An Evaluation of the Son-Spirit Relation in Clark Pinnock’s Inclusivism: An Exercise in Trinitarian Reflection -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 10:1 (Spring 2006)
Article: An Evaluation of the Son-Spirit Relation in Clark Pinnock’s Inclusivism: An Exercise in Trinitarian Reflection
Author: Stephen J. Wellum


An Evaluation of the Son-Spirit Relation in Clark Pinnock’s Inclusivism:
An Exercise in Trinitarian Reflection

Stephen J. Wellum

Stephen J. Wellum is Associate Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Wellum received his Ph.D. degree in theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has also taught theology at the Associated Canadian Theological Schools and Northwest Baptist Theological College and Seminary in Canada. He has contributed to several publications and a collection of essays on theology and worldview issues.

Introduction

It is certainly an understatement to say that the doctrine of the Trinity is of critical importance to all Christian thought, life, and practice. The very heart and soul of Christian theology—the gospel itself—is rooted and grounded in our view of God as triune. Contrary to what many people sadly think, the doctrine of the Trinity is not some esoteric, abstract doctrine unrelated to the “practical” affairs of life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, understanding God as triune is central to everything Scripture says about God. For example, without it, we could not make sense of the salvation that the Bible presents centered in a divine Father who initiates, a divine Savior who redeems, and a divine Spirit who applies Christ’s work to us by doing only what God can do, namely, give us resurrection life. In the end, the doctrine of the Trinity is at the heart of what distinguishes the Christian view of God from all its rivals. And that is certainly an important point to emphasize in our pluralistic and postmodern world that is constantly attempting to challenge the exclusive claims of the gospel.

Now it is precisely because the doctrine of the Trinity is so important that we must be very careful how we appeal to the doctrine and make use of it in our theological proposals. As Keith Johnson reminds us in his important article, a lot of current non-evangelical theologizing often appeals to various aspects of the doctrine of the Trinity in an illegitimate manner.1 But, unfortunately, this fact is also true within evangelical theology. Specifically, I have in mind recent appeals to the role relations within the triune Godhead, particularly, the Son-Spirit relationship, to ground a “wider-hope” or “inclusivist” theology. A “wider-hope” theology is one that wrestles with the relationship between the gospel and other world religions, especially regarding the status of the person who has never heard the gospel. It attempts to argue that the person who has never heard the gospel still may be saved by grace through faith due to the universal work of the Holy Spirit, but this is apart from ac...

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