As I mentioned in other chapters, it appears that exposure to the written Word (Bible), the living Word (the Bible living in our lives), and prayer increases a person’s likelihood of becoming a Christian. Statistically, this is backed up by the fact that areas with high concentrations of Christians have a higher number of new believers and areas with a low number of Christians have a low number of new Christians.
The reason this issue is important is because it affects the way we will respond to the world’s needs. If exposure to the three things listed above does not increase a person’s likelihood of becoming a Christian, then we do not need to sacrificially give to send more missionaries. However, if these three items do increase a person’s likelihood of becoming a Christian, then people are going to Hell because of an absence of these three things. Therefore, if this is true, we should make every effort to bring the gospel message to them.
Many people (understandably) feel it would be unfair for God to decrease a person’s likelihood of becoming a Christian simply because he didn’t live in an area where the gospel was readily available. Yet, these same people probably feel that exposing their children to solid Christian teaching will increase their child’s likelihood of becoming a Christian. This is why so many of them buy books on child rearing and ask friends for advice. They also spend a great deal of time praying for their children, asking God to prepare their hearts to become Christians.
If exposure to the gospel does not increase a person’s likelihood of becoming a Christian, then all of the extra measures these parents are taking are not necessary. Children born in solid Christian homes are no more likely to become Christians than children born in atheist or Buddhist homes. In fact, Christian parents should not expect any of their children to become Christians. Statistically, only one out of every 14 people (7%) in the world ever become a Christian.
Yet, it is obvious that children of Christian parents are much more likely to become Christians than the children of non-Christian parents. This is something even the casual observer can see. Is there, however, any clinical proof of this influence? Unfortunately, I don’t know of any comprehensive study involving thousands of families that would clearly prove this influence. There is one study, however, that compares the offspring of the eighteenth century American evangelist, Jonathan Edwards, with his American contemporary, Max Jukes, a drunkard of ill repute.
Edward’s descendants include 100 preachers or missionaries, 13 college presidents, 3 U.S. Senators, 30 judges, 60 doctors, 60 prominent authors, and one U.S. Vice President. Jackson’s offspring included 200 thieves and murderers, and 90 prostitutes. I am not saying parental influences were totally responsible for the differing legacies. I’m sure genetics and cultural factors also played a part. However, I believe the firm family foundation Edwards established lasted for several generations.
The life of William Carey, pioneer missionary to Bengalis, drives this point home. Carey was an incredibly successful missionary whose life influenced hundreds to become missionaries. Yet, it appears he worked so hard on the Lord’s vineyard his own vineyard suffered.
Dan Alban, Jr. who wrote his thesis on William Carey, says Carey’s great work on reaching the lost was "at the expense of his own family’s spiritual well-being." Alban says Carey "spent so much time in ministering and so little time disciplining his own sons that their father may as well have been Max Jukes." Alban says that although most of Carey's descendants are not prostitutes or murderers, only a few descendants are known to have attended Bible-believing Churches. (Source: See the footnote below.)
If we conclude a parent can increase the likelihood of their children to become Christians, we have to conclude we can increase the likelihood of others in the world to become Christians. This means we need to send missionaries to those who are still without the gospel.
Is it "fair" that people born in non-evangelized areas of the world will probably go to Hell? In my opinion it is not "fair" at all. I don’t like this doctrine and I don’t like teaching it. I have great difficulty in understanding how a "loving God" could do such a thing. There are times it makes me angry.
Yet, who am I to tell God Almighty He is wrong? What right do I, this small piece of dust, have to criticize the Creator of the universe? It does not matter what feels right or fair. The only thing that matters is what does the Bible say? My parents' pastor once said, "I don’t always agree with everything that is in the Bible, but I know who’s wrong."
If the Bible is God’s inspired Word (which I believe it is), we are then obligated to follow its teaching. Although I don’t like it, the Bible does clearly teach this doctrine. Trust me, I am not biased toward this teaching. If anything, I am biased against it. Yet, I have come to the conclusion we must completely follow the entire Bible or none of it. Besides being clearly taught in the Bible, this doctrine is also backed up statistically. I have a choice: I can either criticize God for what I perceive as unfairness or I can accept it and spend my time and energy bringing the gospel to those who are still without it.
Footnote: Source of the study concerning Max Juke and William Carey
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