Baptism/Amazing Grace: A Conversation Over Lunch, Part 2

The fate of those who’ve never heard the gospel

What happens to those who’ve never heard the gospel? It’s hardly fair that they be damned,  you know.

Believe it or not, I disagree. It’s perfectly fair. But before we get to that, let’s consider the possibilities:

* The orthodox view is that those who’ve never heard the gospel are damned, if they’ve attained the age of accountability.

* The “available light” view is that they’re saved, if they’re good people.

* The universalist view is that all are saved.

* Finally, some argue the agnostic view that we really can’t know who is and isn’t saved, based on the Parable of the Tares and similar passages. This is pretty close to an effective universalism, with the expectation that God will sort it out at the end and we have no busy trying to do God’s sorting for him in this life.

Now, if we’re serious followers of Jesus, we really have to test these theories against the Scriptures. Each view can be supported by a handful of verses ripped out of context, and so, if we’re serious about submitting to Jesus as Lord, we’ll be serious about interpreting the text.

Thanks. It’s helpful to lay the competing theories out. I think I can name at least one congregation in town that supports each of those views.

But what’s the big deal? Don’t they all lead to the same result ultimately? I mean, we’re saved by grace, and why would we be upset that someone disagrees on such an esoteric question? Can’t we all just get along?

If you consider evangelism an unimportant part of Christianity, then maybe the theories don’t much matter. Under each theory, you can hold church, have members, maybe even grow a congregation, and do good works.

But what is the impact of each theory on evangelism? What is the price of each theory in souls?

That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think? None of those theories hurts anyone!

I have to disagree. Let’s take them one at a time.

* The orthodox view certainly pushes hard toward evangelism. If you’re an honest student of history, all the great evangelistic movements were driven by exactly that theory.

* The available light view seems compassionate, since it allows those who’ve never heard the gospel to be saved, but if good people in distant lands are already saved, why spend our fortunes and risk our lives to save them? They’re already saved! Or, at least, some are, and why risk damning the good people by insisting that they accept the gospel?

I guess you could argue that you’ll bring them the blessing of knowing Jesus (truly an incomparable blessing!), but does that blessing justify the risk that most who hear the gospel will be damned?

* With universalism, the desire for evangelism is eliminated entirely. There’s no sense pretending that the typical, good Christian will be motivated to preach Jesus to the already saved — just so they’ll have a better life today. And, in fact, in churches with weak teaching on damnation, I find that the motivation is to do good works, to relieve suffering, but not to preach the gospel.

* The agnostics have the difficulty of expressing a good reason to go to a land where people might or might not be damned. Indeed, that school of thought seems to overlap with the available light theory enough that it would seem literally counterproductive to preach the gospel to the good and honest pagan.

I’m sure those who argue for the unorthodox views have answers to your questions!

I’ve not found them. I mean, it’s easy to argue that we can do a great deal of good without evangelizing, but that argument won’t be persuasive to those of the orthodox view.

Rather than chasing down rationalizations, we should ask the question we began with: Which viewpoint leads to the most good behavior by Christians?

Plainly, the orthodox view — but you’re assuming a lot. And isn’t it enough that preaching Jesus today will provide people with a better understanding of the world, a better example of moral living, and even a better life? Wouldn’t that motivate gospel preaching?

There’s no need to speculate, you know. Those denominations that take unorthodox views of salvation — how effective is their mission work? How many churches do they plant? After all, the truly theological liberal have long rejected any notion of damnation.

Well, you’ve got me there. They are declining rapidly and just don’t do missions very well.

And so it matters. We can’t pretend that this is some small think-and-let-think thing. I would argue that the future of Christianity hinges on this question.

If the orthodox view is right, we need to urge that view so the church will send out missionaries, church planters, and their members to teach the gospel. If not, we can take that energy and do other good — indeed, better — works.

 

 

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
This entry was posted in Amazing Grace, Available Light, Baptism, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Baptism/Amazing Grace: A Conversation Over Lunch, Part 2

  1. Bob Brandon says:

    I dunno, Jay; seems to me that damnation, in the heavenly courts as in the earthly, require a certain mens rea. I don’t recall the Great Commission – Section Mk.16.16b, as it were – condemning those who don’t know, only those who don’t believe. Ignorance of the law would be a defense from a strict – legalistic – reading of the statute. Even the judgment scene in Section. Mt.25.31 to .46 presumes the accused to have knowledge of their failure to provide agape love.

