What Lies Beneath (Question 1-2)
For those not so familiar with inclusivism, my questions for Billy Graham might appear random and arbitrary. I felt it might be worthwhile to briefly explain the rationale behind my questions in hopes that they might help some unfamiliar understand the nature and purpose of such questioning.
Below are the questions. The commentary explains my rationale and purpose. Because I don't want to make this excessively long, I will address a couple of questions at a time.
- Do you believe that a sinner must have knowledge about Jesus Christ in order to be saved?
This is a crucial question regarding explicit faith versus implicit faith. Must you believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ? And must that belief be predicated by some knowledge (propositional truths) about Him? Consider this quote from A.H. Strong which is often used by inclusivists:
“The patriarchs, though they had no knowledge of a personal Christ, were saved by believing in God so far as God had revealed himself to them; and whoever among the heathen are saved, must in like manner be saved by casting themselves as helpless sinners upon God’s plan of mercy, dimly shadowed forth in nature and providence. But such faith, even among the patriarchs and heathen, is implicitly a faith in Christ, and would become explicit and conscious trust and submission, whenever Christ were made known to them” (A.H. Strong, Systematic Theology, 842). Emphasis mine.
As you can see, Strong argues that a person can implicitly trust in God through the light of general revelation (“nature and providence”). This knowledge is information about God made to all people in all places in an ongoing manner, so special knowledge about Jesus Christ through special revelation is not necessary.
Secondly, there is a key argument of progressive revelation between the relationship of the OT patriarchs and contemporary heathen. They are not in the same dispensation in the sense that God’s redemptive plot-line culminated in the person and work of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago and 2000 after the patriarchs. John Piper handles this question well in chapter 4 of Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 111-54. The “times of ignorance” (Acts ) where the “mystery of Christ” was kept secret (Rom ; Eph. 3:4-5; Col. 1L26) ended in the Incarnation of Christ.
- Do you believe that a sinner can be saved and not know it?
This question corresponds to question #1 but goes even further to Karl Rahner’s belief in “anonymous Christianity” where someone can ultimately be saved but never know of it here on earth. For a brief discussion of Rahner’s “anonymous Christianity, see Millard J. Erickson’s How Shall They Be Saved?, 110-13. Joseph Wong summarizes Rahner’s theology thus:
“Whenever persons surrender themselves to God or the ultimate reality, under whatever name, and dedicate themselves to the cause of justice, peace, fraternity, and solidarity with other people, they have implicitly accepted Christ and, to some degree, entered into this Christic existence. Just as it was through the Spirit that Christ established this new sphere of existence, in the same way, anyone who enters into this Christic existence of love and freedom is acting under the guidance of the Spirit of Christ” (Joseph H. Wong, “Anonymous Christians: Karl Rahner’s Pneuma-Christocentrism and an East-West Dialogue,” in Theological Studies 55 (1994): 630).
Rahner argues that the gospel turns such an anonymous Christian into “someone who also knows about his Christian belief in the depths of his grace-endowed being by objective reflection and in the profession of faith which is given social form in the Church” (Karl Rahner, “Anonymous Christianity and the Missionary Task of the Church,” in vol. 12 of Theological Investigations, 161-80).
So in other words, the gospel is not intended to save but to instruct those who are implicitly saved already as anonymous Christians. But is this how the Scripture speaks of the gospel? Is there a “pre-gospel” that saves before someone ever hears the gospel?More reasoning behind my questions to come . . .