Are there Provisions for the
Salvation of the Inconveniently Ignorant?
If so, is Belief in Jesus Necessary?
by Pastor George D. Cutler
Grace Gospel Ministry
These are the classic questions that are actually raised in the much larger theological debate regarding exactly how, when and why salvation is bestowed. In view of summarizing the extents of salvation, some base questions are: Who is going to heaven? What about sincere people of other religious faiths?
These are the more complicated questions that are basically avoided in order to not be “offensive to non-Christians” yet this specific issue defines the contentions of those foisting unscriptural assumptions, which mainline Christendom neither agrees on nor comprehends, …..in their contending that “those who knowingly reject the gospel are doomed” or that salvation is bestowed only to those that “accept Jesus Christ as Savior.” The prime question is: what about those who have not had an opportunity to neither accept nor reject Christ? More specifically, what about those who have lived and died in religious systems without ever hearing the name of Jesus? What about someone who lived on a deserted island ones entire life without any spiritual influences? Can such ones (who never knowingly interfaced with Christ) be saved by a more primitive faith in the Creator as some contend? Some tend to postulate that mankind is only accountable for what such ones know, not what they are ignorant of. Thus they construe: “those who know a little truth about God (such as the ones on the island) are saved or condemned based on how they respond to that truth (e.g., a belief that God is the maker of the island and the sea).
The basic problem with this postulation is there aren’t any scriptural passages to support such speculations. The incorrect inferences foisted that the conveyances of Romans 1:18-32; 2:1-16 support this cogitation fail to comprehend the fact that their declarations of God’s eternal judgment are directed exclusively to those pre-determinately lost (Romans 1:18-21; 2:8). However, when the conveyances of Romans 1:18-21 are correctly interpreted, it is apparently that mankind from the beginning was void of any righteous attributes required to satisfy the standard of God. Beginning with the literal scripting from verse 17: “for the righteousness of God in it is revealed out of faith unto faith, in as far as it has been and is written, 'but the righteous one out of faith shall live; for revealed is the wrath of God from heaven upon all godlessness and unrighteousness of men ……..holding down the truth in unrighteousness. Because that which is known of God is manifest among them, for God did manifest (by or in) to them; for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world, by the things made being understood, are plainly seen, both His eternal power and Godhead -- to their being inexcusable. Because, having known God they did not glorify (Him) as God, nor gave thanks but were made vain in reasonings and their unintelligent heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:17-21).
In this passage, it is alleged that the conveyance is: there is enough knowledge of God revealed in the creation to hold “all of mankind accountable,” even those who never had the truth of the Gospel. Their argument is that there is enough of God revealed in the creation to condemn those who didn’t and don’t have the Scriptures. However, if that alone could be the basis for mankind’s rejection, then it seems as though there would be enough of Him revealed to save as well those who simply respond to the Creator and live in obedience to His natural design. Hence, the scripturally dictated premise of all mankind’s inability to respond is averted (turned away from) in order to promote the position that those deprived of the Gospel could have opted and can now opt to just acknowledge God. The ingression of such into this argument explicitly would be extraneous (irrelevant or not applicable) to the point that none are able to do such. Notice, that would be antithetical to what is conveyed in I Corinthians 2:14, “and the natural man does not receive (the things) of the Spirit of God, for to him they are foolishness and he is not able to know (them) because spiritually they are discerned.”
When viewed strictly in its grammatical construction, the conveyance of Romans 1:19, “because that which is known of God is manifest among them,” is not that they knew God but from the previous verses of context: it is known by (OF) (note the genitive case of the Greek word The·oo rendered “God”). Hence, what was known by (of) God was (from the previous verse (18), mankind’s sinful state (all godlessness and unrighteousness of men ……..holding down the truth in unrighteousness), which was manifested not to Him (God) but to and in THEM (mankind). Thus, God knew what they were: “for revealed is the wrath of God from Heaven” (Romans 1:19). Romans 1:21 tersely conveys Mankind’s inhibition to godliness in stating thee·ot·ee rendered “because (perhaps) having known God they did not glorify (Him) as God nor gave thanks but were (noting the aorist tense and passive voice of the Greek verbs), eh·maht·eh·o·thee·sahn rendered “made vain” in thee·ahl·oy·ees·mees rendered “reasonings” (thoughts, opinions, motives) and ahs·een·eh·tos rendered “unintelligent” (without understanding, foolish) heart (mind) eh·skot·ees·thee rendered “was darkened.”
Romans 2:5-8 highlights that all live perversely, both those who are condemned and those who are saved. This passage focuses purely on the lack of evidence of faith in the former instance and the manifestation of, not it’s contents in the latter. In other words, it’s not so much important, the none-truth possessed by the former as it is in manifestation the latter’s testimony of living in connection with has been so graciously imparted to them. In this view, the question of merit or non merit is unaneled (not having received extreme unction). Hence, Romans chapter two compares rather than debates the extremities of the status of the lost in correlation with the saved in demonstrating their similarities in manifestation of unrighteousness. This is confirmed by postulating what would allow at least the possibility of salvation apart from the Law in ancient times though it does not construe that anyone was actually saved in that way. Thus, in following what is mostly misconstrued in Romans chapter one, e.g., that the savage on the deserted island could (in theory) be saved in that way; here the improbability of this is affirmed that none have ever actually been saved on the basis of such conflictual circumstances.
