doc truyen hay 2014 , truyen hay nhat nam 2014 , doc truyen , truyen tinh cam , truyen gay , truyen sex , truyen cuoi , doc truyen vui ,
On Inclusivism — #2 (The Good Pagan)

On Inclusivism — #2 (The Good Pagan)

by Mike Duran · 23 comments

Some great questions and comments came in on the last post regarding Inclusivism and my thinking through its tenets and objections. I wanted to take Sally’s comments to address some of the questions raised. Let me begin with the “good pagan.”

SALLY: The problem comes for me with the idea of a “good pagan.” The Bible teaches that all the animals begat after their own kind and that sinful Adam and Eve, who had fallen short of the glory of God, begat sinful children who were also fallen short of the glory of God.

So I don’t see how there can be a “good pagan.”

Mike, I think you and I agree on this: there is no one righteous, no not one.

MIKE: Sally and I DO agree on that. The Bible is far too clear on the subject.

Before I proceed, please note that this is an important component in the anti-Inclusivist position. If it can be established that sin has utterly ruined Man’s ability to know, seek, or serve God, then special revelation (i.e., an act of God via explicit preaching of the Gospel) is required. No amount of good deeds or generic worship can save the unenlightened soul.

The term “good pagan,” at least as I use it, is not meant to skirt the doctrine of the Original Sin or the depravity of man. It only serves to illustrate a category of person who has no “special revelation,” no explicit knowledge of Christ or the Gospel, but who seeks to do good, to pursue love and righteousness, to respond to the Law of God which is “written on their hearts” (Rom. 2:15).

One notable example in the New Testament is Cornelius (Acts 10) who illustrates that one can be a God-fearer, in right relationship with God, BEFORE explicit Gospel revelation. In the case of Cornelius, he was said to be a Gentile, “a righteous and God-fearing man, who [was] respected by all the Jewish people” (vs. 22), a man who “gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly” (vs. 2). Nevertheless, Cornelius was not a Christ follower. Cornelius had not embraced the Gospel. Through a series of visions, Peter meets Cornelius, preaches the Gospel, and Cornelius and his party are saved and baptized.

Peter’s proclamation upon seeing God’s orchestration of events is incredibly important:

“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. (Acts 10:35)

This could be rightly used as an example of how God leads evangelists to those who are genuinely seeking. However, this story also corroborates an Inclusivist position in that even BEFORE he hears the preaching of the Gospel, is converted or baptized, Cornelius is described as a “God-fearing man” whose good works have become “a memorial offering before God.”

The angel answered [Cornelius], “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God (vs. 4).

Remember, this is BEFORE Cornelius hears and responds to the Gospel. Which prompts Peter’s admission that, “God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (vs. 35). The implication is that it is possible to NOT have an explicit knowledge of the Gospel but to still fear God and do what is right.

If Cornelius had died before he had a chance to hear the Gospel, would he have perished? The Exclusivist is forced to answer “Yes.” Which is why, from my perspective, the Inclusivist position is far more in line with the heart of God and Scripture.

There are other verses that buttress this. Like Romans 2:6-11:

God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.For God does not show favoritism. (Rom. 2:6-11)

Again, there’s this idea of favoritism, that all of humanity is held to the same standard. The Jew is really no better off than the Gentile. “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (vs. 7). In this context, an explicit knowledge and embrace of the Gospel is NOT contingent upon one receiving “eternal life.” And on the other end, “There will be trouble and distress for EVERY human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for EVERYONE who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (vss. 9-10 emphasis mine). Once again, the embrace of an explicit Gospel does not seem to be a precursor to ANYONE seeking “glory, honor and peace.”

