Inclusivism and Saving Faith
One of the primary research projects I have been working on over the past semester is the role of saving faith in inclusivism. One of the major arguments inclusivism makes is that explicit knowledge of Jesus Christ is not necessary for a person to be saved. In other words, people can be saved without ever knowing of Jesus Christ, who He is or what He came to do, and can benefit from His substitutionary atonement on their behalf (i.e. Jesus is an ontological necessity but not an epistemological necessity). There are several ways in which inclusivists make their argument, and supporters of this position range from Roman Catholic theologians to Reformed theologians. The people I am critiquing for an upcoming paper include: Roman Catholic theologian Karl Rahner and his anonymous implicit faith, Open Theist Clark Pinnock and his “faith principle”, Open Theist John Sanders and his “believer”/"Christian” dichotomy, Neal Punt and his “biblical universalism,” and Reformed theologian Terrance Tiessen and his “universally sufficient grace” view. There are other theologians which I will exclude for the sake of this paper that are noteworthy including Roman Catholic theologians Hans Kuhn, Gavin D’Costa, and Jacques Dupuis, Charismatic theologian Amos Yong and his pneumatological salvation, and other proponents of “divine perseverance” or “post-mortem encounter/evangelism (PME). I will argue that changing the nature of saving faith carries with it sweeping soteriological consequences, including a misrepresentation of the nature of God, a conflation of God’s revelation, a unbiblical view of man and sin, a reformulation of the gospel, and a trivialization of Christian mission. Some of the key elements in the inclusivist position include God’s universal salvific will (along with universal access requirement), the idea of “holy pagans,” emphasis on general revelation, premessianic believers, the “radical love of God,” “chronologically displaced persons” (also called “transdispensationalism”), doctrine of inculpable unbelief, rejection of filioque, the “cosmic work of Christ,” and the “finality of Christ.” Inclusivists also argue that the early church fathers before Augustine were inclusivists (Irenaus, Clement of Alexandria, and Justin Martyr for example). However, the watershed moment for contemporary inclusivism came with Vatican II and eventually made its way into Protestantism and evangelicalism towards the end of the 20th century. Obviously, as you can tell, I am not an inclusivist. However, according to many statistics, a large number of Christians, even conservative Christians, have revealed through polling that they are inclusivists. Also, the fate of the unevangelized is one largest looming questions in evangelical theology as well as one of the greatest objections to those rejecting the gospel. Consequently, I thought that I would post some of the arguments made by inclusivists on my blog for interaction and discussion. We need to understand the arguments being made and be able to biblically engage the ideas (and refute when necessary) with a thorough and careful examination. I hope that the future posts could foster good discussion, but more importantly cause us to precisely define, defend, and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith.