Well this is Sunday afternoon. Tuesday afternoon I will be boarding a plane and taking off for China. While I am looking forward to this trip a lot I must admit that my excited anticipation is mixed in with a good bit of anxiousness that I am certain I could do without. I keep on going thru this thought process…
Thought #1 I am leaving for China in just a few days!!!
Thought #2 I will be leaving my home, family and friends and the life that I know.
Thought #3 Are you crazy Caleb??? What do you think you are doing going out there and forsaking this fine life you have back here???
Thought #4 Come on Caleb it is only three months. Think of Carey, Judson, Taylor and all the other missionaries who threw their whole lives into the field!! Three measly months and you’re whining like a baby!! Give me a break!
Thought #5 Hallelujah!!! I’m going to China to serve the King of kings!!!
And then we return to thought #1 and begin the whole process over again in a few minutes.
So anyway, that is just a peek into the contorted functions of my mind.
The past few days I have been thinking a lot about the place of missions in our lives. Also the state of missions in our world today. One thing I have noticed is that the church in the west has for awhile now fallen under the influence of teaching that has greatly hurt our zeal to send out the gospel to the unreached.
There is a certain debate that is raging now among theologians over whether or not salvation is possible for those who have not heard the gospel. Just so we are clear I will lay out the various camps.
Particularists (otherwise known as exclusivists or restricivists) believe that salvation is only made available thru the preaching of the gospel. It could be in the form of a tract or a Bible or any means of verbal communication but it is only available thru hearing the gospel.
Inclusivists believe that God can save men outside of hearing the gospel. They say God works in the hearts of all men to draw them unto himself and a native in the jungle who has never heard of Christ can be saved by yeilding to this drawing and be a believer and live and die without ever hearing of Jesus. This they say is not necessary. A heart repentant of sin and submitted to God is necessary.
Pluralists believe that God is not merely at work in the Christian religion but also in Hinduism, Islam and so on. God saves thru all the religions and is not a Christian God but the God of the whole world and all its people. What is necessary to be right with God is a good heart and an honest desire to help other people.
Though Pluralism is not a big threat to Evangelicalism yet; it being recognized as what it is, a departure from the faith, yet Inclusivism has become a great threat. We see it everywhere in our churches. Preachers are hesitant to say that it is the gospel that saves because, they say, ‘We don’t want to limit God’. It has become extremely common even among us laymen to hear people questioning the justice of sending someone to hell who has never heard the gospel and to postulate possible ways they could still be saved or at least offered salvation.
I used to be an Inclusivist. I would say, “God is at work in all men’s hearts to draw them unto Himself and if a man will begin to submit and to follow the leading of God then he can be saved. A knowledge of the gospel is not necessary for salvation.” Looking back at my reasoning I can see how I was so influenced by humanistic ideas. Though I would say with my mouth that God didn’t really need to offer salvation to mankind but could have just thrown us all into hell for our sin I did not really believe that. It took a lot of thought for me to recognize that my ideas were founded on a secular concept of justice rather on God’s word. When i looked at my reasoning it was sound but the premises were all false. The scripture gives not one applicable example of a man coming to Christ thru other means than hearing the gospel. It in fact makes many claims that salvation is only thru the gospel. “How shall they hear without a preacher?”
In light of these biblical truths I was forced to throw aside Inclusivism and realize that is His sovereignty God has ordained that in this world salvation would not be available to some. Sounds harsh and cruel but I contest it is not scriptures but our secularized notions of justice that make us think it is so. Our conceptions of justice and goodness as well as our lives need to submit to the standards in God’s word.
Well hope that made sense. I pray that the King of kings blesses us all with a zeal to see His name hallowed and His kingdom advanced in this world.
All for the King!!!