A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
By Benjamin Montoya
About the Author
Daniel Strange is Lecturer in Culture, Religion and Public Theology at Oak Hill Theological College, London. Previously, he was Coordinator of the Religious and Theological Studies Fellowship. He has published a number of other articles and chapters in the area of the theology of religions and systematic theology.
What is the eternal fate of those who never hear the gospel about Christ? One response comes from Clark H. Pinnock; he argues for inclusivism. That is, he believes that salvation is still possible for those who never hear about Christ because the Holy Spirit is everywhere and can make salvation possible. What should we think about this position? Pinnock’s position matters for all evangelicals because he has developed it thoroughly and it has received much attention. But, as Daniel Strange will demonstrate, Pinnock’s position is unbiblical and, thus, creates numerous theological problems.
In This Summary, You Will Learn:
- The importance of the issue of inclusivism
- The pneumatological inclusivism of Clark H. Pinnock
- What matters for theological formulation
- Why and how Pinnock’s position is unbiblical
- The theological problems with Pinnock’s position
- Why evangelism and missions matter
The Importance of This Book in the Larger Discussion:
There are several books that address this larger topic; several of them are summarized in this course also. But, Strange’s book provides the academic bedrock of the other books that critique inclusivism in favor of the exclusivity of the gospel of Christ. Now, Strange’s book is not light reading. It is, after all, an academic monograph. The value of his book is that he carefully and thoughtfully explains Pinnock’s position and then carefully and thoughtfully shows the biblical and theological problems with that position, such that evangelicals should understand why they cannot hold this position, even though it seems to be one of the most sophiscated inclusivist positions.
Table of Contents
Part 1 The Question of the Unevangelized in Recent Evangelical Theology
Chapter 1 Evangelicals and the Question of the Unevangelized: Establishing Working Definitions and Parameters of Study
Part 2 The ‘Pneumatological Inclusivism” of Clark H. Pinnock
Chapter 2 An Introduction to the Thought of Clark H. Pinnock
Chapter 3 Two Foundational Axioms: Universality and Particularity
Chapter 4 The ‘Cosmic Covenant’: God’s Universal Saving Presence
Chapter 5 ‘The Cosmic Covenant’: Humanity’s Free Response to God through the ‘Faith Principle’
Part 3 An Analysis and Critique of Clark H. Pinnock’s ‘Pneumatological Inclusivism’
Chapter 6 The Covenant, Christ, and Confession of Christ: A Redemptive-Historical Critique of Pinnock’s Inclusivism
Chapter 7 Universality, Particularity and Incarnation: A Christological Critique of Pinnock’s Inclusivism
Chapter 8 The Spirit and Son in the Accomplishment and Application of Redemption: A (Binitarian) Trinitarian Critique of Clark Pinnock’s Inclusivism
Chapter 9 The Universality Axiom and the ‘Problem’ of the Unevangelized
Appendix 1 Evangelical Responses to the Fate of the Unevangelized
Part 1: The Question of the Unevangelized in Recent Evangelical Theology
Chapter 1: Evangelicals and the Question of the Unevangelized: Establishing Working Definitions and Parameters of Study
What is the fate of those who never have the chance to hear the gospel? Or, more specifically, what is the eternal fate of the unevangelized? Depending on someone’s theological commitments, their answer will vary tremendously. This book will focus on the responses from evangelicals. But, before turning to the primary issue of this monograph, we need to define our terms. An “evangelical” is someone who has six commitments: (1) the supreme authority of Scripture is the source of knowledge of God and a guide to Christian living; (2) Jesus Christ is the savior of sinful humanity; (3) the lordship of the Holy Spirit; (4) the need for personal conversion; (5) the priority of evangelism for individual Christians and the entire church; (6) the importance of the Christian community for spiritual nourishment, fellowship, and growth. Within evangelicalism, there are different theological traditions. The Reformed/Calvinist tradition represents those who follow the Reformed Theology of John Calvin that has been encapsulated in several statements of faith like the Westminster Confession of Faith. Second, the Arminian tradition represents those who follow the teachings of Jacob Arminius and the “five points” of Arminianism. These points differ from Calvinism primarily because of their different understandings of the will. The latter argue that it is entirely free from anything whatsoever whereas the former group claims that God is entirely sovereign over everything, including the will. Third, postconservative evangelical theology represents the position of Open Theism. In this view, the future is truly open because God has no control over it. Man’s free will is entirely “free” because God cannot affect it in any way whatsoever. This view also argues for a near universal salvation. This perspective tends to be more Arminian because of its synergistic emphasis in salvation. Their view of free will drives their theological conclusions. This branch is of particular importance for this book because the focus of the entire book is addressing the theological thought of one theologian from the postconservative evangelical position, Clark H. Pinnock. His thought will be explained further in chapter 2. This position, broadly speaking, is still considered to be evangelical because it maintains some of the tenets of evangelicalism.
The unevangelized are those who have not heard the gospel through no fault of their own. This group of people covers four groups of people. First, it covers those who have lived and died without receiving the gospel due to their geographical regions where the gospel was never preached. Second, it refers to those who lived prior to the coming of Christ—before the gospel ever came. Third, this group can also refer to who are in hearing range of the gospel but cannot understand it because of some biological reason, e.g., they could be infants or mentally handicapped. Fourth, the unevangelized can also include those who have never received a full and adequate gospel presentation. Thus, a definition that is inclusive of all of these definitions would be as follows: “any person in history who has lived and died without hearing and understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ from a human messenger.”
Inclusivism refers to that theological position that argues that Christ is ontologically necessary for salvation but not epistemologically necessary. That is, Christ is the only way of salvation for anyone anywhere. But, if someone has not heard about Christ in the gospel, they can still be saved through Christ. Inclusivists believe that God’s saving grace is present in every single culture, place, and time. God can even use general revelation to act as a saving grace. This monograph, or focused study, will focus on the inclusivism of Pinnock. His position has been considered the most sophisticated version of inclusivism.
Part 2: The ‘Pneumatological Inclusivism” of Clark H. Pinnock
Chapter 2: An Introduction to the Thought of Clark H. Pinnock
The thought of Clark H. Pinnock is worth understanding for several reasons. First, he develops his position of inclusivism more fully than perhaps anyone else to date. Second, in North America, he has become one of the most stimulating, controversial, and influential evangelical theologians. Given that he is not afraid to admit that he struggles as he does theology, that admission has resonated with many in this culture of postmodernity. He also admits that is open to change his mind unlike other theologians whom he calls “idealogues, so cocksure about the truth that they are willing to force reality to fit into their own system.” Third, Pinnock’s view surprisingly draws more from outside of evangelicalism than within it. For example, his view known as “Pneumatological Inclusivism” draws from. . .[...]
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The Possibility of Salvation Among the Unevangelized