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#10: Will an unsaved African kid that dies of starvation go to hell since he/she doesn't know Jesus?

Top 10 Theological Questions Teens Ask: Do African Kids Go To Hell, If They Don’t Know Jesus? (#10)

REyouthpastor.com is starting a series titled:  Top 10 Theological Questions Teens Ask.

Teens have tons of tough questions.  Over the years I have found that there are types of questions teens seem to ask frequently.

#10:  Will an unsaved African kid that dies of starvation go to hell since he/she doesn’t know Jesus?

How does a youth pastor answer this question?

Answer #1: Typically the student is wanting their youth pastor to play God.  This question puts the youth pastor in a tough spot.  The teen wants a concrete answer.  Unfortunately it is difficult for a youth pastor to judge the eternal destination of this kid.   One does not  know enough or have enough information about this kid in order to make a salvation call.  Although the students want to know God cares for this kid.  Who knows?  Jesus could have appeared to him/her right before he/she died and the kid accepted Jesus right then and there.  So our answer should be “I don’t know“.  But what we do know is that Jesus is the  TRUTH.

Answer #1a: Rather youth pastors need to steer the student away from what they think, but what the Bible says.  Youth pastors need to appropriately deal with what scripture tells us.  Scripture tells us Jesus is the only way, truth, and life and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus.  But here is the deal– God finds no pleasure in punishment  (Ezk 18.23).  Youth pastors need to make sure that the student knows:  God is passionately pursuing each human being.  When the HELL conversation comes up it is simple to imply that God is not for us, when in reality He is completely for us.

God allows humans to keep making destructive and evil decisions and choices because God is patient and continually forgiving and longing all of us to come to life! God will not stop us from going to hell if we insist on it.  Hell is a real place where everyone admits:  God—I do not want your love.

Answer #1b: This question should convince students to invest in global evangelism work.  This question should bug our students so bad, that they want to go to this African village and be and bring the Kingdom of God to them here and now.  Whenever students asks these hard questions, I make sure to counter with a few more (harder) questions too.  For example:  if this question puts a heavy burden on you, are you willing to do something about it?  How can God’s wrath and love co-exist?  How does God view children?  Do you think you have unsaved neighbors who don’t know Jesus?  What are you doing about it?

9 out of 10 times students are not looking for the perfect answer.  There is something always behind the question.  Students are wanting guidance on how to ask deeper questions while learning to live in the paradoxes of the Christian faith.  Lastly always clearly communicate the  attributes of God and make sure to clear up any misconceptions they may have about God’s character.

** If you want read all 10 of the Top Ten Theological Questions Teens Ask click here

About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover

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3 comments

  1. 1a – I agree that youth workers need to take their teens to the story in search of a faithful response to their inquiry. But that also means that youth workers need to have the story of God informing their imaginations rather than theological propositions that are easy come backs to such answers. More times than not, I have experienced youth workers give the quick theological answer instead of drawing teens into the story in search for a faithful response.

    9 out of 10 – This is a great point. Teens need spiritual guides who will help them explore their questions and doubts. Andy Root has a great article about this in Immerse that explores the confirmation teacher as co-doubter with the student.

  2. Good stuff, Jeremy!

    Answer #1 kinda seems to contradict the question. If the question is about someone who died without Christ, but God showed up in a miraculous way before death and the person responded to that, then they didn’t die without Christ. If someone dies without Christ, I believe scripture is clear about their eternal destiny, as you correctly indicated in answer 1a.

    But you are absolutely right that way too many people stop right there when answering that question instead of pushing a bit further to talk about the practical implications of our response, essentially “going wide” with the gospel. Love it!

    Thanks for the reminder, Jeremy!

  3. Jeremy
    these are great questions to address, as our teens are always asking deep questions of the faith. And make no mistake about it, these are “theological” questions whether about hell, homosexuality, the church and injustices, the exclusivity of Christ, etc..
    I look forward to seeing the rest of the top 10 unfold and compare them with my students. I have a feeling the students across the board are all asking similar questions and questioning traditional answers that we hold up as “doctrinal” but do not resonate with a person’s heart, mind, or soul.

    To briefly comment on this question, could it be that God gives people what they desire in life.
    If someone chooses to live intentionally apart from God here on earth, God grants them that eternal request.
    However, if someone truly does desire to know God,
    God’s goodness and grace abounds in many forms to them.
    Perhaps, we are “judged” based on what we have been given and what opportunities have been afforded to us
    just a thought…

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