Friday, September 30, 2005

What about those who haven't heard?...

In my previous post I described the non-Biblical notion that a Christian can, and should, seek direction from God in day-to-day decision making. Such a practice can essentially be reduced to hearing a word from God. One of my points, in refuting such a practice, was to note that God does not try to speak to us. If God intends to speak to you, you will hear Him; if God does not intend to speak to you, you will not hear Him (due to the important little fact that there is nothing to hear). Note very carefully the context here: that of special individual revelation from God. In the comments of the previous post Paul brought up the following,
...It's not much of a trick to say that God will make sure I hear his message when I live in a Christian country, having been born in another Christian country, and spent all but a few weeks of my life in a Judeo-Christian culture. I had assumed you meant something deeper than that. Nonetheless, it troubles me that there are billions of people who, because of their society or culture, don't get to hear that message. Does that mean God doesn't want them to hear it?
While Paul raises a very important question, it is way off-topic from my previous post. Again, the issue of my previous post had to do with Christians receiving extra-Biblical direction from God. However, since it is a very important question, I would like to briefly address it here on this post. There are, actually, several issues that such a question addresses. How does Christianity view the human condition? Who is God and what is His responsibility to us? What is justice? What is grace? How has God revealed Himself to all of humanity? What influence, if any, does culture have in one's decision to accept the God of the Bible? Has God chosen an elect group? With regards to a culture's influence on an individual's belief system, one must first understand that the primary issue is whether or not the belief system is correct, and not why someone believes it. In other words, even though it may be true that one believes in a particular religious system because of the culture he was raised in, that tells us nothing about whether or not the religious system he believes in is actually true. In the Christian Worldview, God is creator of all, and God is Holy. Mankind is separated from God by sin. God, being Holy, is also just. The just course of action for those who are guilty is condemnation. The Christian Worldview states that all mankind is guilty of sin against God and, as such, is due condemnation from God. It is only through grace, granted by God, that mankind can enter into communion with God. God is not obligated to issue such grace, or else it wouldn't be grace. So... what about those who haven't heard God's Gospel message in specific terms? The Christian Worldview understands that God is just and that God has revealed Himself to all mankind in a manner that leaves all mankind "without excuse." How does God do this? I don't know, and He isn't telling us. What He does tell us is that we are to be about making disciples into His name. Thus, to question the manner in which He reveals Himself to all of mankind potentially ignores at least the following points:
  • Who God is.
  • Because of who God is, what He is owed.
  • What mankind's condition is.
  • Because of mankind's condition, what mankind is owed.
  • What mankind is not owed (e.g., God's grace).
  • God is just.
  • God has revealed Himself to all of mankind.
How He works out His will with regards to His creation is His business.

8 comments:

Paul said...

I'm afraid I'm even more lost now. God has revealed himself to all of us, and if God wishes for us to hear his message then we will hear his message. Ergo, I have heard his message, and not in some trivial sense, but actually had it impressed upon me. And yet I don't feel I have; I've only heard Man's message. It can't be that I wasn't paying attention, because if God wanted me to hear his message than I will have. And it can't be because I was missed, because God's message has been given to all of us. So what was missing?

shelz said...

This is great. i very much enjoyed this very topic being lectured on just recently . in fact i purchased the Audio tapes from Stand to reason http://www.str.org. the tape set was called "Decision Making and the Will of God". i have always felt weirded out when christians claim to have had God "lead" them or speak to them. Greg Koukl does an excellent job, as usual, dispelling some rather hokey modern christian practices. i recommend it to anyone having trouble understanding this topic. he discusses everything from "fleeces" to "open doors" to "leading" and "hearing the voice of God" and shows how each is NOT supported by scriptures. he also then gives a truly Biblical model for making decisions in your life.

Ralph said...

Paul, what was missing was a change of heart. The Holy Spirit precedes "accepting" the word of God. Many will hear, but few (relatively) will believe. That happens only because the Spirit enables us to believe, and that becomes the basis for belief. If you hear but don't believe, that change has not happened yet. Or it may be happening, but you haven't come into full understanding yet.

Man, as always, can be an impedement to the message of salvation, but man also is almost always the only means of transmission of that message. If that message is intended by God to take root, it will take root, no matter how poor, or perfect, the "presentation" of the Gospel is.

Paul said...

Ralph,

"If that message is intended by God to take root, it will take root"

So all those who live and die as atheists weren't intended by God to believe? God decided that, rather than salvation, they should face eternity in the wasteland?

shadow said...

The other Paul, the writer of Romans tells us that the de facto position is that all men are without excuse even if they haven't heard the specific gospel, because the fact that God is God of the universe and should be accorded due honour is plain for all to see:
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him..." (Romans 1:18-21)

Therefore, God is just in punishing those who do not acknowledge him as God but live as if they themselves were god.

If we continue to read the rest of Romans (I recommend reading as a whole in one sitting), Paul states both that (1) we are so mired in sin that only God, and not our own effort, can save us by giving us faith through the Holy Spirit to believe in him and acknowledge him as God ; and (2) we are responsible for not believing in God and acknowledging him as God. These are 2 truths that exist side by side.

Paul, the other Paul goes on to answer your question in Romans 9.

The point is that we are not God. Therefore, we cannot understand all his ways. But from reading human history in light of the Bible, we can know that he is God and he is trustworthy and he is just.

And if you have heard the gospel today, your responsibility is not to hesitate to repent. Or it may be too late.

George W. Sloan said...

Jn 6:36 But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me.
What distinguishes what they see when they have been Isaiah’ed is not at all what the believer sees hence having the veil removed. Isaiah 6:9-10

Jn 6:37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. 38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do what I want. 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them to eternal life at the last day. 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see (without the veil) his Son and believe in him should have eternal life—that I (Jesus Christ) should raise them at the last day.” 41 Then the people began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, “I am the bread from heaven.”
Jn 6:42 They said, “This is Jesus, the son of Joseph. We know his father and mother. How can he say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
Jn 6:43 But Jesus replied, “Don’t complain about what I said. 44 For people can’t come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them from the dead.
God the Father draws the called and the chosen to Christ.
Jn 6:45 As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to me. Reference to Jeremiah 31:31-34 “The day will come,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD. 33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their family, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will already know me,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness and will never again remember their sins.”

James said...

Dear Ralph.

In response to your comment, about atheists and how they were not intended by God to turn to Him, hence their condemnation is'nt deserved.


I struggled with this question, and God spoke to me. He simply said... Do people refuse God, because of their God given gift of free will? Or because of what they chose to do with it? If it is'nt the latter, then it negates the meaning of "free" will.

What an awesome God.

Field Worker said...

"It is more a question of whether we, who have the gospel and fail to give it to those who have not, can be saved." - C. H. Spurgeon