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!