But to Sally’s point:  While the Bible clearly declares all people unrighteous, our sinful state does not appear to completely obstruct an intuitive awareness of God and His law. Take Romans 1 which frames the argument in terms of general revelation:

…since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Rom. 1:20-21)

If Original Sin prevents us from understanding “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature, then we are NOT without excuse. How can Man be blamed for something he CANNOT know? The fact that “people are without excuse” is evidence that His creative power and deity are able to be “understood.” And if people are able to intuit God’s majesty and His Law, then positive responses toward them must also have positive consequences. (This isn’t to suggest that such responses are necessarily salvific, but that they CAN, at least, point one toward immortality.)

Another example of this would be Paul’s preaching at Mars’ Hill in Acts 17, where he says:

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ — Acts 17:24-28

Again, Paul is appealing to general revelation as a spiritual prompt. God has ordered the world in such a way and “made all the nations… that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him.” ALL NATIONS. This would include pagan nations. Apparently, even though we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), we can still “reach out for him and find him (vs. 27).” That phrase is interesting because it contains the idea of stumbling, fumbling, and groping forward:

  • “feel their way toward him and find him” (NLT)
  • “grope for Him and find Him” (NKJV)

Point being that without special revelation, sinful man can only grope forward to God. Nevertheless, this still implies that Man is capable of, at least, intuiting a spiritual summit which he must ascend.

Arminians describe this in terms of “prevenient grace,” as opposed to the “irresistible grace” of Calvinism. According to those perspective systems, prevenient grace is available to ALL people, while irresistible grace is only available to the “elect.” The Inclusivist believes that all people have a measure of grace to which they can intuit and respond to or reject. Which is why Scripture repeatedly reminds us that God is not a respecter of persons; He judges each one according to their response to His internal and external revelation.

Theologian Don Thorsen, in his book Calvin vs. Wesley, puts it this way:

Wesley followed the historic theological views of Roman Catholicism, Orthodox churches, and Anglicanism, which viewed human freedom as a gracious gift of God available prior to the fall, and that continued to be available — albeit in diminished form — after the fall. By means of the prevenient (also known as preceding, prevening, or preventing) work of grace, God permits a measure of freedom, through the Holy Spirit, which is sufficient for people to act responsibly.

The idea of a “good pagan” is not necessarily a dodge (although, I admit some use it as such). From an Inclusivist position it simply refers to the person without explicit knowledge of the Gospel who is, nevertheless, “groping for God,” and “those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality.” So while “there is no one righteous, no not one,” sin has not completely removed our ability to comprehend God’s “invisible attributes” nor to intuit evil and good, and choose between the two. In this way, prevenient grace bestows “a measure of freedom” to all. Even pagans. Some of whom may respond by seeking God and His good. It also becomes the basis through which all souls are rightly judged.

Share this post!

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Skillin April 28, 2014 at 12:12 PM

Some thought provoking observations here Mike. Cornelius is a particularly interesting example. I have been wondering if “the gospel” itself in seed form able to be intuited from creation. Paul and Jesus spoke of God’s “kindness” and “love” being expressed from creation as well as God’s wrath and justice.(Mt.5:44,45;Acts 14:17;Luke 13:1-4). Both come to explicit head at the cross, but implicitly manifested in creation. Paul’s use of Psalm 19:4 in Romans 10:17,18 is particularly interesting in this regard. There he argues, in effect, that all have heard “the gospel” as Psalm 19:4 says. If this is right, that missionary preaching does not add to what creation already preaches (the gospel), preaching makes explicit what is implicitly already being said. This might also mean that the Wesley/Calvin debate is misguided, because the Spirit would be needed to respond to “the gospel” either through creation or evangelism.

Reply

Lyn Perry April 28, 2014 at 12:17 PM

The fact that we sin and are sinners has nothing to do with the image in which we are created. Nowhere in scripture does it state that our “imago dei” has been marred – the fall separates us from God spiritually, it does not affect that image.

Reply

Jill April 28, 2014 at 12:38 PM

Sally asks a very relevant question at the end of her post: If we aren’t saved through faith in Christ, what does it take to be saved?

Jesus gives us the answers we need in John 10, specifically here: “16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” And here: “26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

30 I and my Father are one.”

When I read these verses, I need no other answers. Jesus does the calling, and man either recognizes the voice of the shepherd, or he doesn’t. Jesus has sheep in other pastures (by that, I assume he means other nations); he already knows this. He foreknows it. It’s Jesus who must call them to him. And those who recognize the voice of the savior follow Jesus. I don’t know how it can be any other way. Acts 4:12 says, “12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

You say, “He judges each one according to their response to His internal and external revelation.” Yes, I agree. That revelation of which you speak IS Jesus.

Reply

Mike Duran April 29, 2014 at 6:47 PM

Jill, I believe the Scripture you quote in John 10 is rich in Inclusivist imagery. Especially as it’s rendered in a culture who perceived themselves as the sole recipients of God’s voice. What this doesn’t explain is HOW Jesus speaks to them and HOW they follow Him. Remember, explicit knowledge of Christ’s Person and finished mission had yet to be revealed. So how were these “other sheep” able to hear His voice and follow Him… if the Gospel wasn’t fully revealed?

Reply

Jill April 29, 2014 at 9:43 PM

Will you give me a solid working definition of what you mean when you use the term inclusivism? I agree with Sally, where she says, “Oh, well if you’re saying they are saved because Jesus made himself known, then I have no objection at all. I agree. Jesus can make himself known in many ways.”

Reply

Mike Duran April 30, 2014 at 5:05 AM

Jill, for a brief definition see the Theopedia definition: “Inclusivism posits that even though the work of Christ is the only means of salvation, it does not follow that explicit knowledge of Christ is necessary in order for one to be saved. In contrast to pluralism, inclusivism agrees with exclusivism in affirming the particularity of salvation in Jesus Christ. But unlike exclusivism, inclusivism holds that an implicit faith response to general revelation can be salvific. God expects from man a response proportional to the light given. Saving faith is not characterized so much by its cognitive content as it is by its reverent quality.”

The confusion for many seems to be in conflating pluralism (that all religions lead to God) with inclusivism, and/or holding that inclusivism somehow denies the exclusivity of Christ as the only way to God. You can find an interesting discussion of the differences between inclusivism and pluralism in apologist Randall Rouser’s Why Inclusivism Makes Sense. Hope that helps.

Reply

sally April 29, 2014 at 12:40 AM

Thanks for responding, Mike.

If Original Sin prevents us from understanding “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature, then we are NOT without excuse. How can Man be blamed for something he CANNOT know? The fact that “people are without excuse” is evidence that His creative power and deity are able to be “understood.”

I agree with that. Calvinists and Arminians both believe this.

In this way, prevenient grace bestows “a measure of freedom” to all. Even pagans. Some of whom may respond by seeking God and His good. It also becomes the basis through which all souls are rightly judged.

But Arminians and Calvinists are both exclusivists. So I don’t think the argument is between Prevenient and Irresistible Grace. We both believe that people are saved by grace.

Inclusivists seem to believe this:

Those who hear about Jesus must have faith in Jesus but those who have not heard don’t need faith in Jesus.

So it’s not about grace–it’s about faith.

Is it possible to be saved apart from faith in Christ?

Cornelius wasn’t saved apart from Faith in Christ. In fact God to went to great lengths to have the gospel preached to him. He sent a vision to Cornelius. Then He sent Peter a vision to prepare him to go to Cornelius. Then Peter went and preached the gospel.

The men in Athens weren’t saved–that’s why Paul was preaching to them.

In Acts we see over and over and over how the Holy Spirit saved people. He still saves people today.

But the Inclusivist interpretation of Romans 2:6-11, as you’ve laid it out here, seems to be that good works and not faith is what saves people. Regardless of whether they have heard the gospel or not.

Am I misunderstanding? It sounds like Inclusivism suggests that the Jew (who had God’s word) and the Gentile who only had general revelation, are able to be saved by doing good.

