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Answering The Atheist
August 7, 2005 / Volume 5, Issue 32

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Will those who call on the Lord be delivered? Some texts say yes (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13), but other texts say no (Jeremiah 14:12; Ezekiel 8:18; Micah 3:4; Matthew 7:21). Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
The supposed contradiction proposed is much akin to asking, "Is it lawful to carry nail clippers on a flight", and then reading one response from an airline guideline booklet written pre-9/11, and another written post-9/11. One will say permitted, the other will say prohibited. Are they contradictory? Surely not. They were written at different times, under different circumstances.

The texts from Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Micah indicate that the Lord will not hear the cry of the people. Had the questioner bothered to look in the contexts, it would have been noted that the Lord would not hear their cries because they were listening to the false prophets and committing abominations in the land. Isaiah wrote, "Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." (59:1-2). That is why the Lord would not hear in these instances, the people continued in their sin.

In Matthew 7:21, the implication is that the Lord will hear all those who do His will. He does not hear those who will simply call out to Him, but reject His commandments. This agrees entirely with the OT texts above.

What then of Joel 2:32? The prophet Joel also acknowledged the wickedness which God's people had fallen into, but in chapter 2, he speaks of a time when Judah would be called back. He writes, "'Now, therefore,' says the LORD, 'Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.' So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm." (2:12-13). When God's people would willingly turn back to the Lord, then "...it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved..." (v 32).

In both Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13, New Testament writers draw on the words of Joel to speak of the hope which is available to all who will call upon the name of the Lord. In the first instance, Peter, speaking at the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ, in the second, Paul, writing to the brethren at Rome. In both cases, the inference (as given contextually) is that if we will hear the word of the Lord and be obedient, then the Lord hears our call, and we are assured of salvation.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible