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Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism Paperback – March 18, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


"An excellent introduction to the subject and repays repeated careful reading. It is highly recommended for pastors, teachers, and students." (Glenn R. Kreider, Bibliotheca Sacra, July-September 2010)

". . .every Bible college student, seminarian, and conscientious Christian should read and seriously consider their thoughts regarding the spiritual condition of the lost and the eternal destiny of those who die apart from personal faith in Christ." (Christopher R. Little, EMQ, October 2008)

"Meticulously crisscrossing the arena of recent evangelical debate, these essays make a compelling case against Christian hypotheses of salvation for some apart from faith in Christ. This is the book against which self-styled inclusivists will henceforth have to argue." (J. I. Packer, Regent College)

"Is personal faith in Jesus Christ the only way of salvation, and what does this mean for this mission of the church in the twenty-first century? No two questions are more urgent on the evangelical agenda today, and this book deals honestly and forthrightly with both of them. A superb collection of essays reflecting biblical wisdom and churchly theology in the service of the gospel." (Timothy George, founding dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, and senior editor, Christianity Today)

"Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism is a refreshing voice in an increasingly confusing evangelical literary output on matters pertaining to human religions. This timely book is a very helpful guide to Christians who want to seriously examine the biblical and theological issues for themselves. Useful to specialists and nonspecialists." (Tite Tiénou, Dean and Professor of Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

"These thoughtful, irenic and informed essays provide an important response to more 'inclusivist' perspectives on the question of the destiny of the unevangelized. This is a helpful contribution to a complex and controversial set of issues." (Harold Netland, Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Intercultural Studies, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

"For those who are more interested in faithful alignment with what Scripture says than in sentimentality on this extraordinarily challenging subject, this is now the book to read. Courteous in tone yet thoroughly engaged with those who take contrary positions, the contributors lead us with exegetical care, theological poise and pastoral sensitivity through a thicket of common objections. I warmly recommend this book." (D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

"No greater challenge faces the church of Jesus Christ than religious inclusivism--the belief that sincere people of many religions have enough truth to be saved from spiritual ruin. In an age of tolerance for all that does not seem to hurt or inhibit, no note sounds more discordant than an exclusivistic requirement of faith in Jesus Christ. Yet--with patience, respect and biblical rigor--Morgan, Peterson et al. show such an exclusive claim is in the Bible. Nothing could be more insensitive and arrogant than repeating this claim--unless it is true. Then, nothing could be more gracious and necessary than this book's message." (Bryan Chapell, President, Covenant Theological Seminary)

"A helpful, scholarly critique of inclusivism by various evangelical authors." (Donald G. Bloesch, Professor of Theology Emeritus, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa)

"The fate of those who have never heard the gospel is one of the great mysteries of our faith. Christians have long speculated about whether and how God may have spoken to those who have not been exposed to the church's preaching of salvation through Christ alone. This book deals respectfully with the different views of the subject which are found among evangelical believers while seeking to remain faithful to the teaching of Jesus himself. It is a model of how we should discuss such a delicate matter and come to a decision which upholds the uniqueness of the one and only Savior of mankind." (Gerald Bray, Research Professor, Beeson Divinity School)

About the Author

Christopher W. Morgan (Ph.D., Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary) is associate dean and associate professor of theology at California Baptist University in Riverside, California. He is senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Barstow, California. He is author of Jonathan Edwards and Hell and general editor (with Robert Peterson) of Hell Under Fire.

Robert A. Peterson (Ph.D., Drew University) is professor of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He was formerly professor of New Testament and theology at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. His books include Getting to Know John's Gospel: A Fresh Look at Its Main Ideas, Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment, Calvin's Doctrine of the Atonement, Adopted by God: From Wayward Sinners to Cherished Children (all Presbyterian & Reformed) and Hell Under Fire (coedited with Chris Morgan, Zondervan). He has written numerous articles, was a contributor to the second edition of the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Baker) and edits Covenant Seminary's journal, Presbyterion.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (March 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830825908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830825905
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,045,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Is explicit faith in Christ necessary for eternal salvation?

