Archive for June 16th, 2010|Daily archive page

It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. After all I’m really a good person!

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Trinity on June 16, 2010 at 7:34 am

It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.

After all I’m really a good person!

As we finish our book and our study we deal now with the most difficult and sensitive issues in our culture today. Today sincerity goes a long way and has more bearing than truth. Many in our churches today believe and to quote the early church father Cyprian’s dictum “outside the church there is no salvation”. This particular belief is called ecclesiocentric (church centered) it  is called the restrictvist view. We see this practiced in our own church, in many ways.

The poet and writer William Calper (1731-1800) contemplated the destiny of the unevangelized, judging their presumed condemnation to be grossly unjust. Their “being lost in endless woe” due to “ignorance of what they could not know” would be an “outrageous wrong.”  He also held out false hope that some beyond the reaches of the gospel could be saved.

Others would offer a Christocentric (or inclusivist/wider-hope) perspective. John hick’s charges that the inevitable lostness of the unevangelized (the” old exclusivist view”) is simply “unacceptable,” incompatible with God’s limitless love.

If Jesus is the only way of salvation, are those who don’t hear of him-those who remain outside the church-inevitably without hope and separated from God?

Can God’s spirit use divine general revelation in nature and conscience to save those outside the hearing of the gospel?

The answers to these tough questions aren’t always crystal clear. In our modern times we don’t use the same terminology and some reject the old titles because they tend to focus one-sidedly on the question, “who is going to be saved?” And the terms can be confusing. Many today would argue we are focusing on doctrine, when we ought to be loving others and serving Jesus. My response is which Jesus are you discussing? The hardest issue we as Christians face in a relativistic, postmodern, atheistic, society is our particularity/uniqueness if you will: Jesus said he was the only way to God the father. Many arguments and disagreements begin and end here.

Isn’t any who hold religious belief honestly seeking “the real “in their own way? In Jonathan Hicks own de-conversion from evangelical Christianity, he claimed that all religionists are doing the same thing-moving away from self-centeredness and responding to the same ultimate reality, often with equal fervor.

Sincerity is necessary but it is insufficient for salvation. Sin requires a sacrifice to satisfy a judgment. Because that’s sacrifice is our own will we as fallen creatures try to avoid surrendering our will. In order to avoid judgment we create unique concepts of God, and our response to our eternal guilt. Consider some of the following statements:

It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere.

I am a good person after all God really would not condemn me, I haven’t murdered anyone.

I’m young and there’s plenty of time for me before I get serious about religion.

If Jesus is the only way to what about those who have never heard of him?

Let’s begin with the sincerity issue, many people using this widespread slogan would need to qualify what they mean by “sincere” and many “sincere” people have pretty shaky reasons for doing destructive things. Can you name people who are sincerely wrong?

Why do we focus on sincerity-why not goodness, humility, integrity? A lot of consider people may not be very open to truth; they lack commitment to moral goodness or seem unwilling to humble themselves. Sincerity by itself can be an empty catch-all, even when it means “passionate about one’s beliefs,” the issue is whether the action is directed toward morally right pursuits. The sincerity criteria convey that salvation is merited or deserved a kind of “boasting” before God.

(Rom 3:27 ESV)  Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.

(Rom 3:28 ESV)  For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Pluralist’s will point to “good people” in all religions, but any goodness in us is the result of God’s grace. We humans sinners fall profoundly short; any acceptance God could offer us based on our sincerity is less than nothing compared to the undeserved loving-kindness he offers us in Christ.

(Joh 3:16 ESV)  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

(Joh 3:17 ESV)  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

(Joh 3:18 ESV)  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

How could our goodness, sincerity or anything else we could boast about match the sacrifice of the personal God who is there? We see here in the Scriptures God’s expression of his love through his Son and fellowship with the Holy Spirit allowing us to have fellowship with him.

The last part of our study will deal with different views concerning those who have never heard of Jesus. The first few were going to discuss is the agnostic view. Could it be that God is interested in a person’s spiritual direction or responsiveness then he and his spiritual location on a continuum?

Many respected evangelical theologians such as Alister McGrath and J.I Packer remain agnostic on the matter considering it one of divine fairness. It’s not that God owes anyone salvation. Rather, his loving intentions and gracious initiative toward each human being are clearly revealed in Scripture: if he truly loves all the world(John 3:16 to 17); if Christ died for all without exception and thus commands all-not simply those who will be saved-to repent(1 John 2:2; 5:19-20; cf. Acts 17:30); and if God isn’t willing that he should perish (2nd Peter 3:9; 1st Timothy 2:4) then it follows that his initiating grace, though resistible(acts 7:51), is directed toward all without exception. This would include the un-evangelized.

First the response  the question of the unevangelized is secondary; Christ’s uniqueness is fundamental. Whether we’re doing ethics or theology, we should move from the clear to the unclear, not vice versa. The clear is Jesus’ uniqueness and a good, righteous God’s love for all, we try to work out the implications from there.

Second God has the question of the unevangelized figured out! This hasn’t caught him by surprise. Furthermore, he has gone to such unfathomable lengths for our salvation by identifying with humanity and suffering injustice and a cruel shameful death-this is wondrous news to be proclaimed! God has gone great lengths on behalf of all his creatures we have very good reason to think the un-evangelized are in excellent hands (Genesis 18:25)

(Gen 18:25 ESV)  Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Third, God’s loving just character assures us that he won’t condemn anyone for being born at the wrong place and time. (Amos 9:7) God was at work not only in Israel but among the nations. He showed deep concern for the Ninevites, who could not tell “their right hand from their left” (Jonah 4:11), and he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11).

(Amo 9:7 ESV)  “Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?” declares the LORD. “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?

(Jon 4:11 ESV)  And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

(Eze 33:11 ESV)  Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Fourth, God, in his own manner, is able to reach people in ways we don’t expect. For example, he can reveal himself-and has done so-through visions or angelic messengers. We had many examples of people throughout the world whose lives were transformed through visionary encounters with Jesus. God has been known to do such things all along!

In the end, the matter boils down to trusting in a good God to do no wrong. Can we not trust God with such perplexing questions? We can trust God, who loves all without exception and desired their salvation, to do his utmost so that none is prevented from experiencing salvation who truly desires. We can also trust the sovereignty of God if he chooses who he wants and who he doesn’t want in heaven. I firmly believe we cannot come to salvation without the Holy Spirit first inspiring us to seek Jesus. He is the author and finisher of our faith. If there are other paths to God apart from Christ, then Jesus’ death was an utter waste.

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