?

      My point had to do with earlier comments in which you were justifying God’s judgment based on the evil in the hearts of men. I have no argument with you on that count. But it demonstrates that even you feel the need to offer justification for God. That’s good! But the larger issue is not that God punishes rebellious creatures. It is that he goes on creating rebellious creatures, locked hopelessly in their rebellion, and then punishes them for it. If you want to come to God’s defense, please tell me how that is by any stretch of imagination justifiable.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      My conclusion is based on the evidence cited from the texts that I refferenced. I am persuaded by my view otherwise I would not hold it. But I am open to other arguments and evidences from the text put forward to explain the text.

      If you or your friends would care to put forward an alternate exegesis (meaning you reason from the text and not from whatever happens to seem right or good in the sight of your own eyes) then I will be happy to interacts and think through it. So far this has not happened.

      In Sam’s opening post he offered an exposition of the first chapter of Romans. No one has in any way responded to his exposition from the text he is citing. Until this happens nothing said in opposition has any credibility or relivance to this discussion becausae you are not interacting wiht his argument but simply saying you don’t like his conclusion. We must start with the text (I really don’t know how many times I must say this) and go where it leads us, even if where it leads us is not where we would initially like to go.

    • Dr Michael

      @Steve Martin, you said

      “Why any Christian would have a problem with that just blows my mind.”

      This is a straw man argument. The issue is not who will judge, but what basis they will be judged on. And to that, Scripture is very clear.

      @ Barry, you said…

      “I prefer to leave the fate of all who lived in the hands of the one who died for the world and begged forgiveness for those who were murdering Him… He will decide who the impentient and wicked are and who are deserving of punishment…”

      This issue is not over who gets to judge and why. The issue is over what happens to those who’ve never heard of Christ. And to that, the Bible has made clear in Romans 1:18-32; 2:14-16; John 14:6; Acts 17:22-31 and more.

      So yes, the judging is done by Christ. But he has not left anyone with an excuse, having revealed a natural (unsaving) knowledge of Himself to all men everywhere.

    • Clint Wagnon

      What is obvious from Scripture is that God will move heaven and earth to bring the gospel to those who are being saved through him, even those who’ve yet to hear the name of Jesus, as evidenced by the conversions of Cornelius and the Ethiopian dignitary. That’s why we go. God has children he is saving in the uttermost parts of the world, and we are his instruments to accomplish his great mission.

    • Steve Douglas

      If you or your friends would care to put forward an alternate exegesis (meaning you reason from the text and not from whatever happens seems right or good to you) then I will be happy to interacts and think through it. So far this has not happened.

      This sounds a lot like you want us to play by your rules or you’ll take the ball home with you! 🙂 To show what I mean, let me turn it around:

      Why would you willingly allow the text to trump everything you know about what’s good and right? Why would you rather go with what seems to you the right way to treat the text – no matter what slander it puts against God’s character – rather than allow your conscience, hopefully informed by the Holy Spirit, to allow you to defend God’s character to whatever extent necessary, even against the “plain” reading of the text you hold so supreme?

    • Mat

      i dont no why people h8in on Ron bell so much. I read Love Whins, and it totaly minstered to me.

    • jim

      Cliff, I so completely agree with you and JFDU. AS Michael has pointed out on different ocassions you don’t see many people going around with their eyes plucked out. Why is it that Non-calvinist always seem to go to that, Paul said it so you should believe it status. I believe in what Paul said , I just don’t think they(calvinist) are always correct with how they interpret. As you have mentioned how can one be without excuse if they aren’t enlightened or enabled. That’s not a mystery but a non-starter for me.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      @Steve, I’m saying if we can’t agree on the rules there is no point in playing if I think it’s football and you’re playing baseball. It would be a fruitless conversation

      Steve: Why would you willingly allow the text to trump everything you know about what’s good and right?

      Jeremy: Becaue I am a finite sinner and my views on these things have changed over time. Also if the Bible is God’s Word then it has His authority. To quote from a little further in Romans 3:4″Let God be found true though every man a liar.”

      Steve:Why would you rather go with what seems to you the right way to treat the text… … than allow your conscience, hopefully informed by the Holy Spirit, to allow you to defend God’s character to whatever extent necessary, even against the “plain” reading of the text you hold so supreme?

      Jeremy: Because I would not pit the Holy SPirit against the Word He authored. Because I do not elivate my own sense of right higher than what God has said…

    • Jeremy Kidder

      Is it just me or do those who dissagree with Sam pretty much agree that he is teaching the prima-facia meaning of the text?

      How can you ask us to change our view of Romans 1 when you offer no coherent and viable exposition of the text?

      I mean seriously, do you just ignore passages like this, or tear them our of your Bible completelly?

    • jim

      Jeremy: You said “Either man is a sinner and thus guilty in the eyes of divine justince and deserving of wrath or he is not. How can man be born a sinner and not be guilty at the same time.” You miss the point” We are all guilty, calvinist and everyone . God is not just when from this point on he picks(chooses) only certain ones only by his enablement or whatever and then there is no offer of salvation(or opportunity ) to the rest and yet you cry they are without excuse. That in my opinion, is not the God I know, love or worship.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      Jim: “We are all guilty, calvinist and everyone . God is not just when from this point on he picks(chooses) only certain ones only by his enablement or whatever and then there is no offer of salvation(or opportunity ) to the rest and yet you cry they are without excuse.”

      Jeremy: what you are saying is incoherant. How can we be both guilty in the law’s sight and yet have an excuse against our guilt? Or are you still holding to the belief that the final judgment will be in regards to what you did with Jesus? If that is the case you completelly miss the point of Sam’s post.

      Man is judged for his sins. He has no excuse to avoid the judgment, especially he does not have the excuse of saying he did not know God existed, or that He would judge people (since they judge others) and he will hold them to the standard not of His Word but of the evidence of the law on their consciences. Against this he has no excuse.

      How does the fact that not all hear the gospel change this?

