I want to ask you if I understand your position correctly. I am a subscriber to the Christadelphian Tidings magazine and have read with considerable interest the ‘debate’ between yourself and Mr. Heaster on the subject of the Basis of Salvation.
My understanding is that you believe that the work of Jesus Christ consisted solely of demonstrating to mankind the perfect mind of the Almighty. In other words, He was a perfect example of how we ought to live a sinless life. Those who follow His example perfectly will be awarded with eternal life.
If this understanding of your position is correct, then am I correct in assuming that a Hindu, Mohammedan, Shinto or Roman Catholic are in exactly the same position as those whom the Bible describes as being ‘in Christ’ as far as salvation is concerned? In other words, a Hindu, who has never heard of Christ but by instinct or by being possessed of a wonderful set of genes, happens to be leading a very circumspect life, would be (in Biblical terms) amenable to eternal life.
If you could answer the above question, I would appreciate it.
We appreciate your inquiring further into our position on the subject of the basis of salvation. Unfortunately, in a debate such as we conducted with Mr. Heaster, space did not permit us to publish much about the basics of our teaching, which is essential to a complete understanding.
You are correct in your understanding of our position, that the work of Jesus Christ in our behalf consisted in His demonstrating to mankind the perfect mind of the Almighty, being the “perfect example of how we ought to live a sinless life.” And all who follow His example perfectly will be rewarded with eternal life.
However, to arrive at such a perfect following of His example would be wholly impossible without first acquiring a complete knowledge of Jesus Christ, how He lived, what He taught, also the impressions that He left upon the minds of His followers–all of which is recorded for us in the Word of God. To become amenable to eternal life, to qualify for the eternal rewards God offers without this thorough and dedicated knowledge of Him and His teachings would be very much like trying to pass the final exams at a university to obtain a certain degree without having submitted to the specified program of study. Either the degree would be worthless–if no effort or preparation were necessary–or it would be impossible to obtain.
God does not close His doors against people of any ethnic background or nationality. Peter made this clear when he observed that “In every nation whoever fears Him, and works righteousness is accepted by him” (Acts 10:35). A Hindu, Mohammedan, Shinto, or Roman Catholic could come to the state of being “in Christ,” but only by learning of Christ, His teachings, and His example. Jesus Himself said, “It is written in the prophets, ‘and they shall all be taught of God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard, and learned from the Father, comes to me” (John 6:45). The apostle Peter confirmed this when he said that “All things that pertain unto life and godliness” come “through the knowledge of him who has called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3). It would be utterly impossible for anyone who had never heard of Christ to live completely by the law of Christ, a law which is in almost every respect contrary to nature. One might be living respectably, might obey many aspects of the law of Christ, but without a knowledge of that law could never come to the full obedience that Christ requires, even the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).
Paul discussed this very point in Romans 2, that those who are outside the law die outside the law and will not be judged by it; however, those who subject themselves to the law and agree to live by it will be “judged by the law” (Rom. 2:12-13). And all such will receive either eternal life or eternal death on the basis of their adherence to that law.
Paul speaks also of those who “do not have the law,” but “by nature do the things in the law,” that these, “although not having the law, are a law unto themselves:…their conscience…accusing or else excusing them” (Rom. 2:14-15). But such instinctive adherence to the law does not fulfill the requirements for eternal life.
The law of God demands a complete obedience. “For if a man keeps the whole law apart from one single point, he is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10, NEB) because a broken law stands between him and God.
Only a complete obedience will merit the reward of eternal life.