(if my credentials as a geek weren’t already firmly established, I had to install an extension in the forum software to allow for footnotes, in order to make this post)
The subject of Emeth has generated quite a bit of discussion here in the past, and I’ve struggled with it quite a bit myself. It really is, more broadly, the question of “what becomes of those who haven’t heard the gospel before they die?” I recall a conversation I had about 25 years ago with a pastor friend of mine, in which I expressed concern that Lewis stood condemned based on Gal. 1:8, which certainly wasn’t an outcome I wanted. After more thought, reading, and discussion (some here), I reached the belief that the Bible didn’t preclude (though it also most certainly doesn’t teach) salvation for a person who dies without knowing the name of Jesus. Doug Gresham has described this, IIRC, as a reverse inference of Romans 1. But then…
A few years ago, somewhat to my surprise, I found myself a member of a Presbyterian (PCA) church and a Calvinist. We use as our creed (sorry, Mike) the Westminster Confession of Faith, (cited here as WCF) frequently considered one of the clearest and most direct statements of orthodox Calvinist theology. And while I’m not (yet) completely in agreement with the WCF (I’m not yet convinced that it deals correctly with baptism, for example), I’m convinced that it’s a generally-accurate statement of Biblical theology set into a systematic framework. I’m not particularly interested here in arguing the truth or falsehood of Calvinism–though I’m certainly willing to discuss it, that really isn’t subject I’m getting at in this post.
So what does that do to Emeth? Rather a lot, actually. To begin, I should review a few Calvinist beliefs that are relevant:
- God, before the foundation of the world, sovereignly chose, specifically (i.e., by name, not by group or category) who would be saved. This is not a matter of simple foreknowledge, but a specific choosing of people, solely for His own glory, and not on the basis of anything he foresaw in them. These people are known collectively as “the elect.” This is probably the best-known (albeit often misrepresented) tenet of Calvinism.
- Adam served as our representative in the garden, such that when he failed, we all failed and therefore all inherit original sin. That original sin, by itself ( i.e., even without any specific sins on our part) is enough to condemn us. The concept of an age of accountability is alien to the Calvinist; the zygote conceived today stands condemned without God’s saving grace, as a result of original sin.
- God is under no obligation to save anyone (or offer salvation to anyone); he would be perfectly just to condemn all men to hell (any contrary position would turn salvation into something that could be demanded, which is antithetical to grace). If he saves some, he likewise isn’t obligated to save others; he is free to save whomever he chooses, and only those. God thus isn’t obliged to make the gospel available to everyone, or to make other saving provision for those who haven’t heard it.
- As God has chosen specific people for salvation, he has also chosen specific peoples as a focus of his work–not that all people in that group will be saved, or that nobody outside it will, but that’s a group that’s his people in a special sense. This is evident in the OT with Israel. More recently, Christianity has been much more active in, say, America and Europe than in Asia. In the Chronicles, Narnia (and Archenland, to the extent it’s thought of at all) would be a clear example of Aslan’s people.
- And, along with (at least) most other Protestant Christians, we believe that faith is the instrument of salvation.
So where does that leave Emeth? The easy answer would be that as he doesn’t (accurately) know Aslan, he cannot have faith in him, and is therefore properly condemned. The fact that, growing up in Tashbaan, he would be unlikely to have heard the truth about Aslan, doesn’t really matter–he’s condemned for his original sin, as well as for his own individual sins. Thus Lewis would be wrong. But I don’t think it’s quite that simple.
The same logic I just applied to Emeth equally applies to babies and young children, as well as to what would have been called at the time of the WCF “idiots and lunaticks” (i.e., those with severe mental disabilities)–they don’t have the capacity to know of, and thus believe in, the gospel. The Confession deals with this situation in Chapter 10, paragraph 3:
Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth: so also are all other elect persons who are uncapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.
Some Calvinists (e.g., Lorraine Boettner) will read this to say that all infants who die as infants will be saved, but this is a minority view among Presbyterians. But all believe that at least some will be saved, as well as the elect “who are uncapable of being called by the ministry of the Word.” I believe the thought on the part of the Westminster Divines was what I mentioned above–those whose mental disabilities make understanding and belief impossible, or perhaps were physically disabled to such an extent that they couldn’t do anything to manifest belief. But I’d argue that this would apply to Emeth (and all others who haven’t heard) as well, on the basis of Romans 10:14.
So even as a Calvinist, I believe there’s room to allow for the possibility that one who hasn’t heard the gospel can be saved. It isn’t a certainty–just as previous discussion reaches it based on inference from the Bible, this is based on inference from our statement of faith. A different Reformed take on the Emeth question (which comes to the same conclusion) is here:
Emeth, you’ll recall, is the young Calormene soldier who appears at the end of The Last Battle . The Calormenes are the bad guys, and worship a false god (a demon, really) named Tash. Emeth has grown up in the service of Tash, and sincerely desires to serve him and know him as a good god. Jewel the unicorn observes of him, “he is worthy of a better god than Tash.” And Aslan accepts him, saying, “Not because he [Tash] and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.” ↩︎
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (ESV) ↩︎
The following paragraphs from Chapter 3 of the WCF explain this in part:
p2. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.
p3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.
p5. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace. ↩︎
WCF, Ch. 6, para. 6:
Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal. ↩︎
WCF, Ch. 11, para. 2:
Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.
See also WCF, Ch. 14, para. 1 (emphasis added):
The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened. ↩︎
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? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (ESV, emphasis added) ↩︎