Thursday, March 5, 2009

Arminianism and the Unreached

How does an Arminian perspective address the question of the unreached? Whole swaths of peoples in various ages have lived and died without the gospel. If Paul is right, if God has "determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place" (Ac 17:26), is he not implicated in their condemnation? If God really does chose that certain persons are born in places where the gospel is not and will not be in their lifetime, is he not condemning them?

Some would argue that this is the church's fault, not God's, that there are unreached peoples. This does not answer the question. Regardless of whose fault, if God determines someone to be born where he knows the church has and will continue to fail to bring the gospel, is he not still condemning them?

Others argue that all people have general revelation and those who respond to this will receive special revelation. Ignoring the fact that the Scriptures' most explicit language about general revelation is its rejection not its acceptance (Rom 1), there are still two problems with this. First, it harbors implicit racism. Certain ethnic groups have responded to God's general revelation and received missionaries, while other whole races have utterly failed to respond at all. Are there cultures and peoples more hardened to God than others? Second, it does not scratch an Arminianist itch of fairness. How is it fair that I heard the gospel a thousand times before I accepted it while someone else must obey God generally for a season to prove their desire to hear the gospel for the first time?

The illusion of Arminianism is that God's sovereignty is a sliding scale. But the moment you tamper with the dial, even just a hair, you lose everything. If God does not elect some for salvation, how can he possibly become untangled from the web of temporal, cultural, geographical, cultural, personal factors that formulate each person's decision to respond? If God retains any control at all his hands are instantly soiled in determining eternal fates.

God either elects who will be saved and ordains how this comes to pass or he sets creation in motion and butts out. You can't have it both ways.