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This question is scoped to Christians who believe that:

  • humans have libertarian free will (or at least are given temporarily some form of genuine freedom of the will through divine grace in specific circumstances)
  • everyone has a fair chance to be saved at least once in their life (i.e. no one is born in conditions where salvation is theoretically impossible, or, alternatively, everyone is given enough grace to have the opportunity to freely choose salvation at least once before judgement)

If the above is true, then how can this be reconciled with Romans 10:11-17 & John 6:44?

Romans 10:11-17 (ESV)

11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

John 6:44 (ESV)

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

From both passages someone might feel compelled to infer two (necessary?) conditions for salvation:

  • Condition 1: a human preacher has to preach the gospel to the person (from Romans 10:11-17)
  • Condition 2: the Father has to draw the person to Jesus (from John 6:44)

Regarding John 6:44, note that Calvinists would also conclude that salvation cannot be lost (if the Father draws you, your salvation is guaranteed, because Jesus will raise you up on the last day (related insightful debate for the curious here)).

Back to the question, if these are two (necessary?/sufficient?) conditions for salvation, then how is it possible for everyone to have a fair chance to be saved? What happens with those who are never drawn by the Father and/or never visited by a human preacher that preaches the gospel to them (e.g. see uncontacted peoples)?


Related BHSE questions:

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    No one can come unless drawn does not necessitate that all who are drawn do come. Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 13:03
  • @MikeBorden - right, it would be a necessary condition then, but not a sufficient one. What about those who are never drawn?
    – user50422
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 13:04
  • I suspect that all are drawn (through creation, Scripture, preaching, etc.): explaining why we are all without excuse. Therefore, "no one can come" is an encouragement toward humility for the religious or intellectual who ascribes some part of their approach to God to their works or understanding (cf John 6:45). Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 13:09
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    to clarify on the 2nd bullet, once in their life is restricted to mortal life or life before judgment?
    – depperm
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 16:36
  • @depperm - life before judgement
    – user50422
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 16:38

4 Answers 4

3

This answer is from mainstream perspective, arguing that everyone has a fair chance from a "pseudo" libertarian perspective.

Christian vs. Pelagian

Note: There are no mainstream Christian denominations today who believe that Christians have "real" libertarian free will when it comes to salvation. You would be asking those who subscribe to the Pelagianism heresy. The Wikipedia article will practically answer your question.

The closest denominations today would be the Catholics, Protestant Arminians, and Eastern Orthodox whom Calvinists label pejoratively as Semi-Pelagians although they may see themselves differently such as this article where Catholics answered the accusations.

The rest of the answer will lay out the interwoven issues within your question in order to provide context for interpreting the verses.

Big framework: God's providential plan

It's easiest to see everything to fall under God's providential plan created outside time where God sees all our thinking and actions throughout our lives simultaneously (Ps. 139) as we experience them in time. THIS IS HOW GOD PRESERVES FREE WILL THAT WE CONSCIOUSLY FEEL AS LIBERTARIAN FREE WILL since we are not aware how grace operates on our free will. I will label this "pseudo" libertarian free will, since:

  • we have real free will to sin and to reject God
  • we need grace to come to Christ but yet God preserves the integrity of our free will, at least experientially

This providential plan includes these 3 separate concerns:

  1. how God is going to arrange to give us all information pertaining to the gospel which we need to make a decision. This includes cases where

    • the full & clear gospel wasn't preached to us, or
    • the gospel presentation was too twisted/corrupted for us to make a fair decision, or
    • we die prematurely before the age of reason (died stillborn or very young), or
    • we die with horrible psychological experience of Christianity (let's say: abused by a parent who said he's Christian) so we cannot overcome our bias, or
    • we have a mental disability
    • etc.

    In those cases, God will probably arrange a post-mortem gospel presentation, similar to what He did to OT people in Sheol.

