Are those who Never Heard the Gospel Lost?
God is Absolute, and His Truth is Absolute
God is transcendent to the nature of mankind. As infinite, He is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and sovereign. God’s ultimate, infinite thinking is beyond the capacity of man (Isa. 55:9; Ro 11:33). God must adopt His way of thinking to the human being. The infinitesimal cannot grasp infinity.
Although God is absolute, He adapts Himself to finite man. To communicate with man, He limits Himself to the creaturehood of human beings. God also divinely self-limits His revelation to finite creatures and circumstances. God does not accommodate the truth of who and what He is to religion and philosophy of man.
Fallacious Accommodation to the Nature of Truth
God adopts Himself to man, but He does not accommodate Himself to human error. He will adapt Himself to finite understand but not to error. God will adapt Himself to partial truths but not factual errors; He does not compromise with the truth of who He is. He will reveal Himself with anthropomorphisms and arthropathies, but not with myth. He is always true to what reality is, not what it seems to be.
God’s adaptation to finite people does not mean that He accommodates Himself to error (Jn 8:44; He 6:18). Jesus never accommodated Himself to the religion of His day. He rebuked religious leaders more than others (Mt 15:3,6; 23:16-33). God claimed for Himself exclusive truth (Jn. 14:6). He never accommodated Himself to human error in anything He taught. Nothing in His self-limitation in His incarnation resulted in an error.
The absolute nature of God does not allow for Him to lie (Ro 3:4; Tit 1:2; He 6:18). His Word is truth (Jn 17:17). God cannot err because it is contrary to His nature. The nature of God necessary implies the logic of non-contradiction. There cannot be one end of a stick. Black cannot be white. A thing cannot be both true and false. Truth always corresponds with reality. Eastern religions are pantheistic, not monotheistic; both cannot be true. Contradictory ideas can be accepted as true in our culture; the law of non-contradiction prohibits this. Contradictory propositions cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time. Eastern religions do not admit this. It boils down to whether a proposition being correct or incorrect, matching to or mismatching reality. Truth has an either-or nature to it.
Objective truth is something that can be known independent of the knower. Subjective truth is known to the knower. Truth is not an attitude. Neither is it how we know; truth is what we know.
Definition of Truth
Truth is what corresponds to reality; it is that which corresponds to its referent. Whatever is false does not correspond to reality; it misrepresents the way things are. Correspondence is what makes statements informative.
There is nothing outside of God to which He corresponds. However, truth as correspondence relates to God; His words correspond to His thoughts. We can trust His words. Other things correspond to Him only in a limited sense, not He to them. He is always true to Himself.
The Absolute Nature of Truth
Truth is not relative, but absolute. Something cannot be true for one person but not for another at the same time and in the same way. Truth is real for all persons, times, and places. Truth always corresponds to facts or the state of affairs. If relativism were true, then we would live in the realm of contradictions. No one would be wrong about anything. Truth can be absolute, no matter the reason for believing it. Truth is real in itself; it does not change because we may learn more about it.
It is the nature of truth that it is narrow. There is only one answer to 1 + 1. All truth is absolute; it is true for all people, times, and places. It is always dogmatic, but not in the way someone holds this belief. Truth is absolute, but our understanding of it is not. Truth must be tested in several ways, but it can be understood only in one way, by its correspondence to facts and reality. We must not confuse the nature of truth with its verification.
The Problem of Pluralism
Religious pluralism is the idea that every religion is true. It carries the idea that there is no objective truth in religion itself. It is only true to the one who believes it. Exclusivism believes that only one belief is true. It is not like inclusivism that asserts that one religion is explicitly true, while all others are implicitly true. Christianity’s exclusivism denies all rival claims. Otherwise, if everything is a question of perspective or equally valid, then truth itself becomes devalued.
A religion can only be valid if it corresponds with fact, reality. The truthfulness of Christianity does not rest on the perfection of Christians. Neither does it rest on the sincerity of one’s belief. Hitler and Stalin were passionate about their ideas, but they were wrong. It is possible to be sincere about something wrong. Mutually exclusive propositions cannot both be right. Conflicting truth claims of two religions cannot both be true. A “both-and” approach to religious belief violates the nature of truth, which is exclusive. If something is true, then it is “either-or.” Mutually exclusive propositions cannot both be true. It is not possible that one absolute God can coexist with pantheism. This is not a matter of intolerance but simple alignment with what is true. Pluralists are intolerant about this point.
Pluralists deny that there are universals that apply to all. That would require a universal Giver. If there is no universal truth, then there is no way to evaluate whether any religion or philosophy is true or not.
The presupposition of pluralism is at heart naturalistic; that is, there is nothing supernatural. This would preclude knowledge of God. Christianity assumes that God cannot be known exhaustively, but He can be known truly. The pluralist assumes relativism. All religions do not have an equal claim to truth. The claim that relativism is true for everyone everywhere and always is a presupposition, an assertion to absolute truth. This self-defeats the argument for relativism; it is a claim that relativism is absolutely true.
Those who have Never Heard
If people have never heard the gospel, does this call into question the fairness of God? If God is all-knowing and loving, why did He not equally reveal Himself? Is it possible to receive eternal life apart from hearing the gospel if they hear positively to general revelation?
Some people believe that people will be acceptable to God if they respond to general revelation in nature. However, the Bible proclaims no one can become a believer apart from someone who communicates truth to them (Jn 3:18, 36; 10:9, 11, 14; Ac 4:12; Ro 10:9, 13-14, 18; 1 Jn 5:10-13).
Salvation through Special Revelation, not General Revelation
Everyone is born with a capacity to sin and has committed acts of sin (Ps 51:5; Eph 2:3; Ro 5:12). Those who reject general revelation are without excuse (Ro 1:20; 2:12; 3:22-23). Scripture states that there is no salvation apart from Christ (Jn 14:6; Ac 4:12; 1 Ti 2:5; He 9:26; 10:12, 14).
Romans 1 declares that God reveals Himself through general revelation. They can know His “eternal power and Godhead” (Ro 1:20). They can see that He created the universe and that He gave testimony to Himself (Ac 14:15-17). Although they do not have the Old Testament, they will perish (Ro 2:12-15).
If non-believers reject the light of general revelation, then God is under no obligation to give further light since they went negative volition to the light that He already gave them. He offers truth to them through the creation and the conscience. They “suppress the truth unjustly” (Ro 1:18). Their motivation is that they love darkness (Jn 3:19). If a person genuinely seeks the Lord, they will find Him (Ac 10:35; He 11:6).
Once a person goes positive volition, then it is the responsibility of God to send special revelation about Christ and His work (Ro 10:13-15). God is not willing that any perish (2 Pe 3:9). The primary onus is upon the Holy Spirit to convict an individual about the truth (Jn 16:8-11). If a person goes positive volition, then the onus is upon God to send a witness to him. God will save people from “every nation” (Ro 7:9).