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Must God give people a chance at salvation?

Ambry R. from the United States writes:

Lita Sanders in the article, ‘What of those who never heard’ said “God is not obligated to give anyone a chance to be saved.” You therefore believe God isn’t obligated to give the Bible’s authors opportunity to be saved, nor inspire nor preserve any scripture. You therefore have zero assurance that the Bible has been preserved since your god would be happy not doing so. Your god wants humans in Hell. Your god has no reason to save anyone nor make any scripture true. Satan hates humans and wants humans in Hell. So does your god. We couldn’t trust our own brains if we were created by a god who hates us. Satan is just as trustworthy.

My God isn’t obligated by anything or anyone above Himself. He is obligated by His own love to give every human an opportunity to go to Heaven because God is love and loves humans. A god who hates humans would be on the same side as Satan. Such a hateful god who creates humans for the purpose of dooming them couldn’t be trusted doing anything to save humans 

god-is-love

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Dear Ambry,

Thanks for writing in.

Below, I have some comments interspersed. Yours are red, and mine are black.

But first I need to address a few preliminaries. Presumably, the “your god” language is an attempt to influence us into changing our views. However, it’s worth noting that What about those who have never heard? did affirm God’s moral perfection. Presumably you agree that God is morally perfect. The disagreement, then, is more about the best way to conceive of God’s moral perfection. I hope that we can cast the disagreement in that light rather than the ‘your god vs my God’ light, which usually just makes people more defensive and intransigent.

Moreover, we need to distinguish between what a person’s views actually are and what we think the implications of their views are. Very often people who hold views contrary to what we believe don’t hold to all the implications we think their views have. We can argue that their views have some bad implications and hope that will motivate them to reconsider their stated views. But to attribute to them views they will clearly deny simply because we think their views imply the things they deny is bad faith argumentation. I trust that what I have to say below will be taken in that spirit.

Lita Sanders in the article, ‘What of those who never heard’ said “God is not obligated to give anyone a chance to be saved.”

I suggest reading this article in concert with her article: Would God make a world where He condemns everyone? That explores this very issue in more depth.

You therefore believe God isn’t obligated to give the Bible’s authors opportunity to be saved, nor inspire nor preserve any scripture.

True, but not for the reasons you suppose. Regarding God inspiring and preserving Scripture, surely there are possible worlds where God doesn’t inspire or preserve any Scripture. If God can exist by himself, He needs no scripture. If it’s possible for God to make a world with no creaturely moral agents, He needs no scripture. If God can make a world where nobody ever sins, He plausibly needs no scripture. If God can make a world where nobody can write anything, He needs no scripture. Might he still need special revelation of some kind? Yes. But not in a written form. But none of these scenarios undermine God’s goodness.

And there’s nothing about God’s character that automatically implies He will give a chance at salvation to any particular sinner, including those He uses to put together Scripture. Now, it may be logistically impossible for God to inspire someone to produce special revelation without thereby offering him salvation. After all, the person who is inspired to produce special revelation will have access to special revelation. But doesn’t access to special revelation automatically constitute an offer of salvation? If so, then God can’t help but offer salvation to His vessels for producing special revelation, though this doesn’t arise as a corollary of God’s character. It’s simply a logistical implication of God making someone a vessel for producing special revelation. But if merely having access to special revelation doesn’t suffice as an offer of salvation, then no, God doesn’t have to offer any such vessel salvation.

You therefore have zero assurance that the Bible has been preserved since your god would be happy not doing so.

Do we lack any assurance that God would preserve any scripture He might produce if He doesn’t have to produce scripture? Not at all. The two issues are unrelated. God’s sovereignty and goodness suffice to assure us that, if God produces scripture, He will preserve it faithfully. But, as I pointed out above, there are possible worlds in which God wouldn’t produce scripture.

Your god wants humans in Hell.

This doesn’t follow. There’s no way to know what God wants merely from the idea that God doesn’t have to offer salvation to any specific sinner. Even if God didn’t have to give any sinners a chance at salvation, He may still choose to.

But Sanders doesn’t even go this far. To see why, it’s important to consider the standpoint from which the conclusion ‘God doesn’t have to offer any sinner salvation’ begins. It begins from a consideration of our condition as it actually exists—universal human sinfulness. Moreover, it’s clear that sinners deserve Hell. However, if we combine those two ideas, it’s clear that none of us deserves a chance at salvation. But if so, it follows that God doesn’t owe any sinner a chance at salvation.

But when it comes to the sorts of worlds God could choose to make, we can’t assume our condition. We can’t assume anything. Moreover, we must consider all God’s attributes together. And, as I argued in Would God make a world where He condemns everyone?, once we do that we can see that the idea ‘God doesn’t have to offer salvation to any sinner’ is of no use in explicating what sort of worlds God could make. However, Mrs Sanders wasn’t interested in this question. Why? She knows God’s actual plan involves salvation for many, so why bother asking: ‘Could God create a world in which every sinner was condemned without a chance at salvation?’ The question is pointless.

Your god has no reason to save anyone nor make any scripture true.

Not true. God’s perfect trustworthiness guarantees that He will make any Scripture He produces true. Regarding saving people, God may have non-necessary reasons to save people. Or, as I argued in Would God make a world where He condemns everyone?, it’s consistent with the way Mrs Sanders forms her perspective to say that God has a necessary disposition to save some sinners.

Satan hates humans and wants humans in Hell. So does your god. We couldn’t trust our own brains if we were created by a god who hates us. Satan is just as trustworthy.

As with Scripture, so with our cognitive faculties. God embodies honesty, so He would not fundamentally deceive us in the way He set up our cognitive faculties to work in this world.

My God isn’t obligated by anything or anyone above Himself. He is obligated by His own love to give every human an opportunity to go to Heaven because God is love and loves humans. A god who hates humans would be on the same side as Satan. Such a hateful god who creates humans for the purpose of dooming them couldn’t be trusted doing anything to save humans

But why must God love humans this way? As both Mrs Sanders and I pointed out, He doesn’t love angels this way. And are the relevant differences between us and angels enough to show that God must give us all a chance at salvation? This is what troubles me about this assertion—there’s no way to prove it. Scripture doesn’t prove it. At most, Scripture proves that God does love humans in a way He doesn’t love angels. But that doesn’t suffice to show that He must.

Kind regards,
Shaun Doyle
Creation Ministries International

Published: 5 November 2022

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