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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Gum, Geckos, and God Blog Tour pt. 4


James SpeigelWelcome to the Gum, Geckos, and God Blog Tour!  I was delighted to be invited to participate.  I not only enjoyed reading the book, but interacting with Jim has been fun, too.  Jim Speigel is Philosophy Professor at Taylor University in Indiana. (Also, Jim and his wife just launched a new blog as well, called Wisdom and Folly.)  I had a hard time confining my questions, so I asked Jim a series of questions.  I'll be posting a new one every couple of hours, and I hope you find these engaging.  Here's the fouth installment. Embarking:  You seem to walk on some potentially dangerous territory with some evangelicals when you say, "...if fetuses and infants can be saved, then belief in Jesus Christ must not be necessary for salvation.  So whatever must be necessary for saving faith, it can't be belief in Jesus." [p. 198]  "One lesson here is that we must reject the narrow concept of explicit faith as necessary for salvation."  [p. 199] And then again when you open up salvation to those who have an implicit faith limited by the amount or type of information or understanding they receive this side of heaven.  If I were CS Lewis, I would tend to agree with you, since he opens up salvation to a post-death experience in his Great Divorce (although admittedly, almost no one survives the trip to heaven from hell and goes further up and further in).  Most people would at least say that faith in the God of Abraham is the same as faith in Jesus, but in those cases, Moses, Abraham, David, and Elijah all knew Yahweh - who even then was the same Trinitarian God.  Can you make any type of biblical case for salvation outside of faith in the Trinitarian God - whether people encounter Christ or not?  A couple things come to mind: 

  1. We are post Jesus, so we're in a different situation than the OT people.  
  2.  Would Paul open salvation to those he talks about in Romans 1, but who never encounter Christ?  
  3. On what grounds can we possibly open up salvation for those who have not heard the gospel?

SPIEGEL:  I addressed this in my response to one of Roger Overton's questions on the A-Team blog last Friday.  To answer your specific questions, in reverse order: 3) my main basis for believeing God can save some who haven't heard the gospel is consistency with the fact that infants (who die) and O.T. saints never heard the gospel but they (or many of them) are saved, which shows in principle that hearing the gospel (or having explicit beliefs about Jesus Christ) is not a necessary condition for salvation; 2) yes, I think Paul would allow for this-see my comments on the A-Team blog for my reply to the counter-argument from Romans 10:14-17; and 1) to say that our temporal location, relative to the life of Jesus, changes the criterion for salvation is arbitrary and groundless.  This is one reason why one may not hear the gospel.  Note that it is temporal in nature (applying to those who lived prior to Christ coming to earth).  Another is spatial (applying to those who don't hear the gospel because of their geographical location-that is, they happen to live in places where the gospel has not been preached).  Now if God can show mercy to some who are temporally removed from the gospel (as we must believe from Scripture), then why can't he also show mercy to some who are spatially removed?  To say that one is decisive while the other is not seems utterly arbitrary, particularly since Scripture makes clear that God transcends both time and space.

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