One of the most challenging mysteries in scripture is what Lutheran Theologians call the Crux Theologorum, which is Latin for the “Problem of Theology”. For some really good videos on this by Worldview Everlasting please click HERE. The pastor who runs that site covers this in greater detail than I am capable of.
Instead I am going to present it more simply, and I am going to first build bricks layer by layer Biblically before throwing it out there. The problem of this mystery is simply this;
- God wants to save everyone
- Not everyone is saved
The answer is not a simple one either, keep reading and you will see what I mean. As I progress if you want more information on one topic in particular click the hyperlinked (blue) header and you will be taken to an older post.
For starters, the Bible teaches that no man is good. We are not even born good and fall later, this is an evil we are born guilty into.
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Eph 2:1-3 KJV
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psa 51:5 KJV
So there are no good people. Even the greatest philanthropic acts performed in the flesh are tainted by pride and concupiscence. The only good one is Jesus. And it is his righteousness that covers our sins and is imputed to us.
It is the righteousness of Christ which is imputed to us in the great exchange, by dying on the cross he took our sins into him and gave us his righteousness. See for yourself:
“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” Php 3:9 KJV
We are saved by faith, which even faith is a gift from God. Not something we can muster or create on our own. Even with free will, it only comes by means.
Faith is given to us extrinsically. By that I mean, God gives it to you starting from outside of your body and coming in. This is an objective process that you witness, there is no questioning that it took place. The most normal way is by the preaching of the Word.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph 2:8-9 KJV
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Rom 10:17 KJV
Means of Grace is monergistic, in that man does not help God do it, what he promises to do he does. You can’t bring someone to Jesus with kindness or social events If you’re concerned for someone and want them to know about Jesus they need to hear that Jesus died for them.
It is important to note that no scripture anywhere plainly teaches that the damned are predestined to hell. But to call into question the predestination of the Elect is to rebel against the Word.
Scripture teaches that the Elect are predestined in Christ before the foundation of the World itself. This is a great comfort for many reasons, but most notably is for the believer to know where they stand in Christ, and for troubled consciences burdened with family and friends of have rejected him. It’s not up to mankind to save himself, if you are privileged to proclaim the Gospel then do so. But do not delude yourself into thinking that you have added or removed a single name from the Book of life.
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44 KJV
“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” Revelation 17:8 KJV
Keep in mind the scripture also says that God wants everyone saved. There are those who try to water this down or narrow the text but it doesn’t work. The scripture is very clear that God wants “all”. And as far as I am concerned, I cannot take a stand on the word “is” if I won’t do the same with “all”.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.; For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:16-17 KJV
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” Matt 28:19 KJV
“Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.; For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” 1 Tim 2:4-6 KJV
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 KJV
Putting it bluntly some of those pieces above just don’t fit. We see clearly that God want’s to save everyone, and that they are saved only by his actions. In the end though, we know that some go to hell. While you can reason that many who are damned are so due to their own actions in hardening their hearts to God, you cannot present a pre-lapsarian election to hell as that would contradict clear scripture in God’s desire to save everyone. What do we do with this?
It’s a real head scratcher!
Below are some helpful comments from a real theologian on the topic, I recommend the reader take his council to heart.
“The way we are to operate is according to the revealed Word of God, nothing more, nothing less. If the Word of God speaks clearly and decisively, we do the same. When the Word of God is silent concerning something, we are to remain silent, too. As soon as we begin to answer a question that God gives us no answer to we become like Adam and Eve who determined what was good, right and salutary apart from God’s revelation.
So what about those who have not heard the Word of God, are they damned? Within your question is your answer. It might not be what you want to hear, but this is what God’s Word says. One is “saved by grace through faith, not by works” (Eph.2) “Faith comes by hearing” (Rom. 10). There is no salvation apart from Christ and Him crucified (John 14). The Spirit blows when and where He pleases (John 3). If the Holy Spirit preaches His Word to them and they believe and are baptized they will be saved, but if they do not believe they will be condemned (Mark 16).” –Rev. Dustin L. Anderson
I believe that the above Reverend is absolutely correct. All of the above doctrines are true and easily proven by clear scripture. When put together logically as a whole there is no question that some pieces of these teachings cannot be rationally reconciled with the information that we have now. Thus we must intentionally remain silent where the scripture does in this regard.
Nevertheless, there are different ways that every Christian denomination attempts to answer this issue. In my assessment most who attempt use either tradition or philosophy to abrogate one of the above Biblical teachings with one of the others that they privilege. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against tradition or philosophy, I simply don’t place either above the Word.
Thus I accept all of the above Biblical teachings as true and openly concede it doesn’t make any sense. Don’t get me wrong, I can and have on occasion made a pretty reasonable attempt at reconciling these teachings with reason. Sacramental theology and objective justification lend themselves well to this in my opinion. That said, I openly admit that if intensely tested philosophically from every angle I will lose. However, if tested Bibilically I will not. At one point or another the one pressing me is going to have to start “interpreting” verses that I can simply quote.