    I’m sure someone is going to take offense at all of the above, but I’m finishing my coffee and getting ready to go to work/court: two prelims. this afternoon and jail visits in this morning.

    (By the way, I recommend “The Blue Parakeet,” by Scot McKnight, for getting some perspective on how we read Bible.)

  2. Alan says:

    If the orthodox view is right, we need to urge that view so the church will send out missionaries, church planters, and their members to teach the gospel. If not, we can take that energy and do other good — indeed, better — works.

    And we need to preach about sin, righteousness, and judgment to our *members*.

  3. aBasnar says:

    Your recommendation somehow comes as no surprize at all …

  4. Todd Collier says:

    Paul deals with this question, albeit indirectly in Romans 1:18-20. The true nature of God is evident from creation. So people are without excuse if they continue to worship what has been made (largely themselves) other than the Maker. To this end I firmly believe that the Spirit is active in helping folks get to the point where they admit “You know I really shouldn’t be worshipping this tree or my ancestors or whatever” and at the same time prods a believer in Yellohamma, Texas to buy a ticket to Nowhere, India just to share his faith. I think in the end God will be perfectly fair in following the “orthodox” path that seems most consistent with the Scriptures because He never leaves us alone to struggle without Him.

  5. Edward Fudge says:

    Jay,

    I am persuaded that God will judge all people by the light that was available to them.

    The following quote from an article of mine in Christianity Today, titled “What Calvinism and Arminianism Have in Common,” is responsive to the suggestion that “available light” means one is better off not hearing the gospel because hearing it makes one more culpable than before and therefore increases the risk of final damnation.

    “No person is better for not hearing the gospel. – No person is injured by hearing the gospel. Sometimes people mistakenly assume, upon learning that Jesus’ work saved all who are finally saved whether they hear the gospel or not, that those who never hear are somehow better as a result. That inference is neither necessary nor proper.
    The ultimate rejection of God is in the rejection of the light of the gospel. For that reason, whoever willfully rejects Jesus incurs the greatest guilt (Heb 10:26-31). It does not follow, however, that those who gladly receive God’s dimmer rays before they learn of Jesus will reject the brightest light when it appears. Each heart remains the same regardless of the degree of light to which it is exposed (Luke 16:30-31; Rev 22:11). We may be sure that no person who rejects the gospel and is lost would have been saved if only that one had remained ignorant of Jesus. It is inconceivable that anyone who cries ‘yes’ to God from the hopeless darkness will suddenly shout a defiant ‘no’ when the bright light of the cross and the empty tomb burst finally into view.”

    If you have further interest in my thinking about this, following are some links to:

    Two short gracEmails on the topic:
    http://www.edwardfudge.com/gracemails/never_heard.html

    a book review I did of (Arminian) John Sanders’ book on the subject:
    http://edwardfudge.com/written/sanders.html

    and

    a book review I did of (Reformed) Terrance L. Tiessen’s book on the subject:
    http://edwardfudge.com/tiessen.html

    Cordially,
    Edward

  6. laymond says:

    Jer 31:33 But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
    Jer 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

    Mar 16:14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

    Mar 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

    Jhn 20:21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace [be] unto you: as [my] Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

    And they did,go forth into the world preaching/teaching, and continue even today. There is a bible in million of homes, there are bibles in most motel/hotel rooms in the world, there are bibles in most languages of the world. — are we sure Jesus commanded us to go into the world with the word, or was he speaking to his apostles who were present at the time?
    ( and would go forth, with the help of “the holy ghost”)
    Are we supposed to evangelize by word, or works.? or both? or neither?

  7. aBasnar says:

    From a positive review of this book (emphasis mine):

    We must read the Bible as story, and we do this well, says McKnight, by listening to what the Bible says. Here is the danger of what McKnight calls an “authority approach” to the Bible, where people say God has told us what to do, and our job is to submit and obey. Such a view is deeply unsatisfying, for it fails to see that we have a relationship with God and that his words are not a duty but a delight. We must remember that God is not the Bible. Instead, he speaks to us in the Bible. We have a serious problem if we emphasize our knowledge of the Bible instead of the God who speaks to us in the Bible. McKnight concludes that those who are truly loving God and delighting in him “never need to speak of the Bible as their authority nor do they speak of their submission to the Bible” (p. 93).

