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Hopeful Inclusivism (Some Quotes)

Okay. I have repeatedly said that the standard Wesleyan position on those outside the faith has always been what could be called Hopeful Inclusivisism. I have mentioned this before here: Christ & NonChristians, here: Some Helpful Wesleyan Perspectives, here: Grace & the Unevangelized and here: Reflections on the Last Judgement. I have recently quoted John Wesley in support of this idea: Offering Salvation to Every Creature and John Wesley the Hopeful Inclusivist. Today I want to add some additional voices to show that this is by no means an off-beat position, nor is it a strictly Wesleyan position — though it has been advocated by leading teachers in the Wesleyan movement from the beginning. Calvinists (among others) have often espoused this view, as well.

Simply put, the position could be summarized this way:

  • Only Christ determines who will or will not be saved.
  • And, God will be fair, merciful and just toward all people.

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6 NIV)

Think about it a minute. This means that no one can come to God the Father except through the grace & mediation of Christ. There is only one source of light and grace for all people. From Jesus’ perspective these words can be taken to mean:
"there is no access to God except through my mediation."

Too many modern evangelicals have misunderstood it to mean: "there is no access to God except through consciousness of Christ." We know there is salvation in the name of Christ. How God will judge those outside of the faith is none of our business. Christ is the Way — not our experience of Christ.

It seems very strange to me that people now seem to think that this long-standing teaching within the Christian Church is some sort of heretical doctrinal innovation invented (?!) by Rob Bell in the book
Love Wins. This is not true.

This has been taught in the Church for a very long time . I
previously quoted John Wesley. His view is in line with many others — both ancient and modern. However, because of the nature of this site, I may be giving the mistaken impression that this position is only found in Wesleyanism. This is not true — not by a long shot! There have been many voices — including Calvinistic voices — down through the years that have also taught this.

This is not a new position in the history of the Church! Consider the sampling of quotes below: there is wide support for this view throughout the history of the Church — and, as a matter of fact, from both the Arminians and Calvinist traditions. I found some of these quotes
here and also here. I added the quote from Christian philosopher & writer Dallas Willard. Scouring through old books of theology would turn up many, many more.

"If some should accuse us as if we held that people born before the time of Christ were not accountable to God for their actions, we shall anticipate and answer such a difficulty. We have been taught that Christ is the first-begotten of God, and we have declared him to be the Logos of which all mankind partakes. Those, therefore, who lived according to reason (logos) were really Christians, even though they were thought to be atheists, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates, Heraclitus and others like them."
Justin Martyr, First Apology 46, trans. Thomas B. Falls

“Accordingly, before the advent of the Lord, philosophy was necessary to the Greeks for righteousness. And now it becomes conducive to piety; being a kind of preparatory training to those who attain to faith through demonstration. “For thy foot,” it is said, “will not stumble, if thou refer what is good, whether belonging to the Greeks or to us, to Providence.” For God is the cause of all good things; but of some primarily, as of the Old and the New Testament; and of others by consequence, as philosophy. Perchance, too, philosophy was given to the Greeks directly and primarily, till the Lord should call the Greeks. For this was a schoolmaster to bring “the Hellenic mind,” as the law, the Hebrews, “to Christ.” Philosophy, therefore, was a preparation, paving the way for him who is perfected in Christ. “
Clement of Alexandria, (150-215) Stromata 1,5.

“I reply that there was never a time when God did not want men to be just; he was always concerned about that. Indeed, he always provided beings endowed with reason with occasions for practicing virtue and doing what is right. In every generation the Wisdom of God descended into those souls which he found holy and made them to be prophets and friends of God.”
Origen, (185–254): Against Celsus, Chapter 7.

“Sacred scripture is of course the basic authority for everything; yet I sometimes run across ancient sayings or pagan writings – even the poets – so purely and reverently and admirably expressed that I can’t help believing the author’s hearts were moved by some divine power.  And perhaps the spirit of Christ is more widespread than we understand, and the company of the saints includes many not on our calendar.”
Desiderius Erasmus (1466 – 1536): The Godly Feast.

According to Philip Schaff in the History of the Christian Church, Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531), the early Protestant reformer, believed that righteous heathens would be saved, calling them “unconscious Christians”. He  taught that Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Plato were saved, and called them “pre-Christians”.   He also was alone among the Reformers in holding that unbaptized infants were saved.
[These remarks are adapted from Kevin Jackson’s Wesleyan Arminian blog.]

