Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Gospel Exclusivists

posted by Scot McKnight

Tiessen.jpgSometime back I did a series on a fine book by Terry Tiessen called Who Can Be Saved?: Reassessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions
. The book is a good one, but it was not easy to blog about. But, Terry has come to us with a question, and I’m hoping we can help him. He wants to know how folks understand the “exclusivist” position when it comes to “who will be saved?” So, let’s try to help get the best definition he can get.

Here’s Terry’s post:


I want to describe the position of gospel exclusivists as accurately as I can. Below is a statement of what I take to be the fundamental principle at work in gospel exclusivism. If you are a gospel exclusivist (i.e. believe that the unevangelized can not be saved) does this correctly state your position? If not, how would you revise it to represent your position more accurately?

 

If you are not a gospel exclusivist yourself but have friends or colleagues who are gospel exclusivists, I’d be happy to have you run this statement by them for their editorial critique.


Statement of the Gospel Exclusivist Principle

 

At various points in human history, God revealed himself and his purposes in the world more fully, culminating in the incarnation of God the Son. Everyone has some knowledge of God through divine self-revelation and, in God’s justice, people are judged only according to the revelation they have received. Therefore, no one is condemned for not believing in revelation which they have not received. But, in God’s grace, he only saves people who believe in him according to the most complete revelation that he has given to human beings. At each point in human history, therefore, knowledge of the latest and fullest divine revelation is necessary for saving faith.

 

 

Please observe that I am not looking for debate about the validity of gospel exclusivism I simply want to be sure that I represent it accurately when I speak of it.

 

Thanks for your help,

Terry Tiessen



Advertisement
Comments read comments(43)
post a comment
Scot McKnight

posted September 28, 2009 at 7:57 am


Terry,
I’m glad you are putting this into this kind of public forum, and I hope our readers think about this a bit — and ask themselves how they think about things like exclusivism.
I get the idea that in God’s working with humans, God has revealed his will over time. And this means that humans should be responsible only for what they know.
But, now that Christ has come, I wonder about North Koreans (for example) who have never heard the revelation in Christ?



report abuse
 

Anette Ejsing

posted September 28, 2009 at 8:13 am


I see one problem in your definition. You say two things: 1) no one is condemned for not believing in revelation which they have not received. 2) At each point in human history … knowledge of the latest and fullest divine revelation is necessary for saving faith.
You cannot assume that the revelation one individual person has received of God equates the latest and fullest revelation of God in history. There are individuals who have not been fully exposed to what you define as the “latest and fullest divine revelation” of their own historical time.
Therefore, I think your definition needs to include a statement addressing the encounter between individual persons and God’s latest and fullest revelation.



report abuse
 

Rachel H. Evans

posted September 28, 2009 at 8:32 am


I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about this subject. I think that as our world continues to become more and more connected, issues related to religious pluralism and the destiny of the un-evangelized will be discussed more often.
Here’s how I understand it (but I could be wrong):
Traditional exclusivism holds that 1) Jesus Christ is the only Savior, and 2) explicit faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation.
While I would probably agree with the first statement, I have major reservations about the second, and instead hold a less conclusive and more optimistic view concerning those who have never heard the gospel or follow other religious traditions. As C.S. Lewis said, “We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.”
I’ve been told that this makes me an inclusivist. (And I’ve read a good deal of Clark Pinnock, so I suppose this may be true.)
Peter?s joyful reaction to the unexpected faith of Cornelius best describes my reaction to what the Bible says about those without the gospel: ?I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.? (Acts 10:34-35)



report abuse
 

Terry

posted September 28, 2009 at 8:34 am


Scot,
Gospel exclusivists agree with your statement that ?humans should be responsible only for what they know.? The issue (between exclusivists and accessibilists/inclusivists) is whether what everyone knows is sufficient for salvation or whether it may, in many cases, be sufficient only for condemnation. Gospel exclusivists believe that people who do not receive the gospel are still justly condemned by God on the basis of the revelation they have received, but those who are ignorant of the gospel (or, previously, the promise to Abraham) do not have revelation which would make salvation possible.
What I am trying to do is to unpack the principle at work in this position, in regard to revelation and salvation.
Perhaps I should point out, therefore, that the last two sentences in the statement I have formulated are most critical in my inquiry. They are my attempt to state the fundamental principle, regarding revelation, that is operative in gospel exclusivism. It is a principle that applies throughout redemptive history, although gospel exclusivists naturally focus their attention on the new covenant situation.
The implication of this principle, it seems to me, is that, as God makes new revelation of himself the kind of faith that would have saved a person previously no longer suffices. The bar is raised for everyone everywhere, even if they are ignorant. To gospel exclusivists, I am asking: ?Am I hearing you correctly??
Thanks for providing this opportunity for feedback.
Terry