    This indeed is a VERY different approach. And while there is some truth in it, namely our (relational) knowledge of God is more important than our (intellectual/legal) knowledge of scripture, the “never speak of authority” is absolutely wrong. So, Scot Mac Knight is playing quite the same trick on us as the Serpent in the garden: Acknowldeging some truth (at first) in order to reject the command of God.

    We all know all the scriptures that teach us to obey all that Christ has commanded, don’t we. So to affirm that those who truly love God “never” speak of authority and submission, is to say that neither Paul, nor Peter, not even Christ Himself ever truly loved God.

    BTW 20 years ago (!) F.LaGard Smith pointed out the danger of “cultural hermeneutic” and the “narrative hermeneutic” in his book Cultural Curch. This is a must-read for all who want to understand the hermeneutical differences between progressives and conservatives.

    Alexander

  8. Clint says:

    Maybe I am ripping Scripture completely out of context, so please correct me if I’m missing something…….but…….
    Doesn’t Paul’s mini-sermon at the Areopagus (Acts 17:22-34) have a lot to say about this issue? I mean, Paul said that those folks were worshiping an unknown god (in ignorance), who was actually the God of all creation. Then he went right on to appeal to them to leave their ignorance and believe in this God and the amazing miracle of resurrection that He accomplished through the “man He has appointed.” He even explicitly says that God previously overlooked “the times of ignorance,” but now (in contrast) calls everyone out of ignorance into repentance (which is undoubtedly a submission to the Lordship of Christ as evidenced throughout the NT).

    It seems to me that Paul leaves no room for universalism (God will judge), available light (they worshiped God ignorantly, yet God would no longer overlook their ignorance), and agnostic soteriology (the distinction between saved and lost is clearly repentance/faith).

    I don’t like the idea any more than the next guy, but ignorance seems to be an insufficient defense (at least until one is washed in the blood…but even then our plea is not ignorance, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified).

  9. Adam says:

    One important danger of the “orthodox” view that is rarely discussed is this: when done wrong, evangelism actively works against building the kingdom. It actually sends more to Hell by turning them off of the church forever than it does bring people to light.

    The obvious example is the Westboro Baptist Church – who, I’m sure, would simple say that they are adhering to the “orthodox” view. I am not suggesting that this article would accept the Westoboro Baptist Church’s approach as “orthodox”. It is simply an example.

    When not done in love, when not done in acceptance, when not done in honesty (emotionally and spiritually), when not done sacrificially, when not done from a wholistic Christian habitus, when not done from community, when not done from authenticity – evangelism is bound to fail.

    I’ve recommended this book before on this blog, but Brian Stone’s book “Evangelism after Christendom” was, for me, life changing and freeing. I highly recommend it to those interested in this topic from a philosophical and theological perspective.

  10. @Adam – Wrongly done “evangelism” is a real problem. (I live in North Alabama in a little place called “Limestone County”. You may have heard of it….) I deal with the results of it quite often. Nonetheless, it remains the job of each individual before God to respond to or reject the Gospel. Where the “bad evangelists” fall re: culpability is thankfully above my pay grade (What are the degrees of reward / not reward for the saved who do a bad job of it?). If I am too involved in “American Idol”atry, T-ball, and talk radio to push further, that is my own lookout. Like the groovy poster from the Sixties said, “Not to decide is to decide.”.

    OT: Just by way of intro, I have noted some taking brief peeks at my blog. If you wish to see where I fall “theologically”, posts from Jan ’08 would be a start. The Plumbline is an eclectic work, from pop culture to serious Biblicality. Feel free. Paeans to Carmen Miranda are not the norm. I believe that God’s Word speaks to all of culture, from churches to sci fi puppet shows.

  11. Emmett says:

    John chapter 3, verse 16 – probably the most widely cited scripture of all time, certainly in this modern era. Verses 18 and 19 are not so widely cited, but clearly state that those who do not believe are condemned already. And the judgment is that light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. Apparently we humans are to be held responsible for whether we choose darkness or light. At least that much is clear…

  12. Brent says:

    The fact is: we don’t really know what God is going to do with those who have never heard the gospel message. We sometimes think we know exactly how it plays out . . . but our thinking is based on reasoning . . . either way. And reasoning can be flawed.