    • […] has been considerable response to my earlier post entitled, “Bell’s Hell and the Destiny of those who’ve never heard of Jesus.” One issue that came up repeatedly was my denial that there is any such thing as an “honest […]

    • John Lollard


      You must have totally misunderstood me. I am not a Calvinist and I am an inclusivist. I don’t think it makes sense to say it’s just to judge men who by their nature can do nothing but sin, anymore than it is just to punish cats for not solving algebra problems. I believe in a God who is good – not ‘cuz he sez so but because he actually is.

      I was just pointing out, pardoning the sins of anyone at all is a grave act of injustice – if we’re going to be offended about injustice, then we should start there. How dare God let us off the hook!? How dare he attribute our sin to the spotless Lamb!? This is injustice, and hundred of years ago people would have found THIS the morally repulsive part of the Gospel, not the punishment part. I think it’s important to keep that in mind – our sense of ‘justice’ changes with the culture.

    • Carrie

      Sam this is a great post.

      I actually recently engaged over why people are in hell and what they are punished for. I boldly stated “for rejecting Christ” … however after further reflection and disussion with a friend, I realized my folly. Romans 1 speaks to an utter rejection of God. This post reminds me again of that truth, and to be more careful with my words when engaged in debate.

    • Mick

      There appears to be a pre conceived “opinion” that we all deserve to go to heaven. That we can have real excuses . I too with my own understanding of right and wrong can not see the God I know and relate with ever condemnuing anyone to hell . But I can not see God dragging someone to heaven either if they did not want to . In our sould I believe we know who God is and inside we know if want to humble ourselves to Him or not . But I would never take the position of this writer in suggesting evangelizing and spreading the good news is just for clarification or education , no its done for eternity sake.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      I am a Calvinist, but nothing I have argued demands a Calvinistic point of view. Wesley was an Arminian and he firmly believed that all men are lost without personal faith in the gospel and that this is the reason why we must make every effort to get the gospel to all men.

      All that has been argued here is that natural revelation and original sin leave man guilty and without excuse.

      To my understanding this is somehting that classicaly Arminians and Calvinists have agreed upon, only Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians would take issue with this.

    • John from Down Under

      @ Jeremy

      You seem to be missing the main point of the counter argument, and without meaning any disrespect, you are responding with the sterile predictability of every other passionate Calvinist who has interacted in this blog.

      It’s déjà vu for us, same-ol, same ol, round and round in circles we go. The reason (I believe) is why you and so many others can’t understand the counter argument, is because your theology is shaping your understanding of the scriptures (I’m yet to hear an honest admission to that). You are approaching the text loaded with presuppositions, hence EVERYTHING you read is distilled into a permanently fitted Calvinist filter. You’re locked into this theology. Bottom line, you are telling us what we’ve heard thousands of times.

      And please stop saying “the text CLEARLY teaches”. If so many can’t see what you see, it can’t POSSIBLY be that clear can it? The fact that you have to go to such great lengths explaining it, means that it’s not THAT clear.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      Until someone puts forward a viable alternate exposition of the passage I will feel quite comfortable with my contention that the text does indeed clearly teach this. In this entire discussion is is the only treatment of the text that has been offered, is has no competition.

      After all, your whole argument seems to be simply “What you are saying this text says in my opinion makes God out to be a monster.” I mean am I missing something or is there any further argument that I have missed?

      This means that we all do pretty much agree on what the prima-facia meaning is. It IS CLEAR, you just really, really, really, don’t like it. Your sense of justice has real problem with it. Correct? So then it simply comes down to the issue of what has more authority the text or your sense of right and wrong?

      Read Romans 9 to see which side Paul comes down on that dispute.

      I have said it before and I will say it again. The text of Romans is undisputable in its meaning.

    • Hugh

      @ John from down under

      I’m waiting to hear a counter argument that actually interacts with Romans 1. Do you have one? If so, I’d love to hear it. If you don’t agree with what others say “the text clearly teaches”, then tell us where they are wrong. Tell us how Romans 1 fits in with a different understanding of scripture, one that isn’t loaded with Calvinist presuppositions. (By the way, see Jeremy’s previous post concerning non-Calvinists who would agree with his interpretation).

      Looking forward to your reply.

    • John from Down Under

      @ Jeremy

      Since this discussion is turning from linear to circular, here are my parting comments before I get off the bus.

      No one is saying that wicked, unrepenting, rebellious sinners are not guilty or don’t deserve the judgment of God. That’s just plain unequivocal justice.

      What WE ARE SAYING (and please try and understand this, it’s not science), you can’t claim on one hand that people are ‘without excuse’ whilst you simultaneously believe that people can’t respond positively to the revelation of God in nature unless they are
      divinely enabled & enlightened (Sam’s words). You can’t have it both ways.

      To a non-Calvinist it makes perfect sense to call people ‘without excuse’ because they COULD HAVE responded (given God’s general revelation in nature) but CHOSE NOT TO. You guys believe that even if they want to, THEY CAN’T, unless divinely enabled. So the question then becomes ‘how can they be without excuse since they are unable and HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE?’…

    • John from Down Under

      …Furthermore, even if they DID acknowledge God in nature, it makes no difference in the end because they are doomed to the fires of hell unless they are ‘elect’.

      I hope it’s clearer now. Not looking for acquiescence, just understanding what we object to.

    • Cliff Martin

      Thank you, John. Well said.
      Jeremy, a 1000-word limited comment format is hardly the place to develop a “God-friendly” hermeneutic of Romans 1! You keep falling back to “the meaning of the Scripture is clear, all other lines of rational thought be damned”. I don’t get it. Do you really have no response to the rational thoughts presented here by fellow seekers of God? Or do you just choose not to respond?

    • John from Down Under

      @ HUGH

      Sorry didn’t see your post before. Read my last response to Jeremy. My objection is not with how Romans has been interpreted (that people are justifiably condemned for refusing to acknowledge God through general revelation in nature).

      What is contradictory to ‘the other side’ is how this fits within the Calvinistic framework. Once again, why are they ‘without excuse’ if in YOUR belief (not ours) they have no other choice unless they are granted saving grace? ‘No excuse’ becomes a non sequitur.