Without a doubt, a question like this is provocative and elicits passion from all religious corners. Depending on the answer given, the church will either go forth in evangelistic endeavors or will jettison both the message and the mission of the gospel.

In this brand new book, nine Christian theologians give us an excellent introduction to this topic, arguing against the idea that salvation can take place apart from knowledge of Jesus Christ.

One of the editors, Robert Peterson, is a professor of theology here in my hometown of St. Louis at Covenant Theological Seminary. There are a lot of new terms to get a handle on in this discussion, so Peterson opens with an introduction that defines the terms for us:

"Pluralism is the view that all religions lead to God. It denies that Jesus Christ is the worlds only Savior. People may be saved, therefore, as adherents of Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam, to cite the big three non-Christian religions as examples.

"Exclusivism, sometimes called restrictivism or particularism, is the view that Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the world and that one must believe God's special revelation that culminates in the gospel of Christ in order to be saved.

"Inclusivism is the view that, although Jesus is the only Savior of the world, one does not have to believe in the gospel to be saved.
For a Christian, the primary question is - regarding eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, which of the "isms" is the teaching of the Bible?

Each of the individual contributors to this book argue in favor of the exclusivist view of Jesus Christ.
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Biblically Christianity is clearly exclusivist in its insistence that Christianity is the one true religion, and that Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation. This is not exactly what a multicultural, pluralistic society wants to hear. But it is what biblical Christians are obligated to proclaim.

While it is obvious that many non-Christians (whether religious or nonreligious) will find the exclusiveness of Christianity's truth claims to be burdensome and objectionable, there are some Christians who also question the traditional understanding.

Some evangelical Christians, for example, have sought to widen the parameters when it comes to who can be saved and how. It is to these sorts of issues that this book is addressed. Eleven meaty chapters written by nine biblical scholars tackle the many complex issues involved.

Traditionally there have been three main approaches to these issues. The exclusivist camp argues that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour, and salvation only comes in response to the Gospel of Christ. The inclusivist camp argues that Christ is indeed the only Saviour, but people can be saved apart from hearing the Gospel message. Pluralism teaches that there are many religious roads to God.

This volume argues that the consistent Biblical position is that of exclusivism. It mainly interacts with other Christians who seek to argue for the remaining two positions, especially the inclusivists. Many of the leading evangelical inclusivists are those associated with the open theism movement. Thus open theists such as Clark Pinnock and John Sanders receive a great deal of attention in this volume, along with others. Terrance Tiessen, an inclusivist of the Reformed persuasion, also gets a wide hearing.
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So what does it take to get saved? What about those who have never heard the gospel? What does the Bible have to say about these things?
Christopher Morgan, Mid-America graduate and associate dean of the School of Christian Ministries at California Baptist University, and Robert Peterson, Drew University grad and professor of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary, compile a variety of essays that make up a conservative evangelical response in the debate between exclusivists and inclusivists in Faith Comes By Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism (Downers Grove, Ill., InterVarsity Press, 2008). Not so much a dialogue as a rebuttal, the book seeks to be more of an answer to the inclusivist position. The largest questions at play are the fate of the unevangelized and the potentiality of salvific grace within general revelation.
The book exhibits three natural divisions. The first section is introductory with a chapter on the categories and terminology involved in the debate and then a chapter defining the inherent weaknesses of those rigid categories. In this latter chapter, Morgan cites Sanders, Erickson, Strange and Tiessen as opponents of the classic threefold classification. To highlight what most theologians would say are nuances, Morgan presents an alternative spectrum of nine potential responses.
As a continuation of this line of questioning, Morgan and Peterson employ five traditional Reformed evangelical essayists to answer specific issues related to inclusivism. In chapter three Daniel Strange answers the question as to the salvific value of general revelation. He presents three overarching responses to general revelation-namely, totally sufficient, sufficient but not salvific and finally insufficient.
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