Maellus

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Below is a potential question I was going to submit. I would appreciate any thoughts or reactions to the questions posed in it.

"Dr. Craig,

I have been troubled lately by the thought that preaching the Gospel and evangelizing Christianity may be evil, or at least clearly lead to evil.

My thinking is as follows: you, me, and many other Christians (as I understand), generally hold to a theory of accessibility of salvation, most clearly elaborated in Romans 2:12-16. That is to say, those people who have not heard and comprehended the message of Christianity through no fault of their own will be judged by the law of God in their hearts. This is a logical and orthodox view.

However, this view introduces danger to any would-be missionary. If I know someone who is non-Christian, but who is virtuous and generally acts in accordance with the Law of God written in his heart, I would be monstrous to take the risk of explaining Christianity to him! Since I don't know how he will react, I could very well risk damning him through my actions.

To expand the scale further. if I were a missionary in a remote village of 100 or 1000 non-Christians that have no chance of exposure to Christianity in their lifetimes other than by me and got to know them all as decent people, and explained Christianity to them, it seems to be statistically very likely that I would be responsible for at least one person going to Hell.

I can think of several ways around this horrible thought. The first is that evangelism, spreading the truth of Christianity, is inherently good, and any appeal to the utility of its consequences is inappropriate. While I am aware of the flaws of utilitarianism, the prospect of potentially INFINITE good or bad consequences following from my actions seems to me impossible to leave alone.

The second possible escape from this trap would be either universalism (in which case I wouldn't need to worry, since everyone I speak to would be assured salvation eventually anyway), or some kind of post-mortem second chance, which I know you have argued against before."

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Gordon Tubbs

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You may want to check out this previous Question of the Week, #575. While it by no means directly answers your question, I think it fits into the same theme of your question.
Ordained Minister of the Word and Sacrament (PCUSA)
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Harvey

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That's a really good objection. I would submit it. But, you need to include responses from previous Q&As so that it's established that "the message of Christianity through no fault of their own will be judged by the law of God in their hearts" since I don't recall Craig actually holding to that view.

The way I would answer that question is that we are comnanded to preach the Gospel so that people can see light which is to their eternal benefit. There's a great deal of hopelessness out there and hearing the good news is for them an opportunity to believe and live a life according to faith. For those people who are living a moral life as far as they know, but reject the Gospel of Christ, we really don't know what happens. No where does Paul suggest that his brothers of Israel were eternally damned because they rejected the Gospel. He says it was just an opportunity for Gentiles to be grafted in and then Israel would be saved. He implies that this is even God's will. So, I think we just have to follow the great commission and figure that God would address those who on moral or other grounds reject the Gospel without necessarily thinking that God has no other means to reach them. God is love and nothing pleases Him more than a person who tries to worship Him even if they lack knowledge about His incarnation of Jesus. I just don't think God is the kind of being who throws people in hell because their conceptual scheme prevented them from receiving the Gospel. I am not advocating for universalism, but there are events that occur at the Judgment that we just aren't privy to. Remember the lesson of Job. He was a righteous man but just couldn't see everything he needed to see until he came in direct contact with God. Why couldn't that also occur at the Judgment? Even Christians who show racism, anti-Semiticism, etc. are probably exposed to the same revelatory experiences at the Great White Throne Judgment seat.

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Maellus

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Thanks for bringing up 575, it is kind of related to my question.

I got Craig's opinion of accessibility of salvation from his discussion of general revelation here:

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-3/s3-doctrine-of-revelation/doctrine-of-revelation-part-1/


Maybe I should rephrase my fear. It's the fact that humans can choose to spread the Gospel, in accordance with the Great Commission, in ways that could (or could not, only God knows) increase the number of those who will be separated from God.

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ChristianInvestigator

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Seems like a good question, I’d definitely submit it. I’ve had the same questions along the same lines, but never heard a fully satisfactory answer. It’s either leaning towards a picture of God as cruel and unjust or leaning the other way towards universalism, which is unscriptural imo. Most answers I’ve heard are “God will be merciful to people who have never heard the gospel, but we should evangelize anyway, since that’s what God has called us to do,” which doesn’t really explain why we are to do evangelism.

