WILL MOST OF THE HUMAN RACE GO TO HELL?
Will Most People Finally go to Hell? Will Most of the Human Race go to Hell?
Many of my fellow evangelicals would answer this question in the affirmative, but I have long maintained that, in adopting this position, they are only focussing on certain Scriptures whilst being quite prepared to ignore many others.
Here is my article of 2000 which has stirred up such amazing interest during the last few years! I may say that it remains the case that very, very few have ever come to me and said things like, "I hate to say it but you have got this massively wrong because....." On the contrary, I have been surprised by the admissions from reformed Calvinists that I make a very valid point and that this really does highlight a weak and undiscussed area of reformed and Augustinian-based theology. I could never have suspected that so many reformed Calvinist evangelicals would contact me with an admittance that I have highlighted a weak area of their theology!
Since I am effectively re-releasing this article with this 2004 edition (the original article no longer appears on the 'net'), I am just making one or two slight alterations; and yet my article remains substantially the same. PLEASE NOTE: I address the eight most common questions/objections to this teaching at the conclusion of the article.
Robin A. Brace.
We are going to take a look here at Calvinistic Restrictivism, or, the belief that the majority of the human race will finally go to hell. Yes, we are going to dare to take this question on!
It is a logical conclusion of much Reformed theology that few are going to be saved and, certainly, some Scriptures can be produced which appear, at least initially, to back this up. On the other hand, there are also quite a welter of Scriptures which appear to show that this cannot be the case! These Scriptures are, we believe, too often ignored. Your writer remains more Reformed than anything else, and I certainly stand more with Calvin than Arminius, but there are serious and fair questions here which many have put to me and I really feel that one should address them! It saddens me that a few Reformed friends may distance themselves from me after this feature, but I really think that we need to boldly face up to weaknesses in certain areas of Reformed theology, just as we are happy to praise its strengths. It is a very long article, largely written in 1998, further 'tuned' and put on the internet in 2000, and finally achieving a more sophisticated internet format in 2004.
IS it only the few who will finally be saved? Calvin, following Augustine, certainly thought so and this approach has spread to affect most of what is loosely known as conservative evangelical theology. This Calvinistic approach is known by such names as 'the fewness doctrine', 'Restrictivism' and 'Exclusivism'. It is the teaching of 'Limited Atonement', the third of the 5 points of Calvinism. Let us, here and now, give away a strong clue to one of our final conclusions; We say that Limited Atonement is correct, but only during this age of the Church, not correct as an eternal reality! If one is only able to see 'Limited Atonement' as an eternal reality (probably the position of most strict Calvinists), then it is incorrect, since it fails to take account of too many Scriptures! Fascinated? Then read on!
Limited Atonement, as conceived by the strict Calvinist has, of course, Scriptures which would appear to bear it out. It is a concentration on the 'little flock' and the 'Remnant of Israel' who are alone to be delivered. However, I have long noticed that in order for this Restrictivism to be maintained, other Scriptures have to be either ignored or have Calvinist 'control beliefs' brought to them. This can amount to things being imposed upon the Scriptures which might be foreign to them, and is the practise of eisegesis (putting things into the Scriptures rather than exegesis;drawing things out!) The truth is, there are also quite a welter of Scriptures which I shall call 'universalistic scope' Scriptures. No, one does not feel that they amount to a universalist message (all will be saved) but they certainly appear to point beyond Restrictivism. (Few, or. very few will finally be saved).
Yet it cannot be denied that Restrictivism has a certain consistency to it and it has certainly been the basis of much missionary endeavour. The approach has often been, 'the majority of mankind are certainly bound for hell unless one can reach them with the gospel before they die.' Actually, of course, this is not a strictly Calvinist line since that line of thought would say that the majority of mankind are bound for hell no matter what the missionary might do!
The Protestant Reformers, as is well known, identified strongly with Augustine whom they saw as perhaps the last to strongly uphold the Pauline conception of grace. They thus revisited the bishop of Hippo, but Augustine had also embraced certain errors, including a very legalistic approach to baptism. Indeed, the sacramentalist view of the church was also developed by Augustine and so the Reformers knew that they could not take all of Augustine.
