The Unbaptized - Will They Be Saved?
Gordon J. Pennock Denies
Proposition: The scriptures teach that there will be responsible ones (those able to determine truth from falsehood) eternally saved in heaven who lived and died in this Christian era without becoming born-again believers.
1. Put your hand a few inches from the wall. There's a shadow, isn't there? The hand is the cause; the shadow the effect. No cause-no effect. All human traditions, unnecessary limitations, and misunderstandings are created by the cause-man. I believe I can truthfully say, with kindness of course, that brother Pennock's part in this discussion can be classified as an "unnecessary limitation" for he believes that the on1y responsible ones who will be saved in heaven, who live and die in this Christian era, will be those who come under the influence of Jesus' words in Mark 16:16. He recently said: "May we ask, why should we not compare the baptized with the unbaptized, and ascribe salvation to the former and condemnation to the latter? Is that not what Jesus did when He said, 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned?" Emphatically, yes! To do this of course makes baptism an absolute obligation and an essential condition of salvation. "- Truth Magazine.
2. While these words of Jesus are wholly true when applied to those whom He had under consideration, yet we must not forget that all responsible persons cannot, by various circumstances, obey these particular injunctions. Therefore, it is my duty to prove by the scriptures that there will be responsible (sane) persons saved in heaven who lived and died in this present era without becoming born-again believers-the type Jesus had in mind when He spoke the words found in Mark 16:16, John 3:5, etc.
3. The reason for affirming this proposition is obvious: Too many believe, as does brother Pennock, that there is no hope of heavenly salvation revealed in the new covenant scriptures for those (responsible ones) who fail, no matter for what reason, to "render obedience to the gospel." This is widely taught. Here are two examples among many:
"In our discussion upon that occasion I was insisting as I now insist, that there is no hope of salvation revealed in the New Testament for those who fail, either wilfully or ignorantly, to render obedience to the gospel."-Firm Foundation.
"In plain words, it means that everyone who has reached the age of accountability and has not obeyed the gospel, and does not worship and work according to God's pattern, will go to hell."-Gospel Guardian.
4. You will notice in the proposition I use these words: "The scriptures teach . . ." By this I simply mean the scriptures impart this information. Not outrightly, word for word ; but through a process of reasoning upon and understanding certain passages of scripture.
5. I shall approach my subject matter upon the principle that a man will be judged upon the basis of his response to the truth he knew or had the opportunity of knowing, believing and submitting to. It is needless to argue, for I believe we both agree, that there have been thousands of responsible people who have died in this era who would have become born-again believers had they been exposed to the truth (gospel truth) that we are presently exposed to. Our minds are brought to think about those thousands (perhaps millions) of heathen people in foreign lands who have died without being exposed to a special revelation as we are exposed thereto.
6. Let it be remembered that I have in mind only those whose hearts have been honest and whose attitudes have been of such a nature as would compel them to accept any truth, whether revealed to them through nature or otherwise, upon finding it. In Romans 1:20 Paul relates how that truth concerning the eternal power" and "deity" of God can be clearly perceived in the things that have been made"; namely, through nature. This, in itself, is "truth."
7. At this point I want to relate a passage from the mouth of our Master to substantiate the fact that there are many honest hearts that will go unreaped-not having the opportunity to respond to that amount of truth that would make them born-again believers. The passage is found in Luke 10:2. "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few." The harvest is great in many parts of the world today but there are not enough laborers to reap it. Therefore, much of the harvest will go unreaped. This fact alone proves that some of the harvest in Jesus' time went unreaped. "The harvest is plentiful" signifies that thousands possessed ready hearts, open minds and submissive dispositions, but some of the harvest would go unreaped because of the few laborers, It isn't saying too much by claiming that many in this particular harvest would die without hearing the good news of the kingdom and living long enough to become citizens thereof. And, how many thousands have died since that time with out having the opportunity to respond to enough truth to make them born-again believers? Only God knows. What above those honest ones who lived and died during the "dark ages ?"
8. The all-important question is: At the judgment, will God cast out those honest ones who did not have the opportunity to respond to the amount of truth that would make them born-again believers? If "Yes," then how will God "render to every man according to his works?" In this verse Paul says "every man" -Christian and non-Christian.
9. I contend that God promises to save those who, for no reason of their own, cannot become born-again believers. In Romans two Paul reproves the Jews for passing judgment upon the Gentiles when they themselves were guilty of the same things. Beginning with verse five, he says, "But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will render to every man according to his works." Remember as we continue that Paul has in mind "every man." This includes the nations of other lands as well as America. Now notice:
"To those (everyone in all nations) who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, HE WILL GIVE ETERNAL LIFE."
