Discussion of whether or not God saves unreached people without missionaries.
SALVATION APART FROM CHRISTIANS?
QUESTION From: NateWilson@XC.org Do any of you know of any instance where a person or community came to true faith in Christ without ANY Christian influence? I've heard a lot of stories about unreached individuals seeing visions of Christ and such, and have assumed that people get saved in this way. However, I recently went back through our Newsbrief archives, and, to my surprise, could not find a single instance--there was always some contact with a Christian radio show or missionary or book, etc. Another way of putting this question is this: Is the preaching of the Gospel the ONLY means through which a person can be saved?
ANSWER From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jane Rumph) This is a key question. I am the author of _Stories from the Front Lines: Power Evangelism in Today's World_ (Chosen Books, 1996), which deals with the topic of people coming to faith in Christ through the involvement of God's supernatural power (e.g. healing, miracles, prophecy, dreams and visions, angel encounters). In my research, one of the notable themes that emerged was the hand-in-hand interaction between the Word of God and the works of God. In virtually every story I chronicled (about 40 in the book), the supernatural demonstrations of God's power that opened people's eyes to the truth were accompanied--before, during or after--by some kind of communication of the Gospel. Even the Muslim who met Jesus (or an angelic messenger) posing as his bus driver during a pilgrimage to Mecca did not know what to do with the "driver's" message until the Lord arranged opportunity for him to talk with a Christian back home.
I do believe that God can and does sovereignly reveal truth to people (e.g. through dreams and visions) and that some actually come to true faith in Messiah this way, but without any spiritual food (e.g. scripture portion, radio broadcast, or contact with a believer) these people would remain in complete spiritual infancy. We should be ready to pray and to minister in power evangelism whenever God's Spirit so directs, because He is actively at work today in amazing ways and wants to do much more, I believe. But there is no substitute for proclamation of the Gospel and cross-cultural church planting among every people group on earth. Indeed, I believe that God's sovereign moves upon individuals or people groups are signals to us that we need to seize this opportunity to take them the light of the Gospel and teach them about the One who has already begun revealing Himself to them.
ANSWER From: Bruce Sidebotham <73362.1503@Compuserve.com> Steve Anderson told me in 1986 about a Sherpa he met in Nepal who blew all my preconceptions about this issue. I don't remember the details, but it was an instance of salvation IN CHRIST apart from the testimony of a Christian... Good luck pursuing research on this subject. Be careful about building boxes. Just because something has never happened doesn't mean it can't.
ANSWER From: Scott Anderson <email@example.com> The people group that bruce referred to were actually Helambu Sherpa living in a Tamang village in the hill country of Nepal. A young boy came to saving faith via personal visit by Christ in a vision. The miracle was attested to by some highly respected, very conservative/evangelical third generation missionaries. I came along a year later (c. 1986) and wrote of the events in various newsletters and in a multimedia production on the Sherpa people. The boy's conversion was followed by gradual conversion of his extended family and several families in his village. The boy (later as a young man) went on to bible school abroad and returned to pastor the local church in his village... My analysis of the situation could best be summarized as:
ANSWER From: Tom Alberts <102351.673@CompuServe.COM> I would refer you to Romans 10:13-15. Paul puts forth the same question (rhetorically), "How can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (the obviously intended answer to which is: "they can't.") That logically follows the previous statement and questions, namely: all have to call on the name of the Lord (Jesus) in order to be saved; and how can they call on someone they haven't believed in?; and how can they believe in someone they've never heard of?; Seeing as that is the Word of God, not just Paul's opinion, I'd say that's a definitive and authoritative answer. If God chooses to reveal himself to someone in some other way -- and we can never really no that for sure as it would be based solely on someone's personal experience -- that's His business. Our business is to operate on the basis of and in accordance with the infallible written revelation He has given us. Thus, the urgent need to mobilize.
ANSWER From: David Dougherty <DDougherty@xc.org> Check out some of Don Richardson's work. I believe that there was an article in Dallas Theological Seminary's scholarly journal Bib Sac by a Denver Seminary professor reporting some of the things Don had shared in a class on how far General Revelation can go in presenting the gospel. Don has responded to this article with about 8-10 pages of his own on his research and study. I don't recall the details, but it seems to me he shares some examples of where general revelation has been sufficient (in his perception) to bring people to saving faith in Christ, apart from contact with other Christians. I know he's been working on this (he calls it the Melchizedek connection -- as a separate track from the Abraham connection) ever since I met him in 1981.Obviously it's highly controversial, especially in light of the current focus on the uniqueness of Christ, etc.