      Just to clarify; the meaning of Romans 1 is as clear as daylight, what IS NOT CLEAR is how YOU believe they are rendered ‘without excuse’ since they have no choice BUT reject God since regeneration has been withheld from them.

      I understand the Calvinist answer to this ‘tension’ (contradiction to me) is compatibilism. I get it but it doesn’t resolve the ‘mystery’. It seems like a theology of convenience to explain the unexplainable.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      Would you really have me abandon what I truly beleive the text says while no arguments from the text have been brought forward? Do you really think that would honor God?

      Thanks for your afirmation about Romans 1. Many here do not agree with you and me on this point. Yet you have put words in my mouth (or more realistically put straw men it). I am a staunch Calvinist yet I would whole heartedly afirm the following:

      1. All men are free to do whatever they want and can choose whatever they desire.

      2. No one who wants to come to Jesus will be unable to, or turned away.

      3. All men are truly and honestly bid and invited to come and will be permitted to come if they so desire.

      4. Any man who does not suppress the truth about God or stops suppressing the truth about God and instead desires and thirsts for the righteousness of God will have it (through gospel means of course).

      Now, given these assertions, please explain what your beef is.

    • […] Bell’s Hell and the Destiny of Those Who’ve Never Heard of Jesus (tags: article reclaimingthemind samstorms hell soteriology theology paul romans) […]

    • jim


      #3 But the article sam wrote has all men not being invited, only those enabled or enlightened.

      We all understand the rest of your theology and I agree with alot of it, but again you can’t have it both ways …..if God is only offering Salvation through a special enabling which is offered to EVERYONE then man would be without excuse, but your suggesting that this enabling is NOT offered to all and that it is only through this enabling that salvation can come, then how do you reconcile this as being an truly and honestly bid and invitation to come and will be permitted to come?

      quit the I have the real understanding of the text attitude. It is like me accusing you that you don’t belive in John 3:16 ….that Jesus came to die so ALL can have salvation trhough him.

    • What the Hell? «

      […] 2. Sam Storms: Bell’s Hell and the Destiny of Those Who’ve Never Heard of Jesus […]

    • […] Sam Storms, “Bell’s Hell and the Destiny of Those Who’ve Never Heard of Jesus“ […]

    • Jeremy Kidder

      @Jim, Let me give you an analogy to explain how all are truly invited and responsable for not coming:
      Suppose you went and entered a house that was filled with junkies and addicks to crack cocain. Every man there due to his own choice is now heavely addicted to crack. You announce to them that outside the house is a bus ready to take them all to the nearest hospital where they will be administered a state-of-the-art treatment which will break and remove their addiction. on top of that you tell them that if they come with you they will each revieve a fortune. As you walk about the
      house you turn the ligths on as you go calling out to them. None want to leave. They intuativly know the shamefulness of their condition and berate you for being there and try to turn the lights back off. Some even throw things at you. So after genuinly inviting them all you decide to take some of these men and simply put them on your bus anyway. How then was your general invitation incincere?

    • cherylu


      I am assuming that in your analogy the treatment that will remove the addiction and give these men a fortune is the Gospel as given in Jesus–not just the general revelation of God in nature? Sam Storms made it very clear that the general revelation will save no one–that a person has to have the Gospel to save them.

      And please remember when you make your analogy here, that Calvinists–at least the ones we have talked to here–pretty much insist that a person has to be regenerated by God before he can respond to the Gospel.

      So again our question is–how can a person that is born with a condition that makes him sin so that he can not escape sin on his own–a condition that even makes it impossible to respond to the Gospel on his own, justly be held responsible for not responding?

      (Key points: this person can’t stop sinning on his own and he can’t respond on his own. But yet he is justly(?) punished for this?)

    • John I.

      Jeremy’s story / analogy might be more akin to the proposed Calvinist view if the residents of the crack house were born as crack babies and raised by crackheads and pushers who gave them crack throughout their lives. So then we’d have a situation where the crackheads not only don’t want to leave now, but never would have wanted to leave at any point in their lives.


    • Steve Douglas

      But importantly, John I., it would also include the fact that the rescuer was the pusher responsible for hooking the current victims’ parents and grandparents.

    • John from Down Under

      @ Jeremy- I’m late because of our 18 hour time difference.

      If this was a pre-election political debate, I’d say you were trying to set me up. What you affirm is great but it’s what you don’t say that’s the problem.

      In response to your points, unless I misunderstand the TULIPian belief….

      1. No, they can only choose to sin and rebel because they are totally depraved.

      2. No one wants to come to Jesus unless they are regenerated, given the gift of faith/saving grace/elect.

      3. Yes, ALL men are bid, but ONLY the elect are permitted to come. “if they so desire” No one desires unless desire is divinely enabled.

      4. No one “desires and thirsts for the righteousness of God” unless they are regenerated, granted saving faith etc…

      “So after genuinely inviting them all you decide to take some of these men and simply put them on your bus anyway”. That makes their election conditional which is inconsistent with the 2nd point of TULIP no?

    • Cliff Martin

      Very simply, Jeremy and his friends have a God who knowingly keeps on creating new human beings, objects of his profound love (we would all agree!), born into total depravity, utterly without hope of changing their spiritual condition; this God goes on for centuries, for millennia, creating more and more and more of these hapless creatures. Billions of them! He does this knowing that, in his justice, he will have no choice but to condemn these objects of his love to an endless, horrifying existence in hell, for ever and ever, because they did not do what Jeremy and his friends claim they CANNOT do.

      Jeremy and his friends insist this is the only way to read the Bible. I hope with every ounce of my being this tortured logic is WRONG! Because if it is right, I can no longer in good conscience worship, or submit to such a monstrous God.

      There MUST be a better way to understand God’s character and dealings with his creation! There simply must be.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      See I told you your real struggle was with Pelagianism.

