Faith Comes By Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism

by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson, eds.

Faith Comes by Hearing is a contribution to an evangelical theology of the unevangelized.

InterVarsity Press, Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, 2008, 270 pages, $23.00.

Reviewed by Christopher R. Little, professor of intercultural studies, Columbia International University, Columbia, South Carolina.

Faith Comes by Hearing is a contribution to an evangelical theology of the unevangelized. What’s specifically new is Christopher Morgan’s contention that the traditional classification of pluralism, inclusivism, and exclusivism is inadequate and must be replaced. In answering the question, “Is there any basis for hope that those who do not hear of Christ in this life will be saved?” he offers the following spectrum of responses: church exclusivism, gospel exclusivism, special revelation exclusivism (represented in my book, The Revelation of God among the Unevangelized), agnosticism, general revelation inclusivism, world religions inclusivism, postmortem evangelism, universalism, and pluralism (p. 26). This is surely a helpful typology and should be adopted in future discussion.

Other noteworthy contributions in this volume are: Daniel Strange’s “General Revelation: Sufficient or Insufficient?” where he not only argues for the salvific insufficiency of general revelation but also that if people providentially find themselves without special revelation it is due to “divine judicial abandonment” (p. 72); William Edgar’s “Exclusivism: Unjust or Just?” in which he observes: “It is fair for God to be angry with the world…because we have transgressed his covenant and committed cosmic treason” (p. 88); Walter Kaiser Jr.’s “Holy Pagans: Reality or Myth,” where he points out that the way of salvation in the Old and New Testaments is one and the same—through faith in God’s Messiah Jesus (pp. 140–141); Stephen Wellum’s “Saving Faith: Implicit or Explicit?” whereby he reminds those involved in this debate that “logical possibilities are not necessarily biblical possibilities….Unless scripture explicitly sanctions and warrants it, we must be careful in drawing hypotheses that rise to the level of settled convictions” (p. 183); and Robert Peterson’s “Inclusivism and Exclusivism on Key Biblical Texts,” where he examines in detail eight biblical passages and deduces they support an exclusivist reading as opposed to an inclusivist one.

In the final chapter, “Answers to Notable Questions,” Morgan and Peterson respond to critical issues that often arise in the minds of sincere inquirers. Also, they wonder whether inclusivists, based upon Alister McGrath’s definition of evangelicalism, can be considered evangelical since they alter “the character and necessity of the Church’s mission” (p. 251). Whatever the case, every Bible college student, seminarian, and conscientious Christian should read and seriously consider their thoughts regarding the spiritual condition of the lost and the eternal destiny of those who die apart from personal faith in Christ. I know my students will be!

Check these titles:
Okholm, Dennis and Timothy Phillips, eds. 1995. More than One Way? Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.

Sanders, John, ed. 1995. What about Those Who Have Never Heard? Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

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Copyright © 2008 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.


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