The previous article asks: “How does God deal with people who die without hearing the gospel?” They can be placed into two groups, the uncondemned and the unreached. The uncondemned are comprised of infants, young children, and the mentally incompetent. Appealing to 10 biblical texts and the Baptist Faith and Message, the article explains that they inherit a sinful nature but are not condemned by God. Instead, God welcomes them into His arms.
This article considers the eternal destiny of the other group, the unreached. This group is comprised of people who reach an age or stage of moral accountability but die without hearing the message of the gospel.
SBC PRESIDENT’S ANNUAL ADDRESS
OWEN COOPER, who retired May 1 as president of the Mississippi and Coastal Chemical Corp. in Yazoo City, Miss., is the first layman in 13 years to serve as president of the 12-million member Southern Baptist Convention. He was elected president of the SBC in 1972 in Philadelphia, and since then has devoted almost full time to the presidency. Born in Warren County, Miss., April 19, 1908, Mr. Cooper is a graduate of Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi, and the Jackson School of Law, Jackson, Miss. After a few years as a vocation agriculture teacher and worker with the Mississippi State Planning Commission, Cooper became executive director of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation about 23 years ago. In that position, he discovered during World War II a shortage of nitrogen fertilizer, and led a campaign in Mississippi among farmers to establish their own fertilizer cooperative. Mississippi Chemical Corp. now sells about $2 million worth of fertilizer annually. Cooper conceived, organized and built the company into one of the nation’s largest fertilizer producers. In the SBC, Cooper has held almost every possible leadership post on local church and denominational levels. He has been president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, Chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, and vice president of the Baptist World Alliance. He is a deacon and chairman of the missions committee for First Baptist Church, Yazoo City, Miss. He is founder and president of the Pan American Union of Baptist Men, and is a former vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. His activities in community, state, business and professional, and government organizations are too numerous to list. He has served as chairman of the board for Mississippi Action for Progress (MAP), the statewide Head Start poverty program, and has been active in many other similar programs. He was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by Mississippi College.
Over the last few days, Jon Akin has offered a three-part response to a blog-post I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Jon’s series is called “A Defense of Christ-Centered Preaching: A Friendly Response to Eric Hankins,” and I thought I’d offer a three part reply. The subsequent posts will deal with the content of what he wrote, and there are several aspects of his argument that I will be challenging. But I want to begin by heading in a little different direction.
This first part has to do with Jon’s desire to offer a “friendly response,” an objective I feel Jon achieved with great effect. What you see in Jon’s tone and treatment is an obvious effort to avoid any gratuitous potshots while still speaking plainly and honestly about our areas of disagreement. This is a skill that is absolutely essential as we work through some of the tensions in our “life together” as Southern Baptists. In fact, I believe that Southern Baptists are actually more skilled at this than most. A fairly consistent criticism of us is that we are always fighting with each other about something, constantly wrangling over our disagreements. Certainly, anecdotes of church splits abound and the term “business meeting” hardly evokes feelings of warmth and good will. However, when you look at how other large denominations have fared over the years, it is clear that Southern Baptist have been able to come together around the truth in ways that others have not. We have managed, so far, to avoid the Scylla of divisive dogmatic fastidiousness and the Charybdis of death-dealing doctrinal faithlessness. The boundary between what counts as “essential” and “disputable” in matters of faith and practice has a subjective component that can only be approached through prayerful and careful debate. Rather than avoiding such debate, we must continue to embrace it, sharpening one another as we do so.
This is the first article in a two-part series. Part one considers the eternal destiny of the uncondemned, comprised of infants, young children, and the mentally incompetent. Part two will consider the unreached, people who are morally accountable to God but die without hearing the message of the Gospel. These were published in the Oct. 18 and Nov. 1, 2012 issues of The Christian Index.
Southern Baptists differ on many political, social, and theological issues. But we’re united in affirming that faith in the Risen Christ is the only way to be forgiven of sin and reconciled to God. Thankfully, we are united on the Gospel. But this question is sometimes raised: “How does God deal with people who die without hearing the Gospel?” This question is not referring to people who hear and understand the Gospel but refuse to repent of their sin and place their faith in Christ. Rather, this concerns people who die without ever hearing the message of the Gospel. What is their eternal destiny? Those people can be placed into one of two groups, the uncondemned and the unreached.