      You clearly reject the notion that man is truly repsonsable and culpable and guilty for Adam’s sin. All you sarcastic comments make this clear. So let’s just be honest about the fact that your real problem (as I have already contended) is with the doctrine of Origional Sin as taught by Paul and recieved by the historic church.

      Look, if all men truly sinned in Adam (Rom 5:12ff) then they are truly and really responsable for their “addiction” to sin. It is their/our fault that we are the way we are. We are to blame just as much as Adam. Nothing outside of ourselves makes us sin. And we are truly free to do as we please. The problem is our pleasure lies purely in sin and rebellion because we have all willfully made ourselves slaves to sin. No one made us do this. Our wills, our desires, our choice made it happen. We were not constrained or forced against our will to become what we are.

    • Cliff Martin

      So, since it is as you say, Jeremy, why does God keep creating such hopelessly lost people? Does he get some kind of perverse pleasure, or glory, from making billions more little Adams, just so he can save a few lucky ones, and condemn the vast majority to hell? What is the point? Is there a point? Or are we just obliged to sit back and rest in the knowledge that we are the elect, and God is wonderful, and it just had to be this way?

    • Jeremy Kidder

      As I have said from the beginning all I am hear to do is to try and understand and discuss what the Scripture teaches.

      I don’t say this in any way to be rude, but how you feal about what the Bible teaches is irrelivant to its truthfulness. It matters nothing that you find His ways to differ form yours. If you truly are a valid epistimological source then you don’t really need the Bible to tell you truth. You would then be a source of truth. But if we are corrupt and fallen and finite then let God be found true though every man strongly dissagree (my paraphrase of Rom. 3:5).

      My point in all this is that you simply cannot reason TO the text form your own emotions, desires and fealings. Rather you need to start at the text (which is what Sam has done and I am tryin got do) and from the text inform my mind and fealings. If we are mishandling the text show us.

      So far not one single challenge has arisen to the actual exegesis presented here. Start there first!!!

    • Steve Douglas

      Cliff, you know I had to go there:

      “[I] would only say in passing, that the notion that a creature born imperfect, nay, born with impulses to evil not of his own generating, and which he could not help having, a creature to whom the true face of God was never presented, and by whom it never could have been seen, should be thus condemned, is as loathsome a lie against God as could find place in heart too undeveloped to understand what justice is, and too low to look up into the face of Jesus. It never in truth found place in any heart, though in many a pettifogging brain. There is but one thing lower than deliberately to believe such a lie, and that is to worship the God of whom it is believed.” (George MacDonald)

    • jim

      Jeremy: You said “Every man there due to his own choice is now heavely addicted to crack ” Are you meaning that crack=sin, in which case we are not there due to our own choice but instead inhereted sin. I really don’t understand your analogy or the point so I will give you my analogy of what I see you saying.
      You and I are at the bottom of a set of stairs, behind us is a great fall(Hell) ahead of us (up) is the promised land. We are in complete darkness due to our sin and rebellion against God. Jesus comes to us with a light enablling not US but only you to see your way to the top and eternity with him. At judgment God tells me that I am doomed because I am without excuse even though the light didn’t shine upon me. Now if that light shines for both of us(enabling) me to see my way forward and I choose not to follow then I would be without excuse. Christ died for all, not all choose Christ

    • Steve Douglas

      Jeremy, do you mean to tell me that there is absolutely nothing that one passage or other of Scripture could teach you about God’s character, be it ever so atrocious, that wouldn’t prompt you to reevaluate your implicit trust in it? I don’t think it’s a matter of “trust what God said” or “trust our own emotions, desires, and feelings”: we all use our world and experience to interpret, judge, and elevate/subordinate Scriptural teaching. I’m just not seeing you being honest about that.

      You have made a decision to adopt whatever that text says (or you think it says) no matter the implications, and I think that’s a rash and by no means entirely rational decision. We must not believe the worst things about our God and call them beautiful, and if we think we’ve found testimony in favor of the former in Scripture, we are obligated as moral agents taught by the Holy Spirit to reject such interpretations and wait for more light, not embrace those dreadful readings and blame them on God!

    • cherylu


      The problem is that the challenge we are giving you here is not just based on this verse, it is based on the context of other parts of the Bible and the character of God that we see revealed in the Bible. Are we to throw over what we understand as God’s self revelation elsewhere, to the understanding of one verse? Do we not need to have a theology that makes sense as a whole, not just take a verse here or there and say, “This is clearly what it says,” when it seems that “clearly” contradicts what it says in other places? Or when it makes seeming nonsense out of the meaning of the words that are used in the Bible to describe what God is like?

    • John from Down Under

      Jeremy –

      You’re obviously an intelligent guy. How can you not understand that our problem (certainly mine) is NOT with God judging unrepentant sinners per se. We believe that sinners CAN repent once confronted with the gospel but if they CHOOSE to continue in their rebellion then their judgment is fully deserved.

      You believe that sinners CANNOT repent (unless God elects them), and they are locked into a perpetual sinning rampage. Yet, despite that they can’t help themselves nor have a choice in the matter, they are condemned nonetheless for something they have no ability to change, while the elect on the other hand get a free pass.

      Can you not see, that the problem is not with Romans 1, but with how you guys hold people accountable who cannot repent no matter what? It’s not rocket science my brother.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      @Steve: “born with impulses to evil not of his own generating, and which he could not help having”

      I fundamentally dissagree with this representation of my view. How many times do I have to repeat myself on this. You are arguing pure Pelagianism. The key to the doctrine of Original Sin is that it holds that we really, really,really are guilty, we really sinned in Adam, really!

      Now reject that if you will as Pelagius did, but please do not misrepresent me on that point. Don’t make a strawman of my view. I have avoided doing it to the Arminians haven’t I?

    • Jeremy Kidder

      @Cheryl: But unless the Bible is errant then there must be some error in Sam and my exegesis of this text. Where is it?

      Why does innabillity to change negate guilt or punnishment? If you gave a worker a car in order to come to and form work for you and he sold it for the money. Would that excuse him from his obligation to show up for work? Would you really accept him saying to you:

      “Leave me alone, you have no right to be mad with me for not showing up to work since I can’t possibly make it to work without your car. I am helpless here so you can’t blame me for what I now have no power over!”

