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Take The Flaming Meteorite Challenge (Starting a Bloggersation)

Michael Halcomb and I have decided to have a ‘blogversation’ (or is it a ‘bloggersation’?) about Christianity, salvation, pluralism and other subjects that are of interest to both of us and about which we seem to disagree. We are going to try doing it in ‘blog-to-blog’ form, like the ‘wall to wall’ feature on Facebook. So when Michael replies to this post, I will post a link to his reply at then end of this post, as well as at the beginning of my subsequent reply to him. That way, one can follow the discussion in a linear fashion. Once it is done (assuming it ever is), we can both gather the links to all the posts and offer a ‘table of contents’ – or decide that it is over and time to move on, depending on how it goes.

There is a sense in which the conversation (sorry, bloggersation) has already started in the comments section on Pisteuomen. There I mentioned a few points I’ve also mentioned here before, such as the relevance of Paul’s use of Abraham as an example of faith, and the importance of what Paul wrote in Romans 2 about judgment on the basis of what one has done. But let’s see if we can give this a fresh start…

There is a thought experiment that I recommend for those Christians who wish to figure out whether they are exclusivists or inclusivists – i.e. whether they, as Christians, think that people absolutely cannot be saved unless they have made a conscious decision to believe in and follow Jesus, or whether God has other options, as it were.

Here’s the test, which I call the “flaming meteorite test”. Basically, it involves a reenactment of the story from Acts 10 about Peter being sent to communicate the Gospel to Cornelius, a non-Jew who has nonetheless been righteous enough to be noticed by God.

Now, imagine that, as Peter is on his way to tell Cornelius about Jesus, a flaming meteorite appears in the sky, heading towards Cornelius’ house. BAM! It is levelled and all inside are killed.
So, the question is, how do you view Cornelius? On the one hand, he had already through his righteous life achieved recognition in God’s eyes. On the other hand, he had still not been told about Jesus. If you think that God can have a place for Cornelius in his kingdom, then you are an inclusivist. If you think that Cornelius came close, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades but not salvation, then you are an exclusivist.

Things are, of course, more complex than this. Karl Barth was an exclusivist, believing that salvation is only through Christ, but at the same time did not see that as necessarily incompatible with universalism, as long as one believed that everyone would be saved through Christ. It is also possible to be an inclusivist but not a universalist, and so on.

Also, by the way, if you think that this thought exercise is a waste of time, and the question is unnecessary to ask, then you’re probably a pluralist… :-)

Was this thought experiment helpful in thinking about this topic? Is it problematic and open to criticism? Let me know what you think! Presumably there is no particular reason this bloggersation has to involve (and thus link to and from) only Michael and I, so others who are interested, please join in the bloggersation!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12344192935890766744 Drew Tatusko

    Great idea so that the conversation does not get “lost” in so many comment fields. I think the primary issue has to do with what we mean when we say that salvation comes “through Christ”. The use of the preposition is, as with any theological proposition, the key here!Perhaps when I don’t have a class, meeting, or childcare issue, I will offer a direction or angle as well to expand on this issue :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01119080394574322124 T. Michael W. Halcomb

    James,Here’s my first response. I’m enjoying this already. Drew, glad you’re sharing your thoughts.http://michaelhalcomb.blogspot.com/2008/02/response-to-mr-mcgrath-1.html

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Thanks – I’ve added the link at the end of the post, and will reply…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08014885672703727636 Ken Brown

    Great thought experiment! I’ve responded here.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09921322553025339949 spud tooley

    the ‘flaming meteorite’ illustration is exactly what pushed one of the authors of ‘if grace is true – why God will save every person’ into his universalist stance. and yet it was reality and not a thought-process, having to do with someone who was ‘close’ to ‘salvation’ but killed in a car wreck before saying the magic words and learning the secret handshake. it shook his faith greatly, and he finally had to come to the conclusion that God and grace are bigger than we’ve been led to believe by those who have elevated scripture into the throne that used to be occupied by God/Jesus.i similarly had to change the beliefs i grew up with – that, generally, only baptists were going to be in heaven; that 99% of people who ever walked the earth were going to burn in hell forever; and that this was all a loving God’s ‘great plan.’how people can say that – heck, even PREACH it – with a straight face and not a straightjacket is beyond my comprehension any longer.to imagine that there is something ELSE that needs to be done on top of what Jesus already did is the height of arrogance from my perspective.and, to say that Jesus ‘won a great victory’ on the cross, but that He’ll return with 1% of humanity to tell the Father, “I’ve accomplished what you sent me to do!” – when you actually sit and think about it, you shake your head and think, how could i have ever believed that?…Jesus would be well below the mendoza line if this was how the future was going to pan out. if the braves sent francoeur to their double-A team for batting .240, i’m guessing Jesus would be doing laundry in a jr. college clubhouse if this was all the cross accomplished.and yet the bottom line in my life is this: God has never stopped pursuing me. and, trust me – i’m not in any way special. more importantly, i sincerely doubt my death would change His pursuit of me.and it has nothing to do with being ‘elected’ – when the votes are all counted, i have to fall back on ‘it is God’s will that all be saved’.and who, pray tell, can thwart God’s will?interesting blog-swapping exercise. looking forward to reading all the conflicting opinions (which, simply put, are based on conflicting biblical passages that require us to have this discussion forever and ever…amen) and perhaps contributing some views of my own.mike ruckerfairburn, georgia, usamikerucker.wordpress.com


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