@Harvey: I hope you’re right about a second chance to accept Christ after death, but I don’t see that anywhere in the Bible. Job is probably the closest analogy we have, but he wasn’t actually dead yet.
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noncontingent

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I think you imagine yourself to be more powerful than you are and also not aware of what the bible says anyway.

"God lets an operation or error" go to people who aren't good at heart.

It's YOUR heart that you need to worry about.

If YOU know how to do what's right and don't do it. It's a sin for you.


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Harvey

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@Harvey: I hope you’re right about a second chance to accept Christ after death, but I don’t see that anywhere in the Bible. Job is probably the closest analogy we have, but he wasn’t actually dead yet.

Jesus said:

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Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. (Matt. 10:15)

It's silly to think that S&Gers have less pain in hell than that town. Jesus is clearly saying that their salvific future will be more possible than that town's salvific future.

Paul said:

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Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. (Rom. 2:14)

And this Pauline writer wrote:

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Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (I Tim 2:4)

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lancia

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@Harvey: I hope you’re right about a second chance to accept Christ after death, but I don’t see that anywhere in the Bible. Job is probably the closest analogy we have, but he wasn’t actually dead yet.

Perhaps the strongest evidence in the Bible of post-mortem repentance, and thus a second chance. occurs in Revelation, which emphasizes the immoral behavior of the kings of the earth until the very last mention. (The term kings of the earth is an idiom and thus refers not just to any king mentioned in the Bible. In an idiom, all of the words of the idiom must be used to convey the special meaning of the idiom.)

Revelation 17:2 “with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality."

Revelation 18:3: "For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality."

Revelation 18:9 "And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning,”

Revelation also mentions the resulting destruction of the kings of the earth.

Revelation 19:19-21 "And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh."

But then--in what appears to be a real surprise--Revelation mentions that the kings of the earth will enter New Jerusalem, a city to be occupied only by those whose names are written in the book of life.

Revelation 21:24 "The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it."

From these verses, one sees that the kings of the earth, who are immoral and unrepentant to their death and destruction, can still have their names added to the book of life and be saved. As such, these verses seem to support the idea of post-mortem repentance, thus a second chance, a central tenet of Universalism.

No other interpretation seems likely, unless one assumes that the kings of the earth mentioned in Revelation 21:24 have absolutely no overlap with the kings of the earth mentioned earlier in Revelation, especially in Revelation 19:19-21. But that assumption seems unreasonable because the term kings of the earth is consistently cast in a negative light through the previous several mentions in Revelation, as exemplified above. To suddenly switch reference groups for the term would be inexplicable and confusing, unbecoming of a book like the Bible.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2020, 03:45:51 pm by lancia »

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Jabberwock

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It should be also noted that Craig believes that:

Quote
Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation.
https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/slaughter-of-the-canaanites/

From the perspective of their salvation, it would be better to kill the non-Christians in their infancy than to evangelize to them.
First learn to spell "ironic discussion"...

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lancia

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@Harvey: I hope you’re right about a second chance to accept Christ after death, but I don’t see that anywhere in the Bible.

Evidence from the Bible indirectly supports the reality of post-mortem repentance, i.e., a second chance.

Consider these three arguments.


Argument 1

Premise 1: God desires all be saved.  (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

Premise 2: God accomplishes all He desires. (Isaiah 55:11)

Conclusion: All will be saved.


Argument 2

Premise 1: All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13)

Premise 2: All will call on the name of the Lord. (Philippians 2:10-11)

Conclusion: All will be saved.


Argument 3

Premise 1: If not all are saved, heaven would not be a place of eternal bliss.

Premise 2: Heaven is a place of eternal bliss. (Revelation 21:4)

Conclusion: All will be saved.


From the conclusions of these three arguments, one can see that all will be saved. If all will be saved, then the following argument holds.


Premise 1: If repenting in this world is required for salvation, those who die before repenting in this world will not be saved.

Premise 2: All, including those who die before repenting in this world, will be saved.