report abuse
 

Terry Tiessen

posted September 28, 2009 at 8:39 am


Since other “Terry”s may get into this conversation, I should have identified myself as “Terry Tiessen” in Comment 4.



report abuse
 

Dave Leigh

posted September 28, 2009 at 9:06 am


Whether or not there is salvation outside of Christ for any who have not heard, this we leave in the hands of our merciful and just God. All we know is that there is but one way guaranteed, and that is exclusively in Christ.



report abuse
 

Rachel H. Evans

posted September 28, 2009 at 9:08 am


Okay, thanks for the clarification, Terry. So, the issue here is the extent to which general revelation can lead to salvation?
Since creation, God?s ?invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature? have been revealed to all. Those who practice unrighteousness are ?without excuse? because they have access to enough general revelation about God to know better. (Romans 1:20) Exclusivists usually stop there, but as Dale Moody comments, ?What kind of God is he who gives man enough knowledge to damn him but not enough to save him??
It seems to me that it is reasonable to assume that just as God has revealed enough of Himself for people to reject Him without excuse, He has revealed enough of Himself for people to accept Him without rejection.
Scripture makes it clear that people are justified by faith. It does not stipulate how much a person needs to know about God in order to be saved, but qualifies that the fruit of saving faith is good works. Paul writes that ?it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.? People who have no knowledge of the Law but who ?do instinctively the things of the Law,? will be judged, not on the basis of how much they know, but on the basis of how they respond to their conscience. (Romans 2:9-16)



report abuse
 

Michael W. Kruse

posted September 28, 2009 at 9:36 am


Years ago I heard someone say “God is not limited to means of grace but we are.” God has revealed that salvation is through Christ alone. The only gospel we have to preach is Jesus Christ. Yet God is not limited in how he chooses to apply the atoning work of Christ. We only know that those who are saved apart from knowing the name of Christ, according to the revelation of the gospel, enter the Kingdom through Christ’s atoning work.
I think this probably means I’m not a gospel exclusivist but a Cristo-exclusivist. Yes?



report abuse
 

Kurt Anders Richardson

posted September 28, 2009 at 9:37 am


This matter is not about general revelation, but about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The biblical witness seems to indicate that human beings cry out for salvation as something beyond anything general revelation even offers. The fundamental question is whether the savlation secured for us in Christ is applied by God to those who genuinely seek salvation. The missional exclusivists always make some kind of gentler claim like, “God will provide a Gospel witness to anyone who is truly seeking him.” The pragmatics of mission have often intruded here at the point of doctrine; often based upon Romans 10, i.e., ‘how will they believe’? Unfortunately, there is no single paragraph that neatly addresses this immense question. And then there is the vital question of the apokatastasis panton simply based upon the shere grace of God’s omnipotent and all encompassing interest to reconcile the entire creation to Himself. But we won’t go there right now. Back to the point at hand, the unpersuaded exclusivist who at least is listening to his ‘wider hope’ inclusivist evangelical colleague, drives this stake in the doctrinal ground: extra Chrisum, nulla salus. Finally, and this is where Barth makes one of his best contributions, the matter is in the first instance now about proclamation but about election. The way to test this is by seeing how crucial divine initiative is for any understanding of the wider hope.



