[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What about the Unevangelized Part 4

by Matthew

One objection which may sometimes be raised against universal premortem opportunism is Romans 10:14:

14 ¶ How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

This verse is often cited as proof that no body can be saved unless they encounter an human preacher. This verse is a favourite in missionary talks, where it is used to pressure people into either giving towards mission or to get young people to become missionaries.

Many years ago I read “What about those who have not heard?” a ‘three views’ book edited by Gabriel Fackre. Sadly, none of the three contributors defended the view expressed in these posts, instead arguing for Restrictivism, Inclusivism and Postmortem Evangelisation. One significant absence in the debate was this Romans 10:14. Even Ronald Nash, who argued for Restrictivism omitted to mention this verse. I suspect this was because the authors all understood that this verse in no way proves Restrictivism.

Even if Paul was making this statement with the same intent as missionary speakers, it would not necessarily refute universal opportunism. Paul is not actually stating that preaching is the only way to receive the offer of eternal life. Were we to take it that way, nobody could be saved through reading a tract. Yet this is not the purpose of this statement.
All too often the famous verses are quoted while ignoring their context. A common example is James 2:19. So often one hears Christians saying things like:
“Its no good just believing and not walking the walk; even the demons believe.”

Yet as Zane Hodges has powerfully argued, James is quoting an hypothetical objector. A rhetorical device is in use here.

The context of Romans 9-11 is not the plight of the unevangelized. It is the rejection of the gospel by the nation of Israel. Paul is not giving a missionary talk, he is addressing Israel’s need for faith in Christ. In verse 14, Paul raises an hypothetical objection. What if they have not heard? How are they going to be saved if they have not heard a preacher? Yet he answers this in the following verses:

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? Is. 53.1

17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

18 ¶ But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily,
Their sound went into all the earth,
and their words unto the ends of the world. Ps. 19.4

19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith,
I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people,
and by a foolish nation I will anger you. Deut. 32.21

20 But Isaiah is very bold, and saith,
I was found of them that sought me not;
I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. Is. 65.1

21 But to Israel he saith,
All day long I have stretched forth my hands
unto a disobedient and gainsaying people

The gospel has been preached! The majority of Jews have rejected the message by which they must be saved. Yet despite this, God’s purposes still stand. Therefore, it is quite illegitimate to take this verse as some kind of proof that people can only be saved through contact with an human missionary. The possibility remains that God, in His compassion and mercy will provide light to those in darkness through dreams and visions.



  • Thank you bro. Matthew. Are you familiar weith a great, even a giant (in my estimation) of the Faith, F.W. Grant? He has at least one great article on the GES site. He was saved by simply reading the Bible on his own! What better way, right? I am certainly NOT ( as I am sure you are not either) denigrating preaching of the Word, we are commanded to & it is a labor of love! But the Gospel has been preached as you stated & the word of God is living & powerful!! God works so beautifully! He used His Word alone in FW Grant's life, but He used Philip to explain it to the eunuch in Acts 8!
    But you know another thought occurs to me, bro. Matthew. That is the truth that a person like bro. Grant may be saved through reading the Word alone, but he also may have heard someone in the past preach or witness to him, & the Spirit can use that seed in his heart to germinate as well. So the point I make here is that they may be saved all alone (with the Spirit there, of course!) but a preacher's witnessing the Word in the past may also be used of God at the moment of salvation as well. Oh me, I'm just rambling now. God Bless.

    By Blogger David Wyatt, at Saturday, April 25, 2009 7:03:00 PM  

  • What you say is true.

    I am very familiar with FW Grant and his place in Brethren history.

    I have read some of his short articles.

    By Blogger Celestial Fundie, at Sunday, April 26, 2009 1:46:00 AM  

  • Matthew,

    There is plenty in Romans in general and in chapter 10 in particular to show that it is not limited to the Children of Israel.

    The chapter itself reminds us that there is no difference between Jew and Greek (in salvation) and makes reference to the "whosoever" end of things in the immediate context, drawing also on the universality of the sun's witness etc.,

    I can't say that I am with you in your thiniking here.


