Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 3

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 1 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 4  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 5

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 1
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 3 


Can one be saved apart from hearing the gospel? Or as the question is being put in this section of Erickson's systematic theology textbook, can one be saved purely through the means of general theology? Erickson's answer is interesting.

After offering a very brief exegesis of Romans 2, Erickson suggests, In other words, the knowledge of God which all humans have, if they do not suppress it, should bring them to the conclusion that they are guilty in relationship to God. (197) Then then begs the question, What if someone then were to throw himself or herself upon the mercy of God, not knowing on what basis that mercy was provided? Would not such a person n a sense be in the same situation as the Old Testament believers? (197) And if so, then Is it conceivable that one can be saved by faith without having the special revelation? (197)

This question has been debated among theologians, philosophers, and people in general for centuries.  It is a difficult question and an important one. After all, what about the man on the island, right? Here is Erickson's answer:

Paul seems to be laying open this possibility. Yet we have no indication from Scripture how many, if any, actually experience salvation without having special revelation. Paul suggests in Romans 3 that no one does. (197-198)

Regardless of your opinion of this interpretation and conclusion, I do find it helpful in a number of ways. For one, Erickson illustrates why exegesis and theological conclusions ought to be driven by context and a full biblical understanding. Just reading Romans 2 and nothing else in Romans or the rest of the Bible might lead one to conclude that general revelation and the moral law is enough to lead one to Christ. This would lead to a passivity in evangelism and missions, but that is not Pauline or biblical theology. Erickson makes this point next:

And in chapter 10 he urges the necessity of preaching the gospel (the special revelation) so that people may believe. Thus it is apparent that in failing to respond to the light of general revelation which they have, humans are fully responsible, for they have truly known God, but have willfully suppressed that truth.  (198)

And that's the point. Maybe the unconverted could come to some salvific understanding of God in the sense that they know that they are sinners, but they won't. Therefore, we must go. Erickson concludes:

That there is a possibility of somehow entering a relationship of favor with God on this basis seems to be required by Paul's words, "So that [they] are without excuse" (1:20). Thus in effect the general revelation serves, as does the law, merely to make guilty, not to make righteous. (198)

Dido. Therefore, dear reader, go and preach the gospel.


For more on Erickson:
Blogizomai - Where to Begin?: Calvin on the Starting Point of Theology - The Knowledge of God & the Knowledge of Man
Blogizomai - Wherefore Art Thou Theological Giants?
Blogizomai - On Special Revelation: Dreams, Visions, Theophanies, and the Word of God
Blogizomai - Where is the Gospel? Charles Hodge & the Insufficiency of Natural Theology

For more:
Blogizomai - Repost | "Life's Biggest Questions" by Erik Thoennes
Reviews - The Top 5 Essential Works of Theology of the Past 25 Years
Reviews - "Doctrine"
Reviews - "The Good News We Almost Forgot
Reviews - "Dug Down Deep" by Josh Harris
Reviews - "Heresy"
Reviews - "Christianity's Dangerous Idea" by Alister McGrath
Reviews - "The Theology of the Reformers"
Blogizomai - Repost | Schreiner on the Practice of Inaugurated Eschatology
logizomai - We Are All Theologians:  The Root of Everything We Are and Do
Blogizomai - Lewis on Practical Theology
Blogizomai - The Meaning & Implications of the Resurrection
Blogizomai - Lewis on Practical Theology
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