report abuse
 

Scott Eaton

posted September 28, 2009 at 9:39 am


@Rachel Evans #7 – The Scripture does not teach that people are justified by faith. The Scripture teaches that people are justified by faith IN CHRIST. Faith must have an object because faith by itself is meaningless. I’m not trying to be picky here but I think for this discussion that is important.
But I’m afraid that we are not really dealing with Terry’s question and statement.
Terry,
I think your statement is basically good. But because God has most fully revealed himself in our time through Jesus Christ I think a line in your statement needs modified to read:
“But, in God’s grace, he only saves people who believe in [Christ]“. To use the word “him” is too generic. Gospel exclusivists (like myself) believe that the gospel is exclusive because it must be faith IN CHRIST and not just God. And again, Jesus Christ is the fullest revelation of God.
But what about those who have yet to hear. It makes no difference. They must believe in Christ. This is hard, I know. And I wrestle with it constantly. But I think that is the consistent exclusivist position. This obviously should motivate our mission efforts.
I’d love to hear other opinions and interact a bit. I know this sounds dogmatic, but honestly, I think the exclusivist position is by nature dogmatic whether exclusivts like that or not. Its just the way it is.



report abuse
 

RJS

posted September 28, 2009 at 9:46 am


Scott Eaton,
Does the bible teach (i.e. Paul teach) that we are justified by faith in Christ or by the faith of Christ?
There is no doubt that the life, death, and resurrection are foundational – and that all salvation is through this. Exactly how though? Well I don’t think that this is as clear as you make it out to be.



report abuse
 

Scott Eaton

posted September 28, 2009 at 10:00 am


RJS,
That’s a good point. I do think there is some dispute on how those texts (i.e. in Galatians) should be translated.
But however you look at it, it still must be more than only faith. It must be faith in or by someone (Christ).
Would you agree?



report abuse
 

Andy Rowell

posted September 28, 2009 at 10:01 am


I do not know of many self-identified exclusivists in the academy who would put the last two sentences that way. But I agree that there is a popular exclusivism that says “Every person who does not hear about Jesus will land in hell.”
I think you are much better off avoiding the “exclusivist” and “inclusivist” terminology as you do in the book because of the influence of Gavin D’Costa’s 1986 book Theology and Religious Pluralism which firmly describes exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism. You are hoping to transcend that with your new taxonomy: (1) ecclesiocentrism (popular ugly exclusivism without nuance–which is what I would call it–why bring ecclesia in there?), (2) [evangelical] agnosticism, (3) accessibilism (these latter two being almost synonymous in my mind and the true exclusivist position and the historically orthodox one), (4) religious instrumentalism (historically known as inclusivism) and (5) relativism (historically known as pluralism).
I think it is confusing when you call the accessibilist position “inclusivist” because Stott, Packer, and Newbigin–who you show have “[evangelical] agnostic” or “accessibilist” leanings in that they hope that God has mercy on those who have not heard the name of Jesus–would all I think call themselves “exclusivists.” One example: Newbigin in 1986: “As I find myself in D’Costa’s book classified as an exclusivist, I will try to say why” (Lesslie Newbigin, Signs Amid the Rubble, 72. Link to Google Books page where Newbigin takes on Karl Rahner’s “inclusivism” http://bit.ly/2O3jYO).



report abuse
 

Matt S.

posted September 28, 2009 at 10:27 am


I am not currently what you are defining as an exclusivist, but I was for a long time.
I think Kurt #9 makes a helpful point by stating that there is a gentler claim made by exclusivists that God will provide a gospel witness to all who are open to him or seeking him. I have even heard it said that this witness may sometimes be supernatural ie dreams, visions, etc.
However, I want to interject a question about terminology – is restrictivism a better term to describe the position you are working on? i think exclusivism can mean that salvation is effected through Christ alone, but affects a broader, inclusive, set of people. If that is the case, a person could both an inclusivist and an exclusivist at the same time, but not also a restrictivist.
That use of the terms has an obvious tendency to be confusing, but I do think that I see the term being used that way in Newbigin at least.



report abuse
 

Norton

posted September 28, 2009 at 10:38 am


I was taught “exclusivism” through the lens of revelation:
General revelation is available to everyone (through creation and inner sense of morality). General revelation is enough to condemn everyone by revealing our sinful nature and the existence of God. Thus all can be judged fully by God because of general revelation. But this is not enough to “save” us.
Special revelation is only available through Jesus, the Bible, preaching of the Word, supernatural acts of the Holy Spirit, etc. Special revelation reveals God’s work in Christ and saving grace. Only those who have responded to special revelation–put explicit faith in Christ and his work–will be saved.



