Those who have never heard

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Grillsy

Puritan Board Junior
Although I am sure this has been covered here before I humbly submit this anyway.

I was talking with an old professor of mine who was trying to say that Paul's letter to the Romans proves that those who have never heard the Gospel can be saved. I disagree.

What say you? Have you ever been involved in this discussion? How would on prove from Romans that someone could be saved with hearing the Gospel?
 

A.J.

Puritan Board Junior
Although I am sure this has been covered here before I humbly submit this anyway.

I was talking with an old professor of mine who was trying to say that Paul's letter to the Romans proves that those who have never heard the Gospel can be saved. I disagree.

What say you? Have you ever been involved in this discussion? How would on prove from Romans that someone could be saved with hearing the Gospel?
I've seen Roman Catholics use Romans to promote their soteriological views. They tend to focus on Romans 2. Here is one example:

We know as well that God desires all to be saved (Acts 10:35, 1 Tim. 2:4) and that he judges non-Christian Gentiles according to the light they receive and how they, in conscience, respond to it:

"All who sin outside the law will also perish without reference to it, and all who sin under the law will be judged in accordance with it. For it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather, those who observe the law will be justified. For when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them on the day when . . . God will judge people’s hidden works through Jesus Christ" (Rom. 2:12-15).

Paul says here that the Gentiles’ "conflicting thoughts accuse or defend them" before God, and he goes on to note that "those who are physically uncircumcised but carry out the law will pass judgment" on those who have the law but transgress it (Rom. 2:27).

These statements, together with Paul’s observation in Romans 2:14 ("For when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law . . ."), imply non-Christian Gentiles are, by God’s grace, in some way capable of observing the law, and, therefore, in some way capable of being justified through Christ (Rom. 2:10, 13).

The statement that the Gentiles who observe the prescriptions of the law show "the demands of the law are written in their hearts" (Rom. 2:14) is based on Jeremiah 31:33, which speaks of God writing his law in the hearts of the Israelites. That this is applied to non-Christian Gentiles means that they, too, are in some way part of God’s people.
Who can be saved? by Mark Brumley (Catholic Answers website)
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I think the proposal might be that since sometimes "the Gentiles do by nature the things of the law," showing they have the work of the law in their hearts, that somehow this could be understood to mean they are able to find an obedient way to please God.

Rom 2:7, 10 "...to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;... but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.

I would have to ask your professor-friend, does he think people can be saved by law-keeping?

This is entirely false, and completely misses the fact that Paul's purpose in the first three chapters of Romans (1:18-3:20) is to conclude ALL men under condemnation, and prove that only faith in Christ can (or even could) save anyone.
 

A.J.

Puritan Board Junior
A historical examination of the development of the Roman Catholic position may be seen in the article, Who Can Be Saved?, written by the late Avery Dulles. It appeared in the magazine First Things. The conclusion of the article says,

Who, then, can be saved? Catholics can be saved if they believe the Word of God as taught by the Church and if they obey the commandments. Other Christians can be saved if they submit their lives to Christ and join the community where they think he wills to be found. Jews can be saved if they look forward in hope to the Messiah and try to ascertain whether God's promise has been fulfilled. Adherents of other religions can be saved if, with the help of grace, they sincerely seek God and strive to do his will. Even atheists can be saved if they worship God under some other name and place their lives at the service of truth and justice. God's saving grace, channeled through Christ the one Mediator, leaves no one unassisted. But that same grace brings obligations to all who receive it. They must not receive the grace of God in vain. Much will be demanded of those to whom much is given. [emphasis added]
Important to Rome's belief is the idea of "invincible ignorance" and this is seen in the position defended by Dulles.
 

Jennie

Puritan Board Freshman
Although I don't want to get involved in the theological aspects of this discussion, I would like to add something. I have always found the belief that only Christians are saved to be, for lack of a better word, unfair. What about the Chinese and Russians who, because of their government, were unable to hear about the Gospel? What about my Anglo-Saxon and Celt ancestors who lived before Christianity was taken to England? Are they all in hell? The only church which deals with this issue is the Mormons (LDS), who perform vicarious baptisms for the dead. How would you answer my concern?
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Although I don't want to get involved in the theological aspects of this discussion, I would like to add something. I have always found the belief that only Christians are saved to be, for lack of a better word, unfair. What about the Chinese and Russians who, because of their government, were unable to hear about the Gospel? What about my Anglo-Saxon and Celt ancestors who lived before Christianity was taken to England? Are they all in hell? The only church which deals with this issue is the Mormons (LDS), who perform vicarious baptisms for the dead. How would you answer my concern?
Jennie, perhaps this will help put it in focus: you must remember that we're not sweet, innocent creatures who are being deprived of a fair chance by a mean God. Rather, we are all already justly condemned sinners; we have broken the covenant of works; we are all guilty before a just God: we have willfully broken his most just and good law. Therefore, it is of infinite condescension and mercy that he would send the gospel to anyone at all. Those to whom he does not send the good news of redemption, he has justly left in their sins; to us who have received this word, we have so much the more for which to be grateful and rejoice.
 

