Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Friday is for (Third Way) Friends

posted by Scot McKnight

Adam Hamilton asks if there will be Hindus in heaven in the 12th chp of his book, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality, and Politics. He opens this chapter with a widely-known (at the time) statement by arch-evangelical John Stott who said he’d never been able to conjure up the appalling vision of the inevitable perishing of millions who have never heard. Between the opposite poles of a radical exclusivism and a radical universalism, Stott hopes “that the majority of the human race will be saved.” And Stott believes: “I have a solid biblical basis for this belief.”


There are two poles of thinking here: the radical universalist who thinks all, or at least almost all, will be saved; the radical exclusivist who thinks only those who have consciously responded to the call of grace by responding to the gospel about Jesus Christ (at the conscious level).

He knows that most liberals and most conservatives have some shade of gray — that is, some kind of “inclusivism.” That is, that God “includes” those who have responded to the light they have perceived.

His defense of inclusivism includes these points:

1. Inclusivism, in contrast to universalism, allows that some will not respond and God will not force them. In other words, as he shows in his next chp, Hamilton believes in hell — the place where folks who want nothing to do with God’s will dwell.
2. Inclusivism believes that God’s atoning work for all humans is in Christ.
3. Inclusivism affirms that all salvation is by faith and not by works — it is not about how good we have been.
4. Inclusivism affirms that in God’s mercy, some will be saved who did not know Christ and who never heard of Christ.

That is, Adam Hamilton concludes with this: “I do not believe he is a God who sends billions who love him and trust him, but did not understand the truth of the gospel, to eternity in hell” (109). God, because God is God, can apply the saving merits of Christ to whomever God chooses.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted December 26, 2008 at 4:34 am


I would suppose that such folks who respond to the light they have from God toward God, would most certainly respond in the same way to the message of the gospel. I do tend towards some sort of inclusivist stance, as long as it is not universalist, that all or nearly all in the end are saved, because that seems clearly not to be the case in Scripture.
I do wonder at Jesus’ words when he said many go the broad way to destruction, while on the narrow way few find the way to life. An inclusivist view would not seem to stand scrutiny in our society if you think all must be a part of a church that preaches the gospel (as in an evangelical church) with a ready testimony of their own salvation. Yet if one factors in the life circumstances of each person, perhaps if they receive light from God, even while sinners, but in that have a faith in God, even if their background has made receiving the gospel more difficult, then perhaps they are “in” in God’s eyes and work. I think too of the many devout Muslims and devotees of other religions. Surely light in those religions, yet idolatrous or denying of the Christian faith at their core. It would have to be in spite of that that such would be responding in faith to the true God.
Just trying to think through this a little, and look forward to others’ comments here. But I’d like to embrace something of an inclusivist stance without losing the importance of sharing the gospel. And I would add that God can certainly choose to apply the work of Christ to whomever he chooses, but that this would be in line with his nature toward those who in their will by grace respond to the light God gives them. Like the ancestors of those who seem to prepare future generations to receive the gospel by which they will be saved, but who themselves would perish in their sins? Though they had received this preparatory word from God themselves. God only knows, but I’d suppose we will see a good number of such in “heaven”.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted December 26, 2008 at 4:39 am


I want to add quickly that certainly one can respond to the gospel and be part of a church which is not evangelical. I would better say just responding to the gospel than becoming a part of a formal Christian tradition in a church. Something like that. But what about those many in Christian traditions who see themselves as Christians yet are nominal? They seem to be a majority in many of those places as well.
I’m glad God sorts all of this out in the end, and we do need to press the importance of the gospel. But with the hope there’s much more than meets the eye for us here, in God’s workings.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted December 26, 2008 at 4:43 am


I meant THEN rather than THAN. I meant they then proceed to be a part of a formal part of Christian tradition, a church, not necessarily of the evangelical lot.
Wow. Partly in a hurry as I was rejected the first three times I tried to leave the first comment. The difference one word can make! And doesn’t help when one is in a hurry.



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Bob Young

posted December 26, 2008 at 10:00 am


I think we have to separate the notion of inclusivism as it relates to the afterlife, and the “good news of the kingdom” that we are to proclaim (which has more to do with the here and though it continues on forever). Making disciples and teaching them to DO all that Jesus commanded us (i.e. the “Great Commission”) is the strategy for manifesting the kingdom character and having a positive, transforming impact on the world.
So yes, we want share the good news that there is a better way of living, one that is in harmony with the reality that God created, one that is in harmony with him. We look for connecting points where we AGREE with people of different faith traditions and encourage them to keep doing that (or avoiding that) because it is consistent with the kingdom. And hopefully we have the chance to show places where the Jesus’ way is even better, more healing, more restoring, wiser, and more effective, which may lead them to fully and whole-heartedly follow his way. And we let God sort out who is His in the end.
That’s my $0.02 at least.



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mike wittmer

posted December 26, 2008 at 10:34 am


Doesn’t our answer depend a lot on the question of original sin? It is difficult to accept a loving God condemning to hell good people “who love and trust him” but don’t know about Jesus. But what if these people do not exist?
I am not saying that inclusivists can’t produce an argument that takes original sin into account, but only that any argument, if it is to be a faithfully Christian response, must do so. It isn’t enough to focus on the goodness of God (though we are right to do so) if we ignore the badness of humanity (I’m not saying that people never do a good thing–I believe in common grace and the enduring yet broken imago Dei).