    By Blogger Colin Maxwell, at Sunday, April 26, 2009 4:55:00 AM  

  • Matthew,
    In reference to your Zane Hodges and James 2:19 reference in this post:

    I heard on T.V. yesterday an excellent sermon by Dr. David Jeremiah of Shadow Mountain Church and Turning Point Ministries. It is my understanding that this is the church that Antonio attends. Dr Jeremiah gave a very much lordship salvation view of this passage. Although he is a non-Calvinist, his view is almost identical with those who are accused of Lordship Salvation for their view of this [James 2:14-26] passage. He said faith is not mere mental assent but something that results in action and that a person that has no fruit is not a Christian.

    Considering Antonio’s disdain for this theology, I am perplexed as to why he would attend such a church. How can he impugn and discredit others when his own pastor holds to a Lordship Salvation view? Perhaps he checks by from time to time and can answer for himself if he still attends that church.

    By Blogger jazzycat, at Monday, April 27, 2009 6:50:00 AM  

  • Matthew, I hope you don't mind my "poaching" on your thread, but now that Jazz-man has mentioned James 2:19, I find a third alternative understanding of that passage to be most satisfactory and highly relevant to FG.

    First, there are significant logical problems with any view (including ZH's) that takes the hypothetical objector to be opposing James' contention that "faith without works is dead" (2:17), regardless of where one places the "stop" quotes at the close of the objector's proposal. There is no way to argue consistently and logically from 2:18 through 2:20 without some kind of special pleading.

    Now, suppose that the hypothetical objector has simply been recruited by James to oppose the original claimant---the one who claims to "have faith" but does not have works (2:14). Then everything makes sense from the Free Grace standpoint, but is of no help to the LS position, as follows:

    Premise 1: pisteuo ("believe") and its nominal root (pistis, "faith") always implies genuine faith, although that faith can certainly "die." However, the word may not always specify the same object or result of faith in every instance; pisteuo may or may not include a nuance of belief in the truth of a proposition, but it always implies the notion of trust or reliance on the object of that faith in order to receive the promised result.

    Premise 2: The "salvation" in mind in this passage---indeed throughout James---has nothing to do with one's positional status before God. It simply means "deliverance" and in every instance in James carries one or both of the following nuances:
    1) a "brother's" deliverance from temporal sickness and/or death;
    2) the deliverance of a "brother's" intended reward at the judgement seat of Christ (cf. 1:12; 2:5).

    Argument: James is deploying his objector (as an ally) to initiate a "rhetoric of humiliation" and shame the original claimant in 2:14-16. In response to this "someone may say," the objector cites the example of demons who also have genuine "faith" in some object for a specific result (although it is not "the faith of Christ," cf. 2:1). His purpose is to shame the claimant into realizing how lame is his claim to have the "faith of Christ": It is no more useful to the purpose of his faith than the demon's own faith that "God is one" can ever avail for them. This is just as James had contended in his rhetorical question in 2:14a---faith won't "save" either of them.

    Thus, James' hypothetical ally brings in 2:19 in order to make this point: The demons really do believe ("trust") that "God is one" (Deut 6:4a) and that Satan's aspiration to "be like God" is therefore doomed from the start; but they at least demonstrate their "faith" in that proposition by trembling. Yet the original claimant demonstrates absolutely nothing: If he had faith that "God is one," his faith should result in loving God (Deut 6:4b) and demonstrating that love through in-kind compassion for needy brethren (Lev 19:18, cf. Matt 22:38-39, in contrast to James 2:15-16). (James' entire epistle is "bathed" in that kind of Matthean "wisdom.")

    Following the withering humiliation of the hypothetical objector's comparison with the demons, James finally returns to drive home the purpose of his argument and issue a direct challenge to the original claimant: "Now are you willing to concede, O empty man, that 'faith without works is useless'?" (my translation). James' rhetorical strategy here in the context of 2:1-26 is to promote his implied purpose in 1:9-12---the "humiliation" of the "haves" vis-a-vis the "have nots" in the Body of Christin view of promised reward at the Judgement Seat of Christ.

