To be clear, I am not a professional theologian or scholar. I am simply a music teacher who is fascinated by Biblical Studies, Archaeology, Anthropology, Ethnology, and any number of related subjects.
So, as I’m sure you can imagine, this endeavor will be nothing if not interesting! I am untrained in any of these disciplines; therefore, I am without guardrails or any kind of supervision to pull me from the ledge of whatever idea currently has gripped my imagination.
(Well, except my wife. She deserves a shout-out! She’s been very patient, kind, and all-around amazing in all of this!)
While some might find this lack of constraint liberating, I personally find it a bit terrifying. At this point, I honestly crave the day when someone finally says, “Oh yeah, just read this book written by *random scholar’s name* who said the exact same thing you’re trying to say, but 100 years ago!” I’m simply pursuing what I understand to be God’s honest truth, and I want to follow it wherever it goes.
Anyway, I am hesitant to present a fully developed soteriological hypothesis quite yet because I am still learning. Every time I think I’ve nailed down a firm position, another level of nuance or historical fact pops up. The process itself has been quite edifying and has given me so much to think and pray on throughout the last 5 years. I’m so thankful for this opportunity and can’t wait to publish some kind of “final” version one day, though I’m sure I’ll never plumb the depths of this subject.
One last thing:
There will be many terms and subjects that follow that may be unfamiliar to some in my audience. In order for me to progress at a reasonable pace in my writing, I will need to take for granted that my readers are at least slightly familiar with terms like “judgment”, “salvation”, “soteriology”, sin vs. transgression, Old and New Testament, etc. I will do my best to link to prior blog posts or other resources so that everyone can enjoy my content, but no promises!
Below I present the suppositions from which I develop my hypothesis. These assumptions are all based on, inspired by, or derived from the work of scholars such as Wilhelm Schmidt, Winfried Corduon, Joshua Swamidass, Jeffrey Rose, John Walton, William Lane Craig, and Michael Heiser. Many of these points require explanations and defense in and of themselves, which I plan to flesh out in future posts. However, since I am already convinced that these statements are true, I can proceed to build off of them.
- Our physical universe was created by a benevolent Creator God interested in developing relationships with members of His creation.
- Our physical universe has a strong and active supernatural component.
- This supernatural world exhibits traits you would expect from a Deuteronomy 32 supernatural worldview (as put forth by Michael Heiser), including
- Territorial spiritual beings,
- The existence of ancient giants produced by spiritual beings and humans,
- A hierarchical structure of spiritual beings, and
- A heavenly council that attends a single Creator God.
- We would expect global variations from this Deuteronomy 32 worldview because throughout history spiritual beings who are actively working against the Creator God are willing to perpetuate misunderstandings or lies regarding the true nature of reality in order to lead mankind away from their Creator.
- Supernatural influences have spread and grown within human communities globally throughout human history. This was due to
- Intervening supernatural beings and
- Exploration by humans via altered states of consciousness (ASCs) of the supernatural realm.
- Adam and Eve were real people in a real past; however, they were not the first chronological humans or imagers of God.
- Genesis 2 is a sequel to Genesis 1. There were men and women made in God’s image before Genesis 2 (i.e., Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden) occurred.
- In anticipation of the fall of humanity, due in part to the machinations of rogue supernatural entities, a plan was put in motion by God to resolve the situation.
- Adam and Eve were the first humans allowed into the presence of God Most High, Yahweh, the Creator, in the garden of Eden.
- Adam in particular was given the role of humanity’s High Priest-King, representing humanity corporately and able to intercede on their behalf for their sins in the presence of God due to the authority God had vested into the Office.
- Adam transgressed (Genesis 3), thereby forfeiting his Office of High Priest-King.
- The vacant Office doomed humanity because no human representative had the authority or ability to intercede for a sinful humanity on Judgement Day.
- Jesus Christ, by virtue of his humanity and by ability as Yahweh, was able to once-and-for-all fill the empty Office of High Priest-King.
- To participate in the salvation provided by Jesus Christ, one must simply believe in God and be loyal to Him.
- This believing loyalty to the Creator, who is Jesus Christ, is what one must have to become “saved.”