report abuse
 

Brian LePort

posted September 28, 2009 at 10:38 am


This is my “thinking outloud”"
As someone who would consider myself more or less an exclusivist I am wrestling with this definition. I affirm that first line that at various points in human history God has revealed Himself and that the incarnation is the climax of revelation (ie. Acts 17:23-34; Heb. 1:1). Furthermore, I affirm that the Apostle Paul argued that all people have some understanding of God (at some point in their life), including Richard Dawkins (Rom 1-2)! This would result in people being judged according to the revelation that was received upon rejection of that revelation. So-called “general” revelation is always rejected in favor of gods that are no-gods at all (again, Rom. 1-2). So, I disagree with Tiesen that people are not condemned for not believing in the revelation that has been received. Everyone rejects that revelation.
In the next phase I would affirm that God does appear to judge according to the most recent revelation of sort. Hence, Paul could lament the Jewish rejection of Messiah even though the Jews were zealous for Moses’ Law (Rom. 9-11). But it must be more than this: there is not a group of people who simply seem to acknowledge the most updated revelation, but a group of people that God somehow “chooses” to receive this revelation in a salvific way (again Acts 17:23-34; add Rom. 8:26-29). Therefore, God chooses those who will be able to receive the salvific revelation at certain points in human history.
I left the whole thought here: http://nearemmaus.blogspot.com/2009/09/definition-of-gospel-exclusivist-from.html .



report abuse
 

Terry Tiessen

posted September 28, 2009 at 10:55 am


Yes, Michael (#8). You are a Cristo-exclusivist but not a gospel exclusivist. You state an accessibilist/inclusivist position as opposed to a pluralistic one.
Incidentally, in my book, I worked with a 5 point typology (Ecclesiocentrism, agnosticism, accessibilism, religious instrumentalism, pluralism). I have since nuanced that into a 14 position typology. I?d be happy to send a copy of that typology to anyone who wants it. You can send me a request at terry.tiessen(at)prov.ca



report abuse
 

Brian LePort

posted September 28, 2009 at 11:06 am


I just noticed that I misread Thiesen’s sentence here:
“Therefore, no one is condemned for not believing in revelation which they have not received.”
I missed the second “not”, so in fact, I agree with Thiesen’s definition at this point.



report abuse
 

Terry Tiessen

posted September 28, 2009 at 11:09 am


Scott (#10). Certainly, your making the object of faith ?Christ? rather than simply ?God? is correct, in gospel exclusivism, regarding the post-Pentecost period. In my statement, however, I make God the object of faith because I am trying to elucidate the fundamental principle that operates through all redemptive history. Taking that into account, does the statement look better to you?
Am I right then in believing that your position entails that the availability of saving revelation diminishes significantly each time God reveals himself in further new universally normative revelation? In other words, am I correct to propose that you (and fellow gospel exclusivists) believe that when God revealed himself to Abraham, the kind of faith that would have saved someone prior to the establishment of that covenant would cease to be saving, anywhere in the world, regardless of one?s knowledge/ignorance of it? I hear that claim in regard to the revelation in Christ and I assume it to be a principle that gospel exclusivists affirm throughout redemptive history. Do you agree?
Thanks,
Terry



report abuse
 

Terry Tiessen

posted September 28, 2009 at 11:23 am


Andy (# 13), you make a good point about nomenclature.
In Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson?s edited work, Faith Comes By Hearing, they happily identified themselves as ?gospel exclusivists.? Walter Kaiser took offence at my having identified him as an ?ecclesiocentrist.? My point was that, for gospel exclusivists, salvation is impossible apart from contact with the church. Like Kaiser, however, Morgan and Peterson thought the term ecclesiocentrism true of a particular tradition with Roman Catholicism but not of Protestants. In a desire to let people describe themselves, I now distinguish between ?gospel exclusivists? and ?church exclusivists,? in the 14 point typology that I have offered to email to anyone interested.
In regard to ?exclusivism,? you are correct to point out that we must distinguish between an exclusivity of ground and an exclusivity of means of salvation. Accessibilists agree with exclusivists and agnostics that Christ is (and has always been) exclusively the ground of salvation. Anyone who has ever been or ever will be saved is saved because of Christ?s atoning work. The issue at stake between exclusivism and the various forms of accessibilism is regarding the means by which salvation is appropriated. My definitions of these positions make that clear.
Thanks,
Terry



