I am a professional theologian, so of course I think theology matters. Theology can help us live better or worse, depending on its quality. But theological accuracy is not the heart of the gospel. Encountering God's Spirit and responding in faith to him in that encounter is what finally matters. And how God meets people, through whatever theology they might have, in whatever circumstances, is ultimately not visible to us.
Indeed, I believe that many people raised in non-Christian religions—such as bhakti (devotional) traditions in Hinduism in which they worship a single supreme God and trust him for their salvation (however badly understood this is from a Christian point of view), or Judaism or Islam, to pick examples closer to home—have a clearer and more authentic apprehension of God than many people raised in ostensibly Christian homes and churches in which a terrible distortion of God is taught and little access to the genuine gospel is available. To confine the scope of salvation to those who have heard certain facts about Jesus and who come to accept him on this basis, therefore, is not necessitated by the Bible, and in fact is not even the best way to understand the Bible.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
An Evangelical Inclusivism -- John Stackhouse's Defense
The Evangelical in me (remember I'm a graduate of Fuller Seminary) believes that there is something cosmically decisive about the person of Jesus -- that is -- Jesus is the one through whom God has reconciled the world to God's self (2 Cor. 5).
At the same time there's another part of me that has long believed -- perhaps as far back as my time at Fuller -- that it is simply inappropriate to believe that God would require confession of faith in Jesus as the sole means of salvation -- indeed, that without such a confession one would spend eternity in hell. I must confess it was while an M.Div. student that I abandoned the idea of hell for an anhilationist view. I've moved on toward a more universalist view since then.
Well, this morning -- via The Fire and the Rose -- I came across a piece by John Stackhouse of Regent College (not to be confused with Pat Robertson's Regent University). This Regent is in British Columbia, Canada. In this article which appears at Christianity Today"s Books and Culture site affirms the centrality of Jesus and yet recognizes that to consign billions to death simply because they've not confessed Christ as savior is wrong. He also casts doubt on the possibility of showing that Christianity is superior to other religions.
That doesn't mean we should give up sharing our faith, but simply do it humbly and with an eye toward sharing how God in Christ has changed one's own life. Not the fear of hell but the love of God -- sounds absolutely like something we Mainliners can get on board with, doesn't it?
There is much in this article worthy of considering -- if for no other reason than to realize that Evangelicalism isn't monolithic. I want to leave you with these two paragraphs that are a strikingly powerful affirmation that God's voice can be heard speaking in unexpected places!