- God’s preference for the priest-king template as both the ideal form of government and family/tribe headship is evident both in the Biblical texts and is preserved in the most ancient of hunter-gatherer cultures.
I’ve always been interested in the question that Christians have wrestled with for two thousand years:
“What happens to those who’ve never heard of Jesus?”
There are many theories and approaches to answering this from the Christian perspective. However, to do this it is imperative to have a comprehensive understanding of how salvation works. One must at least attempt to incorporate individuals like babies and young children, the mentally handicapped, Old Testament saints, and individuals in theological isolation into a framework that satisfies the requirements of both a loving God and a God of justice. If the book of Romans is any indication, there are interesting and challenging depths to this discussion that cannot be avoided, and that is exciting!
Unfortunately, we cannot go through this entire subject in this post. However, it is worth doing and I honestly can’t wait. For now, let it suffice to say that the Biblical prerequisite for entering into God’s eternal presence is simply to believe that He, the Creator, is there and that you choose to follow Him and Him alone (i.e.,, “believing loyalty”).
With this in mind, and based on the above suppositions, we can ask the following question:
A Hypothetical Framework
The suppositions and the question presented above give rise to the following solution:
- Pre-Adamic human beings, just like all humans today, were full “imagers” of God and enjoyed the same protections from God’s judgment and wrath. This would be possible either by virtue of their
- a la babies or mentally incapacitated individuals
- Exemption, or
- e.g., it is possible that Homo heidelbergensis and Neandertals were capable of imaging God, but it is also possible that Genesis 1 describes bestowal of image-bearing status upon only anatomically modern humans. Non-imagers would not be culpable for their sins (in the same way that intelligent animals or strong Artificial Intelligence would not be culpable).
- Forgiveness through the atonement of Jesus Christ, humanity’s High Priest-King, who will intercede on their behalf at the Final Judgement if they so choose to accept His gift.
- Furthermore, if ancient hunter-gatherers did have any knowledge of these circumstances and God’s desire to relate with them, we would expect the oldest cultures or societies in the world to
- Exhibit monotheistic or monolatrous tendencies,
- Have certain characteristics attributed to their Creator God, including:
- Benevolence toward His creation (specifically toward mankind),
- Moral law-giving and accountability for law-breaking,
- Anthropomorphism (especially given the ancient Jewish Two Powers in Heaven doctrine as documented by Alan Segal which illustrates the Old Testament’s insistence on a Yahweh that was visible and intensely invested in human affairs),
- Aseity, and/or
- Use an ethical framework comparable to Biblical Judeo-Christian norms (with allowances for variations in value structures due to variables like environmental pressures),
- Acknowledge territorial, supernatural entities, whether “good” or “bad,”
- Acknowledge that things are not as they ought to be or that there has been a change in the order of things, or that there is a need for some kind of reconciliation or renewal, and
- Protect their beliefs, using strategies like isolationism or secrecy, from outside influences or internal apostasy.
Let the Testing Begin!
Now that I have laid out the basics of my hypothesis and the suppositions undergirding the main idea, I will move to begin testing the theory. I invite you to contribute as I go, challenging ideas and helping me refine what I publish. Email me directly or comment below this and future posts. I look forward to the challenge!
Excellent post! (This is Ron Gaudio socratesjourney.org) I find your line of reasoning very interesting. You and I, as untrained laypeople, have the advantage of not being constrained by what our peers expect academically and thus can bring a fresh perspective. Also, I find it interesting that Naaman, in his mode of salvation, prefigured Christian baptism. Your best point is the idea of “believing loyalty” which is a good contrast to what we hear today that amounts to easy believism. Out of all of the Ten Commandments, God was always calling Israel out on their disloyalty to Him by having other gods before Him. Keep up the good work.
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Ron, thank you so much for commenting! I look forward to checking out socratesjourney.org! Yes, Naaman is a very important case study that should not be overlooked in any conversation regarding Christian soteriology. I’m excited to explore this because if modern Western Christian missionaries discovered Naaman in the house of the god Rimmon, they’d certainly make assumptions about his salvation. I’m interested in what the possibilities are, you know? 🙂 Thanks again!