report abuse
 

Rachel H. Evans

posted September 28, 2009 at 11:24 am


Scott, I was actually thinking of Abraham and Hebrews 11 when I made my comment about justification through faith. Obviously, people living before the time of Christ were made righteous by faith without explicit knowledge of Jesus.
In fact, it seems to me that throughout Scripture, we find evidence that God worked in the lives of people who were neither Jews nor Christians. Take, for example, Job, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedeck, Abimelech, Jethro, the Queen of Sheeba, the Magi, and Cornelius. The famed Hebrews 11 passage includes several of these so-called ?pagan saints,? in its elite ?cloud of witnesses,? emphasizing that they were saved by faith in a God who ?is a rewarder of those who seek him.?
I think part of the problem is that in recent years, faith has been redefined as intellectual ascent to a set of prepositional truths. James writes (in James 2:20-24) that even the demons believe that there is one God. Obviously, believing something to be true doesn?t mean reconciliation or relationship with God. Faith is something that transcends knowledge of facts and belief in them. Faith involves responding to the call of God. I believe that this might look different for different people.



report abuse
 

Terry Tiessen

posted September 28, 2009 at 11:26 am


Matt (14). Please see my comment 20.



report abuse
 

Rachel H. Evans

posted September 28, 2009 at 11:30 am


I just want to add that when we talk about the un-evangelized, we are talking about real people – human beings with hearts and minds and families and tears and laughter, etc.
The reason this issue is so important to me (and the reason I believe it is important to a lot of other young people) is that if only those who make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ are to be saved, then the majority of the human population will be damned to hell for eternity. Millions upon millions of people were simply born at the wrong place and the wrong time.
For me, this not only biblically questionable, but morally and inuitively questionable.



report abuse
 

Terry Tiessen

posted September 28, 2009 at 11:35 am


Norton (# 15). Your definitions of general and special revelation are commonly accepted among Reformed theologians. The terms have become problematic to me, however, precisely because they include a statement about the salvific effect of these forms of revelation.
To avoid the salvific entailments of the classic nomenclature, I now think it better to distinguish between ?universal? revelation (available to everyone) and ?particular? revelation (made to certain individuals). In the latter type, we then need to distinguish further between universally normative particular revelation (true for everyone, though made to particular individuals, such as we now have supremely in the Bible) and non-universally normative particular revelation (true only for the individual to whom it is made or for a particular group of people for whom it was given). In this last category are the many instances of divine guidance or messages God wants passed on to other individuals or to a congregation, that must not be given the status of Scripture.



report abuse
 

beckyr

posted September 28, 2009 at 11:38 am


Doesn’t Romans say that God has revealed himself in nature and if one doesn’t believe from that revelation, they are without excuse?
Frankly, I attended 12 step groups for awhile in the 80′s and I saw people in there more surrendered to God than some christians I knew. I have to wonder if that surrender without the use of Christ’s name, but surrender to God as he/she is seen, is of any merit ala salvation, in the kingdom, going to heaven.
Then there’s my dad who did 12 step programs up till his death, literally, raised in the church but nonbelieving as an adult – one day he says to me – “it’s all about love,” and I would have accepted that statement but I think rather that there needs to be a bowing before God then love has christian meaning. Otherwise it’s following a rule, not following God.



report abuse
 

Scott Eaton

posted September 28, 2009 at 11:59 am


Terry (19),
Your clarification makes sense. I actually wondered if after my original comments if that is what you had in mind (i.e. “trying to elucidate the fundamental principle that operates through all redemptive history”). So yes, that is better.
As to your second point, I think you correctly assert that according to the exclusivist position that “the availability of saving revelation diminishes significantly each time God reveals himself in further new universally normative revelation.” I cannot speak for all gospel exclusivists, but I think this is correct. Your example of Abraham is a good one. A Jew today exercising the same type of faith as Abraham would not be exercising saving faith because it is not faith IN CHRIST who has now been revealed as Messiah and the fulfillment of the promises to Israel. So I do agree.
But I might quickly add that I think this is hard to believe and I don’t really like believing it. It is something I wrestle with deep in my soul but remain compelled to believe gospel exclusivity) because it appears to be the teaching of the Bible. I respect those who disagree and wish I could join them. If possible I’d be a universalist! But the biblical witness will not allow me to go there. Perhaps I should read your book! :-)
It is a pleasure and privilege to be able to discuss this with a theologian of your stature. Thank you.