    But we do know that Jesus asked his disciples before he ascended to heaven to go into all the world with the gospel. And we do know what God is going to do with those who have heard the gospel but do not believe.

    So . . . why do we waist so much time talking about what we “know” God is going to do to those who have never heard the gospel? Why does what “we think God is going to do with these people” affect our desire to continue walking in the steps of discipleship and practice the Great Commission? Shouldn’t we follow the Apostles’ lead in sharing the gospel with those who do not know it?

    This doesn’t mean that I am good at “doing” the Great Commission. But isn’t the GC where we need to be focused . . . and not in dressed up excuses?

  13. Charles McLean says:

    I think to equate Scot McKnight’s words with the serpent in the garden is a more than a bit hyperbolic. Reading Scot’s entire statement instead of just Alexander’s summation helps: >>McKnight concludes that those who are truly loving God and delighting in him “never need to speak of the Bible as their authority nor do they speak of their submission to the Bible”.<<

    I find McKnight's statement quite compelling, when taken in the spirit in which it is offered. When we truly love God and delight in him, this comes from intimate relationship with Him– in fact, true love of this sort comes from, and cannot exist outside, that relationship. So, it is not needful at that point of relationship to speak of one's submission to the authority of the Bible. This does not imply a rejection of scripture, not at all, but a closer, more intimate connection with the Source.

    A loving and committed wife does not carry around her marriage license to remind herself of her obligation to her husband. She carries that reality within her. Her husband needs not quote I Corinithians 7:1-4 to her when he comes to bed. Their love has long since passed any need for such an appeal to legislation.

    We are the bride of Christ, not the servants of the scripture.

    The Bible is words from God, a grand autobiography, if you will. It is not God. And JESUS is the Word of God. Conflating these two is a gross error, and one too often simply ignored. We are not called to have a relationship with the Bible. We do not have life because we study the scriptures, as the Pharisees thought. The Bible is not our Lord and Savior. It is not our Father. It is not the Holy Spirit, who reveals Jesus to us. All authority is given, not to the Bible (gasp!) but to Jesus himself. We are in Christ. This is not an excuse to deny the value of the scriptures, but it is a recognition of the spiritual reality which the Bible cannot BE, but only DESCRIBES.

    I do not submit to the Bible, but to Jesus. Just as I do not submit to that stop sign on my street, but to the law which gives it meaning, and moreover to the intentions of that law to keep me safe. I do stop, but I also stop where there is no sign when the neighbor kids run out in the street. I stop when some dimwit decides to run a red light, even though my light is green, telling me to go ahead. Who thinks I should go ahead and "go on green", as the sign says– even if it may cause a collision? Who thinks I should be ticketed for impeding traffic because I stopped under a green light? That is the sort of thinking which develops when we think the authority is in the signs and not in what gives them meaning.

    The true sons of God need not bring out a set of instructions and declare our allegiance to it. We do what we see our Father doing. When we receive that revelation from scripture, that is a wonderful thing. But even then, our authority is not vested in the book, but wholly and entirely in the Author.

  14. hank says:

    2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 ESV

    in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

    (Unless they don’t know God and don’t obey the Gospel due to never hearing???)

    Isn’t that adding to the word?

  15. Alabama John says:

    No one does not KNOW God. The word know has many meanings.

    We as humans are born knowing there is a God and we, throughout time in every place, have worshiped Him in many ways.

    God puts a spirit of Himself that will live FOREVER in every child that is born. I’ll never believe God puts His spirit in some children knowing that child will never have the opportunity we all have had to know God as we do and because of that, that child will be lost eternally. Talk about predestination!

    If that is so, as so many of us preach, then God IS a respecter of persons and chooses most that have lived on this earth to hell and damnation before they were born.

    Makes you wonder what we did or how we were chosen to be born where we were, in this time, and of parents that gave us the opportunity above all others of all time .

    Or, is God just and all humans born have and will have the same opportunity to be with God for eternity.