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Mike Clawson

posted December 26, 2008 at 10:41 am


I agree w/Bob. When I read scripture I just don’t get the sense that the main point of the gospel is who goes where when we die. All the speculation about universalism-inclusivism-exclusivism just seems to miss the point IMHO. And, as Lesslie Newbign pointed out, the whole (extrabiblical) notion of “eternal destiny” is such a huge thing, that if we replace the gospel of the kingdom with it, then preoccupation with figuring out one’s eternal destiny has a tendency to overwhelm everything else.



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Dianne P

posted December 26, 2008 at 11:30 am


Ahhh, lost my post when I toggled back to see the full post – from the full view of the comments section. And am I the only one bothered by the wiggling ad for the winner of the hour? Not to mention the ad for anxiety and depression… I was fine until I tried to post on beliefnet, then the anxiety and depression set in. OK, post Christmas crankies, on to one more attempt.
I’m an inclusivist – there – I’m out of the closet. For me, there are 2 issues here.
1. The exclusivism that is preached in many evangelical churches leads to unnecessary heartbreak among so many when they ponder the eternal fate of their family and friends who did not “pray the prayer” before their death, so are condemned to eternal damnation. IMO, that is a very sad teaching – while I understand how some believe this, I do not understand why churches teach with conviction and authority that only those who’ve followed the steps to salvation are saved. Exclusivism should be taught as one interpretation among many, yet that’s not how I’ve seen it done. Prior to hanging out here at Jesus Creed, I had been convinced that to be Christian mandated this belief – that it was an inherent part of the gospel. My heart is heavy for those who have lost loved ones and who hear this teaching as some sort of unequivocal fact rather than one of a range of understandings, many of which are acceptable within the traditions of Christian theology. IMO, way too much pain has been caused on this issue.
2. So then, why preach the gospel? My life, here and now, is transformed by the knowledge that I have of God. My marriage is transformed. My parenting is transformed. My service to my community is transformed. My mind and my heart are transformed. I am part of the kingdom of God, here and now, while I still look forward to seeing and knowing God in all his glory throughout eternity.
BTW, I am greatly enjoying this book! Thank you Scot!



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Rick

posted December 26, 2008 at 11:42 am


I think Mike #5 has a good question on original sin. I also think how one views “election/predestination” comes into play. In regards to the Kingdom/eternal destiny issue that Mike #6 and Bob #4 mention, I think Scripture sees that as a both/and, rather than an either or.
Although I am open to the inclusivist postion, I am not totally sold on it yet.
As Ted #1 mentions, one cannot be seeking God and reject Christ. I also think the person cannot be satisfied with his/her current religious system, if they are truly seeking God and Truth.
I am concerned that the “God will figure it out in the end” mindset can (and I am not including Ted and Bob in this) lead to a lack of emphasis on evangelism.
Rob Bowman at The Religious Researcher recently discussed a new Pew study on inclusivism and pluralism:
“The bottom line can be stated this way: Among all American evangelicals, roughly one in six thinks that people can attain eternal life through non-biblical religions such as Islam and Hinduism, or through no religion at all.”



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RJS

posted December 26, 2008 at 1:29 pm


Mike,
I think you are right about Original Sin…much depends on the doctrine of Original Sin. But I also think that this is where “we” have gone massively wrong.
A doctrine that claims that the sin of Adam changed the nature of mankind such that his sin and guilt are transmitted and reckoned to the account of all – even to the babe who dies within minutes or seconds of birth…to the point where this babe deserves eternal damnation and torture without end…will not blink at the blow-off of billions of individuals around the earth as guilty and not “elected” or predestined for belief.
But is this blow-off really consistent with the NT gospel?



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Rebeccat

posted December 26, 2008 at 2:20 pm


I’ve posted before that I lean towards a “radical” universalism on matters of eternal salvation (yes, I believe in hell, I believe it is temporary as indicated by the fact that it lasts for “aions” which can accurately be translated as “age” instead of forever or eternal and that hell is a place of kalazo – chastisement, not timoreo – punishment. and I could go on and on, but my point is simply that you don’t have to abandon scriptures to hold this view).
Anyhow, over time I too have come to believe that the issue of the afterlife is not primarily what the authors of scripture were referring to when they spoke of salvation. I think it is far more about being transformed in the here and now than about where you go when you die. As a matter of fact, for many years I really struggled with the fact that you can’t find a straight-forward explanation of how to be assured of eternal salvation after death in scriptures. I had been taught that it was what the gospel was all about and knew all the verses, but when I read through (from front to back) the NT, this teaching simply wasn’t there. It could be inferred by putting disparate bits and pieces together. But any evangelical preacher worth his salt will come right out and lay out the plan for eternal salvation almost every Sunday. The fact that the writers of the NT failed to perform such a simple task was highly suspect to me. And it was especially suspect because I knew that the Jews had picked up a folk belief in the afterlife by the time of Jesus, but the OT is almost completely silent on the subject. It seems like if Jesus meant to affirm not only the existence of an afterlife (which he does), but to provide a clear means of assuring a good outcome in the afterlife, this would represent a radical departure from the OT treatment of death and the afterlife. Such a brand-new teaching, it seemed to me, would have received a much clearer, more front-and-center explanation.
Anyhow, I think that the ambiguity in the NT on this matter is really the result of us reading it incorrectly. There is the issue of hell and heaven and the new heaven and new earth, of course. NT Wright’s new book does a good job of clearing up some of our misconceptions on that front. But salvation almost certainly is meant to be about our lives in the here and now than it is meant to talk about the afterlife.
There’s also the matter of Jesus’ own words indicating that what we do here matters. We will be judged based on our works while many who have enough faith to call on his name will be sent away. Which isn’t to say that our salvation is obtained through works. Probably more that our salvation is manifested in our works. The idea that Ghandi will spend eternity in hell while Jeffery Dhamer will be free and clear from his crimes and spend eternity in heaven does not fit with God’s character of justice or of the clear teaching through out scriptures, including from Jesus’ own mouth that our actions do count. People always say that diluting a very clear quid-pro-quo between saying the right prayer and being saved from hell in the afterlife diminishes our motivation for evangelism. (Which I don’t think is remotely true – having a weak relationship with God and a faith of little effect is what diminishes our motivation for evangelism.) However, the fact is that teaching that our works are irrelevant because our salvation is obtained through making the right choice of belief (which is a work in and of itself) diminishes our motivation for doing good, IMO.
So anyways, there ya go. I’m all kinds of heretic, no doubt. But God will judge me and I’m completely comfortable with that. I just thought I’d add my own peculiar ideas into the mix as well.



