Okay, here’s Part 2, as promised. In Part 1, I looked at the main argument of Josh’s post—that many non-Christians may be saved because their loving character proves that they know God (1 John 4:7-8). My goal was to demonstrate that the apostle John’s use of “love” requires someone to obey the biblical commandments of God (1 John 5:2-3); no one who is from another religion or who is an atheist displays this sort of love. Rather, such a person is unrepentant and thus does not know God (1 John 3:6).
Now, I’d like to address three other questions raised by Josh’s two posts:
- First, what is the means through which we are saved?
Biblically, we are saved through faith in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 1:15, 2:8). This is more than just some sort of odd subconscious knowledge of His character; it involves a belief in the historical truth of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Josh quoted Romans 10:13 in His post, declaring that we simply had to call on the name or character of Jesus Christ to be saved, since the divine attributes of God are apparent in general revelation. I wish he had read the verses around it. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” We must believe in the historical truth of the Resurrection—which most non-Christians deny—in order to be saved.
Furthermore, Paul explains in the very next verse what this “calling on the name of the Lord” is: “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15). Paul hear declares that non-Christians have not called on Christ and have not believed Him because they have never heard of Him. Josh argues that it is possible to be saved without a “mental belief” in Christ; Paul knows nothing of this schizophrenic “faith.” I don’t see how one can more explicitly deny Josh’s position than Paul does in Romans 10.
Sure, God is powerful enough to save people even if they don’t believe in Him. But He has chosen not to. Faith itself doesn’t save us; rather, it is appointed as the one and only means of salvation by God Himself (Romans 3:25, Ephesians 2:8-9). If you reject the historical Jesus, you reject Jesus. The gospel Josh presents is a false gospel.
(Note: the Old Testament saints were saved by believing in the promises foreshadowing Christ (Hebrews 11:13). Now that Christ has come, we are to believe in Him as the fulfillment of these promises.)
- Second, is it possible to understand anything about death, resurrection, and eternal life?
Josh says no—that all we have are “dim symbols” and that “the only thing we know is that we do not know.” This is false. We don’t have anywhere near a full understanding of these things. However, we do know some truths about them—that in death, the soul is separated from the body and, in the case of the Christian, dwells with Christ in Paradise (Luke 23:43). We know that in the resurrection, we will be given a new, immortal, spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). We know very little of what this means, but we do know that it will be imperishable, far more glorious and powerful than our present, natural body (1 Corinthians 15:42-43). And we know that right now, we Christians are experiencing eternal life (John 3:36).
Josh’s belief that our knowledge of God is inherently warped is wrong. We can know many true things about God; it’s just that our knowledge is partial (1 Corinthians 13:12). This belief is not based on the Bible but on human wisdom. Whereas human wisdom will never lead to an undistorted understanding of God, He has revealed Himself truthfully through His Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-16). We can know things about death, resurrection, eternal life, and the character of God because His Spirit has been given to us.
- Third, is Christianity wrong in places?
Josh believes Christianity is more truthful than other religions, but nonetheless, it is merely a religion, which he labels as “man’s attempts to reach God (whatever they may call him), including all theologies, traditions, and formulas.” This is true of other religions, but it is not true of Christianity.
Christianity is based on the revelation of God from the Bible. It is not “man’s attempts to reach God” but rather what God demands from man. The Bible reveals to us what God requires of us; we respond by doing what He has commanded by the power of the Spirit which dwells within us.
One final note I would like to make begins with Josh’s use of Romans 3:22-23. Since “there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” he says, there is no real difference between Christians and non-Christians; all can call on the name of the Lord. Once again, the surrounding verses blow holes in this argument, for they make it clear that “all” refers to “all who believe,” who “have faith in Jesus Christ”; their propitiation being “received by faith,” they are justified for having “faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:22-26). This does not refer to every last person on earth, but only to believers (Christians). Misuse of scripture runs rampant through both of Josh’s posts. In each case, the context of each of the verses he cites has not been allowed to explain what each verse means. It is clear that these arguments are buttressed by poor exegesis of scripture, as are all false doctrines.
Finally, I do want to make it clear that I have a lot of respect and love for Josh; any harshness present in my posts is not an attempt to tear him down but rather to correct him. I apologize if there is any way I could have said these things just as plainly with kinder words; I am still learning how to speak the truth in love.