Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 04/22/2008 by Scott Lamb.
Recommended. A clarion call to embrace the biblical teaching of Christ, the only way of salvation for mankind.
Is explicit faith in Christ necessary for eternal salvation?
Without a doubt, a question like this is provocative and elicits passion from all religious corners. However, a question like this is of foundational importance. Depending on the answer given, the church will either go forth in evangelistic endeavors or will jettison both the message and the mission of the gospel.
In this brand new book, nine Christian theologians give us an excellent introduction to this topic, arguing against the idea that salvation can take place apart from knowledge of Jesus Christ.
One of the editors, Robert Peterson, is a professor of theology here in my hometown of St. Louis at Covenant Theological Seminary. There are a lot of new terms to get a handle on in this discussion, so Peterson opens with an introduction that defines the terms for us:
Pluralism is the view that all religions lead to God. It denies that Jesus Christ is the worlds only Savior. People may be saved, therefore, as adherents of Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam, to cite the big three non-Christian religions as examples.
Exclusivism, sometimes called restrictivism or particularism, is the view that Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the world and that one must believe God’s special revelation that culminates in the gospel of Christ in order to be saved.
Inclusivism is the view that, although Jesus is the only Savior of the world, one does not have to believe in the gospel to be saved.
For a Christian, the primary question is - regarding eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, which of the “isms” is the teaching of the Bible?
Each of the individual contributors to this book argue in favor of the exclusivist view of Jesus Christ. However, some Christians wrongly believe it is necessary for them to abandon the exclusivist position.
“The fact is that many persons are embarrassed by the Gospel as revealed in the Bible and taught by Christ. The central issue of offense is the exclusivity of the Gospel of Christ, And yet, Christ left no doubt about the matter. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The first sentence is not the ground of offense. The second sentence is. The “but by Me” statement leaves no room for confusion.”
A sampling of the content includes Stephen Wellum’s discussion on whether saving faith is implicit or explicit, Walter Kaiser tackles the subject of “Holy pagans”, and Andreas Köstenberger takes us through the New Testament teaching that the gospel of Christ is the only means of salvation for all people and hence the church must go forth in witness to the world.
The editors of this book conclude their work with a word to Christians:
“God is passionately engaged in gathering people to know, love and worship him from every tribe, language, people and nation. And he has called us to join him on this mission.”