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dopderbeck

posted December 26, 2008 at 3:19 pm


RJS (#9) — I think you’re being really unfair in your portrayal of the doctrine of “original sin” here, particularly in how it relates to other doctrines such as the atonement, grace, and election.
The radical nature of human sin is foundational to any coherent understanding of Christian doctrine (or of the Christian story, if you prefer), IMHO. We can go on and on about the figure of “Adam” in scripture, its historicity, what it represents, etc., but the bottom line is that humanity is corrupt and cut off from God from its very root to the tips of its branches.
I don’t really like the term “inclusivism” because it seems to minimize the uniqueness of Christ. And I don’t like the idea of “responding to the light you have” because that seems to suggest that salvation is earned by human merit.
BUT — this isn’t the end of the story, as we all know. The soteriological problems related to those who haven’t heard, infants, the incapacitated, etc. shouldn’t be addressed, I think, by denying the radical nature of sin. They should be addressed in the context of how we understand the effects and availability of the atonement, the nature of God’s election in light of his character of absolute love and absolute justice, and the extent of His grace.
Someone mentioned Newbiggin. IMHO, Newbiggin does an incredibly good job with all this in “The Gospel in a Pluralist Society.” But Newbiggin suggests a hopeful but humble attitude, grounded in scripture, that eschews the extremes of exclusivism and universalism without de-emphasizing either the cosmic scope of sin or the uniqueness of Christ’s atoning work. I think this is the way to go on what at the end of the day is going to remain a perplexing question.



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mike wittmer

posted December 26, 2008 at 3:24 pm


RJS (#9):
I think that the term “blow off” unnecessarily and unfairly prejudices the conversation. While I’m sure you can find some Calvinist who treats damnation in such a cavalier manner, most everyone (if not all) I know who believes in the everlasting suffering of the damned would not say that God “blew them off.” We recognize that the existence of hell is a serious and difficult question, and we don’t dismiss it so easily.



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Glen

posted December 26, 2008 at 3:37 pm


I’m in the middle of a personal transformation on this issue, so it’s hard to say exactly where I land at the moment. A couple quick thoughts though:
Ted (#1) refers to the broad and narrow paths. I’ve come to believe that the traditional understanding of this passage as referring to heaven and hell is totally off the mark. It’s found in the middle of the sermon on the mount, the subject of which is not the afterlife, but how we should live in the here and now. If Jesus was talking here about the afterlife, then he’s coming out of left field – it’s disconnected to what comes before and after. In context, I have to believe he’s really talking about the fact that most people will miss life as it’s meant to be lived, and instead will live in ways that are destructive to themselves and others.
On the topic of exclusivism vs inclusivism, I’m finding it increasingly ironic that modern evangelical Christianity tends to be fiercely exclusive, while Jesus was constantly chastised by the religious leaders for being too inclusive. Something doesn’t add up here. “The exclusivity of Christ” seems to be oxymoronic when you look at how he lived his life. This idea has been nagging at me for a couple years now, with the result that I’m being increasingly drawn towards an inclusive position.



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Rebeccat

posted December 26, 2008 at 3:39 pm


wow. the software here is really acting up today. Save everything!
I wanted to add one other thing (sorry for being so long-winded). re other religions: I think that Paul’s evangelism to the men of Athens is helpful here. He points out a monument to an unknown God and tells them that this unknown God is actually the one true God. According to Paul, these men, in their quest for the divine had unknowingly stumbled upon some truth. I think that being image bearers, any time we seek the divine, even if it is through other religions, we are likely to stumble on some truth. And I think that when a person finds, responds to and is devoted to that truth, God will count it to them as faith, even if, like the ancient men of Greece, the don’t know the real source of that truth.
I do not think that people can come to salvation in this life or the next through other religions. However, I do think that those things which people find in their search for the divine which really are of God, will be of effect in their life. Even if they come to a knowledge of them in the middle of the falsehood found in other religions. The simple fact is that love, peacefulness and every other good gift is from the God of the bible who is most clearly revealed in Christianity. If people find, respond to and live out these good gifts in the middle of other religious beliefs, that doesn’t change the fact that they are of God and carry God’s power with them.
I think that when we insist that only those who conciously accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior will attain salvation in the afterlife, we are denying God’s presence where ever His good gifts are manifest. Which I just don’t think we have any right to do.
OK, y’all can add these ideas to my indictment for heretical thinking now!