      What if this happened to ten men working for you? What if in your good pleasure you purchased replacement cars for three of them. Would that make the other seven less culpable? I am pretty sure Jesus told a parable to express this exact point. If the owner chooses to be more gracious to some how is that an injustice to the others?

    • Jeremy Kidder

      @Jim (and the rest of you guys)

      I am not trying to be a jerk here when I keep on insisting that we are really dissagreeing on the issue of original sin. I appreciate you showing me how you are looking at things. Here would be my approach:

      1. In Adam’s free act of sin all of us sinned (Rom 5:12ff)
      2. Thus all men everywhere become sinners and this by their own volition and fault.
      3. Since all who serve sin are slaves to it all men are born hating the light and loving the darkness because their deeds are evil. (John 3:19)
      4. Man’s own free will and ability to choose in accord with his desires makes him unable to trust Christ because he could never want to. This and this alone is what prevents him from coming to Christ.
      5. Thus man’s innabillity to chooce Christ is rooted in his slavery to sin which in turn is rooted in his sinning in Adam which as I have already maintained is his own fault.
      6. Thus they have no legitimate excuse for not comming to Christ.

    • Jeremy Kidder


      So for clarity’s sake please indentify which points of my above thought process you dissagree with. Let us first agree on our dissagreement before going further.

      Do you see how from my perspective given my beleifs your charge that man cannot be justly held responsable does nto hold up?

      Please, before you disagree with my view, understand it first. There has been a lot of misrepresentation of my and Sam’s view going on, but I feal it safe to say that there has been none taking place in the other direction.

      Is that fair of me to say?

    • Cliff Martin

      Jeremy, your Statement of the Reformed doctrine Original Sin is incomplete. Believing, as you do, in the sovereignty of God in creation, you must believe that God made Adam (and every human being) predisposed to rebel against him. Yes? A Calvinist friend of mine, in a rare moment of transparent candidness, admitted that God could have tweaked his creation of Satan just a little, and ensured thereby that Satan would have never fallen. He told me (do you agree?) that God created Satan to fall! And so, it would follow, that God has created billions of human beings to sin and be condemned. This logic is so preposterous it would be funny, if it did not horrendously vilify the God we all love. How can you believe such a thing of Him? That he intentionally created beings in a precise manner that would result in their utter condemnation and eternal suffering. Surely you must at least grant us the option of doubting such a thing could be true.

    • cherylu


      Point # 2 is the sticking place for me. Someone not yet born does not freely chose to sin of their own volition and fault because someone else does. That seems to me to be an incorrect understanding of Romans 5:12. I have no argument that we all inherited a sin nature from Adam. However, I honestly don’t see how I could be said to have chosen by my own self to be a sinner because Adam chose that. That makes no sense to me at all. It doesn’t make any more sense to me then saying that the grandaughter of a murderer chose to be a murderer too by her own free will when her grandfather became a murderer. Maybe I am missing something here, but that doesn’t make sense to me.

      I can see that once Adam became a sinner all of his descendants would become sinners too. But I simply can not see how him becoming a sinner caused me at that time to have decided to be one too by my own choice because of what he did. I simply don’t see my choice and will at work in what he did.

    • […] Sam Storms, “Bell’s Hell and the Destiny of Those Who’ve Never Heard of Jesus“ […]

    • Jeremy Kidder

      @Cliff, so then you agree the issue is in fact over the doctrine of Original Sin vs. Palagianism.
      so far so good.
      Before I answer your question about God predisposing Satan to fall, I would very much like to see how you solve the problem yourself. Could you answer the following questions for me:
      1. Did God know before he created the Satan, Adam and Eve and all the rest of mankind would fall.
      2. Did he know just how many more people billion would not belive than those who would?
      3. If he went ahead and created anyway, how does not not at least tacitly approve of their rebellion.
      4. Why would He choose to go ahead and create anyway knowing how it owuld turn out?

      You see, unless you go all the way to open theism the arminian fails to escape this supposed dilema either.

      My answer is the one Paul gives in Romans 9:22-23. At least it is honest and Biblical. You only sidestep the problem but fail to ultimatelly escape it.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      @Cheryl, then why have you denied that this is really a discussion over Pelagianism as you clearly reject Original Sin?

      Again you cannot have it both ways. Death is a judgment that God levies against sinners. How is it then in your scema that babies can suffer this punishemnt if they cannot be blamed for their state? Is it not then unjust for God to allow them to die and suffer part of the punishment for sin?

    • cherylu


      As I seem to be finding out, there are different understandings of original sin out there and how it actually played out. The way you understand it is one I had honestly never heard of until you brought it up. This is an area that I plan on doing some more reading in when I get time.

    • Steve Douglas

      Jeremy, why do you find it so easy just to throw out the word “Pelagianism”? Laying aside the fact that my belief that we all are born with a predisposition toward sinning is not Pelagianism, I really don’t care if you call my belief “Noodlism”! And gesturing towards Romans 5:12 as a proof-text doesn’t cut it, as any number of interpreters would and have pointed out.

      Point me to the verse that states unequivocally that all sinned, consciously and willingly and at the same time that “Adam” did. My quote above could be tailored to fit your theology nonetheless:

      “…born with [a nature of sin unconsciously and unavoidably acquired at the same time as an ancestor eons ago], and which he could not help having”

      And please don’t tell me you believe I was conscious of or could have avoided sinning in Adam by some bizarre miracle — still less that God could be excused for ordaining that such a miracle occur in people He ostensibly loves!

    • cherylu

      I believe Jeremy asked a while back if he had misrepresented us? Yes Jeremy, you have. We are not Pelagians or agreeing with Pelagius here. We all seem to believe in original sin even if our understanding of it is not identical to yours.

      Now quite with it already, ok?? 🙂

    • Gary Rogers

      Here’s the contradiction I see, certainly with most Calvinists and often with most Christians.

