Maybe this question already has a thread. If so, please delete with extreme prejudice.
(I ask the question on my blog, here. But I will also paste the argument:)
I recently heard a discussion about the famous passage in Romans , chapter the first:
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Rom 9:18-20, NIV)
The discussion concluded that creation, aka the book of nature, aka general revelation was important but never provided sufficient knowledge for one’s salvation. Salvific knowledge, the argument goes, comes only from special revelation i.e., scripture.
Possibly in my familiar position of a minority of one, I disagree on a couple of levels.
For my first level of disagreement, let’s stipulate that knowledge is required for salvation. After all, the argument that the knowledge of creation is never sufficient for salvation implies that there is a necessary level of knowledge that is unattainable through general revelation alone.
If so, I can’t parse this Romans passage without concluding that it must be the case, or at least the possibility, that the knowledge of creation is, in fact, sufficient. It is because of those two words at the end of v20: without excuse .
I apologize in advance that to explain my point I will have to draw upon that most sophisticated, theological, and epistemological allegory ever devised by man: that’s right, you guessed it: it’s St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.
Let’s suppose two men, (let’s call them Tom and Jerry ) neither of whom ever heard the gospel or had access to scripture, are in line at the gates. Tom is first:
St. Peter: Hello Tom. I’m sorry, but only the saved pass through the gates.
Tom: But, but, I never heard the gospel! I never had access to scripture! That’s not fair!
St: Peter: You had your whole life to find God through His creation. You are without excuse!
St. Peter: You go to hell!
Jerry steps up…
St. Peter: Hello Jerry. I’m sorry, but only the saved pass through the gates.
Jerry: But, but, I never heard the gospel! I never had access to scripture! That’s not fair!
St: Peter: You had your whole life to find God through His creation. You are with …
Jerry: (Interrupting) But I did find God, I did believe in God through the beauty and complexity of creation! I was a scientist and with every discovery I saw God’s handiwork more clearly! ¹
St. Peter: (Checking the Oracle Database) Um, right. So you did. Most unusual. My bad. Still, you go to hell!
As I see it there is no point, that I can discern, of quoting scripture and telling Tom he is “without excuse”, if Tom and Jerry suffer the same fate.
I’ll discuss further disagreement in my next post. It will possibly be a more substantive argument.
¹ Ok, the sentence starting with “I was a scientist…” was unforgivably gratuitous.