The abandonment of such prosperously unscriptural postulations will serve as mitigations of alternate misconceptions of acquiring salvation. In this light, the policy of meting out Law-Kingdom justice in the millennium, as depicted in Luke 12:47-48, does not infer that eternal judgment is a function of what a person knows. The doctrinal teaching that those who do wrong but are ignorant of it are not accountable in the same way as those who commit sins intentionally, does not even remotely align with salvation based on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ; in having chosen His elect in Eternity. Principles of neither ignorance-proof nor ignorant-putative (believed to exist now or to have existed at some point in time) salvation is anywhere taught in the Scriptures. To suggest that those who have never heard about Jesus will not be held accountable for what they do not know is counterproductive to the teaching of the Grace of God. Also, those that misconstrue from Genesis 15:6 that some people in the Old Testament were saved on the basis of their faith even though they did not know about Jesus Christ; specifically clouds the critical issue of truth, which is salvation though the faithfulness of Christ. Certain ones trusting in whatever truth they possess about God; even if their possession is not the complete truth is not how some did nor do acquire eternal salvation.
Now, in analyzing the equally prosperously unscriptural postulation that those who do not specifically “put their faith in Jesus Christ have no provision for their sins,” this cogitation is also counterproductive to the teaching of the Grace of God. This contrary position to the Scriptures is not so much illogical in what some would view as seemingly unfair to some (those born in conditions where they might not hear about Jesus), as much as it mitigates the fact that God in Eternity decided who would be saved and who will not be. Hence, it is not so much a question of fairness as it is of God’s Sovereign Election of individuals to salvation. Also this scriptural fact transcribes in the directive of a head-on collision with tradition Orthodox Theology, in that what brings condemnation is not that a person does not have enough faith or that they did not obey what they knew or that they specifically did not put their trust in Jesus. These reasons are irrelevant ………….whether they did not hear or heard and rejected, either way, condemnation abides in the sinfully depraved nature of all humankind in general. There is no way possible for anyone through ones self inspired efforts (gesture, consent, etc.) to enact Jesus’ Eternal Redemption to the point of acquiring ones salvation.
Thus, the debate continues about individuals that are Inconveniently Ignorant. In general, the issue regarding ones “accountability” is a scriptural non-issue, as all humans are certainly condemned; not for what they have done or whether they know the difference between good and evil but rather in what they are possessor of: SINFUL NATURE. These irrelevant ideas of responsibility and accountability hence inducing “Decisional Salvation” doctrines have nothing verifiably scriptural to rely on in assessing the Eternal Status of the ignorant. Since they have been and are inconvenienced from the opportunity to hear the Gospel, a conscious decisions “for or against God” is inconceivable based upon their knowledge. But their doctrinal theory yet persists ……….”even someone who has never heard the Gospel cannot hide from the clear implications of the Gospel in their lives.” In this they foist their position by stating …….”since Jesus said that no man comes to the Father but by Him, those inconvenienced from hearing and accepting Jesus must go to hell.”
Unfortunately, the chief point that goes begging is: DEPRAVED HUMANS ARE SOLELY CONDEMNED BECAUSE OF THEIR SINFUL NATURE, period! There is no relevancy in assessing who should be punished for sin because all mankind have committed sin and are therefore sinners (Romans 3:23). Also, hopefully all considering this issue comprehends the Scripture’s certification that the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for all to whom it is applied, which of necessity would be none that are innocent, for all have the sinful nature and thus are automatically guilty of individual sins). This is the sole compelling standard in the consideration of those who live without any connection to the proclamation of Christ or the Law (in prior ages before the revelation of the Gospel). In the sense of documenting testimony, the Scriptures are singularly concerned with those confronted with the truth and manifestly either accept it or reject it. Yet this does not certify in the final analysis that the individual on the deserted island is automatically doomed. What has been completely ignored is the exclusive adduce to this imagined enigma; that all trusting, believing and having faith are of God and from God and must be infused in the hearts (minds) of mankind (Romans 5:5).
However, the impetus of God bestowing salvation resides where it always has, i.e., in His SOVEREIGN ELECTION of SPECIFIC INDIVIDUAL IN ETERNITY CCORDING TO HIS GOOD PLEASURE! Outside of this requisite, there is no valid scriptural reason to think that any could be saved when in reality the Actualization of salvation exclusively resides in the Eternal Sphere. Hence, its enactment abides beyond the scope of manifestation in the sphere of Time. Thus in the determination of salvation, it is irrelevant whether anyone ever trusts in the Creator without knowing something more about Him than His handiwork. Sadly, there is the erroneous perception yet in other postulations that God will sort this entire matter out with His justice on the final day but this cogitation completely discounts the Doctrine of Foreordination. II Timothy 2:19 definitively declares: “sure, nevertheless, has the foundation of God stood, having this seal, 'the Lord eh·yee·o rendered “having known” those who are His ….”
Scripturally assessed, there is no compulsion for God to manifest His salvation for testimonial sake in ALL of His elect! In the Old Testament, He manifested testimony mainly in Israel (excluding most Gentiles). In the New Testament, He has manifested and will manifest His salvation preferably in Israel (subordinating all Gentiles). In the Grace Covenant, He has and is manifesting His salvation indiscriminately in the Body of Christ; irrespective of mankind’s state or status (Galatians 3:28-29). Yet, God is not obligated to reveal all things in the sphere of Time, the greatest being the revelation of whom ALL His elect are! Accordingly, in answering the question, as to the claim that: “in order to be saved, you must accept Jesus as your savior,” the only criterion for salvation for any of God’s elect is the redemptive work of Jesus that was accomplished in Eternity. In this light, it is neither essential to know about the gospel nor to manifestly believe in Jesus for salvation in the sphere of Time. However, in God’s process of testimony, it is certainly the most blessed joy and privilege to commune with Him and dwell by identification in His presence daily. Oh, praise the Lord!