Those who insist on the need for conscious faith will sometimes use, as their evidence, these verses;
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10: 14-15a)Frankly, I believe, taken in context, these are rhetorical questions on Paul's part. As a flippant (and hopefully not an irreverent) example, someone might ask, "How, then, can I get from Toronto to Ottawa if I don't take the 401? And how can I take the 401 if I don't drive a car? And how can I drive a car if I don't have a licence?..." and so on.
Well, the answer is, there are other ways to get from Toronto to Ottawa. One could take alternate highways. One could take the bus. Or one could fly.
Because Paul himself gives the alternative answer to his own questions three verses later, quoting Psalm 19;
But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:
“Their voice has gone out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.” (v 18)
He first asks, "How can they hear?" and then gives the answer, "They have heard, because God has told them in creation." Elsewhere he writes,
This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.. (Colossians 1:23b)God has given all the world enough evidence, so that anyone who rejects Him is without excuse (Romans 1:20) No one will be able to stand, on the day of judgement, and say, "Nobody ever told me."
Now, a couple of clarifications:
First, there is no other way to God but through Jesus. Jesus said so himself. The question is not whether the only way a relationship with God is Christ's sacrifice on the cross. That is beyond question. But just how much does a person who turns to God, the God who has made Himself so evident to all, have to know or understand of it. Can God draw someone to Himself without their full knowledge or understanding of the details? (I suppose, in a sense, this applies to all of us. None of us had that full knowledge or understanding. or could even truly believe, until we were given the Holy Spirit, and when that happened, we were already, "in the Kingdom," so to speak.)
Second, this lets no one off the hook. Anyone who rejects God in spite of all the evidence He has given would reject Christ if he was told of him. Anyone who does not believe, in the face of all creation, that God exists, would not believe even if he saw someone rise from the dead.
Third, it does not eliminate the need for evangelism, any more than hyper-Calvinism does. In fact less. Calvinists never seem to realize that the logical extension of their position on election is that, in spite of all they say, evangelism is unnecessary, because the elect will be saved no matter what. Nor am I promoting universalism, or Rob Bellism, which says that all will be saved in the end, which also would eliminate the need for evangelism.
I stated in my opening paragraph that I just don't know for sure. Nor does anyone. So we must carry the gospel of Christ to the whole world, for two reasons.
One, just in case. This whole argument might be wrong.
And two, Jesus told us to.