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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Monday, September 04, 2006

What Lies Beneath (Question 3-4)

For previous posts, see "15 Questions I Would Ask Billy Graham" and "Question 1-2". In this post, I will address question three and four. At this pace, the series would be long and drawn out, so I hope to provide shorter commentary on the rest of the questions. Here's my commentary on the following quesitons: 3. Do you believe that other religions are included in God’s redemptive purposes, either as viable “vehicles” of salvation or find their fulfillment in Christ(ianity)? This can be a lengthy commentary, but I am going to try to keep it short. The question can also be asked, “Can God reveal Himself through the structures of religion to reach the unevangelized?” Sir Norman Anderson, in his book Christianity and World Religions, argued that people could be saved while being members of other faiths. C.S. Lewis also, in his book The Last Battle, alluded this when he said that the worship of the pagan solider Emeth to Tash was directed to Aslan (an inference that Tash and Aslan held continuity). The Roman Catholic Church spoke of the “hidden presence of God” among other religions and added, “The Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions. She looks with sincere respect upon those ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings which, though differing in many particulars from what she holds and sets forth, nevertheless reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men” (“Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions,” paragraph 2). Clark Pinnock argues that the “Scripture enourages us to see the church not so much as the ark, outside which there is no hope of salvation, but as the vanguard of those which have experienced the fullness of God’s grace made available to all people in Christ Jesus” (Clark H. Pinnock, “An Inclusivist View” in Four Views of Salvation in a Pluralistic World, 110). He later adds that inclusivism “calls for a generous openness to the possibility of God’s gracious presence” among other religions of the world (ibid., 112). It is Pinnock’s conviction that we should “expect to find evidence of God’s grace at work in the lives of those who do not know Jesus” because truth is agonistic; therefore, we should learn from other religions doctrinal beliefs and seek to incorporate them where there are bridges and points of contact. Finally he asserts, “Certainly God is present outside the symbolic world of Christianity, and his life-giving activity is not restricted to one segment of history” (ibid., 114). Pinnock’s belief is predicated on his understanding of the Spirit’s procession from the Father and not from the Son (which I will get to in a later question). His “modal inclusivism” holds that “grace operates outside the church and may be encountered in the context of other religions” because his position holds that “the Spirit is present in advance of missions, preparing the way of the Lord” (ibid., 100). Key elements which factor in to the inclusivist conviction that salvation is possible in other religions is God’s universal love, prevenient grace, moral dimension of imago dei, the witness of God in general revelation (which is considered salvific in their eyes because “all revelation is salvific”), the idea of a cosmic Christ, and the doctrine of Logos spermatikos developed by Justin Martyr. Oddly enough, for someone who has addressed so much theological input into the doctrine of salvation to include the unevangelized, Pinnock declares, “What God really cares about is faith and not theology, trust and not orthodoxy” (Clark H. Pinnock, A Wideness in God’s Mercy, 112).

For the sake of space, three other places I would like to mention is chapter 16 (“Is There Salvation in Other Religions?”) in Terrance Tiessen’s Who Can Be Saved?, John Sanders’ No Other Name (241-49), and chapter 3 (“Religions Now”) in Clark H. Pinnock’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy. For a brief history of the fulfillment theory, see Howard Netland’s Encountering Religious Pluralism (32-38).

4. Do you believe that a sinner who has never heard the gospel will go to hell?

This question has in mind the doctrine of “inculpable belief” which entails that only those who have rejected the gospel go to hell, and since they have never heard and had the opportunity to choose, then why should they go to hell?

Notice how I phrased the question. “Do you believe that a sinner . . .”. Inclusivists will assume the position that man is either neutral or some tabula rasa which nullifies culpability. Yet this is not the biblical case. We are born separated from God, radically depraved, and worthy of hell on the basis of our sinfulness. The criteria for someone going to hell is not whether or not they have heard the gospel, but whether or not they are a sinner.

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