PMT 2016-026 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In this series I am arguing for the absolute sovereignty of God as a foundation stone for the postmillennial hope. If we believe God is absolutely sovereign we should not discount postmillennialism on the basis of it seeming so difficult.
In my last article I began considering the leading objections to the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty. Many evangelical Christians reject predestination and God’s absolute sovereignty because they are so intellectually difficult to grasp. But I pointed out that Christianity has other equally difficult doctrines, such as the Trinity and the hypostatic union of Christ. Yet, they will gladly affirm these doctrines.
In this article I consider the moral difficulty in accepting absolute predestination. I will quickly introduce two doctrines that are deemed immoral by those outside of Christ, yet are strongly held by Bible-believing Christians: (1) The imputation of sin; (2) the exclusiveness of Christianity. If we can hold to these doctrines despite moral objections, why can we not affirm predestination? In my next article I will introduce the leading moral objection to Christianity.
The imputation of sin
Theologian Wayne Grudem explains the biblical perspective on Adam’s fall and our condemnation: “All members of the human race were represented by Adam in the time of testing in the Garden of Eden. As our representative, Adam sinned, and God counted us guilty as well as Adam. . . . God counted Adam’s guilt as belonging to us. . . . God rightly imputed Adam’s guilt to us.”
The Christ of the Prophets (by O. Palmer Robertson)
Roberston examines the origins of prophetism, the prophets’ call, and their proclamation and application of law and covenant.
Grudem comments on the moral revulsion to this doctrine: “When we first confront the idea that we have been counted guilty because of Adam’s sin, our tendency is to protest because it seems unfair. We did not actually decide to sin, did we? Then how can we be counted guilty? Is it just for God to act this way?”
Yet this understanding comes directly from Scripture:
“Until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. . . . So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” (Rom 5:13–14, 18–19)
If we deny the moral legitimacy of imputation, we are denying the direct biblical teaching on the subject. To make matters worse, this method ends up destroying our own salvation. For if it is morally inappropriate for one to act in the place of another as his representative, then it is wrong for Christ to act in our place to secure our salvation through his merit! Once again, the methodology employed to dispute predestination comes back to haunt us.
The exclusiveness of Christianity
The doctrine of Christian exclusivism declares that salvation only comes through Christ and his covenant and by means of a personal faith in him. In order to be saved men must exercise faith in his name. It further teaches that no one can be saved without personally professing faith in Christ’s name, no matter how “religious” they are in their devotion, how “good” they may be in their conduct, how “innocent” they may appear to others, or how “disadvantaged” is their cultural context.
Regarding this matter, three views of salvation have arisen among theologians:
Pluralism: “A pluralist is a person who thinks humans may be saved through a number of different religious traditions and saviors.” On this view, all the great world religions are acceptable to God in that they arise out of man’s sincere striving to find and please God. Hence, the view is “pluralistic” in that it accepts a plurality of religions.
Inclusivism: “Inclusivists believe that salvation is impossible apart from Jesus and that he is the only Savior. But this does not mean that people have to know about Jesus or actually believe in him to receive that salvation.” On this view, Jesus is the only Savior, but his salvation includes (therefore, is “inclusive”) those who do not personally know him in faith.
Exclusivism: “Christian exclusivism can be defined as the belief that (1) Jesus Christ is the only Savior, and (2) explicit faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation.” This is the orthodox view that is held by the vast majority of evangelical Christians.
By Derek CooperCooper. Examines the rival worldviews found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, Judaism, Islam, and irreligion. He engages these worldviews from a Christian perspective.
See more study materials: www.KennethGentry.com
The reasons the first two views exist at all is due to the methodological bugaboo we have been considering: emotional reflex and moral revulsion. This time the reflex is against the notion that decent people, through no fault of their own, living in non-Christian lands would be condemned by a loving, merciful God.
The inclusivist further notes that this is problematic in that God’s Son died for the sins of the world. For instance, as evangelical theologian Ron Nash notes of John Hick: “Hick’s encounters with devout and moral non-Christians led him to think it was no longer possible to ‘argue that Christianity or Christ is the sole means of salvation since it is evident that many outside Christianity, and outside the influence of the historical Jesus, are in fact saved.’”
Yet the Bible expressly and dogmatically teaches this view of salvation known as “exclusivism.” This has been the historic position of the orthodox Christian church. In fact, this view underscores the necessity of the Christian faith and the significance of the Christian evangelistic and missionary outreach. Consider the following passages:
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.’” (John 14:6)
“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation . . . for ‘Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!’” (Rom 10:9–10, 13–15)
So then, despite the “moral difficulty” of this historic Christian exclusivistic understanding of eternal salvation, the average Christian recognizes its necessity. Remarkably, many who oppose predestination on moral grounds will nevertheless affirm exclusivism, despite the same moral difficulty.
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