In his earlier life, the great theologian had embraced Manichaeism, the dualistic and fatalistic cult with strong eastern elements and he finally emerged from it only through a Neoplatonist route! Indeed, many feel that he did not escape entirely unscathed, for there would, thereafter, be a strongly fatalistic streak to his theology. Again, whether or not we agree, it has been suggested that Calvin also took some of this. Predestination of the Elect is biblical as long as it does not become divorced from the veracity of our decision whether to believe. To arrive at a truly biblical approach, we have to hold these two aspects of election in an exact tension. We believe, and then joyfully discover that our decision is backed up and, indeed, eternally written in heaven! However, we must always avoid the Arminian error of saying that God only chose us because He knew we would believe - this is obviously in conflict with the teaching which we discover in Ephesians. This puts us in control and has God awaiting our decision, which must be wrong! No, God alone is the elector and yet our human choice remains a meaningful choice. This is the only way to faithfully describe the biblical position. Thats the Predestination of the Elect - however, Double Predestination is plainly unbiblical and goes beyond what the Scriptures clearly reveal! This 'dreadful decree' states that just as some are ordained for salvation, others (the majority) are ordained for hell; but this teaching is only reached by taking a leap of logic; but it is human logic. The Bible never finally crosses its 't's nor dots its 'i's on this matter. Hell is held up as a continual deterrent, but sometimes it is only those who explicitly reject Christ who appear to be going there, while, at other times, it is the wicked in general who are apparently in real danger of its peril. The issue of what happens to the unevangelized is never specifically raised nor is the fate of those who die in chilhood, and yet - as those who have received the Holy Spirit - we can surely see the principles which will come into play.
Now, to return to the teaching of Restrictivism, it is true that some Reformed people, like A.A. Hodge, had a very optimistic view of the numbers who would finally be saved, but this was because of their postmillenialism (the Church will finally convert the whole world before Christ returns.) Few hold to postmillenialism today and we have to proceed here in the light of current realities.
It is time to state some specific objections to Restrictivism; If this teaching is correct, and if indeed - at the end of time - hell has countless millions of inhabitants, while comparatively few will have been saved, this calls the final victory and triumph of Christ into question! And yet, we are told in the Scriptures that 'of the increase of His government there shall be no end'! Would this also not stand Romans 5:18-20 on its head?
"Therefore, as through one man's offence judgement came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through JesusChrist our Lord"
Time and again, I have observed the extreme Calvinist's discomfiture with this and similar Scriptures; lamentably, one has also witnessed the immediate attempt to bring 'control beliefs' from outside the context of this Scripture into play! May we request the reader to read those three verses again - carefully - and to ask whether this can possibly fit in with Restrictivism in which only the few are finally saved? We see in these verses a picture of the complete victory of Jesus Christ, but could that be a complete victory if the great kidnapper, Satan, had succeeded in closing the door to salvation to most of this world's population? Really, this is Plutarchian dualism; That is, that God and Satan cannot overcome each other and will continue to have their domains since neither is strong enough to finally defeat the other! But we are bound to reject this as being wholly unbiblical.
Yes, the Scriptures regularly reveal a hell but the approach is to continually warn of its danger rather than to pontificate on a so-called anti-elect, or the reprobated masses, who are certainly going there! Now that some of us are well-seasoned in the faith, we should be prepared to think about some of these things rather than rush to Calvin (though usually a hyper-Calvin) for answers. After all, today we are aware of things which the great Reformer could not have been. He, looking ahead from the 16th century, may well have believed that within a few years of the Protestant victory, the whole world would have been successfully evangelized, with every soul becoming aware of the name of Christ! Today, we know differently; we now have little doubt that most of those who have lived of all time, lived and died without even hearing the name of Christ!!
Again, we tend to look on the Church and the Elect as exactly the same thing, but we should perhaps occasionally pause to remind ourselves that this is never biblically spelled out! Sometimes one grows a little weary with the eagerness of some hard-lined Reformed people to despatch almost everybody to hell! I seem to find rather more than the odd scriptural hint that the Elect of God and the Church are not absolute parralels!
