A Question I Was Asked:

Don't Your Teachings Go Against Romans 10:14-17?

Three Questions:

1) Don't you announce another Gospel when you agree with Billy Graham that people can get saved without hearing the Gospel ? Doesn't Romans 10:14-16 say the exact opposite?
God can prepare hearts in all kinds of cultures, but Romans 10 tells us they will not be saved until they hear the Gospel and respond to it with faith in Christ. Isn't the conversion of centurion Cornelius a powerful illustration of this fundamental principle?
2) Also. Don't you preach another Gospel when you say that mentally impaired people or aborted babies or dead infants all go to Heaven? Isn't that making "dying as a baby" another way of salvation other than faith in Christ? Isn't Romans 10 quoted above valid for ALL men, whatever their state?
3) If Romans 10:14-16 is true, is not our loving God able to reach out to those special people in order to elicit from them a response of faith in Christ, without which no one can be saved ? (I believe God does, even if he doesn't tell us how).

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay these are a very sincere group of questions which I want to treat with respect but - with all due respect to the questioner - I find them theologically naive. The problem is that Romans 10:14-16 is being treated as a final word, or as a comprehensive teaching/theology of salvation, with no input being allowed from many, many other Scriptures. I now aim to address all three points under one umbrella. Let us start off, therefore, in Romans 10:

14. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15. And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" 16. But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" 17. Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:14-17).

We Must Preach the Gospel

Romans 10:14-17 contains very important teaching. It tells us that those of us who have accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ have a responsibility to pass the message on to others. That's it: we pass it on - whether or not those people accept it is another matter entirely - that part is nothing to do with us, it is up to them and to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit - God may or may not be calling those people. So this Scripture is about the age of the church: it is about right now, it is showing believers their responsibilities. People need to hear the message! As to whether they heed it - that is their responsibility, not ours. This Scripture also shows that where God is calling a person, that person's faith will tend to increase with exposure to the Word of God. This is helpful to us: if a new person receives biblical teaching but that teaching is only met with confusion and endless questions, especially of a stubborn or argumentative kind, with no desire for a change of life direction, that person is very likely not being called.

But Romans 10:14-17 cannot be a comprehensive theology of salvation because far too many points are not covered there. A few - mainly (but not entirely) reformed hard-line Calvinists - want everybody who does not accept Christ right now to be sent to Hell (the irony here is that most hard-line Calvinists don't even like preaching the Gospel). So we need to accept that other parts of the Bible, especially in the New Testament, outline other points and facets of salvation - the Bible never puts all the information on any one doctrine in just one place, we must search the Scriptures.

Jesus Christ is the Only Ontological Door to Salvation.

Jesus Christ is the only doorway into salvation. If you like, He is ontologically (the level of being, and existence) necessary for salvation, yet not epistemologically (the level of knowledge, or accumulated knowledge alone) necessary. What do I mean? We are not saved by knowledge. Let us illustrate:

The righteous men and women of Old Testament days are saved: Moses, Joshua, David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ruth, Gideon; these were all called and selected by God for a great purpose and, without question, there are countless others whom we have never even heard of. Yet such men and women never even heard the name of Jesus of Nazareth! Yes, they are saved in Christ - no other way to be saved - yet Christ had not even lived His life back then! As I have stated several times: the efficacy of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ can be projected both forwards and backwards through the ages - it wasn't necessary for the saved of the Old Testament to actually hear the name of Christ, or to respond to His first century AD message, yet none are saved, except through Christ.

Those Dying in Childhood Are Saved

I say (in common with most of the evangelical teachers of the past and present, including most - but not all - Calvinists) that little children dying in early childhood, as well as the mentally handicapped are certainly saved. My questioner takes me to task over this but when David's little baby died, David had no doubt that one day he would see the baby again (so the baby was saved, despite dying prematurely).

"So he said, 'While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (2 Samuel 12: 22-23).

Then there is the case of the Shunammite woman whose son died. She raced to Elishah the prophet, but when the prophet's servant asked her if things were well with herself, her husband and her child, she replied,"It is well" - even while knowing that her son had just died (2 Kings 4: 26)! Of course, she was in deep grief and, in this case, Elishah miraculously raised the child back to life (verses 34-37). Yet she knew enough to know that - despite an early death - the child was saved.

Let us also note God's compassion towards the children of Nineveh in Jonah 4: 11. Those who 'Cannot discern between their right hand and their left' are the children!

But one of the strongest Scriptures for assuring us that those countless thousands of children who have died before the age of accountability, are safe in God's hands is in Jeremiah 31. Let us consider it:

"Thus says the Lord: A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. Thus says the Lord: Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope in your future, says the Lord, that your children shall come back to their own border" (Jeremiah 31: 15-17).

In other words, those children are saved. This prophecy was fulfilled by Herod's cruel slaughter of the innocents, of course, as Matthew 2:16-18 points out. But the prophecy includes a promise that those little children are presently safe! They are not lost! If this should apply to those children, it will surely have also applied to those who 'passed through the fire' in pagan sacrifice too. I also maintain - with very little doubt - that this also applies to those tiny babies who are aborted in the womb!

I am accused of making the death of little children a "work" to enable one to obtain salvation. No, it is not a human work - do humans ever choose death? No, death is in the area of God's jurisdiction; He alone knows and selects the day of the death of all. In the final analysis we need to know what kind of God we serve; we serve a God of love and compassion - not a monster! So - in common with the majority of the evangelical teachers throughout the ages - I state that children expiring before the age of responsibility are certainly saved. For stating this, I am accused of "preaching another gospel" - no, I only preach the Gospel found in the Holy Bible. Whilst sincere, my questioner could be very new to Bible study. In time we all learn that all of the Bible must be considered in learning the true biblical teachings - no one Scripture carries all biblical instruction on any one point of doctrine.

So I think that my accuser's error is in insisting that Romans 10:14-17 posts a comprehensive theology of salvation - it refers to the present age of the church. If my accuser is correct, then Joshua, David, Rahab, Ruth and all the other Old Testament figures are lost and already in Hell where they will remain, as are countless milions of babies and small children dying before the age of accountability. I serve a God of love so don't even need to consider such a scenario, that is something for him (and those who think like him) to wrestle with.

Yes, God Can and Does Reach Out

Question three here: If Romans 10:14-16 is true, is not our loving God able to reach out to those special people in order to elicit from them a response of faith in Christ, without which no one can be saved? is exactly my point! God can and does evaluate these things. He can and does reach out to those meek little children whose lives ended all too soon and He certainly did call the saved of pre-Christian days - all these children and people would have responded positively to Christ. Unfortunately my questioner seems stuck with the concept that one needs to respond in faith to Christ during this church age in order to be saved, plainly an incorrect understanding.


So when I am (quite sincerely) asked:

'Doesn't Romans 10 tell us that people will not be saved until they hear the Gospel and respond to it with faith in Christ, and isn't the conversion of centurion Cornelius a powerful illustration of this fundamental principle?'

I must answer that yes, it should be our overall approach to preach and teach the Gospel, but the otherwise "will not be saved" part is in the area of God's jurisdiction alone - not ours. Moreover, taking the Bible as a whole (rather than this one Scripture), it is clear that many are indeed saved who never heard, or never understood, the Gospel of our Lord during their lifetimes. Either this is so, or the Bible is in error - something I certainly don't believe.

Robin A. Brace. September 30th, 2016.