      I have yet to meet anyone who believes that a 3 month old baby who dies will go to Hell. At the same time, there are tons of Christians who believe that the people from the untouched jungle tribe in Paupa New Guinea will go to Hell. I would like for someone here to try and explain how you can believe in two different fates for those two groups of people.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      Again let me ask how it is that babies can justly suffer the punishment of sin by dying if they are not guilty of sin?

      Also I would like to hear how the arminian view deals with my questions about theodicy.

    • Cliff Martin

      Jeremy, I do lean toward open-theism, or something close to it. It is the only way I can make sense of many scriptures (which, using your literalist proof-text approach, leave no doubt that the future is unknown to God) and the data that is streaming in from natural revelation! In short, my view is that open theism creates far fewer problems than is solves, certainly is not ridden with the God-Slander inherent in five-point Calvinism, and makes our life with God more dynamic meaningful, and just plain interesting!

    • cherylu


      I don’t know if I haven’t made myself clear here or what.

      I never said we didn’t inherit guilt from Adam. We inherited a sin nature and evidently the guilt of that was imputed to us also. I have always believed that from child hood on. What I said I don’t get is how we could of said to have chosen freely of our own will to sin in Adam. And how then since these things were imputed to us so that we can’t help but sin because of our nature (and we already have guilt in Adam too) is it fair to condemn us for not being able to do differently? If we have a choice, that would seem to be fair. But if we don’t–(if we haven’t made a choice on our own to be a sinner thousands of years before we were born) how is it fair to punish us for being what we can’t help but be? And by the way, physical death is a result of sin, however many people would believe that a baby that dies will be with the Lord–not be punished eternally for sins they of themselves chose…

    • chris van allsburg

      Cheryl raises a good series of questions, and these are questions I have asked ever since I repented of backsliding when I was 22 in 1994 (just in time to miss Harold Camping’s first failed predication of judgment day. He’s giving it “another go” this May, the 21st. Save the date!). Anyway, the question of original sin and the eternal state of those who have never heard has always plagued me. It plagued me even more after working in a slum in Ethiopia (capital city of Addis Ababa) this past summer. Ask Jeremy–he’ll tell you how shattered I was.

      Cheryl’s concern is not just theological, but pastoral. These are not questions for intellectual exercise, but they affect our thoughts and dreams and even our plans for “normal life.” Even more, it affects (effects?) our view of God, Even the question of children and babies of the heathen is not mere pin-pricking, but has everything thing to do with the justice, mercy, and goodness of God.

    • chris van allsburg

      We should ask what we can know *with certainty* about those who’ve never heard. Jesus says, “I am sending you (Paul) to them (the Gentiles) to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17-18).

      From this passage, Jesus is clear about the following–and not that I’m not asserting anything about Hell here. But here is what Jesus says, okay?
      Those who haven’t heard are
      1) blind–their eyes need to be opened.
      2) to turn from darkness to light through missionary effort.
      3) under the power of Satan
      4) to turn to God and receive
      5) the forgiveness of sins and
      6) be sanctified by faith in Jesus. This results
      7) in being placed among those who have 5 & 6.

      In Ephesians 2:12, Gentiles are
      1) separate from Christ,
      2) have no hope
      3) without God
      in verse 3, they are Objects of Wrath.

      Go and preach the gospel to all nations.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      @Cherylu, What exactly do you think impute means if not real culpabillity? If we have real culpabillity then we have no excuse.

    • John from Down Under

      Jeremy –

      I hold to total depravity (therefore not a Pelagian). Up to this point you and I are holding hands but from here on we let go.

      I also hold to the Ariminian view of prevenient grace (but see no need to wear an Arminian badge). Prevenient grace as you know does not save you, but makes you saveable by enabling you to respond to the call of the gospel. From there on, people like me believe that the sinner has to ‘decide’ whether he/she wants to follow Christ or reject Him. If he rejects Christ his final destination in hell is wholly deserved.

      So, we have NO issue with someone ending up in hell because they consciously reject Christ INSTEAD of receiving Him. The word ‘instead’ does not factor into your equation because ALL one can do is reject Christ.

      So (once again) while it is fair to be judged for rejecting Christ while you could have repented of your sins, it is does NOT seem fair to be judged when you can not repent of their sins.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      Then as far as I can tell we pretty much agree as far as this discussion goes. Aside from my recent posts dealing with the analogy of a crack house I have not really tried to address the issue of man’s ability/inability to respond to the gospel. I know Sam goes into that a bit, but the biggest issue I have been trying to address is the fact that all men everywhere abide under God’s wrath and unless they repent and believe the gospel they will justly perish.

      You recognize that with original sin comes real guilt yes? Thus all men really are guilty in the eyes of the law even if they never received a gospel witness. That is the main issue Sam was dealing with and which has seemed to come under attack in this discussion. I am fine going no further in this discussion. Would you say we are in agreement as far as I have just gone?

    • John Lollard

      Say I teach middle school algebra. Say I teach middle school algebra but my class is a bunch of stray cats that I got from the shelter. At the end of the semester, when I punish all of these cats for failng algebra, is it really going to appease the state psychiatrist when I tell her that the cats had every opportunity to learn the subject if only they had turned from napping and catching mice and sought mathematical insight? That the room was full of algebra textbooks and worked examples on the board and all these cats had to do was call out to me to teach them the subject and I’d have done so?

      Now compare this to the situation where I teach a group of eleven-year-olds, who are capable by nature of learning and of wanting to learn, who could never possbly hope to learn on their own, and who apart from my efforts would not learn, and yet are capable of choosing to pay attention and yet mostly choose to completely ignore and despise math in general. Won’t even their parents…

    • John from Down Under

      Jeremy I don’t speak for others here, these are my own views, though I think most of the others will be close.

      ” …the biggest issue I have been trying to address is the fact that all men everywhere abide under God’s wrath…

      Of course, hence John 3:36

      ”You recognize that with original sin comes real guilt yes?”