10. Here we have people from every nation seeking for glory, honor and immortality. Will this apply to those who have never been exposed to the truth of the gospel ? It certainly does, for Paul says: "And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, THAT THEY (ALL NATIONS) SHOULD SEEK GOD, IN THE HOPE (THEY HAVE A HOPE) THAT THEY MIGHT FEEL AFTER HIM AND FIND HIM. YET HE IS NOT FAR FROM EACH ONE OF US."-Acts 17:26-27. Every nation that ever came from Adam or ever will come from Adam, whether exposed to the truth of the gospel or not, have been able and will be able to "seek God, feel after him and FIND him."
11. But how?-how can people who are not exposed to enough gospel truth seek God and find him? Paul answers: "Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made."-Rom. 1:19-20. Through nature the honest hearts of an unexposed nation can seek glory, honor and immortality, and for such God says he will "give eternal life!" If I had no more to offer than what I have thus far offered to prove my proposition, what I have offered would be enough. Can we not see that our God would surely be an unjust God if he cast out at the judgment those honest hearts who died having absolutely no chance of hearing the good news of the kingdom and becoming citizens thereof? I imagine when we get to heaven there will be many there whom we thought would not be there, and many not there whom we thought would be there.
12. Since most of my arguments are based and will be based on Romans 1 and 2 chapters, I suggest you read them. Romans 1:25 proves that one can "serve" God without being exposed to a special revelation. The 21st verse shows that God can be "honored" separate and completely apart from special revelation. The same verse shows that God can be "thanked" separate and apart from special revelation. The 28th verse shows that the Gentiles, not exposed to special revelation, could have "acknowledged God" but refused. All of this proves that a man will be judged upon the basis of the truth he knew or had the opportunity of knowing, believing and submitting to. Upon no other basis will a man approach the judgment.
13. I want the readers of this discussion to carefully read the reply given by brother Pennock. If I am wrong in my reasoning he should he able to point it out. If he succeeds in doing this, I intend to make a public confession of holding to wrong convictions on the pages of this paper. Thank vou.
1. Several months ago, the proposition under discussion was submitted to me by brother Scott with his signature fixed as the affirmative. Although I had not heard of him before, I unhesitatingly signed in the negative since it stated a matter which I firmly disbelieved. You will note that brother Scott declares my position relative to the proposition to be that of "unnecessary limitation." May I say that I am convinced and intend to prove in this discussion, that brother Scott's proposition is a denial of "the gospel of your salvation" as planned and implemented by the Almighty God.
2. While we intend to persue this discussion with vigor, we shall limit our blows to that which we consider to be error. We shall not concern ourselves with either the character or reputation of our opponent. We shall take for granted his sincerity. But certainly, one of us is wrong. And we ask that you bear in mind, that the penalty of a false theory must eventually fall upon the one who espoused it-that an individual and his cause cannot be completely separated. Because of this fact, our arguments may produce implications for which we cannot be held responsible.
3. Brother Scott sets forth his reason for submitting and affirming his proposition in paragraph 3. He says that "too many believe, as I do, "that there is no hope of heavenly salvation revealed in the new covenant scriptures for those who fail ... to render obedience to the gospel." In giving "two examples among many," he quotes a paragraph and attributes it to the Firm Foundation. But the truth of the matter is, that this quotation was also written by me, and was printed in Truth Magazine, Vol. II, p. 85. Doubtless this was an oversight and does in no way affect the proposition under discussion. But may we suggest that our worthy opponent be more accurate with his quotations and specific with his references. Loose dealing with the writings of brethren might lead one to be unwittingly careless in his quotations and references of the word of God. Whether there are many or few who believe as does this writer has no bearing upon the proposition. Truth is not dependent upon the number of its friends or opponents for its existence.
Brother Scott defines the part of his proposition which says, "The scriptures teach by saying: "By this I simply mean the scriptures impart this information. Not outrightly, word for word; but through a process of reasoning upon and understanding certain passages of scripture." (Emphasis mine: GJP.)
5. We are mindful of the fact that many erroneous doctrines have been spawned and developed "through a process of reasoning upon certain passages of scripture." But since all Bible truth is established either by precept, approved example or necessary inference, we conclude that brother Scott considers that the proof of his proposition will rely solely upon inferences. We are disappointed in this since we had hoped that he would at least attempt to offer some forthright arguments in his affirmation. And may we remind him that no inference can be accepted is proof, where such inference counters a direct statement of scripture. Upon our part, we intend to show "outrightly"-by specific quotations of scripture, that brother Scott's proposition is utterly false.
