The Unbaptized - Will They Be Saved?
What Saith The Scriptures?
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.
It should be well remembered just what brother Pennock is denying. He denies that a man will be judged upon the basis of his response to the truth (any truth) he knew or had the opportunity of knowing. believing and submitting to. Of course he believes this is true of the Christian man (2 Tim. 2:15, etc.), but not true of the man who is not a Christian (born-again believer). It call be proven either way. If I can successfully prove that all men will be judged upon the above stated principle, then the proposition will have been proven.
Please take note to these points: (1) There wi1l be some saved in heaven who lived and died in this era without becoming born-again believers; (2) This is to be deterinined upon. the basis of their response to the truth (any truth, gospel or otherwise) they knew or had the opportunty of knowing, believing and submitting to.
In Luke 12, Jesus gave a parable concerning a master and his servants. Jesus, in the 47th and 48th verses, laid down the principle that the amount required of a man will be based upon the amount of will (truth) he receives. He says, "Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required." He says that "that servant who knew his master's will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required." But suppose a man doesn't receive enough of will (truth) to make him a citizen of God's kingdom upon earth? What will be required of that man? I say, must he give an account of something he did not know or have the chance to receive?
In John 9:41 the Pharisees asked Jesus a question. They asked: "Are we also blind?" Jesus answered, and notice carefully: "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains." This forever settles it! There no quilt where one is blind! When a man is blind of a certain truth, or truths, for no fault of his own, he is not held responsible; it is not required of him. Keep posted to the fact that I have in mind only those whose hearts are honest and whose dispositions would compel them to accept all truths, whether revealed to them through nature or otherwise, upon finding them. An honest man who dies without having the opportunity of knowing enough truth to make him a born-again believer is in the same category as the man who dies without having enough capabilities (mentally insane) of becoming a born-again believer. Many are deprived of capabilities, others of opportunities. Will God save the former and reject the latter? In either case, both are deprived of something: one of capabilities, the other of opportunities. To claim that God, at the judgment, will cast out a man who would have accepted his opportunities to become a Christian had he been exposed thereto, is saying also that He will cast out the one who would have recognized his capabilities of becoming a born-again believer had he been exposed thereto! The principle will work in either direction. Let my brother give a scripture which teaches that God will save those who were not capable of becoming a citizen of His kingdom, and I'll take the sarne scripture, using his principle, and prove that the same is true of those who are deprived of opportunities. Will he favor me with the passage' We'll see.
There is not much to reply to relative to brother Pennock's first negative, seeing he completely neglected to answer the remarks I made on Romans one and two chapters. I'll just have to wait until he does say something. If he says anything at all he will have to say it in his next reply, for it would be unfair to wait until I have no chance to answer.
He says, "Primarily they are lost because they are sinners." This statement takes in a lot, and needs to be commented upon. Take the word "lost," for instance: In what sense is he using it? Lost eternally? If yes, I reject it. I affirm a man is not in a lost condition (as long as he seeks truth and embraces all that he can find. True, he is "lost" in the sense of having not found Jesus and his good news (gospel), but definitely not "lost" eternally!
My brother might keep in mind the fact that there are two classes of sinners: (1) The class who sin but do not repent; and (2) The class who sin but do repent. I agree with my brother that "all men are sinners" and that "the gospel is God's power to save." It would take an atheist to deny either. But what of the sinner, the one constantly seeking truth, who never hears about Jesus and His power to make him a new creature.? This is the issue, my brother.
I do not believe, as my brother expresses it, that "the heathen under the Christian dispensation are acceptable to the Lord simply upon the basis of their sincerity." Sincerity plays its part, yes; but not apart from response. There must be a response to any truth found.
Brother Pennock says, "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." This isn't altogether true. In the material realm a harvest may go unattended, but the harvest is not necessarily lost. It will go uncultivated, thus undeveloped, but not lost. So it is with the field of human souls. It might go uncultivated, thus undeveloped, but certainly not lost. This is why we are commanded to "go into all the world." It needs to be cultivated and developed.
