Back to series

Questions and Answers From Children About God

Learn more in our Dawn Treader Magazine

Sally: Theo, do you mind if I ask you a very personal question?

Theodore: Of course I don’t mind, Sally; go right ahead.

Sally: I don’t want to seem like I’m putting you on the spot, you know…I won’t criticize your answer, but I’ve really been bothered lately by something that I think you’ve more or less implied by some things you’ve said. Do you really think that people don’t go to Heaven unless they believe in Jesus?

Theo: What do you mean by ‘believe,’ Sally? Belief can mean many different things: it can mean to simply have a vague hope or impression about, to be convinced of the reality of, or to trust in. It’s the last one that I mean when I speak of believing in Jesus. It’s not any help to anyone just to know that He exists; as far as that kind of belief goes: “The devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).

Sally: But that’s not really what I’m asking. I guess what I mean is: do you think there is only one way to God?

Theo: Yes. The Bible is clear about this. Jesus said, “ I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Sally: But what about all the good people who don’t believe in Jesus? I know several atheists and Muslims and Hindus who are just as nice and law-abiding as the people I know who are Christians. And what about the people who have never even heard of Jesus? Are they eternally condemned for something that’s not their fault? And…

Theo: Whoa, Sally! One question at a time here! You’ve certainly got a batch of very serious ones to deal with—you’ve obviously been thinking about this a lot—and each one of them deserves individual attention. So, first of all, about what happens to “nice people” who don’t believe in Jesus. Well, to begin with, salvation has nothing to do, really, with how good you are. Sin, the thing that condemns us, goes much deeper than that. It is a breaking of our relationship with God. He created us to live with Him forever, to know Him as He truly is in all His power and love and holiness. We have deliberately turned our backs on Him; we pretend that we can do everything on our own. And even when we seem to be tolerably “nice” people, we are really the greatest of ingrates if we don’t acknowledge where our ability to know and appreciate and act on “goodness” comes from! As C.S. Lewis explained, “We have been talking…as if Christianity was something nasty people needed and nice ones could afford to do without, and as if niceness was all that God demanded. But this would be a fatal mistake…What He is watching and waiting and working for is…[w]ill they, or will they not, turn to Him and thus fulfill the only purpose for which they were created?…It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost His crucifixion.”1 That is why Jesus is the only Way; He is the only One Who can reconcile us to God in Himself. He gave Himself for us, so that we can finally turn and give ourselves back to Him, in the relationship we were supposed to have, that existed in the Garden of Eden before the fall.

Sally: But it just doesn’t seem fair—for some people who are so nice and friendly and work so hard at being good, to miss out on Heaven just because they didn’t follow Jesus.

Theo: But they’re not really “missing out” in the sense that they have been arbitrarily kept away from something they actually wanted. Heaven is being with Jesus—following Him and  living with Him now and for all eternity. If someone says, “I want to be a good person, but I don’t necessarily want to follow Jesus,” well, then, he’s basically just said that he doesn’t want Heaven. A good life in this world is all that he’s pursuing, and, fairly enough, is all that he will get. Jesus doesn’t force His society on those who don’t want it. But you can’t expect to live in His Home without Him being there! So, no matter how “nice” someone is, they still have to choose whether or not they really want to be in Heaven, with Jesus. And as C.S Lewis pointed out, “they can—in nice people just as much as in nasty ones—refuse His request. And then, because that niceness…was merely part of nature, it will all go to pieces in the end…[everyone] has had the chance to turn (or rather, to allow God to turn) that momentary pattern into the beauty of an eternal spirit: [but some have] not taken it.” People who follow other religions may sometimes seem to be nicer people than other followers of Jesus that we know, but that kind of niceness won’t last. Lewis explained further, “There is a paradox here. As long as [someone] does not turn to God, he thinks his niceness is his own, and just as long as he thinks that, it is not his own. It is when [he] realizes his niceness is not his own but a gift from God, and when he offers it back to God—it is just then that it begins to be really his own…The only things we can keep are the things we freely give to God. What we try to keep for ourselves is just what we are sure to lose.” Those who want “niceness” apart from God and His chosen path of salvation through His Son Jesus will lose their niceness in the end, along with everything else they tried to steal from His generosity; while those who accept His gift with gratitude, even if they aren’t very nice people to begin with, will ultimately get that from Him along with “everything else thrown in.”

Sally: Yes, I see what you’re getting at—but what about the people who haven’t even heard about Jesus? How can they choose Him if they don’t even know about Him?

Theo: Well, I’ve never read anything in the Bible that says that the only way to hear about Jesus is to hear it from some other person—God’s Word is not restricted to only one means of communication: “He is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27). I once read a story called “The God Who Made My Hands,” about a young boy in Africa, who figured out that if he could carve an idol’s hands, that idol could not have made hands for the young boy! He accordingly journeyed from village to village, seeking the only God who could have made his hands, until he finally arrived at a city where there were missionaries, who were able to tell him about Jesus. But the point is: the young boy found Jesus because he was already looking for Him, before the missionaries told him anything. There are many ways in which God reveals Himself to us, in His Truth. But it’s helpful to remember, as C.S. Lewis noted, that “if you are worried about the people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is to remain outside yourself. Christians are Christ’s body, the organism through which He works. Every addition to that body enables Him to do more. If you want to help those outside you must add your own little cell to the body of Christ who alone can help them. Cutting off a man’s fingers would be an odd way of getting him to do more work.”

Sally: And I have to say, Theo, you certainly do your share!

Ask your children

What do you think about Theo’s answers to Sally’s questions? Do you have any other questions of your own that this dialogue has brought up for you? Challenge them to think up more responses they could give if someone asked them a question like Sally’s.


1 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 50th Anniversary ed. (London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002), pp. 211-212
2 Ibid., pp. 212-213
3 Ibid., p. 213
4 Ibid., p. 227
5 “The God Who Made Chaluba’s Hands,” in Better Bridges, A Beka Book Reading Program 3rd ed., ed. Laurel Hicks, (Pensacola, FL: A Beka Book: A Ministry of Pensacola Christian College, 1997)
6 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 64

C.S. Lewis Institute

C.S. Lewis Institute, In the legacy of C. S. Lewis, we develop wholehearted disciples of Jesus Christ who will articulate, defend, share, and live their faith in personal and public life.


COPYRIGHT: This publication is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.

Print your tickets