    By Blogger agent4him, at Monday, April 27, 2009 8:35:00 AM  

  • [for e-mail follow-up comments]

    By Blogger agent4him, at Monday, April 27, 2009 8:47:00 AM  

  • Colin, I do not see that I necessarilly disagree with you (at least on first glance- if Antonio starts arguing with you, I will take it that I do).

    My point is simply that Paul is not making the kind of appeal that a missionary speaker would with that statement in verse 14.

    God Bless


    By Blogger Celestial Fundie, at Monday, April 27, 2009 10:21:00 AM  

  • Agent4him,

    you and I are at opposite ends of the LS debate. But what you said here >>>"but they at least demonstrate their "faith" in that proposition by trembling. Yet the original claimant demonstrates absolutely nothing: If he had faith that "God is one," his faith should result in loving God (Deut 6:4b) and demonstrating that love through in-kind compassion for needy brethren (Lev 19:18, cf. Matt 22:38-39, in contrast to James 2:15-16)."<<< is a coclussion that is close to mine of that portion of scripture. The Demons tremble, they at least do that on the basis of their "faith", all the while the professor of James 2:14 shows no action whatsoever.

    By Blogger mark pierson, at Monday, April 27, 2009 10:25:00 AM  

  • Yes, Mark, quite right; good to meet you. I see this logic as the most transparent argument from 2:18 through 2:20. The difference would be in our stated premises. Thanks for the clarification.

    By Blogger agent4him, at Monday, April 27, 2009 10:48:00 AM  

  • if Antonio starts arguing with you, I will take it that I doIs Antonio, with all due respect, Sir Oracle?Since we know that Paul, both from his words and deeds, was deeply committed to missionary work, then I fail to see why we cannot take this passage as an extension of his evident passion to see sinners brought savingly to Jesus Christ.


    By Blogger Colin Maxwell, at Monday, April 27, 2009 11:18:00 AM  

  • Matthew = "The possibility remains that God, in His compassion and mercy will provide light to those in darkness through dreams and visions."

    How doesn't this end up in the same place where the hyper-Calvinist would end up in his attempts to diminish the importance of missions?

    By Blogger mark pierson, at Monday, April 27, 2009 11:49:00 AM  

  • Matthew,
    After a little research, I found a post on this site dated Friday, March 9, 2007 by Antonio. In that post he mentions being a member at Shadow Mountain Church where Dr. Jeremiah preaches for 14 years.

    I just find it strange he would be a member at a Lordship Salvation church. How is it possible to be a member there and carry on such a crusade against lordship salvation? I don't get it......

    By Blogger jazzycat, at Monday, April 27, 2009 1:52:00 PM  

  • Wayne, why don't you ask the man yourself?

    By Blogger Celestial Fundie, at Tuesday, April 28, 2009 12:21:00 AM  

  • Colin, perhaps. But that is not the point Paul was making, so to use the verse as a way of resolving the question of whether there is any hope for the unevangelized is misguided.

    By Blogger Celestial Fundie, at Tuesday, April 28, 2009 12:23:00 AM  

  • Matthew,
    Consider it done. I officially request that ANTONIO respond to my questions. Since he is a contributor on this blog, I am sure he would want to answer, not only for my benefit, but also for the many Free Grace bloggers who visit here...........

    My wife and I watch Antonio's pastor Dr. Jeremiah nearly every week and are edified very much by his sermons and it was interesting to see him place himself solidly in the lordship salvation camp with his sermon on James 2:14-26. He also brought up Eph. 2:10 to make his point about good works flowing from true Christians......

    By Blogger jazzycat, at Tuesday, April 28, 2009 10:46:00 AM  

  • Mark, I want to address the question of motive for mission in another post.

    By Blogger Celestial Fundie, at Wednesday, April 29, 2009 12:24:00 AM  

  • Matthew,
    My point was actually concentrated on where the two trains of thought end up: one train of thought is that God will speak to that one who has no contact with a human missionary, but is seeking Him nonetheless; while the other says that God will bring His elect ones in regardless of whether or not a missionary has been sent.