report abuse
 

Scott Eaton

posted September 28, 2009 at 12:03 pm


Rachel Evans (21),
Point well taken.
Rachel Evans (23),
This is an excellent reminder and one with which I resonate. This is not just an academic exercise. We are talking about real lives and the eternal ramifications of these questions. Keeping it about people and not just theories is important to the conversation. Thanks.



report abuse
 

pds

posted September 28, 2009 at 12:27 pm


Peeling Dragon Skin
It seems like a strange enterprise to try to define “the” exclusivist position. It seems to me that there are several issues and sub-issues involved and lots of variations and permutations are possible. The question presented seems to overly glorify the value of “labels” and precise definitions for the labels.
I believe that there are many paths up to exclusivism.



report abuse
 

Andy Rowell

posted September 28, 2009 at 12:29 pm


I really don’t think that Tiessen’s “accessibilists” and Morgan and Peterson’s “gospel exclusivists” are that far apart. I think it is a matter of emphasis. Both argue for the importance of evangelism but finally trust the unevangelized to God. But Tiessen is optimistic while Morgan and Peterson are pessimistic.
“Is there any hope for those who have never heard the gospel? . . . The hope of those who have never heard is found in God who sent his Son to be the Savior of the world . . . The best way to help the unevangelized is not to become more optimistic about their eternal destiny apart from the gospel” (Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson, eds. Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism, 252-253 http://bit.ly/11J2H1).
“Even though I have not found clear biblical grounds to assert the salvation of all such people, I have reason to be hopeful of the greatness of God’s grace in their case . . . I am very hopeful concerning the proportion of the human race that will enjoy life with God in the glorious new earth” (Terrance Tiessen, Who Can Be Saved? Reassessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions, p. 293. http://bit.ly/4z6sSJ).



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted September 28, 2009 at 12:30 pm


But, PDS, tossing the dust of complexity into the eyes of the thinker doesn’t keep the thinker from the goal of defining what deserves clarity.



report abuse
 

pds

posted September 28, 2009 at 12:48 pm


Scot #30,
I agree, but lumping 5 different theological positions (with important distinctions) into one does not help the thinker attain clarity. It can also lead to misrepresentations and inaccurate labeling of people.



report abuse
 

ChrisB

posted September 28, 2009 at 1:12 pm


“At each point in human history, therefore, knowledge of the latest and fullest divine revelation is necessary for saving faith.”
I’m not quite comfortable with this statement.
Most exclusivists wouldn’t say you must understand, or even have heard of, the Trinity to be saved. You might not have even had the question of the divinity of Christ enter your mind.
But I think his statement is reasonably close.
For myself, I think I would say that, if a person would believe, God will deliver to him sufficient revelation for salvation — whatever that may entail.



report abuse
 

Terry Tiessen

posted September 28, 2009 at 4:11 pm


PDS (#28, 31), you speak of ?many paths up to exclusivism.? Accurate representation and labeling are both important to me, so I welcome your elucidation. Thus far, I have identifed 4 forms of exclusivism whose substance I?ll state below. If you are aware of other forms that should be added to the list I?d be happy to hear about them.
Here is what I am seeing on the map (to pick up on your metaphor of paths):
1. Church exclusivism: God saves only through communion with the church
2. Gospel exclusivism: God saves only through faith, by means of the gospel as proclaimed by human witnesses
3. Qualified church exclusivism: God normally saves through communion with the church but, in extraordinary cases, the disposition to receive the sacraments communicates justification.
4. Qualified gospel exclusivism: God saves only through faith by the gospel but sometimes uses extraordinary means of proclamation
(You?ll observe that Morgan and Peterson call the fourth in my list ?special revelation exclusivism.? I see merit in their nomenclature but prefer a label that includes ?gospel,? because, for the group they and I are describing, though God uses unusual means to deliver the saving message, the content of what God communicates must still be the gospel.
What appears in my typology [but not theirs], however, is ?8. Special revelation accessibilism: God saves some people through special revelation that is less specific than the gospel, but not by means of general revelation alone.? The critical difference that constitutes this position a form of accessibilism rather than of exclusivism is that the content of saving revelation ?is less specific than the gospel.?)
What exclusivist paths have you encountered that I have missed?



