@Larry_Lacy Thank you for that very thorough paper!
I want to define the key terms as I understood them and highlight some of the great observations as well as make one or two critiques.
nonculpable nonbelief - unbelief for which a person cannot be held accountable
hope-based relationship with God - when a true believer is allowed by God to endure the suffering of no sense of God’s presence
repentance on the day of judgment - unbelievers will be given a last chance to repent on the day of judgment if they have not hardened their hearts completely against God
Central argument as I understand it: If God allows a believer to endure a hope based relationship with Him for their entire life that produces spiritual beauty in that person. Such spiritual beauty shows unbelievers with nonculpable unbelief a unique aspect of God, giving them an enhanced chance of repentance both in this life and on the day of judgment.
I liked the clarity of the assumptions being stated up front and the thoughtfulness of the argument. Extending the argument to the day of judgment in which people may freely choose repentance was interesting and aided the strength of the central argument.
The quote from C. S. Lewis on a potential reason God allows believers to endure periods of silence was also great:
Sooner or later He [God] withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives [the sense of God’s reality and presence]. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs–to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be.
While I recognize the work was philosophical, I would have enjoyed some more interaction with Scripture passages that appear (at least on first glance) to contradict some of the key assumptions of the argument.
Many people die in a state of not having turned toward God but not having yet invincibly hardened their hearts against God
What do you do with Romans 1? For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
So - I agree that people who have never heard of Christ may end up in Heaven - but I really am not sure the Bible provides wiggle room for 2 separate categories of unbelief.
As far as I can tell from Scripture - outright unbelief in God is always culpable. Although a person may not know about Christ.
I would be curious to hear your response.
Hope Based Relationship With God
So I struggle with the idea that God would allow a believer to never experience His presence - not logically - but based on Scripture itself.
Romans 8:16 - The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Luke 11:13 - If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
James 4:8 - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
John 14:16 - And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever
How would you make a Biblical argument for life long hope based relationships with God when we have the Spirit?
Thanks for sharing!