But no one does good. That passage is not teaching that some will succeed in doing good works and so be saved. He starts out saying, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”

I think the Bible–Paul, in Romans–is saying in chapter one “Gentiles, the wrath of God is coming on you and you are without excuse. You had general revelation–you could look at the stars and see–and you traded the truth of God for a lie.” And then I think he’s saying in chapter two, “You Jews, the wrath of God is coming on you and you are without excuse. You had the written revelation. And you ‘rejected the truth and followed evil.’”

Sure those who do good will be saved. But who does good? No one. Isnt’t that the whole point of Paul telling the Gentiles and the Jews both that they were lost.

In chapter one the people who hadn’t heard (but had general revelation) were lost.

In chapter two the people who had heard (the Jews) were lost.

In chapter three he says they are both lost. He says no one is righteous, no not one.

Well then who can be saved?

In chapter three also, Paul tells us:
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.

Those who had heard (Jew)? Fallen short of the glory of God and saved by the blood to be received by FAITH. Those who had not heard (Gentile)? Fallen short of the glory of God and saved by the blood to be received by FAITH. No difference between the two–those who have the word of God and those who have general revelation–Paul says. Both must be saved by believing in Christ.

This righteousness that saves us–this righteousness from God–is given through FAITH in Jesus Christ to all who BELIEVE.

I don’t think Romans supports Inclusivism.

Reply

Joe Sanders April 29, 2014 at 8:12 AM

I agree with Wesley. We do have a measure of knowing when we do wrong. We are still polluted by sin and therefore in need of a Saviour and of grace by faith. Yet we have that image of God in us still that instills in us the intuitive knowing that we need God and the want to do right (except when our conscience is seared). So yes there can be a morally good pagan as you pointed out Mike; yet not an eternally saved ‘pagan’ because of God’s holy nature. This is why Universalists are so wrong and Romans 3:23 so right.

Reply

Mike Duran April 29, 2014 at 6:39 PM

Sally, to your second point: Prevenient and Irresistible Grace is an important issue because one extends to all, the other to only some. Also, Prevenient grace CAN be resisted (unlike Irresistible grace), which would seem to make God’s judgment based on the individual’s choice rather than an inherited condition (fallenness).

Re: Cornelius. As I said, it’s a great example of God bringing salvation to the seeker. Amen. But you’ve missed a key component to my argument. “…even BEFORE he hears the preaching of the Gospel, is converted or baptized, Cornelius is described as a ‘God-fearing man’ whose good works have become ‘a memorial offering before God.’” Does this describe an unregenerate man? Which led me to ask, “If Cornelius had died before he had a chance to hear the Gospel, would he have perished?” If I’m understanding you correctly, you would answer, “Yes.”

To your third point that no one does good, and that it is impossible to be saved apart from faith in Christ, I think I’ll make the subject of my next post. Thanks for commenting, Sally!

Reply

sally April 29, 2014 at 9:06 PM

OK I see why the two graces are important to your argument. Thanks for clarifying that. I didn’t get that you were saying man was condemned because of personal sin and not because of his fallen nature.

What do you do with Roman’s 5? Particularly where it speaks of Adam’s sin bringing condemnation on us all: For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation.

To tell you the truth my answer to the question about Cornelius dying would be, “He didn’t die.”

I’m not trying to be sarcastic with that answer. And I’m not really trying to evade the question. It is my contention that no one who is being saved will ever die before he comes to a knowledge of Christ. So I can’t answer the question, “What would have happened if he died?” because it’s an impossibility as far as I can tell. It’s like asking me, “What would you believe about God if you’d been born to Hindu parents?” I’d have to say, “I can’t answer that. I wasn’t born to Hindu parents.”

But, yes, I believe that men who die without faith in Christ go to hell. I just don’t believe that anyone who is seeking after God will die before Christ is made known to him and before the Holy Spirit gives him faith.