I also happen to believe that if Calvin were alive today and knew what we know, he might well reconsider one or two things which he stated. Let no one doubt that, despite saying this, I remain a firm admirer of the great man.
Also, surely the New Testament shows God to be ever willing to go after the 'lost sheep'? And we are encouraged to consider God's care for us to be superior to a human parent's care for their children, but what human parent would ever eternally exclude his/her children from their presence? Some would say that these are just emotional factors, but where did such emotions as love, joy, concern and forgiveness come from?
Now, as we know, the Bible reveals some sort of grading not only in heaven but in hell too. Not all will suffer the greatest punishment, neither will all receive the greatest reward, this might be relevant when we consider the Elect as the Church who are probably more or less synonymous with 'the little flock'. Obviously, the Church is never going to be numerically huge at the present time, so any consideration of 'universalistic scope' Scriptures would appear to be extra to the specific Church. Revelation 21 is intriguing here; If the New Jerusalem is a symbol of the Church which it certainly appears to be (Rev 21: 2,9) then just who are the nations who will thereafter walk in the light of it? (Rev 21: 24!) We see these nations again in Rev 22: 2. Now, they obviously appear to be 'saved' since they appear here in the last chapter of the Bible when the New Heavens and New Earth have become a reality! Yet there are indications here that they are not the Church. This is speculative, but could these be those not deemed wicked enough to be sent to hell, or the unevangelized, or children? Or maybe a combination of all such groups. Maybe these are those who responded positively to that light which they received during this life. John Sanders calls these people 'believers' rather than Christians. Surely Revelation 20: 12-15 would include these people who - to their joy - are found to be entered into the Lamb's Book of Life. Why, we ask, are so many willing to include the many who are not particularly wicked, and the unevangelized in the number bound for hell? Why should it not be possible for a large number finally to be saved who never made a personal committment to Christ, when the Old Testament tells us of those who will be saved before Jesus walked this earth? Yes, they would be included within the efficacy of His sacrifice, but the grading point is important here, they will not, perhaps, amount to being the Bride of Christ. The opportunity for these people, then, might commence from Judgement Day when it appears as though some are going to be surprised to be saved!! Would the Church be surprised to be saved? Carefully consult Matthew 25: 31-46. It would appear, then, that these people never went to heaven at death to be comforted, else why would they be surprised at the positive outcome of their judgement? Indeed nothing in this Scripture would necessarily suggest that they had committed themselves to Christ yet, but they are praised for how they handled that light which they possessed, they had behaved in a Christly way, and they go, somewhat to their surprise, into God's kingdom!
Of course, many reformed evangelicals will have a problem when I speak of those "not particularly wicked" because of the very black and white picture which we evangelicals tend to have between the recipients of God's grace and the unredeemed. We evangelicals arrive at this picture because of our insistence of having neat, tidy, 'all questions answered' theologies, but can we always say that the Holy Bible is always as clear-cut and sharply defined on this issue as our systematic theologies?
Apart from such Scriptures as John 3: 16-17 and 1 John 2: 2 which suggest Christ's saving efficiency goes beyond the parameters of the Church per se, there are another group of Scriptures which suggest that those who have suffered unreasonably during this life will be saved, indeed we tend to forget the parable of Lazarus and the rich man is such a Scripture! We have such statements as this,
"Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep"
(Luke 6: 24-25)
Some such New Testament statements appear to be surprisingly unconnected to Christ, and yet we know that such people will only be saved through Him. There is no other entry into heaven; this is the position of Inclusivism, rather than Exclusivism (only those who clearly commit themselves to Christ during this life can be saved)- the third possible position, Pluralism, states that all religions lead to God and have their own salvific efficacy - we are bound, as Christians, to reject this position. But to briefly return to Revalation 22, we may note verse 15 with its reference to those who will never enter the city;
"...dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral..." etc etc., but this would appear to be a back-projection to all of us in this age of the Church as a serious warning and as a deterrent, for it would appear that that such people will have gone out of existence by that future point. But we cannot help but be intrigued by this chapter which, even allowing for obvious symbolism, seems to reveal the presence of 'nations' still in apparent need of further healing after the New Heavens and New Earth have become a reality! This tends to be an uncomfortable area for many evangelicals, since we have this sharp dichotomy between those who have received the grace of Christ, whom we say have no further need of healing, and those outside of that, whom we see only destruction for. But let us just honestly ask the question as to whether the biblical revelation is quite as sharply and clearly drawn as our neat little theological patterns?
