Tony Evans on “Transdispensationalism”

In his book, Totally Saved, Tony Evans attempts to answer the question, “What about those who have never heard?” in the appendix section. Evans argues for an explanation which he calls “transdispensationalism” (rivaled only by transubstantianism in a contest for most theological syllables). What I did not know was that the appendix in which this material is found was NOT printed in the future paperback edition. Jim Sutherland, who recognized this problem, wrote the following:

"Not knowing if this appendix omission was due to criticism of Moody Press for printing the appendix, or due to a change in Dr. Evans’ position, I tried for over 4 months to determine from Dr. Evans if he still would continue to teach and promulgate this particular doctrine. I could get no reply, so must assume that he may continue to teach and promote “transdispensationalism.” What was said of learned Greek father Origin could be said of Dr. Evans, that in his pastoral concern he has turned a hope into a doctrine."

So what exactly is transdispensationalism? It is a whacky word for a whacky idea. But instead of attempting to sum up what Evans argues, I am reproducing the section of the appendix where Evans himself explains the idea (bold faced mine):

Now there’s a third way God can deal in grace with those who can’t believe because they have never heard the gospel. He can apply another dispensation and its criteria to them. A dispensation is simply an economy or an administration of God, a way in which He deals with people based on the information he has given them.

For instance, people in the Old Testament were saved without hearing the name of Jesus, because Jesus hadn’t come to earth yet. But they were saved because they believed in the revelation of God.

The Bible says Abraham believed God and was accounted as righteous, or saved, for believing in God’s promise of a son and a seed (Genesis 15:6). This was long before the Mosaic sacrificial system was ever begun.

Abraham believed without hearing about Jesus, but I am not saying that people can be saved apart from Jesus. Never. Nobody can get saved without Jesus, because He is the Savior of all men, as we read in 1 Timothy 4:10. Everybody is saved through Christ, even those who lived before Jesus came, because in the mind and heart of God, Jesus was already sacrificed to pay for sin before the world was ever created (see Revelation 13:8). So a person can be saved without knowing Jesus’ name, but not without Jesus’ provision for sin.

In the case of a person who never hears the gospel and never knows the name of Jesus, but who responds to the light he has, God treats that person like an Old Testament saint, if you will. That is, if the person trusts in what God has revealed, God deals with that person based on the knowledge he has, not the information he never received. I call this transdispensationalism.

By this I mean if a person is sincerely seeking God and desiring to know Him, and is responding to the truth he knows, if there is no missionary or direct manifestation of God, then God judges that person based on his faith in the light he has received. And as in the case of Abraham, God will retroactively count this person as righteous by applying the death of Christ from the dispensation of grace.

John MacArthur, in a question and answer session was asked about his reference to the idea of transdispensationalism in a message to which he replied:

“Obviously, there is no biblical defense for that, and none is attempted in the book—none. There isn’t even a verse to defend that. Furthermore, living up to natural human light, apart from the revelation of the true and living God, wouldn’t save anybody in any dispensation. But, it is a very—it is a very strange thing and, to this degree, to the degree that He gives salvation to those who have never heard the gospel, it’s a departure from what we believe the scripture teaches. . . .

There was a radio interview that followed that book that’s available. You can get the transcript of that radio interview, in which the host was interviewing Tony Evans and said to him, “You’re saying, if a Hindu looks up and says, ‘I know you’re up there somewhere. I don’t know who you are, but I’d really like to know you,’ God will count that as sufficient as salvation?” And the answer to that was “Yes.”

Evans recognized a future objection: “Tony, if you say people can be saved by general revelation, why preach the gospel? Why bother sending missionaries around the world and translating the Bible?” Evans gives two (really bad) answers to this objection:

1. Because Christ has commanded us to go and tell the whole world the good news of His salvation.

2. Because the process I just described for those who haven’t heard of Christ is far from automatic. Whatever we may try to deduce from Scripture about those who have never heard about Christ, we know without a doubt that those who hear and believe the gospel will be saved. (emphasis mine)

One answer to this question is “because I said so,” and the other is “well, it might not actually work.” After having read this piece one will easily see that there is no substantive biblical warrant for such a position. However, as I have come to find out, this is an argument being many by several inclusivists. In a follow-up post, I will provide quotes as well as the line of argument for what Millard Erickson called “chronologically displaced persons” (which is the same thing as Evans’ transdispensationalism).

What say you, so what happens to those who never heard of Christ and dies?