report abuse
 

Kenton

posted September 28, 2009 at 4:13 pm


And I would ask “What does ‘salvation/’saved’ mean?”
Rachel pointed to the 800 lb gorilla in the room (#23), which is the either-or streets-of-gold/lake-of-fire for all eternity dichotomy, which I think is more of an exclusivist mindset than an inclusivist one. (David wrote of God being his salvation long before the theology of hell was established.)



report abuse
 

Mike

posted September 28, 2009 at 4:53 pm


Andy (#13),
By and large, I would agree with you, except that even Newbigin readily acknowledged his spectrum of replies to D’Costa: and for Newbigin, this distribution was a remarkable function of his doctrine of election.
I’m not really clear on Terry Tiessen’s taxonomy, but I would suggest that the old categories are still useful, especially when it comes to Newbigin. For him, he likely spotted himself as an inclusivist who looked with a fondness at the exclusivist position.
I don’t know enough about Stott or Packer here to comment upon them. Glad that you brought up Newbigin, as he brings much to the table to dialogue with Tiessen.



report abuse
 

pds

posted September 28, 2009 at 6:08 pm


Terry (#33)
Thanks for clarifying. I understood the question in the blog post to be whether the definition presented was accurate as to “the exclusivist” position- as if there were only one. Your comment clarifies that the question was really getting at one category among many, which I assume is elaborated in your book. Those four broad categories are fine as such, that is, as broad categories.
I can think of the following questions that would further refine where someone fits in the categories, or straddling the broad categories:
How well can we know the future salvation of another person?
How well can we know how God will judge?
How much does someone need to know about the gospel to be saved?
How theologically accurate does a person need to be to be saved?
What theological issues and what degree of understanding them are essential for salvation?
How does the time (era) the person lived on earth affect the above questions?
Will some or all people be given a second chance after death?



report abuse
 

Terry Tiessen

posted September 28, 2009 at 6:29 pm


Mike (#35), Packer and Stott have both spoken agnostically on this matter but Stott is more optimistic than is Packer.
I discern agnosticism to be quite widespread among evangelicals, which must be distressing to gospel exclusivists, particularly given the prominence of some of the figures who are not convinced that Scripture teaches clearly that God only saves those who know the gospel.
I have been much helped by Newbigin who writes so clearly. Having grown up in a missionary home in India myself, I always felt a sense of kinship with Newbigin because of his own missionary work in India. In terms of my definitions, I take Newbigin to be an accessibilist, since he denied that the church is ?the exclusive possessor of salvation? (The Open Secret, 203). I am delighted by the fine nuance with which he argued that his position included all three of the traditional categories:
?The position which I have outlined,? he wrote, ?is exclusivist in the sense that it affirms the unique truth of the revelation in Jesus Christ, but it is not exclusivist in the sense of denying the possibility of the salvation of the non-Christian. It is inclusivist in the sense that it refuses to limit the saving grace of God to the members of the Christian Church, but it rejects the inclusivism which regards the non-Christian religions as vehicles of salvation. It is pluralist in the sense of acknowledging the gracious work of God in the lives of all human beings, but it rejects a pluralism which denies the uniqueness and decisiveness of what God has done in Jesus Christ.? (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 182-83).
Amen and Bravo!



report abuse
 

Darren King

posted September 28, 2009 at 10:54 pm


This fine-tuning of positions assumes a lot to begin with. Where does apocalyptic literature fit into the mix? What definition of “salvation” are we speaking of? Are we only considering the question from the perspective of wooden literalism? Without a consideration of genre or other contextual cues?
How we look at these kinds of factors can completely change the face of the issue.



