Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I am sorry if this post seems to jump from thought to thought. I really want to get this posted, but I am also juggling work and trying to get ready to close on our house on Friday.

During Sunday School last week, the question came up about the person who is in a remote location and never hears the Gospel. What happens to this person? We are in the process of studying Adam Hamilton's book Christianity and World Religions. In a previous post I briefly discussed 3 different schools of thought on salvation. I agree with Reverend Hamilton on a key point: God is always at work with mankind, and He even works through other religions to reveal himself.

Hamilton references the wise men that followed the star to Bethlehem. These men were probably astrologers. God gave them a star to follow, and when they found Jesus, they worshipped Him. It is awesome that God used symbols that these men were familiar with to reveal Himself to them. A key point is that when Jesus was revealed to them, they worshipped Him.

How does this relate to the person who never hears about Christ? Reverend Hamilton makes a case for what he calls the inclusivist perspective. He says that if a person is from another religion, and they are truly sincere and truly searching for something, that God will credit it to them as faith. I assume that the same case would be made for someone who has never heard about Jesus.

I know that some will disagree with what I am about to say, since it seems to conflict with free will. First, being sincere and having faith is not enough. The Holy Spirit must be at work in the life of the individual. A person cannot wake up one morning and simply decide to give their life over to God. Without God working in the life of the individual first, all attempts at reconciliation with God are futile. It is by God’s grace (giving something that we don’t deserve) that we are saved through faith. Faith in and of itself does not bring salvation. It is God’s grace.

There are many stories from missionaries who go to the remote parts of the earth and preach the gospel. It is not uncommon to hear people say things like “I knew there was something there; I just didn’t know what it was. This is exactly what I was searching for.” What if this person never heard the gospel? Would God credit it to them as faith? Hamilton would argue yes, I would argue that it is not possible. If God is working in a person’s life, they will hear the gospel, and they will respond when it is presented or when they read it. This is what happened with the wise men.


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