  16. laymond says:

    Charles said; “The Bible is words from God, a grand autobiography, if you will. It is not God.And JESUS is the Word of God.”

    “All authority is given, not to the Bible (gasp!) but to Jesus himself.”

    “I do not submit to the Bible, but to Jesus.”

    Charles said that “Jesus is the word of God”
    and that the bible are only “words from God”

    I fail to grasp the difference, and even Charles gives some, value to the bible. “This is not an excuse to deny the value of the scriptures”

    But the recorded words of Christ do not seem to make the same impression on Charles as it would have if he had heard them come out of Jesus mouth. But sadly Charles you only have the recorded version, to refer to.

    Jhn 5:47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?
    Jhn 12:47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
    Jhn 12:48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
    Jhn 12:49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.

    Sorry Charles but Jesus himself said you would be judged by the words he has spoken, not words he will speak through the “holy spirit” and as far as Christians are concerned “The Bible” is the recorded “Word of God”.

  17. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Bob B wrote,

    “I dunno, Jay; seems to me that damnation, in the heavenly courts as in the earthly, require a certain mens rea. I don’t recall the Great Commission – Section Mk.16.16b, as it were – condemning those who don’t know, only those who don’t believe.”

    Intent

    For those not in the legal profession, “mens rea” is criminal intent, that is, intent to do the deed — not normally intent to break the law. Hence, if an item in the store falls into my pocket and I leave the store unaware of having it and thus having not paid for it, I’m not a thief — as I have no criminal intent. But I’m a thief even if I think it’s not against the law in this jurisdiction.

    What intent is required to not believe? Well, you don’t have to know the “law” that requires faith, because that’s not the law that damns you. Indeed, as Paul explains in Romans 2 (tomorrow), you stand damned based solely on that law that you do know.

    Even the pagan who has never heard of Jesus or the Bible knows enough right and wrong innately and from his culture to be a sinner — and no one even meets that standard — which is a known standard.

    Hence, even under a standard that is much more generous than the American criminal law standard — if God only judges us for whatever part of his law we know, we are imperfect and stand lost.

    Belief

    A failure to believe is a tougher standard than “reject the gospel as preached to you.” If you’ve never heard the gospel, you don’t believe.

    That sounds harsh, but only when we judge such things by human standards. But by human standards, we’d nearly all go to heaven because very few of us are in jail or as evil as Hitler. That’s not the standard. (Rom 3 is quite clear, as is Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill.)

  18. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    PS — Bob’s recommendation of the Blue Parakeet is an excellent one. I did an extensive series on the book a couple of years ago when we taught the book in Bible class at my home church.

    The point of the book is that we must interpret scriptures in light of the over-arching narrative of Scripture. And the over-arching narrative includes God’s choosing and electing of Israel, to which he has added those Gentiles with faith in Jesus and from which he has excluded those Jews without faith in Jesus (Rom 11).

    The church is therefore elect and chosen because it is God’s re-worked Israel – his holy nation and chosen people. And God has chosen but one nation and elected but one people. That’s the narrative I read from Genesis to Revelation.

    Therefore, God has charged us with preaching the gospel to all — to bring the nations into the kingdom. And if we fail, the failure is ours. God will do his part. We need to do ours.

  19. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Edward Fudge writes,

    “I am persuaded that God will judge all people by the light that was available to them.”

    I have the greatest of respect for Edward, and in opposing “available light,” I also disagree with Al Maxey and Leroy Garrett. Al and I swapped posts on the subject here a while back (search “available light” in quotation marks and the posts should pop right up). I hesitate greatly when I am disagreed with by such an august assemblage of Christian thinkers. But I’ve read all their writings on the subject, and yet I disagree.

    I agree that those who’ve never heard the gospel will be judged according to their available light. That’s Rom 1 – 2. But I believe Paul teaches that they’ll all fail to meet that standard. No one can be saved by law, and “available light” is but a subset of God’s law.

    I find it very hard to accept any notion of someone having saving faith when they’ve never heard of Jesus, and the only faith that saves is faith in Jesus.

    After all, there were plenty of God-worshiping Jews in the First Century who were damned for their lack of faith in Jesus. And I don’t recall Paul urging the Gentiles to move from a “dim” gospel to a “brighter” gospel. He urged them to be saved.

