Two related issues continuously confront my mind whenever I consider the strict doctrines of Christian Orthodoxy. One is the matter of what was the eternal fate of all the Old Testament Gentiles, the ones who did not enjoy God's special favor, as the Jews did. This question is really a subset of a much larger issue: How does God reconcile and thereby mitigate all the vastly different life circumstances of various individuals in the exercise of His divine Will in relation to redemption. This is a question which Orthodoxy never addresses in their theology, but it is one that resonates with a very large number of believers and non-believers alike.
Of course, the church is quick to say that unaddressed issues, like these, are a part of God's mysterious, secret things (Deuteronomy 29:29), which deal with what is unknowable to the human mind. Therefore, believers must just trust God in these matters. What I am never sure about is whether that trusting implies that someday I'll view God's dismissal of life circumstances in determining one's eternal fate as ultimately fair and just. Or, if by trusting, I really should conclude that God will do right by everyone in determining eternal destinies by factoring in the powerful effect of life circumstances. The church leaves that to my imagination, being only too happy to simply reiterate what they do know for sure: only those who accept Jesus can escape Hell.
Then again, many within the ranks of so called Orthodoxy want to exclude the very young and the mentally impaired from the absolute requirements of salvation in Christ. They don't have one shred of scripture to prove as much, but when children by the thousands were dying from early child diseases and the general travail of birth, good church members just could not accept that their young innocents were going to Hell. Real life circumstances may not obviate the requirement to suffer in Hell for those outside the church, but those same circumstances may occasionally force an adjustment in the doctrine of Hell for those inside the church.
If anything, the genocidal accounts in the Old Testament, in which God ordered the killing of men, women, and children, would demonstrate that God does not provide any leeway to the very young in executing His judgment. Subconsciously, most realize that any exceptions to the iron clad rule of faith in Jesus is either wishful thinking or a denial of the iron clad rule and opens the door for other exceptions.
In continuing these thoughts, I am drawn to the account of Abraham in his discussion with God about the fate of
This concern about how God can be just and yet demand strict compliance to specific requirements of everyone, without regard to their realistic ability to comply, will never go away. Summarily dismissing the need to deal with this concern only makes the church appear heartless and illogically rigid. Comfort, lies in certainty, but I prefer to be certain of God's goodness and draw comfort from that rather than trying to be certain of the church's right doctrine and claiming that to be comfortable.