Friday, April 01, 2011

Justification by Faith and Inclusivism

One of the foundation stones of Christianity is that no man can work himself into the good graces of God. Something else is required for God to look favorably upon a sinner. It is not the law written in letters or the law written in the heart of men everywhere that offers any suggestion of salvation. Instead, the Word of God instructs us, without question, that we are justified in the eyes of God by His grace through faith, for the New Testament believer, in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is faith that is a requisite of God’s judgment bringing salvation to a sinner (Rom 3:19-31, Rom 5:1, Gal 3:19-29). It is faith by which Abraham was deemed righteous by God, a faith in God’s promises (Heb 11). Is this something found through the general revelation of God as expressed in the Book of Romans  (Rom 1:1-32)? The text does not state such. Instead these passages explain why God gives men over to a reprobate mind and why God’s justice is fair. No man seeks after the LORD and there are none that do good (Rom 3:10-12). Even with the marvelous revelation of God’s creation, none seek Him lacking His grace and no one finds His refuge lacking faith in His Son. So how is it that a man with general revelation yet never affirming faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ attains any measure of justification in the eyes of God? James Arminius addressed the matter of the will and the necessity of Grace for any man to do anything pleasing to God.

This is my opinion concerning the free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform the true good, according to the commandment delivered to him. Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace. But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace. - Sentiments

Is the general revelation of Romans 1 that of salvation, a work of saving grace men refuse lacking the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Has God granted a measure of grace that allows fallen men without any sense of the Gospel to affect their own salvation? That is the position of the semi-Pelagians but it is not an Arminian doctrine. Perhaps an Arminian can hold to inclusivist theology but what damage is done to his understanding of justification? My own opinion, worth only as much as I value it, is that Justification by Faith and Inclusivist theology (i.e.  Salvific general revelation and post-mortem evangelizing) cannot stand together. At some point one saved by “general revelation” is going to be held to the standard of justification God has revealed to men, that of faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.


Anonymous said...

Amen, Travelah. I think what the inclusivist is missing is that God only saves through Christ in this age of the gospel, so that if any man did fully embrace all that God revealed through the general revelation, then God would send him a missionary. God is never limited by men in such a way as to cause Him to have to either save someone without belief in Christ or damn someone who fully embraced all that God had revealed to him. Rather, all things work together, so that no one is saved without accepting the gospel and no one who approaches God with the genuine heart of a Cornelius is ultimately lost.
Ken Hamrick

A.M. Mallett said...

Indeed, that is the position of most "conservatives" on this issue although I would also argue that no man desires such a thing lacking the Gospel. The men at Mars hill were supposedly seeking an unknown God but when the Gospel was presented most still turned away. I am of the opinion that inclusivism fails to recognize the full depravity of natural man and refuses to acknowledge how enslaved to sin fallen man really is.