Conclusion: Repenting in this world is not required for salvation.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2020, 08:51:46 am by lancia »

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ChristianInvestigator

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Perhaps the strongest evidence in the Bible of post-mortem repentance, and thus a second chance. occurs in Revelation, which emphasizes the immoral behavior of the kings of the earth until the very last mention. (The term kings of the earth is an idiom and thus refers not just to any king mentioned in the Bible. In an idiom, all of the words of the idiom must be used to convey the special meaning of the idiom.)

From these verses, one sees that the kings of the earth, who are immoral and unrepentant to their death and destruction, can still have their names added to the book of life and be saved. As such, these verses seem to support the idea of post-mortem repentance, thus a second chance, a central tenet of Universalism.

No other interpretation seems likely, unless one assumes that the kings of the earth mentioned in Revelation 21:24 have absolutely no overlap with the kings of the earth mentioned earlier in Revelation, especially in Revelation 19:19-21. But that assumption seems unreasonable because the term kings of the earth is consistently cast in a negative light through the previous several mentions in Revelation, as exemplified above. To suddenly switch reference groups for the term would be inexplicable and confusing, unbecoming of a book like the Bible.

@Lancia:
This is a very interesting argument. Again, I hope it’s true, but it’s hard to believe that this repeated phrase in Revelation is meant to teach Universalism when it’s in the same context as "as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable... Their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8 )

Maybe it leaves room for post-mortem repentance, but that's not explicit either.

You mentioned at the end of your post the possibility that the kings of the earth in Revelation 21:24 are different from the kings who get slain and gorge by birds. I think they probably do refer to different individuals; here's why.

Kings of the earth in Revelation is an idiom that that refers to the rulers of the world, probably political leaders who represent their nations as a whole. During the end times, the world is corrupt and under the influence of the beast, so the rulers of the world also side with the beast and fight with him against the faithful.

Afterward, when the beast is thrown into the lake of fire and New Jerusalem comes down from heaven, the only people remaining in New Jerusalem are those who have been saved by faith in Christ. "Kings of the earth" still refers to the representatives of the nations, their rulers, but "new rulers" have been appointed after the old ones were killed at Armageddon.
"This year, though I'm far from home
In Trench I'm not alone.
These faces facing me,
They know... what I mean."

|-/

11

ChristianInvestigator

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Evidence from the Bible indirectly supports the reality of post-mortem repentance, i.e., a second chance.

Consider these three arguments.

The problem with these syllogisms is that the two premises come from two different parts of the Bible, with very different contexts and meanings. If you try to fit them together to prove a new point, it obscures the original context of each.

Quote from: Lancia

Argument 1

Premise 1: God desires all be saved.  (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

Premise 2: God accomplishes all He desires. (Isaiah 55:11)

Conclusion: All will be saved.


The 1 Timothy passage is very intriguing, and might be enough on its own to make your case. I think the most we can say is that it invalidates the claim of some Calvinists that there are some people that God does not love / does not want to save, people who are inherently vessels of wrath. I don't think the verse shows that everyone will be saved, only that God desires everyone to be saved. This isn't a contradiction with Isaiah 55:11 because God's will has different levels.

I think I first heard about the idea of "levels of wills" from C.S. Lewis, although I can't now find the original quote. Basically, God has multiple desires, and He gives some higher priority than others. For example, it is God's lower will that no person should kill another person, but it is God's higher will that humans should be free agents able to make real choices. If a human freely chooses to kill another human, God can permit that action in accordance with His higher will, even if it contradicts His lower will.

According to 1 Timothy, God would love it (lower will) if everyone could share in salvation and the blessings of a relationship with Him, but He will not force anyone to love Him against His will; God's higher will is that love should be a choice.

Quote from: Lancia

Argument 2

Premise 1: All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13)

Premise 2: All will call on the name of the Lord. (Philippians 2:10-11)

Conclusion: All will be saved.


This argumen is stronger than your last one; the Philippians 2 verses describe every knee bowing, in heaven and on the earth and under the earth (which I assume means "in hell," but I could be interpreting it wrong). I'll read some commentaries and get back to you on that one,

Quote from: Lancia

Argument 3

Premise 1: If not all are saved, heaven would not be a place of eternal bliss.

Premise 2: Heaven is a place of eternal bliss. (Revelation 21:4)

Conclusion: All will be saved.