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andwils

posted December 26, 2008 at 6:07 pm


Glen #13…
I think you nail it here. Both the point of the “narrow way” (I’ve always been bothered by the use of this passage as an gateway to heaven) and the inclusivity of Jesus. While it does not answer the complexity of the issue it certainly speak to the heart of God. To add to you point, Jesus was clearly at serious odds with the “exclusive” teaching of the religious rulers of His day. He was radically inclusive and was killed primarily for this reason (undermining the religious system/structure/power of His day). Our tendency is to always circle the wagons around our camp. I know I certainly do this and I don’t think it’s what God’s heart is all about.
Andy



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RJS

posted December 26, 2008 at 6:15 pm


Mike and dopderbeck,
The terminology I used may have been unnecessarily provocative. But I really don’t see how to get around this issue. And it is much more theological than “scientific.”
The tradition I grew up with would have said that a child was safe until he or she reached the “age of accountability” whenever that may be … But I am not sure what “original sin” means in this context.
This issue is also an important part of the discussion of infant baptism. Baptism into the church takes care of the problem of Original Sin for our children.
But one of the consequences of living in a global society is that we are fully aware of how many people there are in how many different situations around the globe. I find it very hard to think of these as “other” – which means that some form of inclusivity seems most consistent with the gospel.
And Mike – the election/predestination comment may have seemed to indicate a prejudice against Calvinism, but in this context it is more inclusive complaint, including most forms of the church. Even from a non-Calvinist perspective, those with no opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel are outside of the church and “unsaved” – clearly not part of the elect.
(I have tried for the last hour to respond – but the system is very painful today)



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Your Name

posted December 26, 2008 at 7:09 pm


Hmm..
Very interesting. Trying to decide what God would do. Not possible….but interesting discussion…who doesn’t like a good mystery? Exculsivist, Inclusivist, universalist…fascinating, I would love to know the mind of God. But – if people have argued, wondered, for many years…I would have to wonder – is that the wrong question? I wonder if a better question is – what is the character of God? The character of God…reveals God’s mind, to a certain extent. How God reacted to David, to Abraham, to the woman at the well, to Mary, to Thomas, to those crucified with Jesus….so, very different. We can hardly understand the intentions of a spouse after being married for 30 years…don’t know how one could understand what God would do. One thing for certain…seems God takes an individual look at all…judges the heart. Something humanity seems to have a difficult time with…mostly because someone elses thoughts, intentions, motives can be so difficult to understand. Now…trying to discern who God would want in the after life…seems like an unanswerable question…maybe a better question…what is the condition of my heart?



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dopderbeck

posted December 26, 2008 at 8:50 pm


RJS (#16) — I don’t think you’re accurately reflecting all the different categories / ideas concerning election and “those who have not heard” that have been discussed in Church history and among contemporary theologians within the broad tradition of historic orthodoxy. Again, Newbiggin is excellent on the mystery of election and the possibility of God’s electing of people outside the church in “The Gospel in a Pluralist Society.”
I’d also refer to one of my favorite theologians, Donald Bloesch, who was evangelical and “third-way” 25 years ago. In his “Essentials of Evangelical Theology,” Bloesch states “[b]ecause grace is still grace, we can asume with Thomas Aquinas that the sufferings in hell are mitigated because Christ is present” (p. 226). Bloesch further says “[w]e do not wish to build fences around God’s grace, however, and we do not preclude the possiblity that some in hell might finally be translated into heaven. The gates of the holy city are depicted as being open day and night (Isa. 60:11; Rev. 21:25), and this means that acssess to the throne of grace is possible continuously” (p. 226). Bloesch is no universalist; his approach is much more nuanced than these few quote allow; and it is rooted firmly in scripture and a firm sense of God’s sovereignty, election, grace, justice and love. Of course, Bloesch’s position isn’t the last word, but the point is, the situation even in evangelical theology seems to be much more diverse than you allow.
And when you refer to “most forms of the church,” are you including Roman Catholicism? There of course you have the doctrine of Purgatory, as well as a highly nuanced approach to whether anyone can be saved outside the Church.
I think what you’re reacting to is the insistence by one influential slice of contemporary evangelical theologians that the only option is a particular kind of exclusivism that emphasizes a recognizable, conscious affirmation of faith. It seems to me that evangelical theology, and historic-orthodox Christian theology in general, includes a wider range of perspectives on what exclusive salvation in Christ must look like. Those “narrow-exclusivist” folks may be right — conscious faith does after all seem to be the normative paradigm of conversion in scripture — but we should be clear that the options aren’t necessarily this one view or liberal universalism.



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dopderbeck

posted December 26, 2008 at 9:00 pm


RJS — I’m not sure what you mean by “most forms of the church.” Certainly the Roman Catholic view is much more nuanced. I’d encourage you to read Newbiggin, and also the chapter on Hell in Donald Bloesch’s “Essentials of Evangelical Theology.” Bloesch is historically orthodox (I think), affirms election, etc., but has a very carefully stated position on how God’s grace and election work out in relation to His justice in the whole scope of eschatology. The point isn’t that Newbiggin or Bloesch are the last word, but just that theologians I’d consider orthodox and not “liberal” have been developing careful “third way” positions on this stuff for a very long time.



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Mike Clawson

posted December 26, 2008 at 10:42 pm


@Rick in #8:
My problem with seeing the gospel of the Kingdom/eternal destiny as a “both/and” rather than an “either/or” is two-fold:
1) I just don’t see a whole lot in scripture about one’s “eternal destiny”, at least, not once I strip away my evangelical presuppositions about what I think the text is talking about and look at it again with fresh eyes and a “new perspective” (yes, the phrase is a deliberate allusion). I’m not saying it’s not in there at all, but it doesn’t seem to be a main theme at all IMHO.
2) Like I said (referring to Newbign in The Gospel in a Pluralist Society), once the main issue becomes where you will spend eternity, that not only tends to overwhelm all other consideration, it absolutely must. As Newbign points out, if an eternal Hell is real, and we have the ability to save ourselves and others from it, then that fact is really the only important thing at all – in Christianity or in anything really – and therefore the only thing that should concern Christians at all is saving as many people as possible from spending an eternity in Hell, by any means necessary. Nothing else could possibly matter anywhere near as much as saving people from that fate. All other moral, ethical and social considerations just go right out the window.
And quite honestly, this was exactly the message I heard for years growing up from preachers who were trying to motivate us to evangelize more, so I don’t think Newbign was exaggerating. He realized the significance of this doctrine, and so did they. If Hell is true, then nothing else matters.
Which is precisely why I’m not sure that a gospel of the Kingdom and a gospel of escaping Hell really can be a “both/and”. If the latter is true, then the former really doesn’t matter all that much, except maybe as a means to an end.



