God-fearers: Inclusivism, Election, and Universalism

February 29, 2008

Hm, here’s a couple posts on inclusivism from the Well of Questions that I found interesting. So … if God treats us as we “deserve” (sort of), and the thoughts of those without the law can defend them at the judgment … where can we draw lines that still make being a Christian meaningful?

Stray into universalism, and we have no salvific impetus to preach the gospel (though, of course, Christ’s “commission” still stands); and, ultimately, we could lose any real meaning to any Christian action. But to fall firmly into monergistic election seems to deny the truth of the statements of Paul and other NT writers regarding those without the law. So, which camp do you fall in, and how would you answer the attendant dilemmas?

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7 Responses to “God-fearers: Inclusivism, Election, and Universalism”

  1. mgmg11 Says:

    Nathan–

    Do you think that monergistic election could be compatible with inclusivism, if we construe inclusivism as “God unconditionally elects some people who don’t explicitly profess faith in Christ”? I heard this thought expressed as a possibility in the JETS (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society) in an article entitled something like “Is There a Reformed Way to Get the Benefits of Salvation to the Unevangelized?”

  2. mgmg11 Says:

    Hah! I called you Nathan. Sorry Ben… I confused you with Nathan Wells because I have been on his blog more often and interacted with him more.

    I feel especially stupid because this is the second time today that I’ve gotten someone’s name wrong. Sorry.

  3. Ben Says:

    Don’t worry about it.

    Not being “monergistic” myself I might not be able to answer that effectively, but I would think that if unconditional election is true, then there’s no reason for God to want to save Cornelius, or otherwise someone who never hears the gospel. It would depend on the person, I’m sure, but I don’t see a lot of my reformed friends going for something like that.

    I mean, isn’t the whole point of inclusivism that God does conditionally elect? And, therefore, someone who trusts Him / does what is right will be saved even if they fall outside the realm of traditional Christianity? (pretty much the opposite of unconditional election)

  4. mgmg1 Says:

    I definitely agree about there not being much explanatory motivation for inclusivism on the monergist account. The question of inclusivism comes up for those who are seeking to believe in the God who loves all mankind. And yeah, though it is consistent for a Reformed person to believe in some kind of inclusivism, its definitely not motivated by theological principles.

    I think that when we consider theological principles, we usually start (or should start) by testing them in Scripture and see if they are consistent. Someone who is unmotivated to look for grace that is unlimited in scope will not be immediately interested in looking to see if there’s some way that salvation could extend outside the Christian community. When you are willing to grant the counterintuitive account of God’s dealings with mankind in election, providence, the fall, etc. held by Augustinian theology, there’s not as much motivation for hesitation in accepting one more counterintuitive idea.

  5. Ben Says:

    Haha. Your assessment is a little less generous towards Reformed / Augustinian theology than I might be, although I can agree that by my own evaluation of the Bible it is missing some key aspects. I don’t necessarily think that any mistakes they might make are malicious or the result of negligence … the Bible is hard to understand, and there’s a lot in there that is tough to reconcile, so I can totally understand well-meaning and intelligent people arriving at the wrong conclusions.

  6. MG Says:

    Sure. I would never assume that just because someone holds to Augustinianism it is because of sin or something like that; I hope what I said didn’t come off that way. And yes, Scripture is not easy to understand; that’s something I should try to remember more often.

    Question: have you ever met a non-Reformed person who believed strongly in/argued for perseverance of the saints, but didn’t emphasize or talk about any comfort it gave them? Im not trying to attack those who believe in that doctrine, but I am curious about what people who hold to it *feel* about the doctrine.

  7. Ben Says:

    No-one comes to mind … but then again, most of the people I know who think and talk about things in terms like this are Reformed, the last few years at least. I sort of halfway believe in PotS myself, at least in the sense that I believe God “will complete the work He began in you”. Of course, my position is very different from the person who holds to it because “we are all formed from the same clay” as it were.


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