Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Inclusivism: Outside Evangelical Tradition

I have watched the on-going thread in the comments section of my blog and thought it was about time for me to weigh in on the matter in greater detail. Apparently this excerpt is from an article written by Glen Miller. It seems abundantly clear that Mr. Miller is certainly arguing for inclusivism. I contend that historic Christian orthodoxy repudiates inclusivism and that Scripture expressly contradicts such a view. I have copied an excerpt from the article in question to illustrate as clearly as possible Mr. Miller's proposal.

BC10: God's universal and final judgment is according to the actions and motives of humanity--NOT to one's "exposure" (or lack thereof) to the NT gospel. Indeed, Romans describes a moral purity that is theoretically attainable by ANYONE.

God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2)

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God. (I Cor 4.4f)

All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD. (Prov 16.2)

Notice that we are accountable for HOW WE LIVE OUR LIVES--what thoughts, actions, and the consequences of who we are that MAKE IT OUT INTO HISTORY. We are NOT judged by whether we heard the gospel or not.
Miller makes two fundamental proposals that require evaluation in order to consider if his brand of inclusivism actually contradicts the exclusive claims of historic Christian orthodoxy. First, Miller presupposes that men will be judged apart from the gospel. In essence, Miller’s view unavoidably concludes that salvation may be obtained apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my contention that historical Christian orthodoxy teaches that no one can be saved apart from hearing and believing the gospel. Secondly, Miller contends that men are capable, apart from the gospel, of achieving moral purity. If Miller is wrong on either account, he is guilty of violating the Christian community’s traditional views on the exclusive nature of biblical Christianity. If he is wrong that men can be saved apart from the gospel, then this means that believing the gospel is the exclusive way to experience salvation. If he is wrong that men cannot attain to moral purity apart from the gospel, then it also follows that the gospel is necessary to produce the moral purity necessary for salvation. In both cases, salvation can only come via the gospel. In other words, salvation excludes anyone who has not heard and believed the gospel, whatever the reason might be. Conversely, salvation is only inclusive of those who have heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Is it in fact the case that God will judge men apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Acts 17:31 says, "because He has fixed a day when He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." The previous verse says that God once winked at the ignorance of men, but now is commanding all people everywhere to repent. The world is going to be judged "through a man." That man is Jesus Christ! The preposition en is used with the dative and as such is best viewed as an instrumental. In other words, God will judge the world BY Jesus Christ.

Ben Witherington III comments,
"The times of ignorance are over and done with; now is the time when repentance is required lest one face the judgment. In the second place, Paul does not say that Gentiles have any inherent saving knowledge of God, nor that they could deduce any from nature. What nature reveals is the existence of a Creator God and this God’s eternal power (Rom. 1:20). It is thus misleading to suggest that Paul says that pagans know God apart from the gospel in any further sense than is suggested in Acts 17. Acts 17 suggests that pagans have some inkling that God exists, as is shown by their erecting of altars and creating of objects of worship for this God. They simply do not know his name or true nature. This is made very clear by the repeated stress that pagans are groping around in the dark, and their efforts at worship of the true God are distortions, inadequate, shots fired in the dark." [Witherington III, B. (1998). The Acts of the Apostles : A socio-rhetorical commentary (534). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.]
Romans 2:16 also states, "on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Jesus Christ." Clearly the gospel of Jesus Christ is not irrelevant to judgment.

John 3:18 clears contradicts Miller's thesis: "He who believes in Him is not judged; but he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." God most certainly will judge the world by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who hear and believe have eternal life and will not come into judgment. Those who do not believe are judged already.

According to these verses we know that God will not only judge all men, but He will judge them by Jesus Christ. To argue that God will not do so is to go against the plain teachings of Scripture. Moreover, the question that is before us is the question of salvation. All men are lost. To be saved is to be saved from being lost. So then how is a lost person saved? Paul answers this question at length in Ephesians 2:1-10. Paul points out that all men are universally dead in their trespasses and sins in verse 1. In verse 5 Paul says, But God….made us alive together with Christ. And in verses 8-10, we are informed about how salvation takes place. Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Paul says that salvation come by God’s grace through faith. The question then becomes, from whence do we get this faith. First, it is a gift from God. But God dispenses it only on those who hear the gospel. Paul’s rhetorical questions of Rom. 10:14-15 come to mind. Apart from faith alone in Christ alone, no man can be saved. Rom. 10:17 says, So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. God gifts faith only to those who hear the word of Christ. Moreover, not all who hear the word of Christ are even granted this gift because not all who hear actually believe.

