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Upon reflecting on the answers to this question, HOW does the existence of the Universe make those who do not worship God to be "without excuse"?, I noticed that Romans 1:18-20 leaves interpretative space to still think there is hope for the unreached/unevangelized.

Romans 1:18-20 ESV
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

If my interpretation of what Paul says here is accurate, then it seems to me that the unevangelized would be able, at least in principle, to infer the existence of the Creator from creation, by exercising some elementary, layman, common-sense version of natural theology. If this is the case, then why would it be unreasonable to think that at least some of these unreached/unevangelized individuals would be able to react favorably to this insight, by becoming a worshiper of said Creator? Another way of phrasing my question is as follows: Is it possible for a human being to become a true worshiper of God by inferring His existence based solely on natural theology? Does this view have a name?

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    God the merciful judge of all mankind can read the hearts of humans and will do the right thing.
    – Kris
    Nov 8, 2023 at 19:24

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Is it possible for a human being to become a true worshiper of God by inferring His existence based solely on natural theology?

Yes. But then he/she wouldn't know how to properly worship this God except 1) being thankful for having been created in a beautiful earth; and 2) trying to follow the moral code embedded in his/her conscience. He/she also wouldn't know about the hope for eternal life that lies beyond death. So at best, he can be a Stoic, or a Platonist, or a Confucian, or a Buddhist, etc.

Does this view have a name?

Yes, the God of the Philosopher, as it is commonly referred to in the philosophical and theological literature. For a good overview on how this view (which in the Christian tradition is refined into Divine Simplicity outside time) is compared and reconciled (!) with the God of the Bible whom we can relate to personally in time, see this talk from the 2018 Symposium on Saint Thomas Aquinas the God of the Bible and the God of the Philosophers from Dr. Eleonore Stump, a Christian Thomist philosopher.

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God has many ways and means of "reaching" people. Christians doing evangelising (as per Christ's commission in Matthew 28) certainly reach many people in a myriad of ways, yet "The Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear." (Isaiah 50:2) We cannot judge how many people are reached in any generation, but "the Lord knows those who are his" (2 Timothy 2:19).

Also, the apostle Peter admitted that, "I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." (Acts 10:35) Immediately, he then launched into an explanation of the gospel of Christ Jesus, the evangel. This was to Cornelius and his household, opening up global reaching of the Gentiles. The apostle Paul agreed: "For God does not show favouritism... Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith." (Romans 2:11 & 3:29-30)

Given that a sincere desire to worship the Creator is the starting point for anyone hoping to be right with God, and that creation silently 'speaks' of his power and glory, what is called 'natural theology' plays a role. Yet more is required to be 'reached', in a saving way. After all, the Bible is full of warnings about people being corrupted by just what they can see in creation, when they start to worship the creation. That is not worship of the Creator, as Paul pointed out in the verses following the text you quoted:

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became darkened and their foolish hearts were darkened... and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles... and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator." Romans 1:21-25 N.I.V.

This is what simply following a 'natural theology' so often leads to - idolatry. That is because the creation does not tell us how God has dealt with humanity over the centuries, what he is doing right now, and what he will yet do in the future. Trying to live a morally upright life cannot save anyone, as Paul goes on to explain, for none of us are righteous. We need to learn about the righteousness of God and his chosen means of saving, through what Christ accomplished, so that all who put faith in him will be saved. Paul explains this in Romans 3:9-26.

That is why God has had his dealings written down, and why he sent his only-begotten Son to lead us to God as Father.

You ask if it "is possible for a human being to become a true worshiper of God by inferring His existence based solely on natural theology?" Well, even the demons believe in the existence of the one true God, but that does not lead them to worship him! (James 2:19) And Jesus said to a Samaritan woman who thought her people were worshipping God acceptably, while their Jewish neighbours were not:

"Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and is now, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth." John 4:22-24 A.V.

He then went on to tell her that he was the looked-for Messiah and that led to the whole village then being evangelised by Christ over two days. Their conclusion was that "We have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." (vs. 42)

Conclusion: Anyone who sincerely desires to worship the Creator in a way acceptable to him, will be reached by him, but that will involve considering more that just what God has created. They will be enabled by God to discover his means of salvation, which is explained in the evangel - the good news of Jesus Christ.

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    It is a matter of appropriate response to the light we have been given, "For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light. (Ps. 36:9) +1 Nov 10, 2023 at 14:04
  • What about people born in places that were not visited by missionaries for centuries? Can true worshipers of God be found in such places?
    – Mark
    Nov 10, 2023 at 14:18
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    @Mark As per my 1st paragraph - God is never thwarted in saving anyone! He is not dependent on 'missionaries' visiting particular places. He is not dependent on anything! If nobody spoke, he could get the very stones to speak. As it is, he uses dreams, visions, scraps of torn Bible pages and so forth. Christians are to be available to God and willing to do whatever he requires to reach the lost, but we are only agencies; he is the one who ensures the lost are saved through the activity of the Holy Spirit. Our confidence is in him as per. Jeremiah 17:14
    – Anne
    Nov 10, 2023 at 15:20
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Is it possible to be a worshiper of the true God without being reached or evangelized?

The short answer is yes.

God is able to be believed in through the very aspect of nature of thing on earth (nature) and contemplation of our universe, albeit in a limited manner.

St. Thomas Aquinas explains this in five steps.

The Five Ways

I answer that, The existence of God can be proved in five ways.

The Argument from Motion

The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from to . But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

The Argument from First Cause

The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

The Argument from Necessity

The third way is taken from possibility and , and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, be- cause that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence—which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the exis- tence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.

The Argument from Gradation

The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But “more” and “less” are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.

The Argument from Design

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God. - From the Nature of the Universe” by Thomas Aquinas

Recall that St. Paul in the Areopagus, stated that some pagans worshiped the true God without knowing it!

In Acts 17, Paul arrives in Athens, the citadel of the many Greek gods. In that city was the Areopagus, or Mars Hill, where a council of civic leaders met. This council, also called the Areopagus, had charge of religious and educational matters in Athens.

While in Athens, Paul was provoked by the many idols he saw. As was his custom, he went to the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. He also preached to those in the marketplace. That is when he encountered the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, who were always looking to discover something “new” to discuss. The Epicureans were followers of Epicurus (341—270 BC), who taught that happiness was the ultimate goal in life. The Stoic thinkers regarded Zeno (340—265 BC) as their founder. He was noted for promoting the rational over the emotional. Both Epicurus and Zeno believed in many gods.

Hearing Paul teach about Jesus, the philosophers had Paul come to the Areopagus and asked him to tell them about this “new,” strange teaching he was proclaiming. Standing in the midst of the Areopagus, Paul tells those gathered that he realized Athenians were very religious, having seen their many objects of worship. But one altar among the many caught his attention. On it were inscribed the words “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” In their ignorance, the Greeks had erected an altar to whatever god they might have inadvertently left out of their pantheon. Paul masterfully uses this altar as an opportunity to share the one true God.

Since the Greeks obviously didn’t know who this god was, Paul explains that this “unknown god” was the biblical God, the Creator of heaven and earth, who does not dwell in temples made with hands. Actually, God is the Source of life for all nations, and He is really the One they were unwittingly seeking. Paul says God is near; in fact, “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27–28). The Greeks, however, were unable to find the true God on their own, so God came searching for them. He calls all men to repent and accept Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead and will judge the world in righteousness.

Paul’s mention of the resurrection brought a varied response from the philosophers. Some sneered outright. Others said they wanted to hear more from Paul (Acts 17:32). Praise the Lord, some believed. One of the members of the Areopagus, named Dionysius, exercised faith in Christ, and several other Athenians also became Christians that day.

The “unknown God” desires to be known. That is why He has spoken to us through His Word; that is why He sent His Son into the world (Luke 10:22). God can be known through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

The search for God will always be there in the hearts of those who genuinely look for the truth, with the situation they actually find themselves in and live according to the natural law!

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