Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 153:609 (Jan 1996)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

What about Those Who Have Never Heard? Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized. Edited by John Sanders. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995. 233 pp. Paper, $10.99.

The topic addressed by this book is one of the most frequently raised objections to the Christian faith. It is also one where evangelicals disagree. This book gives an opportunity to “listen in” on a conversation among adherents of three viewpoints on the issue.

Sanders, who teaches theology and philosophy at Oak Hills Bible College in Bemidji, Minnesota, represents the inclusivist viewpoint. He contends that though salvation “is made possible only by the redemptive work of Christ,” nonetheless “God applied that work even to those who are ignorant of the atonement…if [they] respond in trusting faith to the revelation they have” (p. 36). Accordingly he proposes that there are two types of saved individuals—”believers” (those who respond to God’s general revelation) and “Christians” (those who respond to the gospel of Christ).

Sanders concludes from many of Jesus’ parables that God’s “radical love” moves Him to “include [the unevangelized] in grace” before He “excludes [them] in judgment” (pp. 26-33). He believes that the existence of “pre-messianic believers” and the salvation of infants and the mentally incompetent implies that the unevangelized may also be saved apart from explicit knowledge of the gospel. He also states that to insist that salvation is possible only through response to special revelation is to suggest that there are two Gods—one who condemns through general revelation, and another who saves through special revelation (p. 42). Sanders identifies Cornelius as an individual who was saved before he heard the gospel (p. 40) and he seems to suggest that so were the Athenians who worshiped “the unknown God” (pp. 41, 145), as well as Saul of Tarsus before his encounter with the risen Christ (p. 144). To believe that only those who hear and believe in Christ may be saved is to imply, according to Sanders, that many whom God desires to save are lost because of “unfavorable circumstances” (p. 147). However, contrary to Sanders’ position, Cornelius was not saved till he heard the plan of salvation from Peter (Acts 10:43; 11:18), even though he had been a religious man.

Gabriel Fackre, professor of theology at Andover Newton

Theological School, contends for the view he calls “divine perseverance.” According to Fackre, faith in Christ is indeed necessary for salvation (p. 93), but God does not limit the time...

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