6. Brother Scott now proceeds by saying: "I shall approach my subject matter upon the principle that a man will be judged upon the basis of his response to the truth he knew or had the opportunity of knowing, believing and submitting to." In the next paragraph he says: "Let it be remembered that I have in mind only those whose hearts have been honest and whose attitudes have been of such a nature as would compel them to accept any truth, . . . upon finding it." A little later on he again says: "I contend that God promises to save those who, for no reason of their own, cannot become born-again believers." In brief his position is this: God will save men who have not had the opportunity to know the gospel, but who are of such disposition that they would have accepted it had they had such opportunity. And that it therefore follows, "that there will be responsible ones eternally saved in heaven who lived and died in this Christian era without becoming born-again believers."
7. The first attempt made to prove this position from the scriptures is where my worthy opponent quotes Luke 10:2, where Jesus said: "The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few." But from it he proves nothing, but rather assumes from it that many honest but ignorant souls will be saved. But, let us look at this verse in its context. Was the point for which our friend is contending what Jesus had in mind? Certainly not! He was rather concerned about the fewness of the laborers. He therefore exhorted his disciples in the same verse: "pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth laborers into his harvest."
8. Now consider: if "the harvest," signifying those "thousands" whom brother Scott says, "possessed ready hearts, open minds and submissive dispositions," may be saved in their ignorance-therefore without laborers-why we pray for laborers to be sent? And why should the Lord send them if we did pray for them? Certainly a farmer would be foolish to toil in the harvest-field, if it were just as profitable not to do so. But the fact of the matter is, that where harvesters do not labor, the harvest will be lost.
9. Brother Scott's position makes the preaching of the gospel a dispensable luxury, in spite of the fact that the Bible declares that "it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe" (1 Cor. 1:21). In fact, if men are to be saved in ignorance of the gospel, and their responsibility involves only their honesty or sincerity, then the preaching of the gospel becomes a worthless and bothersome imposition upon them. Indeed, the gospel itself is reduced to a farce and the death of Jesus is adjudged as unnecessary. If the Gentiles before the time of Christ, and the heathen under the Christian dispensation, are acceptable to the Lord simply upon the basis of their sincerity, then the whole scheme of redemption as planned, perfected and proferred by the Lord is rendered ridiculous. We submit to you, our readers, that the position of brother Scott is not only unscriptural - it is anti-scriptural.
10. It is our considered opinion that our opponent's position stems from a failure to understand that "the whole world lieth in the evil one" (I John 5:19). We need to keep in mind that man is a sinner and consequently is lost -- separated from God. What was true of men in the days of inspired writers is true of men now. Ezekiel wrote: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:20). Isaiah said of the people of his day: "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you" (Isa. 59:2). In the opening chapters of the Roman letter, Paul considered the position of both the Gentile and the Jew in their relationship to God. He submits his findings in these words: "What then? are we (Jews) better than they (Gentiles) ? No, in no wise: for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God; They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one" (Rom. 3:9-12).
11. It was in view of the lost condition of men in sin that God sent Jesus into the world to die for them. Listen to the testimony of Jesus himself: "The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost" (Lk. 19:10) ; "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). John, the beloved disciple, wrote: "We have beheld and bear witness that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world" (I John 4:14). With the lost condition of all men in mind, Jesus commanded, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation (Mk. 16:15), and Paul announced that God "commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent" (Acts 17:30).
12. The real purpose of the gospel is to meet man's need as a sinner. Without the gospel, the whole world is lost. This was true before Jesus came to earth and remains true to all who are either ignorant of it, or who have rejected it. Their ignorance of the gospel or their rejection of it condemns them only in a relative sense. Primarily they are lost because they are sinners. A man may be drowning in a river, but of the disposition that he would grasp a lifeline if one were cast to him, but his attitude cannot save him unless a lifeline is thrown. Upon the other hand a lifeline may be thrown within his reach, but if he turns away from it, then of course his life is lost. In either case the lifeline had nothing to do with his death. He drowned because he was in the water. Neither is the gospel an instrument of death-it is an instrument of life. Men are lost in sin and unless the gospel is brought to them, and received by them, then they die without any written promise of hope in God's book.
13. We therefore submit in conclusion: The world is lost in sin. The gospel is God's power to save it. Baptism is an indispensable act of obedience to the gospel. Therefore no sinner will be saved who had not been baptized.
14. In our next response we shall deal with brother Scott's references to the first two chapters of the Roman letter, upon which he says he will base most of his arguments. It is our hope that he will not indulge merely in assumptions, assertions, insinuations and quibbles, but that he will give us some clear-cut arguments with which to deal.Next installment of this discussion
Truth Magazine III:4, pp. 14-18