I look forward to your next post.

Reply

Mike Duran April 30, 2014 at 5:42 AM

Sally, Romans 5 is part of a larger juxtaposition. “18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”

The point of Romans 5, I believe, is found in Paul’s summary: “20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The emphasis is not on the extent of “condemnation” but the lavish gift of grace which “abounded all the more.” So while the pagan is indeed condemned, they are also recipient of an even greater grace extended to “all men” (vs. 18).

And as regards Cornelius: Your answer begs the question. Following through your logic, then if anyone dies before they make an explicit profession of faith, their death is evidence that they were not being saved. Again, how was Cornelius a God-fearing man BEFORE he made an explicit profession of faith in Christ?

Reply

Jessica E. Thomas April 30, 2014 at 9:23 AM

“as you’ve laid it out here, seems to be that good works and not faith is what saves people. Regardless of whether they have heard the gospel or not.”

I don’t see this at all (and I’m on the fence on inclusivism…I’m not comfortable preaching/teaching it because once a person DOES know about Jesus, then they are held accountable to that knowledge, imo) and sorry if this was already stated below, but for the pagan who does not explicitely know God/Jesus, it could be said that they do good deeds as an act of faith…and blessed are those who have not seen but still believe (and then respond to that belief with good deeds). But like I said, it’s a catch-22. I don’t think inclusivism is a teaching for non-believers. It’s something believers can hash out among themselves (and never know for sure), but to give non-believers false assurance *while* you are introducing them to Christ seems like a dangerous path to me.

Reply

Rebecca LuElla Miller April 29, 2014 at 12:49 PM

I think Sally did a good job putting Romans 2 into context. I’ve understood those verses in the same way—as a bridge between Romans 1 which states all are without excuse and Romans 3 which states none is righteous. In essence, chapter 2 puts everyone in the same boat.

Jill also pointed to the passage in John 10 which states with clarity those who are Jesus’s sheep will hear His voice.

For me the passage that brought me to understand what salvation is all about is John 3:17-18:

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (Emphasis mine)

It hit me that all have been judged, that the real sin is not believing in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Consequently, the only way to be saved is to believe in God’s gift of His only Son. As I look at that passage again, I don’t see any qualifier for those who haven’t heard, as if they have not been judged.

Mike, I think your example of Cornelius does illustrate an important point, this from the book of James: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” So those unreached peoples (I prefer that to “pagan”) who draw near to God will not have to muddle on alone, hoping they are understanding what those around them don’t, I don’t think. God will draw near to them. Could He do so without opening up the truth about Jesus? God can do what God chooses to do, but I think believing He has to bypass His plan of salvation to reach these people who are drawing near to Him, makes Him seem small. And I don’t think there’s any Scripture to indicate He’s done so. The Bible seems uniquely to put people in two camps, not three. I don’t see sheep, goats, and untaught.

I think we’ve forgotten an important truth about God in this postmodern generation: He is all about revealing Himself. How many times does He say in the Old Testament, That they may know that I am the Lord, or some equivalent? Countless.

How unlike God, then, would it be for Him to have a plan of salvation which He purposed before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20), only to fail to reveal this plan to the people who draw near to Him.

Becky

Reply

Mike Duran April 29, 2014 at 7:05 PM

Becky, I’m not thinking in terms of a third category either. There are children of Light and Darkness, children of God and Satan, the saved and the damned. You ask if God can save the unreached “without opening up the truth about Jesus?” There’s no salvation apart from Jesus! But as Lewis suggested, we do not know exactly how Christ can make Himself known. He is the Ancient of Days, the pre-incarnate Logos, “the light that lightens everyone who comes into the world” (Jn. 1:9). Point being that Jesus can possibly make Himself known in myriads of ways.

Reply

sally April 29, 2014 at 7:55 PM

Oh, well if you’re saying they are saved because Jesus made himself known, then I have no objection at all. I agree. Jesus can make himself known in many ways.

