A Tragic Trend

By Paul al-Asad
Paul is a message bearer serving among the unreached.

There is something very tragic in our midst. There is something murderous, no, better yet, suicidal, that lurks within the Church. I call it suicidal because it comes from within. This is precisely why it is so dangerous because it seems so innocent.

As is often the case, the most wretched enemies are usually veiled in innocence. We’ve all heard it before, maybe even thought it ourselves… “Those people who have never heard the Gospel as presented in the Bible aren’t really condemned to eternal spiritual death, are they? I mean, that would be so unjust of God, right?”

Wrong. The truth is that a person’s knowledge or lack thereof concerning Jesus Christ is not the thing that condemns them before a holy God.

In fact, Paul clearly states in Romans 2 that ultimately, it is each person’s failure to comply with the Law (either explicitly as found in the Bible, or implicitly as written on our hearts/conscience) that renders us guilty as we stand before a holy and just judge.

[1] This is why in the very next chapter Paul can say that “Jews (those who know the Bible) and Gentiles (those who don’t) alike are all under sin” and that “There is no one righteous, not even one…” [2] Why is this the case?

So that “every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.” [3] And then the culmination, beginning in Romans 3:21,

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known… this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus… [4] Where then, is boasting?

It is excluded… for we maintain that a man is justified by faith… Is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through the same faith. [5]”

It is the clear testimony of Scripture then, that neither the opportunity nor the lack of opportunity to reject Christ is the reason for our condemnation, whether Jew or Gentile. We are condemned because of our inability to obey God’s law, period.

It is also the clear testimony of Scripture that one thing alone is responsible for an eternal acquittal – explicit faith in Jesus Christ. As Peter testified in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

And yet many [6] within the Church still hold that people who have never had the chance to respond to the Gospel in faith are likely to find eternal favor with God, thereby avoiding judgment. Sadly, this view has been perpetuated from many pulpits and seminaries. There are basically two camps who hold this position, pluralism and inclusivism.

Pluralism contends that God, not Christ, is the center of the religious universe. It teaches that all paths eventually lead to the top of the mountain, and that Christ is merely one of many options to God.

Inclusivism says that Christ and his work on the Cross are the only means to God, but that it’s not necessary for someone to have a conscious knowledge of this fact, since many people live in remote corners of the world and have not known about Jesus (through no fault of their own).

Both of these views are unbiblical, inasmuch as they contradict the clear testimony of Scripture, Church history, and experience. [7] Why is it then, that despite said difficulties, such large numbers of Christians in the West [8] still contend that it’s not really vital to carry the Gospel to the far corners of the earth?

I think the answer is quite simple – it gets our own guilty consciences off the hook. Face it, if we take the Bible seriously, it might mean a radical shake-up of our comfortable little Christian lives!

If we take God at his Word, and believe Him when He says that “there is no one righteous” apart from explicit “faith in Jesus Christ” it means that our world is turned upside down.

All of a sudden, our tiny hopes and dreams of school, career, family, etc. pale in comparison to the reality that one third of the world’s total population (over 2 billion souls) lives in societies with little or no access to a Message that we in the West have come to take for granted.

I live in New England, and compared to much of the US there aren’t very many Christians in these parts! Still, there are about twenty solid churches in my city of only 29,000 people.

Compare that to Turkey, for example, where there might be five or so tiny churches in a city like Istanbul with 15 million people! Let alone the smaller cities and villages in the east that don’t even have one believer living there.

Friends, the notion that people can experience the joys of heaven without conscious faith in Christ alone is indeed suicidal. It is harmful to the cause of missions – what urgency is there to preach the gospel if people can be saved some other way?

It is harmful to the message of the Cross, effectively emptying it of its power, because it means that Christ died in vain. It is harmful to the legacies of those like Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, and Jim Elliot who have given everything they had because they knew there was no other hope for mankind.

What’s more, it is detrimental to our own faith, because subscribing to such a belief system means that we don’t really savor, honor and treasure Jesus Christ above all else ourselves. And that is the real tragedy.

1 Romans 2: 12-15

2 Romans 3: 9-10

3 Romans 3: 19

4 Romans 3: 21-24

5 Romans 3: 27-30

6 According to a recent Newsweek poll, 67% of Evangelicals and 90% of Catholics said that there were alternate paths to salvation apart from conscious faith in Christ.

7 I would love to further refute these unbiblical teachings, but that’s for another day!

8 It is interesting to note that the concept of saving faith apart from conscious knowledge of Christ is conspicuously absent in the non-Western Church.

Some of my good friends in other parts of the world are shocked when I tell them that many Christians in the West hold such positions.

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