  2. how our free will responds to the gospel. This is the "free will" we experience AS libertarian, but unconsciously powered by the grace God gives us to answer the call to faith. Now this is where the Pelagians differ than mainstream Christians. Pelagians say that there is no grace needed for this step, but mainstream Christians say that grace is absolutely needed. Again, this is happening behind the scenes.

  3. how God, out of his faithfulness will give extra grace for the elect to persevere between conversion until death, a doctrine called the Perseverance of the Saints.

For shorthand, the theological term for those who respond positively and who persevere to the end will be defined as the Elect. If the gospel presentation happens post-mortem, then the people who say "yes" will also be part of the Elect.

About the debate

The debate you cited between Trent Horn (Catholic) and Dr. James R. White (Calvinist), Can a Christian Lose Their Salvation?, is about a narrow subset of the above concerns. Both sides of the debate agreed to:

  • exclude issue #1 completely,
  • cover #2 only tangentially, and
  • focus only on #3: how we conceive of God's actions (known theoretically, via theology) vs. our actions (known experientially, since we do know when we sin gravely and when we reject God) between conversion and death?

Their debate is about how to properly interpret the Biblical data. You'll find both sides interpret the verses differently, thus arriving at different theologies of the Perseverance of the Saints. They discuss:

  1. how do we know we are the elect? It's hard to know because we experience things in time. We know for sure when we arrive at the point of no return (death).
  2. how do we account for our experience in concern #3 (timeline between conversion and death): if we consciously fall away, was our faith genuine in the first place?

CONCLUSION

With the above concerns sorted out, we can thus place the verses in context to answer your main question ("does everyone has a fair chance to be saved") from "pseudo" libertarian free will perspective:

  • John 6:44a ("No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him") is about how God's grace is needed for #2. Fair chance because God will give sufficient grace for our free will to respond "within time" if "outside time" God sees us having even the little mustard seed intention (i.e. no resistance) to say "yes" to the gospel.
  • John 6:44b ("And I will raise him up on the last day.") is about what Jesus will do to the Elect (resurrection of the body).
  • Rom 10:13 ("everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved") is about God will assist those who responds "yes" to the gospel, which God will offer to everyone.
  • Rom 10:14-15 ("How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? ...") is about concern #1: God's providence to provide gospel to some of the Elect. Fair chance when complemented with God's offering post-mortem presentation of the gospel.
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  • Beautiful answer. Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 19:53
  • @FaithMendel Thanks! Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 1:16
1

This answer is from the perspective of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who believe in:

  • agency
  • salvation (LDS use of the word can have different connotations, but it matches OP meaning enough)

In regards to the conditions stated there is an assumption of human preacher from Romans 10, that isn't specified. The first condition needs a slight modification (at least according to LDS theology):

  • Condition 1: a preacher has to preach the gospel to the person

All mankind will have an opportunity to hear/accept the gospel, but this isn't limited to just mortality. There is also the spirit world.

  • mortality: Some have the opportunity to hear the gospel here on earth during their mortal life

  • spirit world:

    Not only did Jesus Christ organize his Church and choose missionaries to teach the gospel on earth, but he also spent three days in the spirit world, where the spirits of those who have died await the resurrection. There he organized his work so that all the dead will be able to hear the gospel fully. (See John 5:25; 1 Pet. 3:18–20; 1 Pet. 4:6; Alma 40:11–14.)

    ...

    We know, then, that the good people of this earth who lived before the time of Christ were able to accept the gospel in the spirit world if they had not received it during mortality. Likewise, the good people of the earth who have lived since the Savior’s time will hear the gospel preached in its fulness in the spirit world and be given the opportunity to accept it and the ordinances of salvation performed for them by proxy on earth.1

In answer to how is it possible to have a fair chance to be saved:

The plan of salvation extends to every person who has lived, who is living now, or who will live on this earth. It denies no one because of their position or circumstances in life and gives everyone full opportunity for the greatest riches of God’s kingdom. It includes nonbelievers and believers, as well as those who have never heard of Jesus Christ.1

See Also:

Plan of Salvation

1 Since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church, what will happen to good people in other churches with different beliefs?