      Of course, hence “by nature children of wrath” Ephesians 2:3 & also Romans 5:12 fits

      ”Thus all men really are guilty in the eyes of the law…”

      Of course, hence “the record of debt that stood against us” Colossians 2:14, Isaiah 53:6 & Romans 3:23. Also I’m not sure but “he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” Hebrews 9:15 could possibly extend beyond the Jewish nation given the Scripture’s global view of sin “But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin” Galatians 3:22

    • jim


      We appear to be in the same camp. I think a enabled choice must take place which is offered to all persons. I know there are problems with this doctrine as well but cannot go to where Jeremy is with EVERYONE not having a chance. I agree with Steve and Cherylu that this is not the God I love and serve. He can correct me when I meet him sometime in the future and I am sure there is alot I haven’t believed in correctly or maybe he’ll be more interested in my love for other human beings evident in all the Love commands in his holy word. You are correct Jeremey that my view of original sin and imputed sin are different than yours. God Bless you in your walk.

      In him

    • John from Down Under

      No worries Jim.

      Btw, do you know how to confuse a Calvinist? Offer them three cakes and say it’s up to them to ‘choose’. And you must have heard by now that Calvinists never return a faulty light bulb to the store because they accept that the bulb was predestined to fail! 😉

    • cherylu

      John from Down Under,

      I needed a laugh this morning!

      But I bet there will be some zingers coming back the other way now too.

    • jim

      I actually come from a conservative Baptist background. P&P serves a valid and important part as it does make accessible theology of all types. I sincerely believe that discussion is good but realize we may all end up with a slightly different stroll but the same path. Thanks for the pitch of humor JFDU , do you guys not realize that only us baptists will be in heaven (LOL)

    • cherylu


      Sorry, but I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at all the non Baptists you find there! 🙂

    • John I.

      re Jeremy K @ 123: That another argument may fail does not prove that your argument is either correct or better.

      re JK @ 136, “You recognize that with original sin comes real guilt yes? Thus all men really are guilty in the eyes of the law even if they never received a gospel witness. That is the main issue Sam was dealing with and which has seemed to come under attack in this discussion. I am fine going no further in this discussion.”

      The Bible is quite clear (Ezekiel, for example) that children are not morally culpable (i.e., guilty) for any sins their fathers do. That does not mean, however, that we are not born damaged and cursed or that it is possible for a person to life a life without sin. We are indeed all born cursed to sin and die (once).

      So, yes we are all affected by original sin, but no we are not guilty of it. Imputation of original guilt may be a reformed doctrine, but it is not a doctrine that all Chrsitians subscribe to.


    • John from Down Under

      @ John I.

      Thanks for pointing out that distinction. I never gave this a lot of thought but you certainly make a good point.

      If you examine the text a bit more microscopically (Rom 5:12), it doesn’t say that we are imputed with Adam’s guilt, but with his sinfulness (the propensity to sin). Eventually we begin to sin (in practice) and that’s what makes us guilty. It would seem so from the text “death spread to all men because all sinned”. That’s why (perhaps) “the dead were judged by what was written in the books according to what they had done” Rev 20:20

      And the “by nature children of wrath” in Eph 2:3 is perhaps alluding to our nature rather than our guilt. Otherwise a newborn with the umbilical cord still attached is condemned to hell (some Lutherans believe this and it’s a very troublesome thought)

    • cherylu

      John I and John fDU,

      I have been doing some rethinking of that whole issue too.

      Do you know if there are other verses that teach we actually are given Adam’s guilt?

      I was raised in a Lutheran Church and that is certainly what we were taught. Although exceptions were generally made for babies.

    • lizard

      I haven’t quite finished reading the comments, so I apologize if this has been mentioned already…

      In the interest of understanding what people are talking about, I re-read Romans 1.

      It seems to me that this passage is saying those who suppress the truth that is revealed to them through nature are given over to their sinful desires, and thus are deserving of death. What it does not say, as far as I can see, is whether God will choose to show mercy on these folks and spare them (us?) their justly due punishment.

      This passage says those who suppress the truth DESERVE punishment – which I think most of us would agree with. But it seems that the “wrath of God” here is the handing-over of people to their sinful natures – not NECESSARILY eternal punishment in hell. In fact, I’m pretty sure eternal punishment in hell isn’t actually addressed in this passage at all.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      You need to keep on reading 1:18 through to 3:19-20 which serves and the summary for the entire first section of Romans. Then in 3:21 Paul transitions to show that the remedy to this sittuation is apart form works of law and is in fact the gospel.

      If there were other avenues of escape Paul’s question later in 10:13-14 asking how they will call on Christ if they have not heard of him makes no sense and lacks all force for his call to missions that he goes on to make if the following verse based on it.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      The following texts (ESV) seem pretty clear to me:

      Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–

      Romans 5:19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

      1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

      So when Adam sinned we learn that “All sinned” and that we were “MAde sinners” and that we all suffered sin’s penalty and “died” (because we are deserving of the punishment)

      But let me point your attention to the second passage. The verb is passive. We were MADE sinners. And Paul says that this happened in the exact same way were are made rightous in Christ, which is by imputation. In Christ the Law treats us as rightious just as in Adam the law treats us as guilty. Do you see my point and why I have been saying I think…

    • jim


      In the Romans 5:19 verse I read this as our sin nature passed on. Really the key to the verse or better put the subject of the verse is that through one man’s DISOBEDIENCE we inherited this nature and through another Man(Christ) OBEDIENCE we will be made righteous. I mean your getting excited about the word MADE, I cann’t understand the word many: The MANY were made sinners. The same MANY will be made righteous. Do all sinners become righteous, I don’t think so. So obviously I must look for the general intent of the passage.
      As well, You mentioned that In Christ the Law treats us as righteous, but we are in Christ and not under the Law.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      The does not work. The whole point of that section is the “just as… …so then” nature of the argument.

      Christ’s action does not give us a perpensity for rightiusness, rather we are imputed with an alien rightiousness not our own. This new rightiousness determines how we are seen in the eyes of the law, it is what we are declared to be.