Now that we have returned to Revelation 22, let us note verse 17, for this amounts to one of the strongest 'universalistic scope' Scriptures in the whole Bible! Why? Because it pictures the 'Spirit and the Bride' offering salvation to all! Let us never forget that the Bride is symbolic of the Church;
"...whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely"
Where is Restrictivism now? it has gone.
Of course, it could be said that this too is back-projected and applies to our present Church age, but this does not appear to be the case because of those limited scope salvific Scriptures such as John 6: 44, 65 which certainly DO apply to our Church age. At present, only those 'whom the Father draws' can come to Jesus, whereas here we see that the door is open to 'whoever desires.'!!
So maybe we should just occasionally consider that our neat little theological packages may not contain the complete revelation of God. Certainly we see here indications of, perhaps, a lower class of non-Church saved people who will need further healing from the Tree of Life with its fruits and leaves. It is very hard not to think of Isaiah 9: 7 here;
"Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end..."
As John Sanders says in 'No Other Name', page 218,
"...is it credible that He would have created millions of people without any hope of salvation? The One who prayed, 'Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing' - Luke 23: 34 - would not leave the unevangelized without hope..."
It is very hard to disagree with this.
Of course, one of Calvin's original devices for preaching Limited Atonement was through the Church's great similarity with Israel. Without doubt, Israel were a very clear type of the Church to come (this is not the time or place to go into this in detail). Calvin's point was that that nation was small and despised and only made great because of the election of God - and we can agree with this. But Calvin developed his argument by saying that those outside of Israel had no knowledge of God and were therefore doomed, this being a clear picture of no salvation outside of the Church! But is this wholly correct? In fact, throughout the Old Testament we see people coming into a relationship with God despite not being Israelites. These people with a more deficient knowledge of God in most cases, were saved by faith in that revelation which came to them! People like Rahab, Jethro, Naomi and Ruth will be saved, since they identified with Israel and her God, but were really outsiders! So it is very seriously questionable whether Calvin's argument stands up.
Inclusivists point out other biblical texts too which showed God showing favour to non-Israelites at times. Several such occasions are mentioned, even though only in passing, in Deuteronomy 2. (See verses 5,9,19,21-22.)
Again, indicative - that even under the Old Covenant - non-Israelites were not entirely cut off from God. Yes, without question, Israel had been elected to a particular task by God and this formed a major biblical focus, but this did not preclude His ever showing favour to any outside of Israel. And this is a good place to remind ourselves of the all-encompassing breadth of some of the other biblical covenants.
Sanders picks this point up well in his book;
"The first covenant mentioned in the Bible is one made between God and the human race, not God and Israel. God created human beings in His own image and gave them responsibilities - Genesis 1: 26-28.. After the Fall, God promised Eve a 'seed' who would provide deliverance from the curse - Genesis 3: 15. This promise, which is fulfilled in the work of Christ, is destined for the benefit of all people. Noah's sons are considered the fathers of all nations, and the Noahic covenant is made with 'all flesh' - Genesis 9: 8-19. When God selected Abraham for a special work, he still had the blessing of 'all the families of the earth' in mind - Genesis 12: 3...all the covenants that God made after these were intended not to abrogate but rather to bring to fruition his universal blessing"
('No Other Name', p,218-219.)
It could be said, perhaps, that following the influence of Augustine, Calvin had tended to 'close down' this wider scope of salvation. Indeed, it is very interesting how this primarily affected the western Church and the Eastern Orthodox tradition has always remained more 'open' on the matter of salvation.