I don't agree with Premise 1. Yes, it seems like it would be sad to arrive in heaven and discover that some of your loved ones "didn't make it," but there's nothing in the Bible to suggest that people will be eternally saddened by the ones they left behind; perhaps with our heavenly perspective, we understand that they made their own decision, accept it, and move on.



You've given me some stuff to think about. Thanks!
"This year, though I'm far from home
In Trench I'm not alone.
These faces facing me,
They know... what I mean."

|-/

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lancia

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You mentioned at the end of your post the possibility that the kings of the earth in Revelation 21:24 are different from the kings who get slain and gorge by birds. I think they probably do refer to different individuals; here's why.

Kings of the earth in Revelation is an idiom that that refers to the rulers of the world, probably political leaders who represent their nations as a whole. During the end times, the world is corrupt and under the influence of the beast, so the rulers of the world also side with the beast and fight with him against the faithful.

Afterward, when the beast is thrown into the lake of fire and New Jerusalem comes down from heaven, the only people remaining in New Jerusalem are those who have been saved by faith in Christ. "Kings of the earth" still refers to the representatives of the nations, their rulers, but "new rulers" have been appointed after the old ones were killed at Armageddon.

Again, any change in reference groups for the term kings of the earth from the evil leaders who cavort with the whore would be extremely confusing and not likely to occur in the Bible, without warning. And there is no warning. Several consecutive mentions of the kings of the earth are all negative, with no hint of anything positive, and that is followed by their entering New Jerusalem after their deaths. Clearly, something transformational happened to them between their death and their entering New Jerusalem.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2020, 11:45:11 am by lancia »

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lancia

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The 1 Timothy passage is very intriguing, and might be enough on its own to make your case. I think the most we can say is that it invalidates the claim of some Calvinists that there are some people that God does not love / does not want to save, people who are inherently vessels of wrath. I don't think the verse shows that everyone will be saved, only that God desires everyone to be saved. This isn't a contradiction with Isaiah 55:11 because God's will has different levels.

I think I first heard about the idea of "levels of wills" from C.S. Lewis, although I can't now find the original quote. Basically, God has multiple desires, and He gives some higher priority than others. For example, it is God's lower will that no person should kill another person, but it is God's higher will that humans should be free agents able to make real choices. If a human freely chooses to kill another human, God can permit that action in accordance with His higher will, even if it contradicts His lower will.

According to 1 Timothy, God would love it (lower will) if everyone could share in salvation and the blessings of a relationship with Him, but He will not force anyone to love Him against His will; God's higher will is that love should be a choice.

The wills-of-God argument is irrelevant here. It is the verb will or desire, indicated by the Greek word thelo--not the noun will or desire, indicated by another Greek word--that occurs in these two verses, i.e., in 1 Timothy and the Septuagint version of Isaiah. When the word thelo is used, what is willed or desired always occurs (with one ambiguous exception, as pointed out by Lucian, in Romans 9:22, which has two common translations, only one of which seems to be an exception.) That's what makes the argument so strong. The actual wording of Isaiah 55:11 illustrates clearly that what is desired occurs: "so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.."

Quote
I don't agree with Premise 1. Yes, it seems like it would be sad to arrive in heaven and discover that some of your loved ones "didn't make it," but there's nothing in the Bible to suggest that people will be eternally saddened by the ones they left behind; perhaps with our heavenly perspective, we understand that they made their own decision, accept it, and move on.

The one big argument against what you say is the repeated admonition by Jesus that we should love and forgive others, even our enemies. The thought that such an admonition ends in heaven is incongruous. There is simply no way one can conveniently forget loved ones, no way one can be happy with the knowledge that their absence means they are suffering eternally or have been annihilated. If a heavenly perspective allows one to enjoy life when loved ones are suffering or are annihilated, even if their earthly decision was to reject God, then that goes against everything we know about love and what Jesus says about loving others.

Quote
You've given me some stuff to think about. Thanks!

Good. Thanks!
« Last Edit: October 29, 2020, 11:58:23 am by lancia »

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rstrats

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Lancia, 
re:  "...if their earthly decision was to reject God..."

Would they first have to believe that a supreme being exists before there could be a rejection?
The City of Happiness is in the State of Mind.