I do not agree that all Bible truths are determined upon Pennock's three stated principles: (1) Precept; (2) Approved example; and (3) Necessary inference. What about a "statement of fact?" For example: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." Is this it command? No. Is it an approved example? No. Is it a necessary inference? If yes, what is inferred? It is nothing but a "statement of fact." Most of my proof found in this discussion is based upon "statements of fact."
I'll close this affirmative by asking my brother one question. It is: If a man embraces all the truth that he can possibly find, what more will God require of him? What is there to require of him?
1. Brother Scott, Mr. Editor, and honorable readers: From the outset of this discussion, my opponent has attempted to assume that which he is obligated to prove. He certainly ought to distinguish between argument and assumption-evidence and assertion. While many assertions have been made, followed by scripture references, these have, for the most part, had little or no reference to his proposition. His proposition demands that he prove that responsible people "will be eternally saved in heaven who lived and died in this Christian era without becoming born-again believers" without having been baptized into Christ. It will be noted that instead of standing firmly upon the proposition, which he wrote and I accepted, he has sought in several instances to write an interpretation of it which assumes what he needs to prove, and into which he has injected certain terms by which he evidently hopes to escape the necessity of drawing a line between the saved and the unsaved.
2. In his first affirmative he describes my position as that of "unnecessary limitation." I insist that it is scriptural limitation. In his second affirmative he declares that men's destinies will be determined by their response to "any truth, gospel or otherwise." The tenor of what he says suggests the notion that men may be saved simply by knowing and admitting certain truths which are evident in nature, although totally ignorant of God's word - "special revelation." Such an idea is preposterous!
3. In paragraph 6 of brother Scott's first affirmative, he infers from Rom. 1:20, that God will accept sinners simply upon the basis of their admission of His existence. Note: the inspired James wrote, that the demons believe this, but they are not saved-they tremble (James 2:19). Neither is such knowledge and admission sufficient to save sinful men.
4. In paragraphs 8 and 9 of the same paper, he quotes Romans 2:5, 6, which states that God will render to "every man according to his works." Certainly, this is true! But, when God has rendered to a man "according to his works," the man may be condemned to eternal punishment. There are works that are good and some that are evil. "God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Ecc. 12:14).
5. My opponent next proceeds to recite verse 7 of the same chapter, and insinuates that those who merely seek for glory and honor and immortalitv will be saved-granted "eternal life." But, read this verse and note that the seeking is to be "by patience in well doing," or as translated by James Moffatt, "by patient1y doing good." And of course, the well-doing by which men are to obtain eternal life can be learned through the revelation of Jesus Christ. Read Galatians 1:11, 12.
6. Turning to paragraph 10 of brother Scott's first affirmative, he quotes Paul's language from Acts 17:26, 27 (RSV), and declares that men in heathenism "Have a hope." Is this the Christian's hope, brother Scott? I deny that it is! Paul, herein says, that the God that made the world, with its many nation, is not a national God but the universal God, and that it was God's intention that all men seek Him. And furthermore, that they need not seek very far since He Himself fills the world about them; and that therefore, their idolatry was inexcusable.
6. In our judgment, my opponent has imposed a serious mutilation upon the first chapter of the Roman letter. In our first response we passed by his references to this portion, in the hope that he would make explicit arguments from it in his second paper. In fact, he closed his first one with a promise to do so. But instead, he came back and complained because I gave them no attention. The following summary of Romans, first chapter, verses 18 to the end, is offered in rebuttal to his assertions.
7. These verses constitute a firm rebuke of ignorance, heathenism and idolatry. The apostle points out that the sordid conditions described, did not come about because God had not manifested Himself to the Gentiles but rather because they had forsaken Him. And that therefore, God was not unjust in punishing them for their sins. Paul declares, that since God had manifested Himself to them (V. 18, 19), thev were therefore "without excuse: because that, knowing God (yes, they knew Him), they glorified Him not as God" (V. 20, 21). But rather, they "changed the glory of the incorruptible God" for images of men, birds, beasts and creeping things (V. 23). In other words, they became idolaters. They also "exchanged the truth of God for a lie" (V. 2-5). This implies that God had revealed His will to them, but that they had displaced it with tradition, superstition and human philosophy. Their departure was such, that "they refused to have God in their knowledge (V. 28). As a result of their rejection of Him and His will, "God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts (V. 24), "unto vile passions" (V. 26) and "unto a reprobate mind" (V. 28).
8. We now pay attention to some things in brother Scott's second affirmative paper. He begins by referring to 2 Timotliv 2:15, implying that since there are varying degrees of knowledge among Christians, that it therefore follows that a meager measure of knowledge of God and His will is sufficient to save a sinner eternally in heaven, even though his knowledge and response falls short of that required in the new birth-that of belief of the gospel and baptism.
9. But this is not so, brother Scott! Your assumption disregards the fact that while there is development of knowledge before the new birth, as well as after it, God has specified a point at which sinners pass from a state of condemnation into a state of salvation. That point is the new birth-the birth of water and the Spirit (John 3:5)--belief and baptism (Mk. 16:16). By the new birth, the sinner enters the kingdom of God. There is no other way. Jesus says that the only alternative to "entering into the kingdom of God" is to be "cast into hell (Gehenna)" (Mic. 9:47).
10. We now give attention to our opponent's use of Luke 12:47, 48, which does not help his proposition at all. It should be noted that neither of the servants mentioned there were rewarded or saved. Both of them were beaten. The one was beaten because he knew the Lord's will, but failed to carry it out; the other was beaten because he also failed to do it, although he did so ignorantly. The only difference was that the former received many stripes, the latter few stripes. They were both punished! Let me ask brother Scott this question: Will those who are eternally saved receive a beating? Answer this, please.
11. We now invite the reader's consideration of John 9:41, from which brother Scott emphatically concludes: "This forever settles it! There is no guilt where one is blind!" In other words, brother Scott says, that those who sin in ignorance are not guilty of sin before God.
12. We suggest that if this is true, then when Jesus said, "For judgment came I into this world, that they that see not may see; and that they that see may become blind" (John 9:39). He in substance said that His mission was to make the guilty guiltless and the guiltless guilty. This is, of course, ridiculous, but it is the inevitable conclusion of brother Scott's interpretation. The fact of the matter is that while Jesus was engaged in His ministry he met many people who were sinning deliberately and knowingly, as well as those who were sinning unwittingly and ignorantly. The former class were self-righteous and boasted, Saying "We see," and because of their attitude, they rejected the Saviour, and consequently remained in spiritual blindness. But the latter group admitted their blindness, and thus in humility accepted Jesus and His word.
13. May I submit the following scripture for my brother's consideration, with the request that he harmonize it with his interpretation of John 9:41 in his next paper. We quote: "And if any one sin, and do any of the things which Jehovah hath commanded not to be done; though he knew it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity . . . and the priest shall make atonement for him concerning the thing wherein he erred unwittingly and knew it not, and he shall be forgiven. It is a trespass offering: he is certainly guilty before Jehovah" (Lev. 5:17-19). Certainly, the Bible does not contradict itself!
14. My opponent's next effort is to parallel the status of in idiot with that of a sinner who is ignorant of the gospel. He says that the one who is incapable of understanding the gospel sustains the same responsibility before God as does the one who lacks the opportunity of hearing it. He says, "Let my brother give a scripture which teaches that God will save those who were not capable of becoming a citizen of His kingdom."
15. But brother Scott, I am not in the affirmative! That is your business. You need to look after it! Just give the scripture which states your position with regard to people of retarded mentality, with your application of it to the heathen, and we'll take care of it.
16. In regard to the sense in which I use the term lost, suffice it for me to say, that I use it as the antithesis of saved, as in Mark 16:16. Every sinner is lost until he obeys the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7, 8). If his disobedience continues until death, then he is lost eternally. Jesus is the author of "eternal salvation" unto all them that obey him" ( Heb. 5 :9).
17. Brother Scott's final question is answered in Lev. 5:17-19 which I quoted in paragraph 13. I ask the reader to turn back and read it again.
18. It is my sincere hope that brother Scott will deal with the questions which I have asked, and that he will present some tangible arguments in his next paper.
Truth Magazine III:5; pp. 4-7