There are several further associated questions which I now need to tackle, and I propose to tackle them in the form of question and answer. I have thought of some of the objections to the viewpoint which one has outlined and so we will continue in a question and answer format. The reader too can contribute to this by E Mailing questions though it might be wise to see if I have covered any particular question first.
QUESTION: BUT ARE YOU SAYING THAT IN PREACHING HELL, ALL OF THOSE MISSIONARIES HAVE GOT IT WRONG?
Absolutely not and I would not want this point to be misunderstood! The preaching about hell has biblical authority! The problem has been in theologians being unafraid to go a little beyond what the Scriptures clearly say and sometimes preaching a message which has an incorrect balance. But hell has to be preached for it has strong deterrent value. Let us be clear; the Bible warns that some - perhaps many - are in real danger of hell. Where we go wrong is in drawing conclusions according to human logic and not according to plain biblical teaching. To say that most of the human race is going to hell is flawed because it casts serious doubt on the ultimate victory and triumph of Christ.
QUESTION: IS INCLUSIVISM, RATHER THAN EXCLUSIVISM, PART OF THE GOSPEL TO BE PREACHED?
No! We can be quite sure about this. If it were part of the very gospel message, it would have been made much clearer. The gospel concerns what happened upon the cross and the redemption which that has made available. The Trinity too is not part of the gospel, but we find it revealed and it adds to our undestanding of God. Inclusivism says that many are finally going to be saved, not a few, and it is inevitable that some - or many - of these did not personally accept Christ during their lifetimes, yet they will only be saved through Him. This should not sound so incredible since this applies to those saved during Old Testament times. Let us be clear about this; the moment one agrees that the Old Testament men and women of God will be saved, yet only through a Christ they had not heard about, they are upholding Inclusivism! We can go this far but must be wary of Pluralism; that is that all religions lead to God. We must reject this. John Sanders has expressed this well. He said in one of his books that 'Christ is ontologically necessary for our salvation but not necessarily epistemologically necessary.' In other words, one will not always have to know all the details, yet without Him there is no salvation.
But Exclusivism is bound to uphold the belief that the great majority of the human race will not be saved; I say that that is an erroneous conclusion.
QUESTION: WILL GOD REACH THE UNEVANGELIZED DECEASED THROUGH 'POST MORTEM EVANGELIZATION'?
I have a few problems with this concept although I cannot say that it is definitely incorrect. This schema has gained some prominence during the last few years. I cannot say that it is definitely wrong because we do not have all knowledge and God will surely have some surprises for us! Having said that, there are problems with the idea. The people that I am talking about are already saved, already included within the scope of Christ's sacrifice, although they will need further instruction on the work of Christ. They are saved now through a positive response to that light which they did receive in this life; Romans 2: 11-16 seems to show that this will be enough for their evaluation. These people would have accepted Christ, so no further evaluation on that score would appear to be required. Post-Mortem evangelization, as proposed by such theologians as Clark Pinnock, would seem to be inconsistent with the following Scriptures: Eccles 9: 4-6, 10, Isaiah 38: 18, Luke 16: 19-31, 2 Cor 6: 2 and Hebrews 9: 27. Nevertheless, I do not reject out of hand the possibility that some (perhaps those who perished in some great and sudden destruction) will be successfully reached in the grave, since the grave is no barrier to our Lord.
QUESTION: BUT JUST WHO ARE THESE 'BELIEVERS'? - AND IF GOD WILL ACCEPT THEM WHILE NOT HAVING BEEN CHRISTIANS, DOES THIS NOT SUGGEST THAT WE DON'T NEED TO BE SO CONCERNED ABOUT THE CULTS, SECTS & FALSE RELIGIONS?
This would be absolutely the wrong conclusion to draw!
The Bible regularly shows that correct doctrine is important and that we should always strive for 'the faith once delivered' - and we are not even to wish 'God speed' to those who preach a perverted gospel! This would include those cults and sects which talk about Jesus but have changed the definition of the gospel!
