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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Age of Accountability, General Revelation, and Inclusivism

Wednesday is the “Ask Anything” day on the Albert Mohler Radio Program. People ask any intelligent question regarding church, life, current issues, etc. A caller named Craig called in and asked about “the age of accountability” regarding the appropriate age for someone to be saved. I believe Dr. Mohler did an excellent job with his reply, noting that the “age of accountability” has to do with one’s moral ability to understand that they are a sinner and that their sinning is a conscious rebellion against God. Craig then followed up with the question, “Well, doesn’t the Bible say that if I had not know the law, I would not have known sin?” (taken from Romans 7:7-8). Again, Mohler explained the text within the context of Romans 7 in light of redemptive history. What Craig was alluding to is the idea that there might be a time where sin could not have been acknowledged and therefore repented of. In other words, before the age of accountability or the giving of the law, is the person still a sinner and accountable for his sin, even if he is not deliberately and directly sinning against God? This is the classic inclusivist question.

One answer to this question is usually around the idea of general revelation. God has communicated (revealed) to all of mankind everywhere information about himself (Romans 1: 18-20) through creation (externally) and conscience (internally). God’s law has been written on the hearts of those who did not have the law as their consciences bear witness and does what the law requires of them even though they did not have the law. Because sinners “suppress the truth by their unrighteousness” and reject the revelation which God reveals to them, everyone is without excuse. Everyone is guilty. A crucial question is posed here by inclusivists. They say, “How can God be a fair God if he provides enough information to damn a sinner but not enough to save him? This cannot be!” (see John Sanders and Clark Pinnock for further development of this thought). This idea carries that general revelation should have the dual intent of at least making salvation possible if one were to respond positively to general revelation (examples of this are given such as Cornelius). It is said that general revelation can carry the content of the gospel such that the Holy Spirit can apply those truths (apart from the work of Christ) to the sinner and cause them to be saved. This, of course, is a rejection of the filioque clause and argues that the Spirit of God has a separate and distinct mission apart from Christ (hence, other religions as “vehicles” of salvation). However, the key to answering the question to fairness does not have to do with general revelation at all.

The nuance to the inclusivist question presumes that man is neutral with God’s revelation, that he is not born corrupt in his nature. They argue that the only reason why a person goes to hell is because they reject Christ as their Savior; hence, if one is not given the opportunity, then how can he be either lost or saved? Several theories are inserted here (ex. baptism by desire, post-mortem encounter, implicit faith, anonymous Christianity). The implications are that man is not really lost unless he uses his libertarian free will to decide whether or not he wants to accept Jesus or not, and if this free will is not given the opportunity to be exercised here on earth, then even after death, God will intervene and give him that choice in lieu of the Church failing in its missiological enterprise to take the gospel to him. However, this teaching is clearly not biblical. A man is not born neutral and become lost because the exercising of his free will. The philosophical insertion and predominance of liberation free will becomes the control belief and integrated motif behind every hermeneutic and defense of such inclusivistic ideas.

On the contrary, the core issue is the nature of man. David said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). We are not born neutral. We are born with the inheritance of a corrupt nature being depraved of the ability to do what is right before God. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me is not condemned, but whoever does not believe in me is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:18-19). People love darkness, but why? Because their deeds were evil. Evil? How so? Because they are born in sin and love to do what sinners love to do—rebel against God.

So the answer to Craig’s question and to the inclusivist is not so much a matter of general revelation or free will, but the nature of man. General revelation does not condemn a sinner; it only manifests the condemnation. It is the window to reveal and evidence the fact that though they know God (generally), they do not want God. Their affinities lie in lovers less worthy. John concluded in the third chapter with John the Baptist saying, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). Whether you are at the age of accountability, without the written law, or special revelation (such as Scripture), you are guilty as a sinner, having been “condemned already” where “the wrath of God remains.”

The only hope for sinners is the grace of Almighty God revealed through the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been given a gospel mandate to take these truths to all peoples on the earth. Let us not waver or tire in bring goods news to sinners. There was a Man became a curse for us in condemnation that the sting of death and bondage to sin can be overcome by his victorious life and resurrection. He is our only hope. He is Jesus. For all people, in all ages, forevermore, he is the only way, only truth, and only life. If we believe this, let us deliver the gospel with our very lives, that in giving ours away, others may find their in Him.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, having forgiven all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with all the legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Colossians 2:13-15

May the God of the resurrection raise up many from their spiritual deadness to a circumcision of the heart whereby we rejoice in the fulfillment of God’s law in the perfect righteousness of His Son, in whom, because of his victory over the cross and paying our debt, we have forgiveness of sins and life forevermore.

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