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Rick

posted December 27, 2008 at 9:37 am


Mike #20 (having a horrible time trying to get this response sent)-
Thanks for your feedback. We probably are not that far apart on this. I too appreciate much about the NP. However, I tend to agree with those who believe that much in the NP is good, but also that some in that NP camp tend to unfortunately exclude some other clear teachings/beliefs (and not just evangelical). Again, too much either/or, rather than both/and (but that is a discussion for another day).
Let me slightly change the wording you used. I would like to change the “destiny” part. It sends a signal of just something far down the road. As you pointed out, all too often many preach and teach a message that centers on something in the future. Our focus and teaching should center on God/Christ/Trinity.
I would prefer to say “eternal life”, which is something that begins now, and continues down the road. Having eternal life includes the realization, appreciation, and practice of the Jesus Creed (loving God/Christ/Trinity, and loving neighbor) now and forever more. The clearly would include Kingdom elements. Therefore, I do see and both/and.
One final thought, you mentioned your “evangelical presuppositions”. Although my position is held in and outside evangelicalism, I don’t think just because a position has an evangelical bent it is necessarily a negative thing. I am beginning to think that our criticism of evangelicalism (as I have often done), has perhaps gone to the point of too quickly dismissing it. We miss some valuable teachings and thoughts it has, and continues, to produce.



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dopderbeck

posted December 27, 2008 at 9:45 am


Mike (#20) — I did not read Newbiggin to be saying there is no such thing as Hell. Indeed, he says “there are roads that lead over the precipice” (p. 183).



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Michael W. Kruse

posted December 27, 2008 at 10:41 am


I’m an inclusivist and I like what Hamilton says here. I don’t know the statements origin, but I love the observation, “God is not limited to a means of grace, but we are.”
We’ve been given only one means of grace: Jesus Christ. How ever we come into to a relationship with God, it will come through Jesus Christ, whether we are aware of his presence in process or not. Yet God is free to work his atonement brought through Christ in any manner God sees fit. But from our standpoint, we have only means to offer: believe in Christ and seek his Kingdom. God’s character, as revealed in the Bible, strikes me as being about bending over backward to include all that he can into the Kingdom.
I agree in many ways with Mike Clawson. We have overemphasized the personal fire insurance aspect of the Bible to the exclusion of its central theme. I think the theme around which all else gravitates is the New Creation, the coming Kingdom, and the implications for transformation in the here and now. Our personal eternal destiny is certainly caught up in all this but I don’t think it is the gravitational force in the Bible.



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dopderbeck

posted December 27, 2008 at 3:41 pm


Michael (#23) — can you define more specifically what you mean by “inclusivist?” Is there a theologian / text that defines this school of thought?



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Chaplain Mike

posted December 27, 2008 at 8:43 pm


Scot, we need you to write a book on this subject!



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Doug Allen

posted December 28, 2008 at 9:30 pm


First, I must agree with Bob Young. Equating Christianity mainly with the afterlife seems unbiblical, and a long way away from Jesus’ teachings. Emphasizing the afterlife appeals to our selfishness (maybe you’d say to our self-interestedness, but I think it’s more than that) and therefore contrary to my understanding of Jesus’ teachings.
Today at our UU church, Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz, rabbi of the only Jewish congregation in our county of 250,000, gave the sermon. After the service we sat around and talked with the rabbi for almost an hour. During our far-ranging discussion, he mentioned how much pressure Jews feel to uphold and honor their religious tradition. This pressure is both internal from the nurturing and knowledge of their tradition and also external from the community. It results in much inner conflict and guilt for those who even consider abandoning their faith community.
Isn’t the same likely to be so for those who grew up in other faith communities. Religion is a psycho-social phenomenon as well as a belief. How does the conservative Christian religious exclusivist view that seeking God, but rejecting Christ leads straight to hell, how does that represent Jesus’ teachings?
Doug



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dopderbeck

posted December 29, 2008 at 11:27 am


Doug (#26) — first, the idea that rejecting Christ is a rejection of God’s salvation is not associated only with “exclusivists.” Any Christian position, other than full-out universalism, acknowledges that rejecting Christ is a rejection of salvation. (Some posit that people who reject Christ in this life might be able to repent in the afterlife, but that’s a different issue).
Christians of all stripes affirm and have always affirmed that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity — is God as well as man — and that Jesus’ death and resurrection are God’s means of salvation. It’s perfectly reasonable, and perfectly consistent with God’s character, to think that a conscious rejection of the gift God offers in Christ is a rejection of salvation — including what salvation means after death.
You’re right of course that conversion to Christ can be costly. Jesus himself taught that — no inconsistency there at all.



