What about those who have not heard? Part 2
There are essentially three positions on those who have not heard, though these can be subdivided. They are Restrictivist, Agnostic and Opportunist. With regard to the deductive argument I outlined in the last post.
Restrictivists- Do not accept the conclusion.
Agnostics- Consider that the conclusion opens up the possibility of a means of salvation for the unevangelised.
Opportunists- Accept the conclusion and are confident in expecting a means of salvation for the unevangelised.
Let us get a little more specific and look at the specific positions.
Restrictivists hold that the only means to obtain eternal life is through the witness of believers.
The majority of Calivinists take this view. Some Arminians also share it, though they may be accused of inconistency in doing so.
Calvinists who adopt the Restrictivist view do so because they see only those who hear the Gospel message as falling within the scope of God's salvific decree. Arminian Restrictivists do so for two main reasons; firstly because they do not see evidence in Scripture to the contrary and secondly because they believe the responsibility to share the Gospel has been given to believers.
Pessmistic agnostics believe that God's merciful character raises the hope of some means of the unevangelised being saved, but the apparent silence of the Scriptures disinclines them to the idea.
J.I. Packer, a Calvinist, takes this view.
Simple agnostics acknowledge both the lack of Scriptural data and God's merciful character, but refuse to take a position either way. They are often concerned that discussion of this issue will hinder missionary endeavour.
Optimistic agnostics acknowledge the lack of Scriptural data, but are hopeful that God may have provided a means of saving the unevangelized.
John Stott takes this view.
Inclusivists hold that God's revelation in nature is sufficent to enable a person to find salvation. They are argue that all or most religions provide some knowledge of God's character and therefore a person can come to know Christ implicitly through faith in these religions.
This view is prominent amongst Roman Catholics and is highly favoured by those who are more liberally inclined in theology. Nevertheless, it was held by such a conservative one as John Wesley.
Some who are not convinced by Inclusivism suggest that perhaps God may give a second chance after death to the heathen.
While this view accounts for God's merciful character it is seriously lacking in Scriptural support.
Universal Premortem Opportunism
This view holds that God most likely provides special revelation to the unevangelised before their death. The granting of such revelation may be conditional upon a positive response to natural revelation.
This view was advocated by Thomas Aquinas, Jacob Arminius and the Calvinist J. Oliver Buswell. There is an Eastern Orthodox tradition that John the Baptist appears to the heathen before they die to preach Christ.
This is the view that I will defend in this series.