Who Can Be Saved? A Review Article -- By: James M. Hamilton Jr.

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 28:1 (Spring 2007)
Article: Who Can Be Saved? A Review Article
Author: James M. Hamilton Jr.


Who Can Be Saved?
A Review Article

James M. Hamilton Jr. *

* James M. Hamilton Jr. is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Houston Park Place Campus, in Houston, Texas.

Terrance L. Tiessen, Who Can Be Saved? Reassessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004. 511 pp. $27.00.

I. Introduction

We can all thank Terrance Tiessen for his remarkable clarity and perceptive ability to ask the right questions (see esp. pp. 12-17).1 In this introduction I will summarize the major contours of the argument, interacting with the specifics in the body of this review. Tiessen’s presentation is rendered disarmingly persuasive by several strengths of the book. First, Tiessen is everywhere clear and easy to understand. Second, along the way Tiessen affirms many cardinal doctrines, such as original sin, and he claims that he is not denying a text such as John 14:6 because the salvation he is proposing is through Christ. Third, Tiessen frequently makes reference to the emotionally troubling nature of the view that those who never hear the gospel through no fault of their own are lost.

Tiessen affirms that all salvation is through Christ by proposing that just as Old Covenant believers were saved apart from faith in Jesus, so those who have never heard can be saved if they respond to general revelation by glorifying God and giving thanks to him. In addition, God might give “nonuniversally normative divine revelation” to some who never hear, and the Spirit could quicken these hearts such that they respond to the light they are given. Since Tiessen holds that faith in Christ is necessary, he posits that those who are “saved” this way—apart from knowing Jesus in this life—will respond to him in faith when they do meet him. Here the idea of “universal at death encounters with Christ” is put forward, and Tiessen argues that one’s response to Jesus at the moment of death will be in line with the way one responded to him, or would have responded to him, during one’s life. Those who consciously reject Christ are without excuse, but Tiessen holds that those who do not

hear of Christ are not condemned for not having believed in the one of whom they did not hear. With this overview before us, we turn to a fuller survey of Tiessen’s argument.

II. Chapters 1–3: Destination, Possibilities, History

The argument for “accessibilism” comes in two parts, which are preceded by three orienting chapters. In Part 1, whic...

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