    Acts 17:30 ESV “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

    Acts 11:13 ESV And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’

    Manifestly, Cornelius — a good Gentile — was not saved until he believed the message about Jesus. Why wasn’t he already saved?

    Acts 15:6 ESV The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

    James declared, in response to whether the converted Gentiles must be circumcised and otherwise obey works of the Torah, that God had “cleansed their hearts by faith.” He noted their receipt of the Spirit (v. 8). He sure seems to believe that the Gentiles had been lost and are now saved. Why else would they need their hearts to be cleansed by God?

    The whole narrative of scripture – especially Acts but not just Acts — points us toward the gospel being preached, faith coming, and the Spirit being poured out — to allow believers to be saved from damnation — not merely to be better educated about Jesus.

    Perhaps I’m missing something here. But that’s my reading of the text.

  20. hank says:

    In reference to where God says that the Lord will come “in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,”

    Alabama John says:

    “No one does not KNOW God. The word know has many meanings.”

    Okay, then what does the passage mean? If everyone “knows God” (as you claim), then who are the ones that will be inflicted with vengeance for NOT knowing God? Why would God talk about eternally punishing the ones who do not know him if in fact there are not any people who do not know him (as you claim)? That’s just weird…

    Too, what about the part that says he will also eternally punish those who do not “obey the gospel”? What does that mean? is there anyone who has not (is not) obeying the gospel? Can those who have never heard the gospel obey it?

    I believe that people need to be a little bit more slower in accusing God of being unfair, unjust, and/or unloving if he actually does what he says he’s going to do. Namely, punish every sinner who does not hear of, believe in, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ.

    People need to quit adding to and watering down the truth….

  21. Charles McLean says:

    Laymond wrote: “Sorry Charles but Jesus himself said you would be judged by the words he has spoken, not words he will speak through the “holy spirit” and as far as Christians are concerned “The Bible” is the recorded “Word of God”.”
    >>>
    Just a couple of comments on this. First, my brother, I will not be one judged as you say. I appreciate the scripture provided, so we might read it again: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”

    I am not one who rejects Him; it is THAT man, the unbeliever, who sits under that judgment. I receive Jesus and everything he says. One thing I do not do is disregard His place as the Word of God and set up a leatherbound Thompson Chain Reference as a replacement.

    As to what sort of revelation I have access to, I have much more than the canon. So do you, actually. We have the leading of the Holy Spirit himself. As Paul says, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Make no mistake, much of that leading comes via the revelation found in the canon. But if the Spirit’s leading is to be limited to our intellectual dissection of these few writings which the fourth century church councils approved, that fact seems to have escaped the authors. It’s an idea which developed much later.

    And I am not moved by a standard which tells me what is true “as far as Christians are concerned” when you have no authority to speak for us. Your continued conflation of Jesus and the NT canon, this regular reiteration without biblical reference, indicates a hope that your view –which lacks scriptural basis– will be accepted as fact solely because it is repeated ad infinitum. Making claims about the bible which the bible does not make about itself puts you in the exact spot you decry when others arrive there. That is, the Holy Spirit himself would have to reveal such things to you outside the scripture for you to know they are really truth. Otherwise, you are simply putting faith in folks you consider not inspired to tell you exactly what IS inspired.

    I am also left to wonder about why the Holy Spirit deserves lower case and quotation marks in your statement. It leads me to speculate, but it is better to ask than to presume.

    I also keep running into the old allegation, which suggests if I don’t take the Bible as the now-capitalized Fourth Person of the Godhead, then I don’t believe the Bible at all. To quote the Bard, “Hogwash!” I believe what I read in scripture, I just don’t believe everything people tell me about what the scripture is. For example, I don’t think it’s Jesus.

    I, for one, CAN grasp the difference.

  22. Let me posit that, in addition to these four views, there should be one that recognizes that Jesus saves, God judges through Him, and as sovereign Lord, He may show mercy to whomever He wishes in His mercy, just as He may condemn those whom He chooses to condemn in His justice — whether they have heard the gospel of His Son or not. This view would not assume that those have not heard are automatically list, but will be judged by what they do and say (Matthew 25). The purpose of risking lives and spendin time, money and effort to preach the gospel is to bring the Story of Christ to those who have not heard it, which has the power to bless and enrich this life as well as carrying with it the promise of salvation. There is no promise to those who have not heard. But there is no automatic exclusion because they have not heard. “Available light” is phrased to put the responsibility of salvation on man; those who have not heard just do the good work they can with the light available to them. That presupposes a works-based salvation. No, God judges the heart as well as the works that testify to faith. And I don’t see it as expressing the fulness of His divine/just/merciful nature to try to save time at judgment by automatically consigning those who have not heard to the condemnation of hell.

