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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Anthony,

You know I have to address you on the "written upon each of our hearts" statement. Did you know that when HaShem spoke that, He was referring to His teaching(Torah)? Do you really have the teaching of HaShem as to living it out in your life? Not just 9 or 10 commands, but ALL of the Torah? Are you studying the Torah to see what you are to follow?
Anthony,

I am not Trevor. My name is James. Yes, the Torah IS in there. HaShem said to do all that He has commanded us. That is Torah. His teachings are commanded of us. Want me to prove it?
LOL!!!!!!! He's used to debating me!! LOL

You callin me out Bro Watson?!?!
Trevor,

LOL
Brother Anthony could you please tell me what you think happens to those in the world, such as Africa who never heard the Gospel of Christ before explained to them. Those who never heard the name Jesus in their lives and are heavy ladened. What happens to them when they die? Do they perish? I will respect your reply to this manner. Please speak freely.
yes, I know its a very difficult question on all levels, in particularly with our African American history and all that it entails. Its a question that I just emailed the president of Wycliffe who also is looking as to how to effectively deal with that question when posed to the African American community of believers. I have already alerted him to the basic responses that I have been receiving from many in the black church from pews to pulpits. Its a hard pill to swallow in saying anything that would suggest that our forebearers and those who are suffering en masse would die and perish simply for not hearing the Gospel in time. It is this very question that brought me from NJ to venture and get involved in going global myself to bring the good news to a lost and dying world with the free gift of salvation. I look forward to hearing what you have come up with. If you would like I would love to send you another dispensation in your email that may shed some light on the matter.
From Scott R. Newman to Anthony R. Watson
Sent 20 hours ago

Thanks brother Anthony for responding. Psalm 19 is a great book that deals with this subject, and is the reference I use in particular in starting my teachings at different churches that deals with this specific question as to what happens and why to the unevangelized when they die. However I see that you stopped right at verse 6. But it is when verse 7 that really tells the rest of the story.

Psa 19:7 "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple."

The works of God which are spelled out from Verses 1-6 reveals to man that through the works of God, He does exist and because of it we are also condemned by what we see and experience on this earth.

The testimony of the universe comes forth consistently and clearly, but sinful mankind persistently resists it. For this reason general revelation cannot convert sinnres. General revelation does not bring people to repentance. General revelation does not create one to be renewed nor transformed, neither does general relation bring about a change of heart, nor a compulsion to hunger and thirst for righteousness. What general revelation really does is make them highly accountable. It is only by His Word in which we are cleansed by knowing His spirit and coming to know Him through His Word, not by His works.

It is only when general revelation and God's revealed Will through His Word comes in when the character of God is known and sheds light upon our sins that seeks to know the judgements of a just and righteous God to know that His statutes, commands and precepts are right and we are now confronted with the eternal truth's of what God loves and what God abhors. (Psalms 19:7-14)

Scott

Okay, but what does that have to do with those millions of people who have died and will die, not hearing a word about the Jesus that we serve? Where do they end up after death, that is the ultimate question before us today.

Anthony

From Scott R. Newman to Anthony R. Watson
Sent 19 hours ago

...they perish!

Scott


Alright, but is this fair? Why would a Holy, loving, and omniscient God allow eternal damnation to His most precious creation, just because they have not heard about Him? That's like me punishing my children for running in the house, when they weren't told beforehand that it was wrong to do so. This doesn't make much sense does it?

Anthony

Psa 19:7 "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple."

I think you missed the essence of Verse 7. It says it converts the soul. The soul is dead because of the sin of Adam that has infested the entire human race (Romans 5:12 - Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.) So, the soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4).

The problem is man is dead in sin. And how can one who is dead become alive? The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul (Psalm 19:7). And how does the Law bring life? It shows man his sin and shows his hopelessness with a way of redemption. The Bible is a book about God. God in the book He wrote (God wrote the Bible through men who He inspired) describes who man is in the Law He gave to Moses (for who has loved God with all of his heart, soul mind and strength - we are simply sinners). Man does not know his present state of sin without the Law exposing his shortcomings and sin. God's creation does not who this. Only God's Word reveals this.

The Bible also describes God for who he is, Holy, Holy, Holy and because he is Holy He demands that we be holy. Since we are full of sin we stand condemned. (Romans 6:23 -"For the wages of sin is death").

