"How can you say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God? What about those remote tribes in Africa or South America? Generations of them have never been farther than their own community, never so much as seen a missionary let alone heard about religion. How can you expect me to go along with a faith that ignores most of the world’s population?”
The question implies a strong conviction that God would be utterly unfair if He played favorites. I agree. So does God. Acts 10:34-35 says, “God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.”
In other words, God is not a god for a few — but for all colors of skin, all cultures and all nations. He not only “sees all men” but “His ears are open to their cries.”
While He selected one nation through whom Christ was born, He says His choice was not based on any merit that nation might have had, but because He loved them. (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)
Furthermore, the prophet Isaiah said God’s arm is not too short that it cannot save. He can reach into even the most remote area; distance, dense jungles, or lack of exposure to “religion” is not a problem to Him. After all, He created the earth and all that is in it, the trees and the most pagan of peoples. He made their minds, hearts, and souls. Literacy levels and poverty lines pose no barriers to Him.
If God’s outstretched arm fails to touch the pagan heart, or any heart for that matter, it is not physical barriers that stand in the way. Isaiah again says, “Your sins have hidden His face from you… He will not hear.”
Romans 1 makes it clear. God created man to know Him. Everything that we need to understand that God exists is clearly seen in all He has made, but there are those who refuse to acknowledge or worship Him. Instead, they build idols in the image of animals and birds, all kinds of creatures instead of the Creator. And when people do that, God allows them to descend into the darkness and ignorance of their choice.
Not all of the “heathen” turn to idol worship. Some realize that even a gold statue could not create the stars. Thus some cry out to the true God, and God, in His infinite grace and mercy, will not refuse to hear any. But we are not saved simply because we cried out. Salvation is of God. It is He who first reaches out, and He who provided atonement for sin.
Christians did not invent the idea that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. He did. We have examined His life, read His words, and concluded He is neither a liar nor a lunatic, but is God made flesh, and who died on a cross, rose from the dead, and offers eternal life to all who come to Him. Anyone who can do that much, can surely also save an illiterate, unilluminated native from the deepest jungle — or even a well-educated, enlightened socialite. The problem is not with God but with us.
No matter where we come from, no matter our lifestyle or “religious” opportunities, the qualifications for receiving eternal life are the same.
First, one must be a sinner, Second, one must hate his sin because it offends the One who created Him. Third, one must cry out to God who hears such a cry, whether from the depths of the jungles or from any city. It is His delight to save; He is not willing that any should perish.
God holds all men accountable for what they do know, not for what they could not hear. The naked native sees the testimony of the glory of God in the skies and in the trees. Should he decide to carve a statue and worship it, how can God be blamed?
Perhaps the question we should be more concerned with is this: Are idol-worshiping pagans any different from those who have heard that Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” but have rejected Him and are following their own way?