Reply

Mike Duran April 30, 2014 at 5:18 AM

Sally, see my comments to Jill above. I believe where you and I differ is in what cognitive content is necessary for one to get saved. If Christ is the Light and Logos, then revelation of Himself could take shape, to some extent, in the form of Truth, Love, Reason, Mercy, etc. Did Abraham know ENOUGH about Christ to be saved? Did David’s stillborn son? And on and on. I believe we’re forced to consider that the pre-incarnate, pre-crucified and resurrected Christ, can “lighten” (Jn. 1:9) Man in ways apart from an explicit confession of faith in a crucified and resurrected Christ.

Reply

Rebecca LuElla Miller April 30, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Abraham had special revelation–God talked directly to him–so yes, he had enough revelation.

Mike, you didn’t address the Scripture from James: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. To me, this is precisely what Cornelius did. And God responded by sending someone to preach to him.

You and I agree, I think, that God’s gift, Christ’s work of salvation, is extended to all people. But Scripture is clear on the appropriation of the gift. What is required is belief in the only begotten Son of God. I don’t think there’s anywhere in Scripture that equivocates on this point.

In addition, when Jesus says He is the light of the world, that doesn’t mean all light is Jesus. As it happens, Satan appears as an angel of light. Hence, relying on “light” to bring someone to God is questionable.

I guess what I don’t understand is, why is it easier to believe that a person can come to God through general revelation alone, without actually knowing Jesus or believing in His name, than it is to believe God can make sure those who are His (either through election or as God-fearing people who choose Him) will, in fact, receive the special revelation they need?

As I see it, the former position isn’t supported by Scripture and the latter is consistent with verses from Old Testament to New.

Becky

Reply

Mike Duran April 30, 2014 at 5:47 PM

Becky, I agree with you on the James passage. What we’d probably disagree on is when exactly Cornelius may have actually been saved. He was called a God-fearing man BEFORE he’d heard of Christ. God honored his prayers and gifts BEFORE he embraced the Gospel and was baptized.

You asked, “why is it easier to believe that a person can come to God through general revelation alone, without actually knowing Jesus or believing in His name, than it is to believe God can make sure those who are His (either through election or as God-fearing people who choose Him) will, in fact, receive the special revelation they need?”

First, I don’t think it’s necessarily “easier.” That’s not the basis for me leaning toward that position. Second, I totally believe that God can reveal himself to whomever He wants. So we agree there. Where you and I disagree, I think, is that I don’t see that revelation as necessitating an explicit recitation of the post-crucified, post-resurrected Christ. In that case, what of all the saints, prophets, and patriarchs of the past who “died in faith” according Hebrews 11? (I’ll expound more on this verse in my next post.) From my perspective, you have only three options:

1.) These Old Testament saints did not have an explicit knowledge of Jesus and His work, and perished.

2.) These Old Testament saints had enough, though not explicit, knowledge of God and His promise, and were saved.

3.) These Old Testament saints were all given an explicit knowledge of Christ and His finished work, professed Him, and were saved.

I totally discount #1. I believe #2. And I can concede #3, even though I don’t see a lot of biblical support for it.

Reply

Rebecca LuElla Miller May 1, 2014 at 10:37 AM

Mike, I think Cornelius is a good example of God drawing near to those who draw near to Him. When was Cornelius born again? When he believed in Jesus. Apparently, from what Peter said, in his God-fearing state, he had already heard of Jesus:

you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:37-38, see also the verses that follow; emphasis mine)

But when Peter laid out to Cornelius the claims of Jesus as the one who forgives sins, he believed and was filled with the Holy Spirit:

“Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. (Acts 10:43-44)

It was upon the declaration that any who believe in Jesus that the Holy Spirit came to these Gentiles. It was the presence of the Holy Spirit and His manifestation that prompted Peter to suggest their baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Call Cornelius a “seeker,” if you will, before he heard Peter preach, but he was reconciled with God, filled with the Holy Spirit, and a disciple of Christ, after.