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EJ

posted December 29, 2008 at 12:16 pm


To say that this type of anonymous salvation is unorthodox and unbiblical is to say too little. There is no hope of salvation outside of Christ – yet there is no hope of salvation outside of faith in Christ. The scriptures make it clear – Christ made it clear – that rejection or a lack of acknowledging Him and believing in Him is rejection of the Father.
The real threat that this type of anonymous view of salvation brings is first and foremost at the exclusivity of Christ. Even though proponents would deny this until the cows come home – a rejection of the need for faith in the revealed person of Christ through the Word of God (see Romans 10) is a watering down of the exclusivity of Jesus Christ.
I honestly and truly doubt the reality of someone’s own salvation in Christ if they believe/promote ideas of salvation outside of faith in Christ. For one to believe this is to have severely misunderstood and missed the boat for what the Scriptures make plain about God, His righteousness and wrath, our offense, Christ’s work, and the required response.
Soli Deo Gloria.



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RJS

posted December 29, 2008 at 12:59 pm


EJ,
This is inaccurate and too simple. There is no salvation outside the faith of Christ as Christ’s faithfulness was the turning point in all of history. There is no salvation for those who reject Christ – a clearly Biblical concept. Christian doctrine would hold that even Abraham was saved by faith and through the faithfulness of Christ – but not through faith in Christ.
But the scriptures say absolutely nothing about the fate of individual Mayan’s, Swedes, Chinese, Australian aborigines or American Indians – people, created in the image of God, whose existence was entirely unknown and unsuspected to those who wrote scripture or in the early church reflected on the scriptures.



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Lightbearer

posted December 29, 2008 at 1:13 pm


I would have to agree with EJ; Scripture and tradition makes it quite clear what happens to non-believers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urlTBBKTO68
The problem that Hamilton has, of course, is that the God of the Bible quite clearly has no reverence for human life, and will kill and violate us, for eternity, at the drop of a hat. Potter and clay themes are evident throughout scripture as a dire warning to anyone not willing to pledge eternal allegiance.
“Inclusivism affirms that in God’s mercy, some will be saved who did not know Christ and who never heard of Christ.” And most will not, according to Scripture and Tradition.
“God, because God is God, can apply the saving merits of Christ to whomever God chooses.” And what, exactly, is the criteria that God will make exceptions with? Notice how apologists never actually explain this?
“Hamilton believes in hell — the place where folks who want nothing to do with God’s will dwell.” Right, just like we will all end up in Hades because we want nothing to do with Zeus; this argument dishonestly ignores why people believe in one deity, and disbelieve others. It also ignores the plain fact that Hell is where you are raped by God for eternity (what else would you call physical, emotional, and psychological violation, in a prison realm controlled by an omnipotent warden?).
If God is a loving God, in the sense that we would use the word ‘love,’ then there can be no Hell. No eternal rape. No eternal distancing of the Lover from the Beloved. Only understanding and compassion.
So the question that every true Christian has to ask themselves, throughout eternity, is this: Which is more important: A: Scripture and Tradition, or B: Love and Compassion. Your answer (A; B; A&B; none of the above) will reveal you for the kind of Christian that you are.



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Jeff B. SC

posted December 29, 2008 at 3:58 pm


This can not be much easier to answer personally.
Jesus stated that no one can go to the Father by by me. So what then happens to those before Jesus was born? The Jews prior to Jesus Christ birth, death and resurrection lived daily with Faith in the coming Christ (Messiah). They knew Gods laws (ten commandments) and sought forgiveness of those sins. When Christ died on the cross it was not just for those alive in those days and for the future generations, but for ALL mankind Past, Present and future.
Now concerning the Hindus. If they have not come to the saving knowledge of Christ there is one other way for them to be saved. But alas it is impossible.
God says that He has written HIS law on every mans heart. If you were to go to some remote island that no white man ever stepped on they still live out the 10 commandments. They know that they should honor their parents, they don’t take their gods name in vain, murder is wrong, adultry is wrong, stealing is wrong. We also know that if you have broken anyone of the 10 commandments just ONE TIME, you are going to be found guilty by God. Because He is not only loving and caring and forgiving, but He is also Just and Holy and Perfect in ALL His Judgements.
So unless a Hindu has never broken the 10 commandments, No… They will not go to Heaven. So says God, not I



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EJ

posted December 29, 2008 at 4:06 pm


RJS ? So, if I may interpret what you?re saying ? Abraham was saved through faith that was contrary/not in direct alignment with what God had revealed about Himself at that time? Of course you would not agree with that. Christ hadn?t come yet, but Abraham had faith in the promises of God and had faith in God in accordance to what had been revealed at that time. Since that time, and today, the fullness of God?s revelation has been given ? and Christ is the fulfillment. And if one tries to approach God and doesn?t recognize the Son, they don?t get to the Father.
The faith of Able, Noah, Abraham, and the rest of the OT saints was in that which was revealed to them ? but it was revealed to them by God of God pointing to Christ! Now that Christ has come, faith in the shadows will not save. Those in the days of Abraham and the rest of the patriarchs and the rest of the Old Testament could be saved, but it was not through some private religion, it was by coming to God as He had established.
I cannot believe that this is actually a conversation or debate that is being had by those who call themselves Christians! Paul makes it clear, when using Abraham?s faith in Romans 4, that it is faith in Him who raised Jesus from the dead that our faith is credited as righteousness (Rom 4:23-25). Jesus? own statement makes this inclusivism heretical. ?He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.? (John 5:23)
It is impossible to honor the father with faith without honoring the Son whom He sent.
Whatever this type of doctrine this inclusivism is, it is not Christian because the Scriptures themselves testify against it.
Solus Christus



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RJS

posted December 29, 2008 at 4:49 pm


He who does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent Him – and He who rejects the Son rejects the Father. But – this does not say how the Son is honored or rejected. And it does not address how God may or may not have dealt with everyone, everywhere, at all times of history. I am not inclusive in the sense that I think that all routes lead to God – I am inclusive in the sense that I will not judge how God may have chosen to deal with people throughout history and I see nothing in scripture that requires me to do so.



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Doug Allen

posted December 29, 2008 at 5:33 pm


dopderdeck #27,
Thank you. I know you write out of faith and concern. Your analysis does represent the great majority of evangelicals, but hardly represents all Christians. A recent Pew forum poll found that 59% of Americans believe in hell. The Episcopalians and Presbyterians (my early faith communities) of my native mid-west include many, possibly a majority of unbelievers in hell. Certainly the Friends (Quakers) that I have known and the universalists at our UU church (our church is a predominantly universalist church “with room for many beliefs- yours” as the poster says). Many who disagree with you and what you consider orthodoxy have the same honest conviction that you have. Their conviction is based on knowledge of the Ebionites, the Marcionites, the Gnostics and many others early sects and their mostly lost (surpressed) literatures , the known corruptions of biblical text, and especially on the preaching and life of Jesus. For myself, I can not reconcile a religion whose God will torment any of his children for an eternity. The so called orthodox view that this even includes infant children and those unacquainted with Christianity is so vile, in my opinion, that I can not understand how anyone would believe it or want to worship such a monster God?
Dopderdeck, your response to my relating a rabbi’s comments about Jews (post #26) “You’re right of course that conversion to Christ can be costly” substitutes legalism for love and understanding which I know from so many of your other posts is unfair, but that’s the way it strikes me. And my brother EJ parodies, as it were, this most un-Jesuslike legalism by saying (post #28) “I honestly and truly doubt the reality of someone’s own salvation in Christ if they believe/promote ideas of salvation outside of faith in Christ.” Brothers and sisters, I want to find common ground with you. Is there any way we can do it?
Doug



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Lightbearer

posted December 29, 2008 at 5:57 pm


@ Jeff B:
“Now concerning the Hindus. If they have not come to the saving knowledge of Christ there is one other way for them to be saved. But alas it is impossible…God says that He has written HIS law on every mans heart.”
Let’s ignore the fact that, according to Scripture, tradition, and you, God set up a fixed system of “Here are the rules to win, but I’ve fixed the game by making it impossible for you to follow them, bwah ha ha, now off to Hell with you so I can rape you for eternity for not being a Christian” (see my last post, with link).
Here’s another problem: I have not broken any of the Ten Commandments. Ever. Don’t believe me?
1. I have never worshiped any other god before Yahweh (Since Hindu don’t know about Yahweh, they can’t place anything before him, by definition).
2. I have never broken an oath to God (Hindu’s can’t break this, by definition).
3. I honor all of the days and keep them all holy, unlike many of the “Sunday Xians” I grew up with (Hindu’s are exempt from this also, by definition).
4. All social species honor their mothers and fathers, from birth; without proper attachment, we fail to thrive and die, or go crazy. This responsibility rests solely on the parent.
5. I’ve never murdered anyone; I’ve always had official government sanction.
6. I’ve never cheated on my spouse.
7. I’ve never committed felony theft (remember, the 10 Cs are felony crimes, punishable by death; penny-ante shoplifting and taking candy from your little sister when you were a child, learning to control your impulses, doesn’t count).
8. I’ve never told a Black Lie without official government sanction. White lies (told for moral/compassionate reasons) and Grey Lies (told for self-protective or self-serving reasons) are not the same as lies told specifically to harm others.
9 & 10. I’ve never coveted anything in my life. I’ve always been happy for someone else’s fortune, have been pleasantly envious that they have such a wonderful wife/house/job/etc, and would want something similar for myself, to be similarly happy. This is what psychologically healthy people do. I’ve never once thought, “I want/should have exactly what you have, instead of you.” This is what psychologically neurotic people do.
Now I’ve seen many of Abraham’s followers struggle with morality; you seem to be typical. But honestly, just how hard is it to be worthy of God, with such easy requirements? They are so easy and self-evident, in fact, that prior knowledge of the Law, Yahweh, Jesus, the Crucifixion, etc., isn’t actually necessary or required.
You may, of course, be skeptical of some of my applications of the 10 Cs as listed above, but rest assured, I have meditated on them in prayer, so I can personally witness to the vetting of my understanding of the scriptures in general, and the 10 Cs in particular.
So says God, not I :)



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Your Name

posted December 29, 2008 at 6:17 pm


Lightbearer #35 – so then you’ve obviously never been angry (murder of the heart according to Jesus, and thus a violation) or looked at a woman to lust after her and thus committed adultery of the heart.
You’ve got a lot more in common withthe pharisees of Jesus’ day than you may or may not think – and they were called white washed tombs. They looked good on the outside, but were filled with dead men’s bones.



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EJ

posted December 29, 2008 at 6:20 pm


re: Doug Allen #34 – how is my comment legalistic? Legalism in the pages of Scripture would be best defined as works based righteousness. I have only stated that the Scriptural mandate for how to be made right with God is through faith in Christ and no where else. And I doubt the truth of the claim to salvation to any Christian (not necessarily a new convert struggling with the question “what about those who haven’t heard”). Is it legalism to adhere to the Scriptural for faith in Christ?
I too want to find common ground. but unity cannot happen at the expense of truth.
Re: RJS #33?
?But – this does not say how the Son is honored or rejected.?
The very next verse says ?Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.? In the context, how can you possibly say that ?this does not say how the Son is honored or rejected??
You said next, ?And it does not address how God may or may not have dealt with everyone, everywhere, at all times of history.?
Read Romans 1-3. It is clear that all people, everywhere, from all time are guilty before God. Then continuing past Romans 3 we see that it is only by faith in Christ that one is at peace with God (5:1). If you see nothing in scripture that informs you how God judges people throughout history, then you must be trying to read it with your eyes closed.
May God grant you grace.
Also: Comment #36 was from me too, I don’t know why it didn’t show up.



