Zack has an interesting response to my posting More on the Fairness of God, both on this blog and on his own Mutantcheez. Let me respond in turn to a couple of his comments.
Paul goes on to talk in the letter about how Abraham is considered righteous based on his faith in God, and this was said of Abraham before he received the covenant of circumcision, before he received the law, and before the gospel message. And though he is unaware of the gospel message, he is still called righteous by scripture. It seems to me that the Bible is pretty clear that the qualifications for righteousness, and therefore salvation, is faith in God. I’m not entirely sure, but it seems to me that from your blog, you would disagree (please let me know if this is true or not) because Jesus declares that there is no way to Father but through him.
I really don’t disagree with this point. Paul specifically tells us that Abraham was justified by his faith. Abraham obeyed God and responded according to the Covenant God offered him. Jesus Christ had not come into the world at that point. Or, to put it another way, Abraham became God’s friend under the dispensation in force at the time.
One of the things that bothers me about current Christian thinking is that Christians are having a harder and harder time understanding that God’s revelation to the Jews was a progressive one. We are so obsessed with the absolute truth content of the Bible and the Jewish roots of our faith that we have lost sight of the fact that the entire process the Jews went through was a) educational and b) a stepwise progression to the final revelation in Jesus Christ.
Then he gets things to the present day:
I tend to believe that Scripture seems to affirm that a person can have a faith like Abraham’s and still be credited with righteousness even though he/she lives chronologically after the coming of Christ. I imagine this faith would be infinitely harder, as that person would have virtually no special revelation of who God is (not to mention i couldn’t even fathom how to explain to you what this faith would look like), yet as Abraham demonstrates, it is possible. Jesus himself says to Thomas, blessed are they who have not seen and still believe, and this seems to me to be more evidence that a saving faith in God is still possible without being specifically aware of the gospel message.
Christians of all types have attempted to come up with a solution to this problem, and many of these solutions have theoretical beauty. But they hit a few roadblocks on the way to reality.
In this case, most other thought systems–religious and otherwise–aren’t "faith based" in their method of "justification." (What justification means depends upon the goal of the religion or system of thought, and that widely varies.) They’re based on works. You pick it–Islam, Masonry, Marxism, humanism, even the new atheism–all of these and other systems insist on their adherents doing good things to justify themselves. They all start with a kernel of faith of some kind (I know the atheists will hate me for saying this, but they hate me anyway) but then the works take over.
And that leads to the next problem–what works are acceptable? As an example, one of the pillars of Islam is the haj, the trip to Mecca. They believe this is good. For the environmentalist, however, all this does is add to global warming. That kind of problem is why works salvation doesn’t cut it.
God, in his sovereignty, may have a plan to include some of those who don’t know Jesus Christ explicitly. But I think that the terms and conditions of this are unknowable in this life. That’s why I avoid speculation on it. That’s why it’s important to put Jesus Christ first.