Of course, some confusion could arise if Inclusivism were part of the gospel but, as already pointed out, it is not. But we maintain that Inclusivism should ideally be part of the understanding of all those who have matured in the knowledge of the faith. It will enable us to reach out to those who reject the Christian message since they cannot accept a God who will consign millions to hell who, in many cases, have already suffered enough in this life. We say that the Bible, while saying less than we would like about this problem, nevertheless infers in many cases that many such people still have hope. Again, even many strict Reformed people believe that God will save every child who dies before the age of accountability, as well as the mentally handicapped; we agree! But here they are actually backing up Inclusivism! And if God will apply the sacrifice of Christ to such individuals who never knew the name of Jesus, why should He not also apply it to countless thousands of others who also never knew the name of Jesus and have led miserably short lives in abject poverty and ignorance through no fault of their own?? We believe that a huge number of such people will be found to be entered in the Book of Life, and will be invited to partake of the leaves and fruit of the Tree of Life. Yes, some of these may have subscribed to what we know are false religions, those religions could not save them, but they will have been faithful to as much light as was available within that religion. Whilst avoiding all dangers of lapsing into Pluralism, we might do well to consider what C.S. Lewis said of the three great principles which tend to be present in all religion, in his book 'The Problem of Pain':
a. The experience of the 'numinous' - a fear and dread of something beyond the natural world and which is more powerful than it. Both fear and joy somehow being part of this.
b. The principle of what Kant called 'oughtness' - a sense of right and wrong and guilt when we fail to do the right which is never far from us.
c. The principle of ultimate accountability and a judgement to come. This is said to pervade all religions.
Even from ones reaction to some of these principles - insufficient though they are - God can start to evaluate ones response to Christ!
But what does all this tell us of cults etc.,? They are not entirely cut off from God, but have an imperfect knowledge of Him - yes, a seriously imperfect knowledge, yet they will have far more light than those following animistic religion in Africa. God can evaluate certain things from this. Yes, they remain in a state of Falleness but far less acutely than the atheist. I was once the member of such a sect, yet God was still prepared to answer my prayers on a regular basis, being prepared to tolerate my ignorance at that time. Yes, there is little question that God answers prayers among many groups with woefully inadequate knowledge of the work of Christ! Some Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic people - faithful to as much as they understand - have experienced some of the most stunning answers to prayer!
Having said all of that, we should strive for as much understanding as we can and should oppose the entry of error into the Body of Christ - none of that is altered one iota!
QUESTION: BUT AREN'T LIBERALS INCLUSIVIST? ARE 'UK APOLOGETICS' LIBERAL?
To answer the second part of this question first, we are definitely NOT theological liberals! In fact, I have spent a great deal of time personally going into churches and chapels which have been much affected by liberal theology, striving and encouraging those present to cast aside liberalism and to take a personal walk with Jesus Christ! At UKA, we accept that famous comment that liberal Christianity is really a different religion - can't recall who said it - was it J. Gresham Machen? We see it as one of our main roles to warn nominal Christians that just a loose notion of Christ as a 'Great Teacher' and little more than that has no power to save! No, I am not contradicting myself in saying that, while also saying that we believe that on the Day of Judgement many will be saved who never heard the name of Jesus; After all, liberal Christians have heard the name of Jesus!
Now some liberals might accept Inclusivism, yet many others accept universalism (all will be saved)- but our objections to Exclusivism are unconnected to liberal theology, we say why are such a large group of 'universalistic scope' Scriptures not taken account of? (Again, in saying 'universalistic' in this context we mean looking beyond Exclusivism, we do not refer to universalism.)
QUESTION: SO ARE WE SAYING THAT 'LIMITED ATONEMENT' IS WRONG?
As regards this age of the Church, it is certainly correct; few are becoming Christians and those that do are 'the little flock.' But we say that the error is to see it as an eternal truth. Some branches of theology insist that limited atonement is an eternal truth - it is not; Christ's victory will finally be a great one! There are certainly another group of Scriptures which have a universal breadth (I am going to list just a few of these at the end of this treatise.)
