Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to discuss various points and particulars about God, Jesus, the Bible, baptism, faith, and other spiritual topics with many people, from all walks of life. In a large portion of those opportunities, a rather interesting pattern emerged – a hypothetical scenario was introduced into the dialogue, at one point or another. Sometimes they were presented as questions and other times as arguments against a certain topic. Still, at other times, it seems they were presented just to divert the conversation off in another direction. There are many common ones that have become the favorite pretext of almost every pessimist, naysayer, and atheist. Perhaps, you have heard some of these yourself:
- “If God is the creator and is all-powerful, could He make a rock so heavy that even He couldn’t pick it up?”
- “If God is love and so good, why does He send people to hell?”
- “What if God has other people on other planets in other solar systems that we just don’t know about?”
- “What if there’s an undiscovered tribe somewhere and they’ve never heard the Gospel. What happens to them?”
- “What about the thief on the cross? He wasn’t baptized!”
- “What happens if someone is in a desert and there is no water for baptizing someone?”
- “What if someone has believed, repented, and confessed, but then dies in a car accident on the way to the church building to be baptized. What happens to that person?”
- “What if there are only a man and a woman and they study the Bible and then want to obey the Gospel, who does the baptizing?”
- “What if someone is not able to speak or communicate, but they want to obey the Gospel?”
This list could go on and on, forever. Fortunately, most of these can be answered rather quickly, objectively, and with Scripture. There is also a common nexus found among most of these regarding what really needs to be addressed – that these are simply a way to avoid introspection and essentially, to remove any accountability from the one presenting the hypothetical. In other words, if the argument is true for the hypothetical scenario, then it must be true for them. Thus, they don’t have to accept or submit to whatever is being taught from the Bible.
The problem with hypotheticals is that they are conditional and the conditions are NOT always applicable for every individual in every scenario. It is only a hypothesis! Just because a scenario presented in a hypothetical might be true or logical, it does not mean it is true for the person presenting the hypothetical. More importantly (and this is the main point) it does not change our individual responsibility to submit to God’s commands now, today (Matt. 7:21)!
Jesus frequently dealt with this same issue in His teaching. For example, in His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, (John 4:7-26) she asked a few questions and presented a few topics that Jesus did not answer directly. Instead of answering her interjections, He turned the conversation back to that which was more important, her spiritual needs. When His own disciples asked Him, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt. 18:1), again, instead of addressing a hypothetical scenario, He turned the question back to their personal, spiritual needs (18:3-6). The same pattern is also seen in the dialogue with Nicodemus (John 3:1-15). In every case, the most important lesson is about how each individual must respond to God’s commands personally, not appeal to some exceptional scenario or hypothetical for seeking an exemption.
Even if God did make such a rock, or no water existed for baptizing, or someone did die before making it to the baptistery, how does that remove YOUR responsibility to obey God’s commands (Ecc. 12:13; John 14:15; 1 John 2:4)? If God has commanded us to hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized, and live faithfully until death, then that is what we must be concerned about. We need to focus on getting our own selves into heaven (Phil. 2:12)!