Grillsy

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks everyone for you replies. I sometimes ask questions with obvious answers on here just make sure I am think correctly. There are not too many Reformed folks in my part of Kentucky. That is why I have to drive to WV to an OPC congregation.
I am thankful that God has raised up a resource like Puritanboard.com where like minded Christians can gather and discuss the meaningful (mostly) issues of the day. Now on the with off topic smilies :)
________________________________________________________-

Jennie, there is not much more I can say here that hasn't already been said by others, save heed the advice that the men on this thread are giving. Pray for understanding and study the Holy Scriptures.
 

ww

Puritan Board Senior
And did he make it to Romans 10?

Romans 10:14 (English Standard Version)

14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him(A) of whom they have never heard?[a] And how are they to hear(B) without someone preaching?
 

Grillsy

Puritan Board Junior
And did he make it to Romans 10?

Romans 10:14 (English Standard Version)

14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him(A) of whom they have never heard?[a] And how are they to hear(B) without someone preaching?
Yep, I quoted it. At that point he rolled his eyes and say "yeah, Willie you may be on to something, but I've never heard it interpreted that way before..." He then proceeded to quote N.T. Wright and Karl Barth.
 

Jimmy the Greek

Puritan Board Senior
Not to detract from the discussion here, but the question, "What about those who never heard?" is one of the many typical questions answered in a good Reformed Systematic Theology text. If you don't have one, get one.

:2cents:
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
Although I don't want to get involved in the theological aspects of this discussion, I would like to add something. I have always found the belief that only Christians are saved to be, for lack of a better word, unfair. What about the Chinese and Russians who, because of their government, were unable to hear about the Gospel? What about my Anglo-Saxon and Celt ancestors who lived before Christianity was taken to England? Are they all in hell? The only church which deals with this issue is the Mormons (LDS), who perform vicarious baptisms for the dead. How would you answer my concern?
Another point to consider is that God is sovereign. Not only is God's purpose not hindered by rulers of oppressive countries, God has actually put them in place for His purpose.

Rom 13:1 - Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Acts 4:11-12
11This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”


Cuts right to the point, doesn't it?



Actually, it is quite true that the innocent man in the faraway jungle who never hears the name of Christ will go to heaven. The problem is that Romans 3:23 means exactly what it says, as is 3:10 and all the verses in between. There is no "innocent" man in all the earth, nor has there ever been. All rebel against their Creator who is just and righteous to pour His wrath on them. How could He do any less and not cease to be just? Praise God that He is constant, unwavering, unchanging and that all His promises are sure and true. Oh how hard it would be to worship the fickle not-gods of the world.
 

Tripel

Puritan Board Senior
Being good Calvinists, we all know that nobody will come to faith unless the Holy Spirit regenerates a man first. I know this has been discussed in previous threads, but I'd like to hear it fleshed out again: Is the Holy Spirit bound by the preaching of the gospel?
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Daniel, we use the terminology ordinary [that is, ordained] means: God is not bound by any necessity to them; rather, he has revealed that this is how he will work. Can God do otherwise? Of course! Should we expect him to? Absolutely not. We're told the understanding with which we're supposed to live: "How shall they hear without a preacher?"
 

Tripel

Puritan Board Senior
We're told the understanding with which we're supposed to live: "How shall they hear without a preacher?"
That is a good point--we are supposed to live in light of that because the Word of God is powerful. But is that passage saying that a preacher is absolutely necessary???

It's certainly not necessary for young children or the unborn--I'm not suggesting they all are saved upon death, but if ANY are, then it is due to regeneration apart from hearing of the gospel.
I'm embarrassingly behind on my Old Testament study, but are there examples from the OT of men who were not a part of Israel and had no knowledge of a coming Messiah, but were chosen by God?

I guess I'm just questioning that it is absolutely not possible that the Holy Spirit has and will work in the hearts of some who have no knowledge of a Christ, but through general revelation are made aware that there is a Holy God and be convicted that he is a sinner dependent on that God's mercy.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
We're told the understanding with which we're supposed to live: "How shall they hear without a preacher?"
That is a good point--we are supposed to live in light of that because the Word of God is powerful. But is that passage saying that a preacher is absolutely necessary???

It's certainly not necessary for young children or the unborn--I'm not suggesting they all are saved upon death, but if ANY are, then it is due to regeneration apart from hearing of the gospel.
I'm embarrassingly behind on my Old Testament study, but are there examples from the OT of men who were not a part of Israel and had no knowledge of a coming Messiah, but were chosen by God?

I guess I'm just questioning that it is absolutely not possible that the Holy Spirit has and will work in the hearts of some who have no knowledge of a Christ, but through general revelation are made aware that there is a Holy God and be convicted that he is a sinner dependent on that God's mercy.
I think your questions have already been answered, both here by Paul, but also in his elder brother Paul, who wrote the epistles to Rome, etc.

It is certainly possible for God to work outside his normal means, BUT we must NEVER expect that it is the case. God knows exactly whom he has placed out of the reach (for the present, or indeed for any time, even their whole lives) of the Gospel message... and He does exactly what he wants with those people, and is just for doing so.

We are living in a world in which Christ has come, and He is risen. Explicit faith in Him, which requires a preacher and the message preached, is the only normal means of salvation. We must therefore preach the word to every living creature because there is no other hope. God would be just to send every single person who never hears the gospel, whether infant, aged, or in utero, to Hell for their sinfulness, inherited and actual. We must rest with that fact. We must also sense the urgency of the fact that only in Christ's name is anyone saved, and that the word of God must be preached to them and the fact of Christ's being the only solution to this world of sin must be brought to their attention, and Christ set forth in His kingly, priestly and prophetic glory.
 
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