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The Naked Savages Next Door

09 March 2012 by Tom Chantry

Q. 60. Can they who have never heard the gospel, and so know not Jesus Christ, nor believe in him, be saved by their living according to the light of nature?
They who, having never heard the gospel, know not Jesus Christ, and believe not in him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, or the laws of that religion which they profess; neither is there salvation in any other, but in Christ alone, who is the Savior only of his body the church.

“It’s just so unfair! All those poor, good, primitive peoples - living close to nature and never polluting anything, loving everyone freely and fully! And you say they’ll go to hell because of some message they never even heard! What monstrous sort of God do you believe in, anyway?”

Needless to say this is an entirely contemporary notion of anthropology. We could spend some time deconstructing it. Or we could dig into how scientists of earlier ages viewed cultural differences. Or, best of all, we could ask what God Himself has to say about the peoples of the world:
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. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. -Romans 1:19-23
If God is to be taken at His word, then all the “diligence” of men and all the “laws of that religion which they profess” are not moving them toward God, but always further away. And to put a fine point on it: this is true not only of the naked savages who live in remote places; it is true also of Westerners of every age, race, gender, and socio-economic status. Our neighbors profess a religion which they follow diligently, and through it their foolish hearts are darkened.

It is no wonder that there is no “salvation in any other, but in Christ alone.” Who else could lead us to the Father?