report abuse
 

No Expert

posted September 29, 2009 at 9:56 am


Without claiming to be any kind of expert, it seems to me that an exclusivist wouldn’t frame her position quite the way Tiessen does. Particularly, saying that people are judged only on the basis of the revelation they’ve received, but then saying that saving faith can only come with knowledge of the full and latest divine revelation sets up an inherent tension than most exclusivists would deny they hold.
I expect most exclusivists would say that people are judged based primarily on their behavior/sins, and that whatever amount of revelation a person has received, it’s sufficient to let him know right from wrong. Therefore, people have no excuse.
On the other side, I think exclusivists would differ on how much of the full divine revelation must be known in order to exercise saving faith–perhaps that’s the difference between Piper and Stott noted in one of the previous comments. Some exclusivists would say a full presentation of the Gospel is needed; others might say that merely calling out to Jesus or to the Creator God is enough. In my experience, virtually none would claim that a completely perfect theology is needed, because it’s understood that God accommodates Himself to humans’ ever-limited and imperfect understanding.
As I said, I have no expertise here . . . but what I’ve described does seem to be what I heard growing up in conservative Christian circles.



report abuse
 

Mike

posted September 29, 2009 at 10:02 am


Terry Tiessen (#37),
Thanks for the expansion of Newbigin’s quote in GPS. I was also thinking of Andy’s citation (#13) in “Signs Amid the Rubble”, in which Newbigin directly responds to D’Costa in an overlapping way as in GPS.
Newbigin having said that, however, does not necessarily make it so. If I understand your category, then, yes, Newbigin would be an “accessibilist”. My reading of several other texts from Newbigin leans more toward his humble assertion of being a bearer of salvation, not merely a beneficiary, and that Jesus himself frequently mentioned the surprises that await everyone once presented before the throne: and therefore, we cannot assume that, although bearers, that we have some kind of privileged and secure relationship with God. But…
Newbigin would then speed toward the responsibility of being elected as a bearer of salvation to the nations. This elaboration of his generates my comment about being an inclusivist- the salvation we have is from Christ from first to last- but that fond look at the exclusivist position connotes a God-given desire of Newbigin’s that the nations would know the Lord’s salvation and rejoice.



report abuse
 

Terry Tiessen

posted September 29, 2009 at 1:37 pm


No Expert (# 39), I?m intrigued by what you heard ?growing up in conservative Christian circles.? You said: Some exclusivists would say a full presentation of the Gospel is needed; others might say that merely calling out to Jesus or to the Creator God is enough.?
It would be interesting to know whether the ?others? were in the pulpit or in the pew. By definition, gospel exclusivists deny that ?calling out to the Creator God is enough.? That expresses the sort of ?general revelation accessibilist? belief that gospel exclusivists are committed to exposing as erroneous.
What your experience may illustrate, however, as surveys have also revealed, is that gospel exclusivism is frequently not affirmed by church members, even in congregations that make a formal commitment to it. This may indicate a general decline in knowledge of the faith, within evangelical circles, but it might also derive from a biblically informed sense of God’s graciousness that the proponents would be unable to unpack systematically.



report abuse
 

Ephrem Hagos

posted October 2, 2009 at 1:40 am


Beware of gospel exclusivism! A good lesson can be drawn from the close parallel of “Joshua and the Man Holding a Sword” (Josh. 5: 13-15). It seems that there are three sides to the issue. Rather than debating, therefore, whether God is either on the side of the evangelized or unevangelized, let us be double sure that we are on His side!



report abuse
 

Marc

posted December 3, 2009 at 6:59 am


@Scott Eaton #10 – Because you consider this point important I would add: When Paul expounds justification it is not certain whether it is the believer’s faith, his faithfulness or the faithfulness of Christ.
Aside from that, Scripture is far from “clear” on justification as evangelicals understand it (i.e. avoiding hell). According to Jesus you can be saved simply because you are poor (Lazarus), by being merciful and not judging others, or, even more clearly by caring for the poor and outcast (Sheep and Goats). Even Paul says every man will be judged by their own deeds (2 Cor 5:10) so Justification by Faith is far from clear, biblically.
I think a much better case can be made from the Bible as a whole that a person is saved by being judged faithful by God on the last day (salvation by faithfulness) than for all this Salvation by Faith (read ‘Beliefs’) tripe we have today.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the hand of God's bounty (v. 7a).Step two: David became too

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: Deity or Deism noted: ...this reminds me of why I get a

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's new book is called Almost Christian: What the Faith of Ou

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or two with their hands ... but that's what makes this diet

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.