      Thus Adam’s action must effect us the same. That is the most str ate forward reading of “all sinned” and “were made sinners.” I don’t see anything in the passage mentioning “sin nature” do you? Other than a pre-commitment to avoid this historic view of Original Sin, what preom the text itself makes you think Paul is talking about our propensity to sin, or “sin nature”?

    • jim

      This is where we become circular. You said the whole point of that section is the “just as…so then” and I don’t agree with that becoming the whole point.

      “Christ’s action does not give us a perpensity for rightiusness, rather we are imputed with an alien rightiousness not our own. This new rightiousness determines how we are seen in the eyes of the law, it is what we are declared to be” I really don’t understand what you are saying here in reference to my question about “the MANY” Again, I think we are being circular here, you approach the text you say with no pre-set ideas or conclusions but you work the text to fulfill your bias. We all do this, this is why we say look at this verse in relationship to another chapter or verse as it supports our definitions. I understand your reading and application but disagree. We will leave it at that. The whole concept of dialogue between us is discussion and sharing not necessarily proving or winning a…

    • […] Storms answers a great question as to why everyone is without excuse for being under God’s wrath. It is a very good treatment […]

    • cherylu


      It seems to me that even with the verb “made” sinners being passive, that doesn’t rule out the possiblity of this referring just to being born with a sin nature because of Adam’s disobedience. If you are born with a sin nature, a nature that makes it inevitable that you will sin, you are still made a sinner by Adam’s disobedience, if his actual guilt is imputed to us or not. (Still thinking about this aspect of things.)

      But still the question remains, is it just to punish someone that can’t help but sin because of his nature that he was born with or the guilt he was born with, (whichever way you understand original sin,) when he has no opportunity–no choice–to be otherwise?

    • John I.

      The interpretation put forward by Jeremy is a possible reading of the text, but it is neither the only possible reading, nor is it the only viable reading.

      Paul is dealing with the fact that we all recognize, and which we admit applies to those who have not heard the gospel: we are all sinners. Paul deals with sin using Jewish categories and means: Adam as representative of us as a whole. But he does not get into, and does not need to in order to make his point, the fine-grained details. Does our immaterial spirit come directly to us as a portion of our parents? If so, how is Christ not sinful? If it is created anew, or put in by God, how is it that it has sin? etc., etc.

      Deut. 24:16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.

      Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.

    • Jeremy Kidder

      @John I,
      While the Bible is not explicitly clear, I believe texts like Zech 12:1 indicate that God directly creates the soul of man at conception. The alternate view that you mentioned is called “traducianism” and is held by many godly men.

      The next issue to ask is this: in what sense is Adam the “head” or “representative” of the race? There are some who simply see him as the seminal head and thus our “sin nature” gets handed down to procreation. Those who hold this position generally also hold to traducianism. The other view that I think has more Biblical support is called “federal headship.” In this sense Adam is the legal (or federal) representative of humanity in the same way that Jesus legally represented us. Romans 5:12ff seems to argue this way. The Law viewed and treated Jesus as if he had committed our sin just as the law viewed and treats us as if we had committed Adam’s sin. Both men are representatives of groups and both men’s actions are imputed…

    • Jeremy Kidder

      @John I,
      The verses to refferance cannot be taken to have no exceptions else Christ would not be able to justly be punished for our sins. It would seem based on passages like Rom 5:12ff that Adam and Jesus as the heads of the two humanities are the two exceptions to this otherwise absolute rule.

    • John I.

      Aah, but here’s the rub Jeremy: Jesus was sinless, was God man, and took on the sins voluntarily. That puts him into a class of one and makes his situation not directly comparable, consequently the verses still stand. Furthermore, if sin was inherited from Adam, how would Jesus, who was fully man and born of a woman, have avoided participating in the sin of Adam? Yet we are told by Scripture that Jesus was sinless. I don’t think your dog hunts.

      John I.

    • Rob Holler

      As an ArminiCalvinist, I thought this review of Bell’s theology was well done.

      I do find it odd that so many comments take aim at Sam Storm’s defense of Biblical Soteriology and “narry at shot” was levied at the blazing heretic Rob Bell. It may the case that an anti-Calvinist may disagree with Sam’s position, but we would all do well to remember that Sam is not the heretic here. Seriously my brothers and sisters, Calvinists and Arminians meet under the Nicean Creed and worship at the foot of the Cross. Let us band together against heresy if must, but never against each other. Good review Sam. Sorry that I am over a year late to the party.

    • fRANCIS

      I’m new in this debate-conversationMay 21, 2013); havinG just read Rob Bell’s, LOVE WINS, I too was ministered to by the Michigan pastor’s book.
      Salvation for me, understood through my relationship with God through Him in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, includes most significantly: REPENTENCE and the gift from God, FAITH and through faith a TRUSTING and OBEDIENT RESPONSE to God’s commandents (yes, The TEN); JUDGE NOT–believe through God-given intelligence AND faith, understood by God giving discernment, understanding and mercy. Always, as much as possible for any human being reborn: act-respond-will, choose prayerfully, patiently with less and less anxiety, with confidence-trusting in our God with whom I have relationship through Jesus Christ. I daily thank and praise God from whom all blessings flow.

      Also, God occasionally enlightens me through secular ( meaning not necessarily, specifically scriptural or ‘religious’ witnessing) like the 2001 movie, THE RED SHOES.

      God’s grace, especially the gift of faith is what I’m thankful for–not that I’m ‘elected’ as the Calvinists say or understand but that I choose with free choice (which is part of the Image of God, by the way) what I spent most of my life refusing to do: I choose God on the throne, not my self. (ie. Bill Bright’s four spiritual laws.)–thank you for ‘listening’.

    • Aaron Ginn

      “They will be righteously judged for rejecting the Father, not for rejecting the Son.”

      Absolutely, 100% incorrect.

      Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. — John 3:18

      Please stand by what your book claims. It claims that those who do not believe in Jesus are condemned. If they haven’t heard of Jesus, tough luck according to orthodox Christianity.

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