Romans 10:14: What about the unevangelised? Part Two
Today if you ask someone, ‘What is your biggest problem with Christianity?’ The answer that often comes is, ‘Christianity is too exclusive.’ In other words, we are seen to be dogmatic, intolerant, arrogant and oppressive for trying to get everyone to believe as we do. In our age of secular materialism and humanism Christianity with its insistence upon truth and the exclusive need for salvation in Christ is at best and annoyance to be ignored and marginalised, at worst a poisonous enemy to be crushed. Timothy Keller in his book ‘The Reason for God’ outlines three reactions that our culture makes the exclusiveness of Christianity.
Firstly, there is the reaction of casting Christianity off because we live in a scientific era. They assume that God is not real, He did not create us, we are not spiritual beings and all that exists is the material realm. Therefore religion is thought to be a coping mechanism for ignorant people who do not understand the way the universe works; or the insecure projections of those who had deficits in their lives.
Secondly, Christianity is condemned. The modern day 21st century western view is to force Christianity to accept that all views are equally valid, equally right or equally wrong. They make assumptions stating that all religions teach the same things. An assumption that upon investigation is ridiculous. They make statements like all religions have a part of the truth but not all of truth. The classic illustration is the one of the blind men and the elephant. Six blind men walk up to an elephant and are asked what is an elephant like? They each give a different answer because they are each touching a different part of the elephant. The trouble with this illustration is that it assumes for the viewer something it denies to everyone but itself. The one telling the story sees the whole elephant when no one else can.
Another claim is that all religion is culturally and historically conditioned. Those in Afghanistan will believe what others there believe, and the only reason we believe Christianity is because of our upbringing. The trouble is that the view that sees all religion as culturally and historically conditioned is itself then culturally and historically conditioned and must accept that those in the west who are pluralistic, post-religious and secular will inevitably make statements out of that world view. They claim that it is arrogant to tell others they are wrong and try to convert them but in every instance it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Even when they insist that religion should be private and kept out of the public sphere this statement is made by those who have a worldview that has a belief about God, a view about how we should live based on that view, where everything comes from and answers to all of the other big questions. Their worldview is simply another religion and it is being imposed on the public square and being kept in private. The truth is all views are at some level exclusive and are not wrong because they are exclusive. The test of whether something is wrong based on whether it is exclusive is the test of those who are ignorant that they have their own assumptions driving their view. Christianity is not wrong simply because it is exclusive, it must be shown to be wrong by an inner inconsistency, that it does not square with the evidence, that it does not fit our human experience etc. We have to help our culture see that their fear of exclusivity is a prejudice not a test of truth, an overreaction to religion based feuds and not a grounds for making Christianity illegitimate. We also need to make sure that we are not infected with the spirit of the age and at odds with the exclusive claims of the bible. We need to ensure as Christians that we are taught by the Scripture and not by our culture at this point.
If the exclusive claim that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven is offensive today, then what we are going to deal with today is going to make them wretch. We are carrying on looking at the question of what happens to the unevangelised. Paul has made the statement that only those who hear and believe can call on Christ for salvation. We began to investigate this statement and we began by looking at what it does not mean looking at the case of infants and those who are mentally impaired. I made the case for infant salvation but ultimately our confidence is in God’s character. Some have tried to tie the unevangelised, that is those who have never heard the gospel and those who may be apparently sincere worshippers in other religions in with the babies claiming that they too are exceptions to Paul’s statement in Romans 10:14 and will also go to heaven when they die. Today we will be outlining the views on this question, examining the biblical evidence and answering some objections. Our space is of course limited so I will only be able to briefly state the case. Let me begin by being the ogre and stating my view up front, the view I hope to show is in fact not mine but the bible’s. All those who have never heard the gospel and trusted in Christ will finally be judged according to their works and go to hell.