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Hi Trevor

Jus to clarify point, you are saying that rejection of Jesus is the crime?.

I believe that t is nothing to do with what crime you have committed but the fact that you have sinned. In the justice system it you break just one point of law, then you have broken the whole 'law'.

If you drive over the speed limit, you are breaking the Law.

Ignorance is not a defence, it doesn't stand within any earthly court of law.

As all have sinned, all have been justly charged with breaking the 'law' regardless of whether it is for rape murder, or a stolen pen from the office. The law has been broken.

All deserve the punishment of death as the wages of sin is death. However, God is his infinite mercy and compassion has chosen to show unmerited mercy, and has chosen to bestow grace and to redeem some.

I personally do not necessarily believe in a universal atonement, because IF Christ died for the whole world's sin and ALL sin of mankind, and not all of mankind is saved that there is a failing somewhere. I believe that the atonement may have been sufficient for all, but only efficient for some.

I also do not whole to the fact of 'free will' or choice to judge God, and deem where or not you chose Him, because logically the risk is run that no one will in fact have chosen Christ.
2 Peter 2:21 "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them."

Luke 12:42-48 "And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."

These statements from our very own LORD and Savior and Apostle Peter should have some consideration. Can anyone give light to this?
I see no one has taken the opportunity to check these scriptures..........
Men of God, can we all agree on this truth, Jesus died for our sins, not for crimes committed. Sin begins with a thought; Jesus addressed this in Matthew 5:28 on his teachings of adultery. So, as the bible says in Romans 3:23, all have sinned.

As for the OT saints who died before Jesus earthly ministry:
Matthew 27:51-52, And behold the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom: and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose.

This tells me that God did not forget the OT saints.

1 Peter 3:19-20; For which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few that is, eight souls were saved by water.

This seems to tell me that all at the age of accountability and of sound mind will hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So those 1.8 billion people in the world who never heard the name Jesus will as you stated will somehow hear the Gospel?? How so.....How did you hear the Gospel?
Thats good and true concerning OT people, but that says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about people in between the time of Pentecost to today. MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS did nt hear the Gospel at that time. What happens to them is the question..........
How do we know for sure that those between the time of Pentecost to today did not hear the Gospel? We must also consider the probability that there were many as there are today, who refused to hear the Gospel because of their own beliefs.
Lets be real and ask this question: Who preached it to them?!?! Until Apostle Thomas reached the regions that he reached, who preached the Gospel to them? Until the Gospel was FIRST presented to Japan, who preached it to them? What happened to those that didn't hear it before the first preachers of their region came? You HAVE to be real and face the fact that MANY never heard the Gospel before. JESUS said that the Gospel must be preached to every region in the Earth, then the end will come. The end HASN'T come yet, so that clearly means that the Gospel HASN'T been preached in every region, and that means that in those regions many NEVER HEARD OF JESUS! They heard of GOD, but they NEVER HEARD OF JESUS!
Amen Trevor, which means the work of Christ continues and the call and the real ministry of Christ is to reach the unreached with the Gospel of Christ..
Your strong emphasis (captialization) indicates to me you are frustrated with my commentary because I am not seeing things your way. I have much respect for those persons, such as yourself, who diligently study the Word and are always willing to share what "thus saith the Lord." I may not be at the same or close to the level of spiritual growth where you are, but I can assure you that I am being real and I do study the Word and I am not afraid or ashame to ask questions where I lack understanding.

So, with that said, I can agree that many in the far regions have probably heard of God and not the name of Jesus. But like the OT saints, do you suppose they were still waiting on the Savior as God promised during the OT days? And like the OT saints, this would mean that although they did not hear the Gospel, they believed in His coming and thereby died by the same or like standards as the OT saints, meaning they died believing in the coming of the Savior.

Now, as I read the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20) that was given to the Church (body of Christ), Jesus is requiring us to spread the Gospel through teaching, not just preaching. Because if Jesus wanted the Gospel to be strictly preached, then why send lay persons abroad as missionaries to spread the Word while doing their humanitarian work? And, I agree that Jesus will not return until the Gospel reaches every region in the Earth because that's scriptural.

Nevertheless, Brother Greene, I guess for now we'll just have to agree to disagree, and I shall continue seeking the Lord for clarity and confirmation.
Chaplain did you read my post on page 2, I think it spells out the real reason why the Great Commission is still needed today.
Thank you Scott for the reference; I will read it.


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