“…it ought not to appear wonderful if many, both Jews and others, who lived before Christ, and many also who have lived since his time, but to whom he has never been revealed, should be saved by faith in God alone: still however, through the sole merits of Christ, inasmuch as he was given and slain from the beginning of the world, even for those to whom he was not known, provided they  believed in God the Father.”
John Milton (1608-1674): A Treatise on Christian Doctrine,  XX.

“Therefore ‘Christ hath tasted death for every man:’ not only for all kinds of men, as some vainly talk, but for every one, of all kinds; the benefit of whose offering is not only extended to such, who have the distinct outward knowledge of his death and sufferings, as the same is declared in the scriptures, but even unto those who are necessarily excluded from the benefit of this knowledge by some inevitable accident;”
Robert Barclay, Quaker (1648-1690):, Apology for True Christian Divinity, Proposition 6.

"…elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worth when, and where and how he pleaseth; so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word."
— Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter X, section III (December 3, 1646).

“That some unevangelized men are saved, in the present life, by an extraordinary exercise of redeeming grace in Christ, has been the hope and belief of Christendom. It was the hope and belief of the elder Calvinists, as of the later.”
William G. T. Shedd, Calvinistic Presbyterian theologian (1820-1894).

“Since Christ is the Word of God and the Truth of God, he may be received even by those who have not heard of his manifestation in the flesh… We have, therefore. the hope that even among the heathen there may be some, like Socrates, who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit working through the truth of nature and conscience, have found the way of life and salvation.”
Augustus H. Strong, Reformed Baptist theologian, (1836-1921), Outlines of Systematic Theology.

"We can safely say (i) if any good pagan reached the point of throwing himself on His Maker's mercy for pardon, it was grace that brought him there; (ii) God will surely save anyone he brings thus far; (iii) anyone thus saved would learn in the next world that he was saved through Christ."
J. I. Packer (1926 - ), God's Words, p. 210

"Of course it should be pointed out that, though all salvation is through Jesus, we need not conclude that he cannot save those who have not explicitly accepted him in this life."
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) "Christian Apologetics," God in the Dock, p. 102

“…But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other [unreached] people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” 
— C.S. Lewis, (1898-1963): Mere Christianity.

“It is possible to say that this general revelation of God has only a negative function that leaves man without excuse. But what kind of God is he who gives man enough knowledge to damn him but not enough to save him? The perception of God in creation has both negative and positive possibilities.”
— Dale Moody, Southern Baptist writer (1915-1992): The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation, p. 59.

"I have never been able to conjure up (as some great Evangelical missionaries have) the appalling vision of the millions who are not only perishing but will inevitably perish. On the other hand… I am not and cannot be a universalist. Between these extremes I cherish and hope the majority of the human race will be be saved. And I have a solid biblical basis for this belief."
John R. W. Stott (1921-2011), Evangelical Essentials, p. 327

"I think that everybody that loves Christ knows Christ, whether they're conscious of it or not, they're members of the body of Christ… Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because they've been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they don't have and they turn to the only light they have and I think they're saved and they're going to be with us in heaven."
Billy Graham, interviewed by Robert Schuller on the "Hour of Power," May 31, 1997

"Romans 2:6-10: '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.'

"What Paul is clearly saying is that if anyone is worthy of being saved, they will be saved. At that point many Christians get very anxious, saying that absolutely no one is worthy of being saved. The implication of that is that a person can be almost totally good, but miss the message about Jesus, and be sent to hell. What kind of a God would do that? I am not going to stand in the way of anyone whom God wants to save. I am not going to say 'he can't save them.' I am happy for God to save anyone he wants in any way he can. It is possible for someone who does not know Jesus to be saved. But anyone who is going to be saved is going to be saved by Jesus: 'There is no other name given under heaven by which men can be saved.'"
Dallas Willard philosopher & writer (1935 - ), “Apologetics in Action.”

”But the Bible says that the unreached will be judged on a quite different basis than those who have heard the gospel. God will judge the unreached on the basis of their response to His self-revelation in nature and conscience. The Bible says that from the created order alone, all persons can know that a Creator God exists and that God has implanted His moral law in the hearts of all persons so that they are held morally accountable to God (Rom. 1.20; 2.14-15). The Bible promises salvation to anyone who responds affirmatively to this self-revelation of God (Rom. 2.7)..”
William Lane Craig, Christian apologist, philosopher and writer (1949 - ) Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?

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