Biblical Theology and the Inclusivist Challenge -- By: Paul R. House

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 02:2 (Summer 1998)
Article: Biblical Theology and the Inclusivist Challenge
Author: Paul R. House


Biblical Theology and
the Inclusivist Challenge

Paul R. House

Paul R. House, editor of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, is Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author, editor, or co-editor of seven volumes, and has contributed several articles to journals and collections of essays.

Not all challenges to orthodox belief come from outside evangelical circles. Sometimes individuals who hold a high view of scripture support unbiblical theological ideas. The recent advocacy of Inclusivism by some evangelicals is a significant example of this problem. To be sure, it is no secret that non-evangelicals have argued for many years that there may be a second chance after death for those who have never heard the gospel, that salvation may be mediated through non-Christian religions, and that God’s loving nature precludes the possibility that a majority of the human race is headed for an eternal hell. What is relatively new, and troubling, is that a few key thinkers from traditionally evangelical circles, such as Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, and John Sanders, have joined them. Though no one of good will can accurately question the motives of these individuals, their arguments for Inclusivism are faulty on methodological, theological, and practical grounds. It is clear that these thinkers believe that their views will lead to more compassionate evangelism, but, sadly, this goal in reality is undermined by their own theological position.

Methodology

Inclusivists employ a questionable eclectic methodology. Though no essay of this length can do justice to their ideas, it is fair to say that Inclusivists use biblical terminology to begin their arguments, then define those terms in non-biblical ways. For example, they routinely start discussions by asserting the biblical principle that God is love. Next, rather than defining this concept through contextual exegesis, they shift to a philosophical assertion: a loving God will not give some persons opportunities to hear the gospel that others will not have. Then, they proceed to claim that this conclusion necessitates a further one, which is that salvation may reside in other faiths, or even that saving faith may be exercised for the first time after death. Another example of this type of argumentation is the tendency to affirm that salvation comes only through Christ, which is certainly a biblical truth. Having stated the scriptural proposition, however, they argue that Jesus’ death mediates salvation through other religions, a notion foreign to biblical theology. As Winfried Corduan argues in this issue of SBJT, Inclusivists often gloss over the real differences between Christianity and other world faiths. Through this sort of blended methodolog...

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