Watch Aaron in the film Holy Wars

Friday, August 11, 2006

The wider hope question

Below is a response to an article written by Stephen Marshall, the director of the film, "Holy Wars" a feature length documentary coming out next year in which I am one of the four main characters. To read the article first, click here

Hey Stephen,

Thank you for letting me see the article. Just to
raise the stakes a little so you don't get too
comfortable. The Bible does clearly teach that all
who willfilly, persistently, and finally make a "no"
decision regarding repentance and faith in Christ will
be among those ultimately lost. Jesus Christ died for
the sins of the whole world and that means
everybody-except for those who willfully trample on
His grace and say "no thank you."

Since the Bible makes it clear that people are judged
by the light that they are given, there are many of us
who believe that those who respond correctly to the
light of nature and conscience, they will be saved by
the light that they have, not on the light that they
don't have. Jesus also indicated that those who
believe His gospel do so because their hearts are
already inclined towards the truth. So is it possible
that God judges people on how they "would have"
responded" had they been given a clear presentation of
the gospel? Jesus certainly opened up the door to
this possibility when He told the people of Chorazin
and Bethsaida that it would be more tolerable for
Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for
them because they "would have" repented had Jesus gone
to their cities in their day. `

The real question is -what constitutes as a willful,
persistent, and final decision on behalf of the
individual? The Bible is clearly ambiguous on this
issue, and that is why there are some of us who are
looking into the possibility of a wider hope for
non-Christians. Not because of the latest "end time
theories" but because there are numerous verses in the
Bible that indicate the death of Christ on the cross
not just provides the "possibility" of salvation for
all men, but actually "saves" all men.

Because the Bible says, "God is the Saviour of all
men" it appears that the death of Christ actually
effects a salvation for all who are savable-meaning
those who have not finally rejected the good news and
restructured their lives out of heartfelt gratitude.
The question is-what renders a person "unsavable"?
That I don't know and the Bible does not give a
clear-cut answer.

Bottom line: The Russian roulette analogy still
stands. Jesus is who He says He is and no one comes
to the Father except through Him. When it is all said
and done, the only reason why anyone will be in heaven
is because of what Jesus Christ accomplished through
His death and resurrection.

God bless you Stephen. I hope to see you in heaven
when it is all said and done. Feel free to post this
on your website.

Your friend,


P.S. For those interested, here are some Scripture
references related to this subject:

3:23-24,5:18,11:32,I Corinthians 15:22, II Corinthians
5:14-21,Philippians 2:10-11, Colossians 1:19-20,I
Timothy 2:6,4:10, Titus 2:11, Hebrews 2:9, I John 2:2


toby said...

i have some questions/comments regarding the wider hope theory. i'm not saying that i agree or disagree, but if it is true, why did it take 2000 or so years for us to realize that it was there the whole time?

on the other hand, it is interesting to see certain scriptures in a different light. i read just today where Jesus talks about the people of Sodom being better off than those of Capernaum because they would have turned from their sins had they seen the miracles that Capernaum witnessed. so do we take these statements literally as we do with a great deal of the rest of the Bible?

another thing that i believe is that Jesus is the ultimate judge of everyone on earth. So when someone asks, 'what will happen to somebody who has never heard of Jesus?', I have no problem saying that Jesus will judge them fairly (according to His standards), and they won't necessarily go to hell just because no one ever told them about Jesus. is the wider hope theory just an extension of this idea, that Jesus will judge you properly, whether you're a Christian or not?

Aaron D. Taylor said...

Good question Toby. In answer to your first question, for the first few hundred years of Church history, there was a general understanding that the atonement of Christ actually saves all men, except for those who willfully reject the gospel. The early Church had a much broader view of the extent of Christ's atonement than post-Augustinian Christianity that put a greater emphasis on Adam's condemnation of the human race than on Christ's justification of the human race.

You said that you think Jesus will judge people fairly who have never heard the gospel. I think that is true, but that is not exactly what I mean by the wider hope theory. The wider hope theory, as I define what it means to me, says that "Jesus is the light that gives light to every man coming into the world," and everyone will be given a fair chance to respond to that light in one way or another before the final day of judgment.

This means that just as God has given enough light in nature and conscience to condemn the human race, certainly He has or will give enough light of Christ to save all who are willing to believe and haven't made a willful, final decision to reject the gospel.

Although God gives us the privelege of working together with Him in extending the light of Christ to the human race, ultimately, man's salvation depends on God, not on man.

I hope this helps.