Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 07:2 (Autumn 1994)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Periodical Reviews

“Soteriological Inclusivism and Dispensationalism,” Ramesh P. Richard, Bibliotheca Sacra, January-March 1994, pp. 85–108.

A chapter from the author’s soon-to-be-released book on soteriological inclusivism is condensed to form this article. The work offers distinctive dispensational responses to two recent inclusivistic theologians, Clark Pinnock and John Sanders. (“Evangelical” inclusivism holds that salvation is accessible to the unevangelized who express faith in God apart from an explicit knowledge of Christ).

A “wider hope” salvation in the NT era is posited by inclusivists on the grounds that Jews in the OT were saved without explicit knowledge of Jesus Christ. The author reduces the argument to the question, “Can evangelicals validly preserve the explicit messianic content for salvation in the NT era while affirming the authenticity of an OT salvation that is without this explicit content?”

Covenant theology maintains exclusivism but rejects the question. Emphasizing a Christocentric continuity, they see no relevant difference in the content of faith between the Testaments. But dispensationalism preserves salvation in the OT without an explicit knowledge of Jesus Christ. Yet it insists on an explicit knowledge of Jesus Christ now.

Inclusivists also argue that the dispensations may be concurrent, running simultaneously. But the epochal and global nature of the cross and the discontiguous nature of the Church force us to conclude that the dispensations are successive.

Ecclesiologically, inclusivism implies that the saved are composed of “believers” who are evangelized (i.e., those who believe in God and who have trusted in Christ alone for eternal life) and those who are not (those who believe in God but who have not trusted in Christ alone for eternal life). This leads to two impossible options: “believers” who are not part of the Church, or, “believers” within the Church who still need to be evangelized.

Richard implies in a footnote that inclusivism is an overbalanced reaction to the restrictivism of Reformed/Calvinistic theology (i.e., limited atonement, double predestination, perseverance of the saints, etc.). He correctly points out that many evangelicals are exclusivistic without

being restrictive. Free Grace theology favors a non-restrictive, exclusivistic dispensational theology.

While the article is very helpful, two difficulties surface. First, the author repeatedly conditions salvation on the “confession of Christ.” This is not justifiable. Second, it is an overstatement to conclude, as the author does, that the pr...

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