    I don’t believe we can make that assumption or limit the possibilities of soteriology to our defined categories. It is grace that saves, through faith, and I don’t know what or whom a person can have faith in without knowing a name for God, but I don’t think it’s right to assume that He cannot be deduced by His creation because of what Romans 1:20 says. I can’t see that chapter saying all people are all evil all the time, but that in spite of what we can know of God’s goodness through creation, we all still choose self too often and fall short of His perfection.

    What we’re called on to do is to trust God to be perfectly righteous, fair, just and merciful in His judgment. We can’t balance all of that perfectlyt. But He can.

    So even if my scenario is totally off-base, we still have a God Whom we can trust.

    The reason I favor it is that it helps resist the temptation to see lost people as simply lost, wandering, perhaps seeking … instead of as condemned and therefore bad-and-I’m-so-much-better-because-Jesus-saved-me. That leads to an unhealthy and unattractive and unChristlike arrogance.

  23. Sorry; last paragraph should read “as more than simply lost”.

  24. Alabama John says:

    Hank,

    To know God means you recognize and believe there is a supreme being and seek to WORSHIP and obey Him as much as is revealed to you.

    To obey the gospel is to obey as best you can the Gospel “Good News” in whatever degree its revealed and in whatever manner you can understand it.

    To know, (fully understand) to do good and do it not is rebellion and rejecting God and God will judge accordingly, not me.

    I don’t know why this is so hard to understand.

    I can put it more simply, apply it to today and say if a person is mentally challenged and can’t understand, do you believe that person will be held to the same judgment as those of us with normal mental abilities? I believe everyone on here would say, no, that person will be saved because he or she cannot understand, an exception will be made, and this person will be judged SAFE instead of saved. I’ve never met a person that would say the mentally deficient person would go to hell for not obeying just like you and me. Please explain the difference in the two situations. Why would one be excused and the other not? Both do not have the capacity to KNOW the biblical right from wrong.

    In either case, the ones mentioned could not understand like you and me so they will be judged according to “available Light”.

    To say both examples will be eternally lost is adding to the word, and I agree, we should stop doing that and especially if it is to boost our standing to be among the elite like the Pharisees did.

  25. hank says:

    Alabama writes (and asks):

    “I can put it more simply, apply it to today and say if a person is mentally challenged and can’t understand, do you believe that person will be held to the same judgment as those of us with normal mental abilities?….I’ve never met a person that would say the mentally deficient person would go to hell for not obeying just like you and me. Please explain the difference in the two situations. Why would one be excused and the other not? Both do not have the capacity to KNOW the biblical right from wrong.”

    Sure, I will explain the difference. A person that is “mentally challenged and can’t understand” would not be guilty of sin in the first place – such a one has no need of forgiveness. Just like a baby.

    However, if a mentally healthy and mature sinner never hears the gospel, it doesn’t then put him into the same category as an infant and/or retarded individual. It makes him a lost sinner in need of salvation.

    For lost sinners in need of salvation (unlike infants and the mentally retarded), they must hear, believe, and obey the gospel in order to be saved.

    And the Bible says that one cannot believe who has never heard. It says that faith comes by hearing. And it say that WHOEVER does not believe is condemned already and will be punished eternally by God.

    But, a baby and/or mentally disabled individual would not be guilty of sin. If he were, he too would only be able to be forgiven via the blood of Christ and obedience to him. There is just NO other means of forgiveness today.

    So, there is a definite difference between a “mentally disabled” person who “cannot understand” and a sinner who has never been forgiven.

  26. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Link to buy the book recommended by Adam,

    Evangelism after Christendom: The Theology and Practice of Christian Witness

    I’ve not read, but it’s now on my Amazon Wish List. What Adam says makes a lot of sense, and so I’m looking forward to the read.

Leave a Reply