A condemned man has only one hope and that is plead to God for mercy. However, as Romans 10:14 says "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?". While they know the works of God they do not know God is all his fullness and it is the Word of God that gives the special revelation of Himself that is necessary to be saved. The Bible reveals Jesus to sinners and explains what Jesus has done for people living in sin and how they must come to Him (in true repentance and in faith).

Ephesians 2:8 states, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God". That gift of God (Jesus) is revealed in the pages of the Bible and is hidden until they come to the knowledge of Him (Jesus). Acts 4:12 states it clearly that it is through Jesus we are saved, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" and as Romans 6:23 says, "but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Can man be saved without a knowledge of Jesus? Never, because Acts 17:28 says that "In Him (Jesus) we live and move and have our being" and as stated before there is no other name by which we are saved.

The Bible is the only place we are introduced to our sin and our Savior and then shown how we are to live. Without that we are lost in sin and without hope. Yes, creation shows us the majesty of God (He reveals to us only His General revelation), but only the Bible does He give us His specific or special revelation which describes who we are (sinners by nature of our birth - born in sin - who stand condemned because of our sin), who God fully is (Holy and Just) and what he demands (a 3x holy God who demands this holiness in people), what the wages of this sin is for all men (eternal death), how we must be saved (by Grace, through faith and not by works) and then how we are to live (for His glory).

If we only have His general revelation we are lost because we have no knowledge of Jesus who is the Savior of the sinner and it is ONLY though Him that we are saved.


If you are wanting God to be fair, the fair thing for people who have been told to be faultless with no sin and the Bible describes us as "full of sin") is to do what he should do by His justice (that is send us all to hell). The fact that he saves anyone is a profound mystery and He saves only those who come to Him in true faith and in the name of Jesus.

However, if God is Holy and demands that we be holy in order to live with him and the only way to be holy as God Himself states in the Bible (which He wrote) is that we be washed in the blood of Christ He would be betraying His own character if He left unholy people into His Kingdom.

People are not saved because they die and they are not saved because they have never heard, they are only saved in Jesus name. And it is precisely due to the fact that millions are dying every day and going to hell because they do know have this knowledge of Jesus that makes the delivery of the Scriptures so urgent and important. Why God chose to work in this way I do not know and it is not for us to understand why. What I do know about how God works in through His Word and His Word is very clear about how people are save (Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved - John 3:16). Without His Word we wouldn't even have a right understanding of who made the world (Psalm 19: 1-6). Brother Watson you only know the Lord God made the heavens is because you read the Word!

You will find no Scripture that support your view. You are resting on your "own understanding", but we are to "acknowledge Him" as He reveals Himself in His Word He will make our paths straight. In closing, creation does not supply to man what is sufficient for salvation. That's why Jesus said we are to GO into all the world and preach the Gospel.

For this reply I will just respond on the basis of reason. If it be true that God will save the people who have never heard on that basis, then the best Christian response for us if to never tell them or anyone the Law or the Gospel, for if we do we shall surely send some to hell. What do you propose in telling the thousands of missionaries - Don't tell anyone anything about God and they all will be saved.

However, because people are perishing God did do something to warn them of the impending doom that awaits them. He gave us His Word. Now, Jesus said 'Go and make disciples of all nations (people groups), teaching them everything I have commanded you.'

Now if God told that to us His children, what kind of child of His would not then deliver the Gospel to the nations? God didn't have to use His children to deliver His Word to perishing people, he could of used angels. However, He chose to use His Church (that's us!) to do so. We need to be about the Master's business or we will not hear "Well done, good and faithful servant".

In His Grip

Scott
Transdispensationalism seems to be scriptural unsound, and although Evans emphasised that he doesn't support universalism, the view it certainly based in inclusivism.

Having read a critique on this abovementioned appendix, it seems that Evans also raised and tries to answer the question 'what happens to those who cannot believe?'

The below is a just a portion of the response to this by J.B. Hixson, Assistant Academic Dean, College of Biblical Studies, Houston.

At the conclusion of his appendix, Evans cites several passages as proof-texts that children go to heaven when they die (2 Sam. 12:1-23; Matt. 18:1-3; 19:14; Mk. 9:36; Heb. 1:14).

While this discussion is helpful in that it demonstrates that some children do go to heaven when they die, Evans fails to acknowledge that it does not necessarily prove that all children go to heaven when they die. In this analysis, Evans makes descriptive passages of Scripture theologically prescriptive.

It should be noted that one can hold the view that all infants and young children go to heaven when they die without espousing Evans’ view that the guilt of sin is removed until such time as children are old enough to reject the gospel. Evans’ argument for the salvation of those who are incapable of believing is unconvincing; worse yet, it is theologically tenuous.

Evans’ answer to the parallel question, “What about those who have never heard the gospel?” represents a further departure from the traditional viewpoint. He cites Hebrews 11:6 and Jeremiah 29:13 as proof-texts for his view that those who respond to God’s general revelation can receive eternal salvation even if they do not know Who Jesus Christ is. “So a person can be saved without knowing Jesus’ name, but not without Jesus’ provision for sin (p. 360).” This is an astounding statement and one with which extreme inclusivists would surely agree.

Evans goes on, “if the person trusts in what God has revealed [i.e. in general revelation], God deals with that person based on the knowledge he has, not the information he never received (p. 360).” In an obvious example of improper hermeneutics, Evans points out that Old Testament believers were saved apart from a knowledge of Jesus Christ and thus people today can likewise be saved apart from the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

He calls this principle “transdispensationalism (p.360).” By this he means that if a person is “sincerely seeking God and desiring to know Him (p.361)” God will judge that person “based on his faith in the light he has received (p. 361).” “As in the case of Abraham, God will retroactively count this person righteous by applying the death of Christ… (p. 361).”

Such a conclusion is at worst a wholesale abandonment of the literalgrammatical- historical hermeneutic that usually characterizes his exegesis and at best an improper implementation of it.

The implications of this view are far reaching. Rather than belief in an objective gospel and a real Savior named Jesus, the effectual component of salvation becomes one’s subjective sincerity and desire.

It begs the question, how sincere must one be?

How much must he desire saving grace from the Creator?

Evans believes that for those who have never heard the gospel, it is enough to believe that God is the Creator and that He has provided some means of redemptionfor lost man. Evans is not suggesting that salvation can be accomplished apart from the atoning work of Christ at Calvary. But in suggesting that today one need not know the details of the gospel nor the name of the Redeemer, he has ventured into troubling waters that threaten to shipwreck evangelicalism by removing—if only for a select group of people—one of evangelicalism’s defining standards: salvation by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

In summary, Evans attempts to solve two problems with the same solution. That is, those who cannot believe (infants, children, and mentally handicapped) are covered by the atoning work of Christ until such time as they explicitly reject the gospel. And those who have never heard the gospel are likewise covered by the atoning work of Christ, provided they “sincerely seek God and desire to know Him (p. 361).” His solution is based on improper theological linking and a
transparent, though presumably unintentional, disregard for the literal-grammatical-historical hermeneutic.
Aaaaah Ditto...:) Caral did you write that or found it somewhere...Please let me know, cause it was..BRILLIANT!
Hi Scott
As I am not J.B. Hixson, Assistant Academic Dean, College of Biblical Studies, Houston, no it wasn't written by me...lol

It is an excellent critique below is the link to the full article
A Response to Dr. Tony Evans’ Teaching
Since I was called out by Bro Watson (LOL!!!!!), I too will give my info on this matter.

I am inclined to agree with Tony Evans & Bro Watson on this matter. You that say that you will go to Hell for rejecting JESUS even if you never heard of JESUS are sadly mistaken. I can go deep into scripture, but I will place the burden of proof on you first: How can a righteous Judge charge a person of a crime they DID NOT COMMIT?

You are doing to people exactly what they did to JESUS on the cross, and that was find Him guilty of crimes that He never committed.
We are all guilty, since we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. So what to do with all the missionaries who are serving on the front and dangerous lines to bring the Gospel to those outside the knowledge of Christ if there is another way in which God in HIs mercy will bring all 1.8 billion in the world who never heard the Good News and had the oppurtunity to accept or to reject Christ? So in your own understanding, the missionaries are creating many billions to go to hell by preaching Him crucified, death and burial and ascention, when those who finally are able to hear the Gospel and reject Christ will now perish. Wouldn't it be better in your thesis that God wouldn't allow an "innocent" person to perish since its not their fault no one came to tell the about the goodness of Christ?

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