Soteriological Inclusivism and Dispensationalism -- By: Ramesh P. Richard

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 151:601 (Jan 1994)
Article: Soteriological Inclusivism and Dispensationalism
Author: Ramesh P. Richard

Soteriological Inclusivism and Dispensationalism

Ramesh P. Richard

[Ramesh P. Richard is Professor of Pastoral Ministries and World Missions, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas. This article is condensed from a chapter in the author’s book on soteriological inclusivism (Chicago: Moody, forthcoming).]

Explosive growth in the world’s population forces an important question on all evangelicals: Are the masses of the world condemned to eternal conscious punishment even though they have not heard the gospel of Christ in this life? The emotional pain the question evokes cannot be masked, and the theological stress is steady. Evangelicals insist that explicit knowledge of Christ is necessary for personal salvation. But they also know that vast numbers of mankind are inhibited or prohibited by history, geography, religion, culture, and Christian failure from having access to knowledge of Christ. When these realities are combined with God’s stated desire for all men to repent (2 Pet 3:9), the question attains enormous complexity.

The Options

For many it seems that to achieve a theologically and emotionally satisfying answer one must either deny or broaden the exclusive condition of salvation to which evangelicals have traditionally subscribed. On theological grounds, however, the former is not an evangelical option.1 Would an emotionally acceptable broadening of the exclusive condition of salvation be a biblically, theologically, and evangelically permissible alternative?

Clark Pinnock and John Sanders think so. They propose a broadening of the salvific condition so that evangelicals may

adequately grapple with the question while maintaining orthodoxy.2 They marshall several theological and historical arguments in support of their proposal.

This article ponders that critical question from the perspective of dispensationalism.3 Need for this arises from certain arguments that Pinnock and Sanders put forth in defense of an inclusivist or “wider-hope”4 position. A few of these arguments will be examined before presenting interaction from the viewpoint of dispensational evangelicalism.5

One argument for the “inclusivist” position is that Jews in the Old Testament were saved without actually confessing Christ.

Another class of people saved without professing Christ were the Jews who lived befor...

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