    By Blogger mark pierson, at Wednesday, April 29, 2009 5:03:00 AM  

  • From Dr. Jeremiah's website:

    Missouri is known as the “Show-Me State.” It is a sentiment reflecting the line of thinking that actions speak louder than words. Believe it or not, Christianity shares this sentiment. Simple declarations of faith mean nothing if your actions undermine the faith you profess. Faith is better seen than spoken. The Bible calls us to a faith that is visible – that is acted out. James 2:14-26

    By Blogger jazzycat, at Wednesday, April 29, 2009 6:49:00 AM  

  • Hi Jazzy,
    Just reading that quote I would say I mostly agree with it and I would not call myself a member of the "Lordship camp." :~)

    You may be reading it one way and I another... and the person writing it (Dr. J) may mean it either of those two ways.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Wednesday, April 29, 2009 6:54:00 AM  

  • Rose,
    While this quote may not satisfy you as to Dr. J's view, I can say it is 100% certain that he came down 100% on the side of the lordship interpretation of James 2:14-26 on this past Sunday's sermon. This sermon can be accessed from his website and he directly stated that if there is no fruit or change in person's life that claims to be a Christian, then that person is not saved. He made it very clear that justification was by faith alone, but that true faith, rather than mental assent faith like devils have, was not saving faith. He said that faith has more than a mere claim, it also has action.

    His view was clearly and without a doubt the same view that lordship advocates are under great criticism from free grace advocates for the three or so years I have been following this debate.

    You should check it out as he makes the lordship point early and often in this sermon.

    By Blogger jazzycat, at Wednesday, April 29, 2009 1:27:00 PM  

  • Hi Jazzycat,
    It is nice to see you around again.
    As to what you say - I am convinced you are probably right. I think this is the popular view of James, and even the one which Martin Luther had which is why he saw the contradiction between Paul and James. There is a better way of looking at it, though, which hasn't been considered probably by most pastors nowadays because the popular way is so touted and accepted - it's everywhere.

    New Christians say "even the demons believe and tremble" all the time. :~)

    The way Jodie explained James on the Debate Blog was of such benefit to me. It makes so much more sense than the popular view. God is not just interested in my eternal salvation, but He actually wants to USE me to help others find His salvation and blessedness. If I don't do anything to express this faith, what good does it do anyone but me? It is like a puppet without a hand inside.

    What good is a light that is hidden under a bushel? That scripture goes hand in hand with James. God wants to use us in others' lives. We CAN hide our light under a bushel, (which the POS view seems to dispel), but we musn't.

    James is very practical for Christian brethren, real Christian brethren, not fakers, not false believers, but real born again people.

    One more thing - I think viewing the Epistles as letters to THOSE WHO ARE SAVED is such an awesome and helpful, freeing thing. We get so much more out of them, when, under the safety of Christ's salvation, we take His yoke on us and learn of him through these instruments.

    God bless you Wayne. I do appreciate you a lot now that I have gotten to know another side of you via those emails we exchanged.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Friday, May 01, 2009 9:09:00 AM  

  • Sorry it took so long to respond - having been doing so much blogging lately.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Friday, May 01, 2009 9:09:00 AM  

  • HAVEN'T been doing so much...

    my typing is terrrible

    By Blogger Rose~, at Friday, May 01, 2009 9:18:00 AM  

  • Rose,
    Thank you very much and I have also enjoyed getting to know you better as well. I follow you blog quite regularly although I rarely comment anymore.

    I am glad to hear that you, like me, are still learning and considering Scripture alone. I know this has led me to pretty much reject covenant theology in favor of new covenant theology. Some of my views are carved in stone, but many are not and I just keep on trying to learn as I go.

    Have a good weekend.


    By Blogger jazzycat, at Friday, May 01, 2009 6:31:00 PM  

  • Hi how are you?
    I was looking through your blog and found it interesting and wanted to leave you a comment.

    I hope you will visit my art blog, and become friendly.
    Hope to hear from you soon,
    Jesse Noe

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, May 28, 2009 5:15:00 PM  

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