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What About Those Who Have Never Heard?: Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized (Spectrum Multiview Book Series Spectrum Multiview Book Serie) Paperback – July 7, 1995

3.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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About the Author

Gabriel Fackre is Samuel Abbot Professor of Christian Theology Emeritus at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, Massachusetts. He is the author of The Christian Story.

Ronald H. Nash (1936-2006) served as a professor of religion and philosophy for many years, teaching at Western Kentucky University, Reformed Theological Seminary and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include The Gospel and the Greeks, Life's Ultimate Questions and Is Jesus the Only Savior?

John Sanders (Th.D., University of South Africa) is professor of religion at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. He has edited and written several books, including No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized. Three of his previous book projects have received a Christianity Today Book Award.
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Product Details

  • Series: Spectrum Multiview Book Series Spectrum Multiview Book Serie
  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (July 7, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830816062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830816064
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #783,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Most christians have developped the traditional theological concept that salvation is only possible if you have faith in Jesus, for after all, the exclusivity of Christ is much insisted upon in the bible and it is the teaching of most church circles. But is this the only conclusion that we can get from scriptures? Some respected authors argue otherwise.

"What about those who have never heard" was written by three authors (Fackre, Nash, Sanders) who each holds to a different scheme for grasping salvation. But what is important, is that all three agree on the authority of the scripture and on the fact that anyone who is saved is so because of Jesus's ultimate sacrifice; without Jesus's sacrifice on the cross, all humanity is doomed. What they disagree upon, is the degree of knowledge one should have about this great atonement event and the timing of this awareness.

John Sanders argues for Inclusivism meaning that God saves people only through the work of Jesus, but some may be saved even if they have never heard about Christ. The importance is not the degree of "knowledge" about Christ, but the "faith in God" as it was revealed to the person. So, according to this view, responding positively to the light and the law written in their heart will be viewed as righteous and thus, the work of christ will be counted on their behalf. Romans 2 is given as a basis.

Gabriel Fackre argues that receptive knowledge of Christ is necessary for salvation, but that this knowledge is not restricted to this lifetime. Non-christian believers will get the chance to hear the gospel post-mortem and decide whether they accept it or not. Fackre calls it "divine perseverance", meaning that death will not stop God from allowing us to know the true gospel.
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Oddly, what happens to those who never heard is something that has never been settled on in Christianity. I didn’t know that. Not mentioned in the Apostles’ or Nicene Creeds, for instance. Some Options include:
1 We don’t know.
2 God sends more light to those who respond to His revelation in Creation et al.
3 God saves those who would have believed in Christ if they had heard of Him.
4 Jesus can come to those in near death (or actual dying) experiences and offer salvation.
5 God will try to save as many as he can. No single method, but many ways.
6 Opposite of 5, God only saves the few, the elite, the elect. The rest? Tough.
Three big options are expounded, one at a time, then has the holes poked or objections raised by the other two writers.
Sanders proposes the inclusive option. God wants to save all. Jesus died for all. Salvation is only through Him, but may come outside of the church. Some of Christ’s parables and statements seem to indicate you are included until you exclude yourself by rejecting God‘s grace. He examines Paul‘s teachings and gets a friendlier result than the other two. Yes, Creation etc can work but Jesus is faster, clearer and better. (By the way, do you need a PHD degree in the atonement, propitiation, etc. to get saved? Or are you saved despite not having full knowledge of everything involved? And then spend the rest of your life and even eternity learning more?)
Then Frackre gives a post death attempt of Jesus redoing His descent to hell after the crucifixion. To present the gospel to the bad side of sheol this time instead of Abraham’s Bosom or Paradise. He doesn’t mention if this is a daily, weekly, annual or whatever visit, and really takes Bible verses out of context to present this.
Nash presents a version of #6 above.
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Ronald Nash sounds pretty harsh and narrow-minded in his defense of the restrictivist position. Considering the topic, we always need to be winsome and sympathetic regarding hell. I agree with his position, but he spent too much time attacking the other views rather than defending his own.

You'll want to read someone else to get a proper perspective on the restrictivist view.
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Three differing views of the fate of those who experience physical death without hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ is fascinating, but limited. Again, as it seems to be, not all Christian views are presented.
Certainly, we who hold the Lutheran confession would side with Nash, who easily out of the three represented does the most exemplary job of using God's Word correctly. Nash is correct in his chastisement of his two opponents for not lack of good exegesis of the Bible. It is truly sad but commonplace to find such poor, hurried exegeis as exemplified by Sanders and Fackre.
It would have been good to have one argue: univesal grace, grace alone, the means of grace, and the mystery of why some saved and others not? This would have given the complete Biblical picture. This is not demonstrated by any of the three in this book.
However, as exemplary as Nash is with his defense of restrictivism by not only showing the proper exegesis and hermeneutic of the other two sides, he has some glaring weaknesses himself. As those of the Reformed are bent to do, they always want to let logic and reason dominate, rather than letting God's Word suffice.
Or as Luther would say, "What is not spoken of in God's Word must be left to the heavenly academy for resolution." We do not have all the answers to all mysteries in God's Word!" As Moses said so profoundly on his deathbed, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever." (Deut. 29:29)
Nash suffers, as Sanders catches him, on Double Predestination. Calvinists cannot say that Christ died for all, but only for the elect. This is the classic error of Calvin. As well, they hedge the truth of God's Scriptures of the Real Presence in the Sacrament.
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