Boettner regarding the “State of the Heathens”:
“In fact the belief that the heathens without the Gospel are lost has been one of the strongest arguments in favor of foreign missions. If we believe that their own religions contain enough light and truth to save them, the importance of preaching the Gospel to them is greatly lessened. Our attitude toward foreign missions is determined pretty largely by the answer which we give to this question.
We do not deny that God can save some even of the adult heathen people if He chooses to do so, for His Spirit works when and where and how He pleases, with means or without means. If any such are saved, however, it is by a miracle of pure grace. Certainly God’s ordinary method is to gather His elect from the evangelized portion of mankind, although we must admit the possibility that by an extraordinary method some few of His elect may be gathered from the unevangelized portion” (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, pp. 119-120).
I like the following comments on Blackguard Boettner’s comments (and those like-minded with him).
“Do you see their reasoning? There are three kinds of people that they usually mention to make their point: infants, individuals with diminished intellectual capacity, and heathens. In the first two cases, they say that infants and people with diminished intellectual capacity are not ABLE to understand and believe. In the last case, they say that heathens have not been given the OPPORTUNITY to understand and believe, because they have not come in contact with the gospel. And they say that there are some people who are not ABLE to understand and believe and some people who have not been given the OPPORTUNITY to understand and believe who are nevertheless regenerate.
Notice that they blasphemously use the very sovereignty of God to defend their heresy. They say that since God is sovereign, He can save in any way that He chooses. There are two responses to this: First, what does the sovereign God SAY in His WORD about how He saves people? The Westminster Confession is correct in saying that the Spirit works when, where, and how He pleases. But does the Spirit work when, where, and how He pleases, even if it is contrary to the Word of God? Of course not! A spirit who works when, where, and how he pleases, even if it is contrary to the Word of God is not the TRUE Holy Spirit but is a false damnable spirit. And think about this: You can use God’s sovereignty to promote any heresy you want to! For example, what’s wrong with this: God uses the teachings of the Koran to save people. Is there anything wrong with that? After all, God is sovereign, and He can do whatever He wants. How about this: The Holy Spirit regenerates Hindus, and these regenerate Hindus continue believing Hinduism to their death. What’s wrong with that? After all, the Spirit works when, where, and how He pleases. What if He pleases to save an atheist and then pleases to keep that person believing atheism? He does whatever He pleases, right? And you know what — even some of the more sophisticated Arminians use God’s sovereignty to promote their false gospel. They say that God sovereignly gave up some of His sovereignty and sovereignly chose to give man free will. What’s wrong with that, since God can sovereignly choose whatever He wants to do? What’s wrong with God sovereignly choosing to make salvation conditioned on works? Right? You can see how the doctrine of God’s sovereignty can be twisted to endorse any heresy. The question is this: What does the sovereign God say in HIS WORD about what He does and does not do? The sovereign God says in HIS WORD that He does things in a PARTICULAR WAY that GLORIFY HIMSELF.
Sometimes I get accused of limiting God or putting God in a box. Really? I’M limiting God? Who said that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to EVERYONE believing? Who said that those who are ignorant of the righteousness of God are not saved? Who said that God saves through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth? Who said that the gospel is hidden in those who are lost and that the lost are blinded to the gospel of the glory of Christ, and those who have gone from being lost to being saved have been shown the brightness of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? Was that me? Or was that the Holy Spirit in Romans 1:16, Romans 10:3, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, and 2 Corinthians 4:3-6? When Paul says that THIS IS THE WAY IT ALWAYS IS, NO EXCEPTIONS, is he putting God in a box? Is he denying that God can do whatever He wants to do? Is he denying God’s sovereignty? Well, we’ve been accused of that when we say that certain things that are ALWAYS the case based on God’s Word. But that’s the key, isn’t it — it’s based on GOD’S WORD! When GOD HIMSELF says that this is the ONLY way He does things, are the objectors going to talk back to God? When the Sovereign God says that this is the way He has sovereignly chosen to do things in order to magnify His glory, are the objectors going to tell God that He needs to make exceptions in order to show that He’s sovereign?
GOD says how He saves people. And when you look at how GOD says how He saves people, you see that he makes NO EXCEPTIONS. As I said before, if there were even ONE EXCEPTION to this logical string of rhetorical questions, then the whole argument fails and God’s Word is not true. These people who make exceptions must ultimately conclude that this passage in Romans 10:14 and 15 is logically flawed, and thus conclude that the Bible is not inerrant. 'Oh, no!' they protest, 'All we’re doing is interpreting it in a different way!' And how are they interpreting it? In light of their exceptions, which totally undermine the passage. Did God say that the gospel is USUALLY or ORDINARILY the power of God unto salvation? Did God say that it is USUALLY or ORDINARILY the case that those who are ignorant of the righteousness of God are lost? Did God say in Hebrews 11:6 that USUALLY or ORDINARILY without faith it is impossible to please God, unless someone is incapable of having faith? Away with such God-dishonoring dung. God clearly shows in the Scriptures that when He saves someone, He immediately gives that person a knowledge of the gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. It matters not if this person is an infant or someone with a mental handicap or was a heathen. And why does He do this? It is to glorify Himself in the hearts of His people. WITHOUT EXCEPTION, God is glorified in the hearts of EVERY SINGLE REGENERATE PERSON, because EVERY SINGLE REGENERATE PERSON believes the gospel. The second response to the sovereignty argument is this: These people claim to exalt the sovereignty of God in salvation, yet THEY are the ones who put limits on what God says He does in salvation. If there is a heathen in some remote part of the world who has never heard of the gospel, is God not able to sovereignly bring the gospel to him so he will believe? If there is an unborn baby or a person with a mental handicap, is God not able to sovereignly cause that person to understand and believe the gospel? How much does one limit God when he says that God cannot do things the way He said He would do things in His Word? What’s to keep God from sovereignly bringing the gospel to a heathen or infant or person with a mental handicap? To you who would charge us with limiting God’s sovereignty, we bring the charge against YOU, and unlike you, we have the backing of Scripture. The sovereign God SAYS in HIS WORD how He saves people, and YOU would say NO, God CANNOT do that in every case. It is YOU who deny the sovereignty of God.
I’d also like you to notice something from the Boettner quote. He said that 'If any such [meaning the heathen] are saved, however, it is by a miracle of pure grace.' What — is it NOT a miracle of pure grace when God saves people through belief of the gospel? Is it somehow 'less than pure' grace when God regenerates a person and immediately causes that person to believe the gospel? Could he be saying that regeneration without means is more pure grace because regeneration with means involves some kind of condition or prerequisite on the part of the sinner? Something to think about.”
“Something to think about.” Yes indeed. Could it be that Calvinists like Boettner realize that their so-called “non-meritorious-condition” is a fraudulent attempt to evade the charge of putting forth a view of “grace” that puts God in their debt and is thus no longer grace (cf. Romans 4:4, 11:6)?
“It is unreasonable to suppose that people can appropriate to themselves something concerning which they know nothing. We readily see that so far as the pleasures and joys and opportunities in this world are concerned the heathens are largely passed by; and on the same principle we would expect them to be passed by in the next world also. Those who are providentially placed in the pagan darkness of western China can no more accept Christ as Savior than they can accept the radio, the airplane, or the Copernican system of astronomy, things concerning which they are totally ignorant. When God places people in such conditions we may be sure that He has no more intention that they shall be saved than He has that the soil of northern Siberia, which is frozen all the year round, shall produce crops of wheat. Had he intended otherwise He would have supplied the means leading to the designed end. There are also multitudes in the nominally Christian lands to whom the Gospel has never been presented in any adequate way, who have not even the outward means of salvation, to say nothing of the helpless state of their heart” (pp. 119-120).
Boettner says it’s “unreasonable to suppose…” But obviously he doesn’t mean it’s ALWAYS unreasonable to suppose since he leaves open the “extraordinary possibility” that God would deny His own redemptive glory by being unable or unwilling to shine in His peoples’ hearts the illuminating (regenerating) knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6).