Secondly, Paul clearly says that salvation is not the result of our works. In other words, there is nothing we can do to be saved. The decision to elect was made before we were created. If God saved men who find a way to become morally pure outside the gospel, then surely they can take some degree of credit for that. Moreover, if God saves men who decide on their own that they are going to worship Him be simply worshipping the God that created all things, they can take credit for that as well. Paul denies the slightest possibility that salvation can be attained on such grounds. The grace and faith that necessarily precede salvation are gifts from God. Moreover, both the grace and the faith come through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Third, we know that we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives by faith. (Gal. 3:2) So without faith, we cannot have the Spirit of God. Romans 8:9 says that without the Spirit of Christ, Christ does not belong to us. Faith is contingent on God’s act through our hearing the gospel. If we have not heard the gospel, we cannot have faith. If we do not have faith, we are not saved and do not possess the Spirit of Christ. If we do not have the Spirit of Christ, we do not have Christ. Faith is required for salvation. Christ is required for faith.

Fourth, Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek…For it is written, the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Rom. 1:16-17)

Gal. 3:20 says, “But the Scripture has shut everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”

Eph. 3:6, “to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

2 Thess. 1:8, “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

Paul argues that believers are foreknown by God the Father. Those whom God foreknows, He predestines to be conformed to the image of His Son. How can they possibly be conformed to the image of the Christ they have never heard of? Paul continues on saying that these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Rom. 8:29-30) How can God call them without the gospel? Clearly, Paul has in mind the gospel call here. Secondly, how can a man be justified apart from faith? Justification is by faith alone. (Rom. 5:1) Faith comes with the gospel as God’s gift to those whom He has predestined.

Acts 4:12, “and there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Miller’s interpretation of this verse is a perfect example of eisegesis. He reads the text in a manner that allows him to hold onto his inclusivism. He says,
Actually, I am just trying to interpret the verse according to the author's intention and historical setting. "Name" was normally used in such settings to mean "person with authority". For example, in 4.18, the Sanhedrin "commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus". "Name" referred to the status, dignity, authority of the person.
If Miller were truly trying to interpret the verse according to the Author’s intention, he would have remembered that Luke is making a case to the recipient of Acts, Theophilus for the validity of the Christian worldview. Peter thunders to the Sanhedrin, that the one they killed is actually the only way to salvation. There is salvation in “no one” else. There is “no other” name given by which “we must” be saved. According to Peter, outside the name of Jesus, salvation does not and cannot exist. This explains why it was paramount for the disciples to preach the gospel to every creature. Miller says this is about the authority of the name of Jesus. I agree. Peter does too for he says that salvation apart from that name is absolutely unauthorized!

John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” This is the exclusive claim of Christianity. John 10:1, 9, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. I am the door, if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Unless enters through Jesus, they will not find God. If anyone enters through another way, they are a thief and a robber. To understand these verses to teach that Jesus “somehow” saves people who have never even heard his name is indeed eccentric to say the least. The whole point is that Jesus is the only means to salvation. Therefore, we must proclaim this to all because without Jesus, men are lost.

Luke 13:24, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” Jesus said few will find the narrow gate while many will follow the broad gate to destruction.

Luke 24:45-47, “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem.”
Miller says,

It has been my experience that many of the non-Christian skeptics and atheists have rejected a caricature of Jesus--that they have truly never seen His heart of love, His quiet commitment to their noble freedom, His patience in the face of unrequited love. The same may be true of members of non-Christian (and especially non-Western) religions--they may have rejected a false Christ--and probably one WORTH rejecting! But the Jesus of the Bible, when seen in pattern, balance, and in the blinding light of His love on the Cross...such a leader, such a lover, such a Lord!
Miller engages in the same sort of erroneous interpretive methods I have seen Rick Warren, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren and other pseudo-evangelicals engage in. He most certainly denies the exclusive claims of historical Christian orthodoxy without any ambiguity whatever. His understanding of fallen man and the effects of sin are clearly heterodox. They are much closer to pelagianism than orthodoxy. In fact, I would contend they are a modern form of pelagianism. Finally, to argue that Romans 2 teaches that anyone can theoretically obtain moral purity reflects a serious misunderstanding of that chapter. Paul is pointing out that even pagans have the moral law of God written on their heart and are culpable for their evil deeds. Both Jews and Gentiles are in danger of the same judgment. Jews have the law of God revealed in Moses, while Gentiles had the law of God revealed in the conscience. All who sin without the law will also perish without the Law and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law. The point is that no one is able to keep from violating the Law of God revealed in Moses or the Law of God revealed in the conscience. Only the doers of the Law are justified before God. Because no man is a doer of God’s law, the law has shut everyone up under sin. To date, only one man has perfectly kept the Law of God: Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:22-23, “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Freedom from sin outside the person of Jesus Christ? Unthinkable!

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