1) Rational people in distinct geographical locations around the globe overwhelmingly adopt and defend a whole diversity of religious faiths due to their upbringing and shared cultural heritage. This is the religious diversity thesis (RDVT). From this sociological/demographic fact it follows that:
2) It is highly likely that adopting one's religious faith is not merely a matter of independent rational judgment. Rather, to an overwhelming degree, one's religious faith is casually dependent on cultural conditions. This is the religious dependency thesis (RDPT).
From (1) and (2) it follows that:
3) It is highly likely that any given adopted religious faith is false.
4) The best and probably the only way to test one's adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider with the same level of skepticism one uses to evaluate other religious faiths. This expresses the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF).
This in itself is not necessarily strong evidence that there is no God. But it does raise a serious question: If God exists, and our eternal destiny depends on our response to His revelation, and He desires all men to be saved, would He reveal Himself in so many different ways, each one of which contains ideas that preclude the others from being true? I believe this question poses an enormous problem for traditional Christianity. And it goes beyond just the different sects of Christianity, which number about 38,000. What about other religions? What about people who have never heard of Christ? What about the different way the gospel has been presented from age to age, so that even Christians of the past were never presented with the ideas modern evangelicals believe are necessary for salvation? And what about the billions of children, babies, infants, and aborted fetus's who died without ever hearing of Christ or confessing Him?
An Easy Answer
The Calvinist probably has the easiest answer to this problem. They could simply dispute one of the premises contained in the question we asked. Again, the question is: If God exists, and our eternal destiny depends on our response to His revelation, and He desires all men to be saved, would He reveal Himself in so many different ways, each one of which contains ideas that preclude the others from being true? This is not a problem for Calvinism. That's because they don't believe that God desires that all men be saved. Those he elects do hear the word and do respond. Those whom he reprobates do not. Whether or not they ever hear the gospel, or at what age they die, is immaterial.
That's one way of looking at it. But there's a problem with this theory. If Calvinists have a proof text, it's Romans 9:22: “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory . . .” Now think about it. Would the God of the Universe, who works all things according to His will, and makes all things to praise him, and completes all that He starts, be satisfied with filling heaven with vessels of mercy that never heard of him, never confessed him, and never loved him? And hell with vessels of wrath that never heard of him, never rejected him, and never even sinned? Maybe. But it seems unlikely.
Damned Without Sinning?
It seems unlikely to me—and very unbiblical—to believe that God ever entertained the idea of damning anyone who never rejected Him or saving anyone that never “confessed” him their tongue. Let's consider each of these possibilities. First, the idea that God would condemn untold billions of babies, infants, and aborted fetus's that never heard of him. Generally speaking, Christianity has always taught us that Jesus loves children. I think they have excellent reason for doing so. Jesus held forth children as a model of the kingdom. He said He does not will that one of these little ones perish (Mt. 18:14). If God in fact creates babies simply to torture them in hell, then His words are as deceitful as anything ever uttered in all of human history. Moreover, there is not a word in the bible that ever suggests we go to hell simply by virtue of being born. What separates us from God is sin. Not original sin, but actual sin. There is not one example anywhere in the bible of a single person being punished for anything other than an actual sin. The idea that they are is based entirely on the twisted, unbiblical inferences of men. Building their theologies upside down, they start with hell, and infer that since we are born sinners, and most are not saved, that therefore many children, babies, infants, and perhaps even aborted fetus's go to hell. Obviously, they must be so sentenced for their original sin. But again, this is all inference; there's not a word, not an example, not a single hint anywhere in the bible to support it. Nobody is punished for sins they don't commit. Period.
Saved Without Confessing?
Now, the second point. Does God ever save anyone who doesn't confess him with their tongue?
Romans 10-14 says:
8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
Read it again: How then shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? To be saved you must hear and confess. That's the gospel. Moreover, one cannot be saved without first being conformed into the image of Christ. “He chastens every son He receives”. In fact, if you are “without it, you are bastards, and not sons” (Prov. 13:24). “Every man's work is to be tried by fire . . .” (1 Cor. 3:13). We don't enter heaven by virtue of being born; we enter by grace through faith and “through much tribulation” do we “enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
But, you say, the bible's silent about children who die without hearing the gospel. Yes, it is. And where the bible is silent we ought to be silent. We should not invent new methods or criteria for rewards and punishments based on our own ideas. God punishes sin, not, as the Calvinists would have us believe, existence. He rewards faith, not, as some would have us believe, childhood. No-one gets saved for what they didn't hear or punished for what they didn't do. Moreover, the bible is not entirely silent on the issue of those who never hear the gospel. It says: “Christ gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2:6). What happens to those who don't hear? They will hear.
Paul said if anyone preaches another gospel let him be accursed (Gal 1:8). The only gospel the bible knows is the one noted above-- “the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
And who will confess him? “That in the name of Christ every knee shall bow, of things in the heavens and things on the earth and things under the earth, and every tongue confess Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10). That is the glorious result of the true gospel. No children, babies, infants, and aborted fetus's who never sinned writhing in the fires of hell wondering what they did to deserve such an awful fate; likewise, no-one in heaven who did not first “confess Christ” and experience God's purgings and chastenings. Punishment without sin, reward without faith—these things are unknown to scripture; they are another gospel.
It is plain, therefore, that the true gospel does not meet up with the problems inherent in the question we posed earlier. This was the question: If God exists, and our eternal destiny depends on our response to His revelation, and He desires all men to be saved, would He reveal Himself in 38,000 different ways, each one of which contains ideas that preclude the others from being true?
The Universalist can confidently answer NO to this question. God is in control of our destiny, and eventually He will bring the gospel to all men and eventually they will all confess Christ as Lord. The Outsider Test of Faith does prove that any one sect of Christianity is unlikely to be true. It does prove that God probably did not reveal Himself to one small, select group of people, who are the only ones to be saved. But this doesn't prove that there's no God, or that all beliefs are wrong. It does, however, indicate that something is terribly wrong with Christianity. This goes to another belief that is fundamental to Universalism. The 38,000 sects are all part of the Christian religious system. Many Universalists, however, believe that God Himself is opposed to the whole system. A.P. Adams reflects this sentiment:
“In the light of scripture as well as the actual state of things around us the entire, outward, visible, organized church, is plainly a poor, fallen, corrupt institution, like the Jewish body politic in the time of the old prophet, “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint; from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” There are many in the church who see this wretched condition of affairs and denounce it unsparingly, but they still think that the church may yet be saved, i.e. the organization, saved; to me this seems impossible, disintegration is inevitable; Babylon must come down. In the Revelation we have a degenerate, fallen church represented by A WOMAN SEATED ON A BEAST (Rev. 17:16). This representation is today the shameful symbol of the entire body of the organized, nominal Christian Church, Greek, Roman, and Protestant)