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  • According to Hebrews 9:27 there are no 2nd chances even in your so-called spirit world. "And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this the judgment." Jesus taught at Luke 16:22-31 that there was a great gulf between Paradise and Hades, the rich man was in agony, vs24-26. Also the rich man ask Abraham to send Lazarus to warn them of the future so they would not end up in torment. Now, I fully understand this is from the Lds point of view but how do you reconcile this contradiction with what you teach? Btw, there is no "Telestial" Kngdom, the word was made up by Joseph Smith
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 18:49
  • @Mr.Bond where did I mention 2nd chance? There was a gulf, but Jesus bridged that gulf when he was in the spirit world. I also did not mention any of the kingdoms of glory in my post-he did not make up the word, he may have associated it with LDS theology but it was/is a word
    – depperm
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 18:53
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Romans 2:12-16 speaks to this, I think.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%202%3A12-16&version=NIV

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)

And most importantly,

16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

That might be squared with John 6:44 by the notion that the Father is calling "Gentiles who do not have the law" (for that matter, everyone) to Him via "the law () written on their hearts".

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I disagree with the inferences you draw in the OP; they are drawn from a very limited survey of the scriptures. If we take into consideration other scriptures, then it is clear they don't hold.

In particular, consider the fact that favoritism is a sin - and there is no favoritism with God (Leviticus 19:15; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6; etc)

If there is no favoritism with God, then salvation must be fairly available to all (or to none). This directly contradicts Reformed Theology and it's concept of the Elite who are said to be pre-ordained for salvation vs others who are pre-ordained for damnation.

This also contradicts the notion that it is through proper beliefs that we are saved. After all, consider all of humanity prior to the preaching of the good news, all that time prior to preachers being sent to share it. Are they all damned? Or do they get a free ride? In either case, it would show favoritism in judgement.

What we must look for, then, is a common and fair basis of salvation that is and has always been accessible to all of mankind throughout the ages. One simple solution would be to say that everyone is saved - though obviously scripture contradicts such a notion.

What scripture teaches is that we are judged based upon our actions, how we live our lives, and our conscience. Romans 2 is particularly powerful on this point.

Romans 2:6-16 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”[a] 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Preaching is necessary to share the Good News and to learn of Christ, but this in and of itself, does not result in salvation. For “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21). And "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." (James 2:26)

On the other hand, one can do the will of God even without realizing it as such.

Matthew 25:37-40 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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    I liked how you began up until "What scripture teaches is that we are judged based upon our actions, how we live our lives, and our conscience" Alone this avails nothing. Abraham was justified by faith. Faith without works is dead but works without faith are filthy rags. This is why Matthew 25:37-40 refers to the righteous...those of faith. Do you think Romans 2:14:15 praises the Gentiles who are a law unto themselves? Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 15:07
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    But you have not answered the texts which are quoted : Romans 10:11-17 & John 6:44. You have simply highlighted a seeming paradox. This is not an answer to the question.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 15:11
  • @MikeBorden the function of faith/belief is to guide our actions, but is of secondary importance to our actions themselves - to love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." One isn't righteous for belief alone, but for doing the right things - as James 2 makes clear. Throughout scripture, faith and action are intertwined and are only discussed separately to make clear that faith devoid of corresponding action is dead and meaningless. Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 18:13
  • @NigelJ I have addressed those two scriptures, and especially the supposed implications of them presented in the OP. If you have additional questions concerning them that you would like addressed I'd be happy to answer them however. Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 18:17
  • Love is the demonstration of our faith, yes, but we are not justified before God by love for it is God's Spirit in us that produces the love that 1 John is all about. If we were we would have something to boast about but not before God. Romans 4:1-5 Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 14:10

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