As much as we can know the moment of anyone’s conversion, I think we can know it of Cornelius.

Becky

Reply

Rebecca LuElla Miller May 1, 2014 at 11:01 AM

Mike, I didn’t want to ignore the last part of your comment. You said

Where you and I disagree, I think, is that I don’t see that revelation as necessitating an explicit recitation of the post-crucified, post-resurrected Christ. In that case, what of all the saints, prophets, and patriarchs of the past who “died in faith” according Hebrews 11?

All these had specific revelation. God Himself told Abraham he would father a son who would be a blessing to all the nations. How specific was He in saying out who Jesus would be and what He would do? I don’t know. But I know that however much He told him, Abraham believed God. He demonstrated that belief every time God told him to do something or to believe something.

David was filled with the Holy Spirit, so clearly he wasn’t relying on general revelation. God spoke to the prophets and showed them visions. Again, how much He revealed to them of Jesus, we don’t know. Some, obviously, or there wouldn’t be Messianic passages in their prophecies and Peter wouldn’t have been able to say to Cornelius that the prophets bear witness to Jesus.

Jesus Himself, after His resurrection, explained the Scriptures to His disciples:

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

Of course I don’t know how explicitly the prophets and other Old Testament believers understood what God told them. But the point is, they believed the specific revelation He gave them. They were not saved by their grasp of general revelation.

Becky

Becky

Reply

Rebecca LuElla Miller May 1, 2014 at 11:24 AM

So sorry about that formatting above.

I needed to add this anyway. In Romans Paul specifies what it was Abraham believed:

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (4:5; emphasis mine)

This makes me wonder if those the Old Testament refers to as righteous of necessity had this same belief in Him who justifies the ungodly. Did they understand this justification came through Christ, or could they have understood it through the various symbols God gave them–the Passover Lamb, the bronze serpent. I lean toward the latter–that God pointed to Christ and though their understanding didn’t go beyond the idea that they were saved by a sacrifice or by looking at a serpent, they still believed in Him who justifies the ungodly.

Today, of course, we know that Jesus is the One who justifies the ungodly because He has already come. They looked forward and believed the signs and prophecies God gave them. We look back at the witness and record of those inspired by the Holy Spirit.

And those who haven’t heard? I have no doubt God can send them whatever they need should their hearts be bent toward Him. I also have no doubt that, as for Cornelius, what God sends them will be knowledge of the One who justifies the ungodly.

I could say more, but I’ll leave it there. I suspect there’s a universal sigh of relief at that announcement. :-p

Becky

Reply

Nick Houze April 30, 2014 at 5:14 PM

I’m not sure how pertinent this is to this specific discussion, but I do think that it has a bearing on it. When the devil and his angels fell, they fell in full light and separated themselves from the only Good there is, namely God. Thus they became wholly evil, with no trace of redemptive good in them. When Adam fell, he died spiritually. The very day that he sinned, he became spiritually dead. His spirit died. He didn’t cease to have a spirit; it was simply separated from the One for Whom it was created. He did not become wholly evil; he remained made in the image of God. This dead spirit is not totally depraved (totally evil), as the Calvinists would have it. Cornelius is a great example of how our dead spirit can still grope its way towards God. God has given mankind light; it’s just that the fullest light is found in Jesus. Christ died not for us only but for the whole world.

Reply

Rich June 23, 2014 at 5:09 AM

It doesn’t matter whether exclusivist or inclusivist…
Peter said in Acts 10:42 that Jesus “commanded us to preach”
Paul said in Acts 13:47 “the Lord commanded us” to evangelize the Gentiles
Jesus spoke in the imperative in Matthew 28:19 “teach all nations”

Either you are obedient to taking the gospel to the Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim or you are disobedient. It’s that simple.

The only question with practical application is “What am I doing so the Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim can know Jesus?”

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: