The Unbaptized - Will They Be Saved?

What Saith The Scriptures?

Buff Scott Affirms - Gordon J. Pennock Denies

Previous installment of this discussion

Gallipolls, Ohio

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 the Christian era without becoming born-again believers."

1. Gordon feels that I have "sought in several instances to write an interpretation of it (the proposition) which assumes what he needs to prove." At the outset I definitely stated that my subject matter would be approached upon the basis of a man's being judged by his response to the truth he knew, or had the opportunity of knowing, believing and submitting to. I further said that if this principle were to be proven, my proposition will stand.

2. It stands without saying that if one is to be judged upon the basis of his response to the truth he knew, or had the chance of knowing, believing and submitting to, and when said one embraces all the truth he finds or can find, but doesn't find enough to make him a born-again believer, he is saved eternally without becoming a born-again believer. This principle, I believe, has been sufficiently proven -- by the scriptures.

3. If one is not to be judged upon the basis of his response to truth, this leaves mankind without anything at all to do! It would mean that either all mankind would be saved or all mankind would be lost. Man would be no more than a machine. The honest man, wherever he might be, has a responsive instinct; but if he is not to be judged by his responses to truth, it did my brother, nor anyone else, any good by responding to the amount of truth that made him a born-again believer.

4. But, again, if my logic is wrong relative to mankind being judged upon said basis, why did Jesus say "Come unto me?" In short, there would be no need for the Bible, Let us make it simple:

1. A man will be judged by his response to truth.

2. He responds to all he can find.

3. He dies before he can find enough truth to make him a born-again believer, or a citizen of the kingdom.

5. Gordon says he is lost! But why? Surely God does not require the impossible of a man. Gordon, does God require the impossible of a man? Gordon, would your earthly father hold you responsible for not submitting to injunctions you know NOTHING about. Is this the kind of God we have?

6. It has been said that a chain is no stronger than its weakest link. We shall apply this principle to brother Pennock's replies. Among the replies in his latest exchange, the one regarding the mentally retarded is his weakest. Therefore, we shall make somewhat of a play upon this one. Actually, as the record shows, he gave no reply whatsoever. He did suggest though, that I give the scripture which states My position with regard to people of retarded mentality, with my application of it to the heathen, and he would take care of it. This, I am happy to do.

7. Jesus says in Mark 16:16 that he who believes and is immersed will be saved become a born-again believer. This injunction will not apply to those who are mentally retarded for they are incapable of submitting to it. In this sense they have not been exposed to it. Likewise those who have sound minds, but have not had the opportunity to respond, are incapable of submitting to it. How can one submit to something he knows nothing about? How can a Just God deny an honest one who knew nothing of His injunctions?

8. Lev. 5:17-19 will not work, for God's mercy will overlap a wrong when committed ignorantly. Does my brother not believe in the mercy of God? Has not my brother committed many sins ignorantly? Will he not continue to do so? Will God cast him out if he dies without knowledge of some particular sin? Let my brother answer these questions. And before he gets the wrong impression, let me insert just here that God does not overlook wilful sins.

9. No matter what other material Gordon might submit, he is still faced with the problem of separating the principle I've applied to capabilities and opportunities.

10. In paragraph 3, he refers to the demons, stating that they, too, believe there is a God. But we believe a demon will be lost because of his being a demon. Is a man a demon because he seeks all the truth he can find, but doesn't find enough to make him a born-again believer? And, are the demons seeking truth? Aren't they simply believing a fact."

11. My argument about one being judged "according, to his works" is still valid. The people I have had under consideration in this study are following "good works," not "evil works."

12. I, too, believe as does my brother that a man will have eternal life "by patiently doing good." As stated in his 5th paragraph, eternal life is learned through the revelation of Jesus Christ. I have contended for nothing less in this study. Anything one learns about God and his wonderful doings is learned through revelation. But as I have attempted to stress, one can learn about God without being exposed to a "special revelation" namely, the Bible. My first affirmative brought this out rather plain, I believe.

"For he will render to every man according to his works. Remember, as we continue, Paul has in mind every man. This includes the nations of other lands as well as America.

"To those (everyone in all nations) who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." 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, has been able and will be able to 'seek God, feel after him and find him.'"

"But 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 preceived 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!'"

13. Brother Pennock says much that we are in complete agreement upon. To me, this isn't a reply at all but simply admissions. Take paragraph 8, for example. With the exception of one point, so far as I can see, we agree one hundred percent. The point is this: "This implies that God had revealed his will to them . . ." (Gentiles, Buff). Is Gordon saying that the old covenant was given to the Gentile race of people? If yes, I say he is in error to the fullest extent. The old covenant was given to the Jewish race of people only. The Gentile race was without special revelation until God applied the new covenant to them. My brother should know this. He no doubt has taught it this way upon many occasions.

14. I agree that God had revealed himself to the Gentile race, but not by special revelation. The answer is given in Romans 1:19-20. I ask the readers of this study to refer back to my first affirmative, last two paragraphs.

15. In paragraph 10, my brother says many good things. However, I do not share his convictions regarding Mark 9:47.

16. In paragraph 11, he asks, "Will those who are eternally saved receive a beating?" I am not able to reply to this question in the light of other passages which I feel teach differently. Perhaps this is my weakest link. I ask brother Pennock to please overlook my inability to harmonize this passage (Lk. 12:48) with others which I feel teach differently. I would, however, like for Gordon to give his conviction relative to this passage. What do you think it teaches, Gordon ? Whatever his conviction might be, his conclusion would also apply to those who are mentally retarded and sin ignorantly. Do not overlook this statement.

17. In pargaraph 13, Gordon feels that my interpretation of John 9:41 is wrong. I based my interpretation upon what Jesus said. In Johnson's notes, he says, "Had they been without opportunity they would have no moral responsibility, but as they had opportunitv to see and claimed to see, their sin rernaineth." I share this view with Mr. Johnson.

18. I wasn't at all satisfied with Gordon's answer to my question found on the last page of my last affirmative. It is: "If a man embraces all the truth he can possibly find, what more will God require of him?"

19. This is my last exchange. In order to arouse the interest of those who might read this discussion, let me insert some quotes from a few whom I have been reading from.

Mr. Tommy Kelton of Uyo, Nigeria, says,

"There are now 2,400,000,000 people in the world. Every day 230,000 babies are born. There are 170,000 deaths every 24 hours. Thus the population of the earth is increasing by 60,000 souls a day.

"Over half of the 2.4 billion have never heard of the name of Jesus. Of those who die daily, over 100,000 die without any knowledge of Christ whatsoever . . . This means that 95% of the world is going to hell without a chance being provided by Christ's church for them to know the truth." -Gospel Guardian, August 21, '59.

20. I am truly sorry that my brethren take such radical positions. He says that 95% of the world's people are going to hell! And who are the other 5%? They are, of course, those who are members of what my brethren call the "church of Christ!"

21. But, let us turn the picture around and get the views of another.

"Let me suggest to you that the revelation of God, as we speak of it, i.e., in the Bible - the Patriarchal, Jewish and Christian dispensations -- have been given to only a small fraction of the human family. Just how many people there have been that have lived, I do not know. Some hundred years ago someono tried to count the number and supposed that if the earth were one great graveyard that the graves would be twenty deep - - all over the earth, including the mountains, the rivers and the oceans.

"Think of the billions and billions of people that have lived, but do you realize that only a very small portion, perhaps less than ten percent, have come within the special revelation of God? I think I can say that ninety percent of the people have been outside of what we call revelation.

The Jews, for example, comprised about one or two percent of the human family. Was God unmindful of the Romans, the Greeks, the Babylonians, and many, many otbers who lived in that day? And even today, while the percentage is somewhat greater, there is a great bulk of human family that is outside of revelation in that they have never been exposed to it.

These are facts that cannot be disputed. Some ninety percent of the human family, from the beginning of creation, have been outside of what we call special revelation. Then I ask myself this: "Is God unmindful of those people?" --Leroy Garrett, from a tape recording made in Dallas, Texas, 1957.

22. Mr. A Campbell said: "So that but one-sixth of Adam's offspring possess, and but few of these enjoy the revelation of God." -The Christian Baptist, p. 41.

23. So far as my part of this discussion is concerned, I have enjoyed it.

THIRD NEGATIVE by Gordon J. Pennock

Brookfield, Jlllnois

1. We believe that it is readily apparent to the discerning reader, that brother Scott has failed to establish either his proposition or " the basis" upon which he has approached it. His efforts have mere1y produced some unwarranted deductions along with some bold assumptions and assertions. Of course, this is what we expected, since we knew from the beginning that the Scriptures did not contain a syllable of proof of his position. Whether my opponent realizes it or not, his theory will ultimately lead to a minimizing of the gospel and our responsibility of preaching it to "every creature in all the world."

2. With reference to my opponent's remarks in paragraphs 2, 3, & 4, may I say that we have not necessarily found fault with the idea that a man will be "Judged upon the basis of his response to the truth." But, as we showed in our second paper, paragraph 8, God has specified a point at which sinners are washed from their sins and establish a new relationship with Him. That point is, as Jesus stated, the new birth -- the birth of water and Spirit (John 3:5) - belief and baptism (Mk. 16:16). And furthermore, that there is but one alternative to entering into the kingdom of God, namely: to be cast into hell (Gehenna)." (Mark 9:47). Upon these premises, we insist that there is no hope of eternal salvation to anyone whose knowledge of truth - and therefore whose reponse to truth - falls short of the degree necessary to make him a citizen in the kingdom of God. Although this idea may offend our sensibilities, it is conclusively the truth and our aversion to it can neither alter nor invalidate it. It will remain the basis upon which men will be judged on the "last day." I hesitate not to say that brother Scott's dispute is with Jesus and His word rather than with this scribe.

3. In paragraph 5, my opponent attempts to raise a "smoke-screen" by appealing to sentiment and prejudice, when he asks: "Does God require the impossible of man? Would your earthly father hold you responsible for not submitting to injunctions you know nothing about? Is this the kind of God we have?"

4. Frankly, we are disappointed in brother Scott. Since he wanted to debate matters we naturally expected that he would direct his appeal to the intellect rather than emotions. His disposition here is parallel to that assumed by many denominational teachers when they seek to escape the teaching of the Bible concerning the importance of baptism or the reality of hell and eternal punishment. Like my opponent, they try to wriggle around the truth by declaring: "Surely a God of love would not punish one of his creatures in the fires of hell just because he failed or refused to keep His commandments!" And then, they ask: "Would your father do that?" They seem to think that such statements resolve and dispose of the matter. Is that what my opponent thinks?

5. We wish to advise him, as well as others who thus try to escape the infinity of God's wisdom and the power of His word, that the great Jehovah is not to be measured by mortal and fallible men. However great and good the "fathers of our flesh" may appear to us, their puny wisdom, varying sentiments and unstable emotions cannot be properly compared to those of our Heavenly Father. To be sure, God's judgments as demonstrated in the slaying of Nadab and Abihu with fire (Lev. 10:1, 2), and the destruction of the Amalekites - "both man and woman, infant and suckling" -- by the sword (I Sam. 15), as well as the killing of Uzzah for his unauthorized touching of the ark of the covenant (2 Sam. 6), appear as unforgiveable outrages to the natural man. But the spiritual man recognizes that these things were directed by the wisdom of God, and so he accepts them without either question or criticism. In utter humility he acknowledges the omniscience of the Lord as recorded in these words: "My thoughts, are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For its the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thougths than your thoughts" (Isa. 5:8, 9).

6. Before leaving this point, let us raise this question for consideration: Is God unjust when He allows a helpless and innocent child to be either maimed or killed because it may have both ignorantly and involuntarily violated a natural law? Certainly not! It simply demonstrates the immutability of natural law. The same is true of God's spiritual law. He has decreed that "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:20), or that "the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, the sinner who ends his life without having been washed in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ dies in his sin, and so far as the teaching of the Scriptures is concerned, he is lost eternally. Although he may have responded to all the truth he knew, if he died without being "born anew of "the water and the Spirit," - without having been baptized - then he died without having entered the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5); he died while remaining in "the kingdom of darkness instead of a citizen in the "kingdom of God's dear Son" (Col. 1:13); he died without the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16); he died without having been saved (Mk. 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21 ) ; he died without having become a "new creature" with a "new life" (Rom. 6:3, 4; 2 Cor. 5:17). He furthermore died without getting into Christ "in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 1:7). The sinner who dies without a knowledge of - or obedience to - the gospel dies without the only means by which he can be saved (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; 2 Thess. 1:8).

7. May the realization of these awful truths impell all of us toward greater sacrifice and more devoted service in the proclamation of the gospel to "every creature in all the world."

8. Let us now proceed to paragraphs 6, 7, and 8, in which my opponent equates the predicament of mentally retarded persons with that of untaught sinners. He cites Mark 16:16 as his proof-text upon this point. Well, let us consider this text. Jesus said: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Mk. 16:15, 16). Brother Scott, did Jesus direct the preaching of the gospel to imbeciles? Certainly not! To even suggest so would be to insult the intelligence of the Son of God. Note: requisite to the new birth - baptism -- is the mental ability to understand and believe the gospel message. Consequently, the gospel was not addressed to idiots or imbeciles, and therefore, Mark 16:16 casts no light whatsoever upon their standing in the sight of God. In fact, the Bible does not mention the spiritual status of such unfortunate creatures and anything that my opponent might suggest concerning them would be pure speculation.

9. But note, brother Scott: the gospel is God's power to save the lost - to save sinners - and to them it is directed. The responsibility of preaching it to "all nations" was at first laid upon the apostles, but as is shown in Matthew 28:20, it is a perpetuating duty of all Christians in all ages. And furthermore, the Bible teaches that our neglect of preaching the gospel to heathen people may not only result in the loss of their souls, but will also jeopardize our own salvation. This principle is set forth by Ezekiel the prophet in these words: "When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou giveth him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thy hand" (Ezek. 3:18). In recognition of this solemn truth, the apostle Paul wrote: "I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish" (Rom. 1:14).May I suggest that, in view of these Scriptures, my opponent would more profitably spend his energy in carrying the gospel of Jesus Christ to the heathen than in propounding an anti-scriptural theory concerning those who live and die in ignorance of it.

10. Our opponent next says that Leviticus 5:17-19 "will not work for God's mercy will overlap a wrong when committed ignorantly." But he failed to give the passage of Scripture which so states. My friend ought to know that we do not accept his assertions as we do the word of God! Why did you not cite the Scriptures? Let us again quote Lev. 5: 17-19, which troubles my opponent. We want our readers to get it. "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 things wherein he erred unwittingly and knew it not, and he shall he forgiven. It is a trespass offering; he is certainly guilty before Jehovah." So we see that the Scriptures do teach that one who sins -although unwittingly or ignorantly - is guilty in the sight of God and is therefore subject to the penalty of sin. This penalty can only be removed by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, which is applied to the sinner when he renders obedience to the gospel when he is baptized (Acts 22:16). As we stated before, the heathen in their ignorance are not primarily lost because they have not been born again - baptized. They are lost because they have sinned. And, unless the atoning blood is applied to their souls by obedience to the gospel, then the penalty of death is upon them, as taught in Ezek. 18:20 and Rom. 6:23.

11. In paragraph 10 my opponent asks: "Is a man a demon because he seeks all the truth he can find, but doesn't find enough to make him a born again believer?" Well, let us ask this question: Is he a child of God? Let us see. In the parable of the tares, Jesus said: "He that sowed the good seed is the Son of man; and the field is the world; and the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy that sowed them is the devil" (Matt. 13:38). Now note: Jesus presents the "sons of the kingdom" in contrast with the "sons of the evil one" and shows that the world is populated entirely by these two groups. Every responsible human being is found in either one or the other. The apostle John made this quite plain, and furthermore showed that the distinction between them is a spiritual birth. He said: "Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil" (I John 3:9, 10). Now let us hear Paul: "ye are all sons (children) of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ" (Gal. 3:26, 27). The conclusion, friends, is inevitable! Only those who have been "begotten " or "born" of God--baptized-are acknowledged as "children of God." However difficult it may be for my opponent to accept, the Bible does teach that all others are classified as "children of the devil."

12. We now come to the conclusion of this discussion. My opponent's quotation at the close of his last paper requires no reply from me. Comparative estimates of the numbers of the saved and the lost serve no purpose other than to appeal to sentiment. Sentiment does not invalidate truth. God's word will remain unchanged regardless of how men may feel about it or how many violate its precepts or fail its obligations. A viewing of the great sea of humanity lost in sin should emphasize the urgency of our task of preaching the gospel and spur us on to greater activity.

13. 1 cannot say that my part in this discussion has been conducted with pleasure. It pains me to be called upon to deal with any proposition which so recklessly attacks and nullifies God's scheme of redemption and plan of salvation as perfected through the death of His Son. If of course we have been helpful to others in bringing before them a clearer conception of God's wisdom, then we are happy.

14. Our part in this discussion has been to deny that God has revealed either promise or salvation to responsible people who have lived and died without obedience to the gospel. If Jehovah, in His great mercy, extends clemency to some in that day, then surely His name will be worthy of praise throughout eternity. But we do deny that such clemency is taught in the Scripture. Thus it is that we encourage brother Scott and all others to "preach the word" without addition, subtraction or modification. Let us press and contend for the truths and principles which have been clearly revealed in God's word and leave the disposition of the unrevealed to our Heavenly Father.

Truth Magazine III:6, pp. 2-7
March 1959