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Lightbearer

posted December 30, 2008 at 3:45 pm


@ EJ # 36: Anger and lust, as well as all other emotions, are physiological reactions to stimulus and perception. As such, they are beyond conscious control. In other words, we anger and lust because God made us this way.
It’s also apparent that anger, rage, jealousy, etc., is in fact not considered something to avoid. This is apparent from the verses showing Jesus calling the Pharisees fools and hypocrites, from Jesus’s temper tantrum with the moneychangers at the temple, from Yahweh being a jealous god and proud of it, from the annihilation of countless humans spurred on by Yahweh’s wrath, etc.
Finding someone sexually attractive is in no way the same thing as coveting them from someone else (Commandment #9), or committing adultery with them (Commandment # 6). Calling someone a fool in anger, even if neither true nor justified, is in no way the same thought process as deciding to take their life from them (Commandment #6).
So Jesus was flat-out wrong in Scripture. This is probably due to being misquoted, having text inserted or changed to make it say what the author wanted it to say, or linguistic and cultural mistranslations.
Another possibility is that Jesus, in fact, did mean that thought crimes are just as punishable as behavioral crimes. There is scriptural justification that says that Yahweh/Jesus finds all crimes equally offensive: thinking a single uncharitable thought is just as unforgivable as being a serial pedophile/murderer your entire life, with the same punishment: an eternity of rape at the hands of God.
Of course, having this worldview would mean that you are evil, worshiping an evil god.
So let me make my point again: do you hold Love and Compassion to be your guiding principles, with Scripture and Tradition as tools to serve those principles (the Forces of Good), or do you hold Scripture and Tradition to be your guiding principles, with Love and Compassion as tools (the Forces of Evil)?



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EJ

posted December 30, 2008 at 4:32 pm


Lightbearer ?
I reject your paradigm and your question entirely, but first to your self-righteousness.
I was shocked at your hubris at your self-righteous declarations in mocking the 10 commandments and claiming to have kept them all. But it is not shocking that you would have to interpret as valid or correct renderings the parts of the Bible that you like and reject that which you feel is wrong. You are making yourself not only self-righteous but claiming to know more about Christianity than God who is the author of the Scriptures.
If your eyes were opened, then you could see that jealousy for God and anger for His name when He is maligned is righteous. Anger at being cut off in traffic or anger for reasons of selfishness, pride, or other sin is a grievous sin and murder of the heart. The Bible itself lays out the definitions and the parameters of what is righteous and what is unrighteous ? Christ?s zeal for His Father and His anger at the turning of the temple into a market place as a perversion of its intended purpose is wholly holy, just, and pure.
Many of your characterizations are straw men at best, but I will address one thing specifically:
I reject your question/framing of the issues this way:
?do you hold Love and Compassion to be your guiding principles, with Scripture and Tradition as tools to serve those principles (the Forces of Good), or do you hold Scripture and Tradition to be your guiding principles, with Love and Compassion as tools (the Forces of Evil)??
I would argue for an exact opposite paradigm (with a minimized view of ?tradition? because only the Bible is inspired). If love and compassion are the guiding principles, then there is no solid foundation, for ?love? and ?compassion? are easily redefined to fit some. But more importantly, the Scriptures are God breathed and they are the source of revelation and the only treasury that we can learn anything about God. So The Scriptures are the foundation/guiding principle. That is best, most loving, and most beautiful because nothing is more loving than the Truth. ?Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth.? (John 17:17)
May God truly grant you grace.



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Lightbearer

posted December 31, 2008 at 3:52 pm


@ EJ # 39:
Thank you for the response. To respond:
I didn’t mock the 10 Cs. I showed that they are, in fact, very easy to keep, according to my interpretation, as vetted through prayer. You can suggest that I’m not actually in communication with God (and back that up with evidence), or that I have broken a C (and back that up with evidence), or show how I have made a logical/factual/historical error (and back that up with logic and evidence). What you can’t do is simply declare me wrong, self-righteous, close-minded, logically fallacious, etc., without any evidence to back it up, and expect me or anyone else to take you seriously.
In your debates with others on here, you have used scripture to point out the contradictions between other peoples’ questionable ideas and what scripture actually says. I have agreed with you. And what scripture makes perfectly clear is that rape, theft, murder, and hate are all perfectly acceptable, as long as it’s done by God, or on God’s behalf. So on the surface, Jesus’s sayings about hate and lust as something to avoid is a contradiction; if I have good/Godly reasons to hate my brother and lust after others, I can lust and hate all I want to.
Scripture is simple written tradition. And yes, Love and Compassion require an ongoing conversation for everyone to agree. My point is that we all agree that stoning people to death for apostasy, or eating shellfish, or being an obnoxious child to your parents, are all immoral. Genocide, slavery, and rape are immoral. But people who hold Scripture and Tradition above Love and Compassion think all of these things are moral, because they are all either condoned or specifically mandated by Scripture and Tradition. So someone who does immoral acts is Evil, whether mandated by Scripture or not. Only someone who understands that scripture and tradition are overridden by Love and Tradition is Good.



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Lightbearer

posted January 5, 2009 at 3:35 pm


Correction:
“or being an obnoxious child to your parents” should actually read “or killing a child for being obnoxious to his/her parents.”



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