Again, the point could be raised that I am saying that General Revelation can save (General Revelation describes what we can know of God purely from nature and from ourselves, but lacking any information about Christ, which is 'Special Revelation'), but I am not really saying that, only Christ can save. Having said that, God can start evaluating people from their reactions to General Revelation (the things which surround us). Paul gives full authority to this in the first few chapters of Romans, saying that atheists are without excuse because nature itself teaches quite a lot about God.
QUESTION: IF INCLUSIVISM IS CORRECT, WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL?
It is the Great Commission to preach the gospel because God wants the message of what Christ has done to be broadcasted. As Christians we have no right to say, 'For my part, I don't think that I will preach it' That is just disobedience. But why preach it if we believe that some will be saved without this knowledge? Well, that is in God's capable hands, not ours. To be sure, as a loving God, He will have a method of dealing with the unevangelized which is going to be rather more loving than just shoving them all into hell! But that is not an area of our concern, except that we should note that there is hope - yes, real hope - for those people. But people are going to be blessed by becoming Christians right now in this life and almost certainly will have a higher position in the kingdom. By learning about Jesus right now people can start to avoid sin and to make their lives much more meaningful, yes, Christians, in a real sense, enter God's kingdom even now; they will also bring blessings upon those around them. They then join in the endeavour of preaching the gospel.
No, missionary activity and zeal should be in no way impaired by Inclusivism, only that naive, 'race against the clock' evangelism is undermined.
QUESTION: SO WHERE DOES PREDESTINATION COME INTO ALL OF THIS?
What (comparatively little) the New Testament says about predestination is in no way affected by any of this. The term applies to the Elect of God and to their eternal calling, it is simply that we cannot confine this group to the visible Church. Double Predestination is not biblical as even an increasing number of Reformed people are starting to allow. And even with the predestination of the Elect we have to be cautious in order not to get out of 'sync' with the biblical approach. As mentioned earlier, we must hold the concept of eternal election together with the full validity of our decision and choice. After all, the Bible says only a tiny bit about eternal election and predestination, but countless Scriptures tell us to choose! But as regards eternal election, God obviously knows His own Elect and, indeed, as Calvin pointed out, He (God) ordained them to life from the foundation of the world. The problem develops when we start to approach Election entirely from God's point of view; we really cannot do so since we are not God! Before long, an unbiblical fatalism can rear its head - but this was never a biblical approach but, rather, a pagan one!
It is a distortion to say, as some do, that if God chose us, He forced us to become Christians, so where is our choice? Then they say, He has forced the rest to go to hell and not to know Him. This is a massive distortion - I hope that all of our readers can see that!
At some point we are going to have to discuss Romans 9-11, since it is now quite widely accepted that Calvin misunderstood Paul here; an example of an essentially honest man getting a little carried away with his enthusiasm to find a favourite doctrine upheld in a text which is essentially unconcerned with it. Paul is discussing in those chapters the fact that God's choice in the kingdom of mankind has nothing to do with the merit of man. He rules as He wills upon the earth, but there is always a purpose to it. Paul talks about God's 'hardening' of Israel, it is God who decides where and when He will raise up specific people and nations to fulfil His purpose, and He may raise some to glory and some to ignomony. But the focus in these chapters is on THIS WORLD all the time. Paul is simply not discussing Eternity or Eternal Life here, He is not saying that either Esau or the Pharaoh of Exodus are going to go to hell and that they are ordained for that; he is discussing this present life. We are assured that God is in control of all things which happen upon this earth and He raises up the right people at the right time to fulfil His grand purposes, He is well able to 'soften' the heart of some or to 'harden' the heart of others. Although this is now well understood, it is disappointing that many Reformed writers will still go straight to the Calvinist explanation of these verses.
So, Evangelical Inclusivism (we really must separate ourselves from forms of Inclusivism, and especially Universalism which do not come from an evangelical foundation) is very encouraging, it shows that Christ's triumph really will be a complete triumph! Only a few will probably finally go to hell, and we can proclaim Christ's complete victory - according to Romans 5: 18-21 - without any fear of contradiction.
'THOSE WHO SUFFER NOW WILL BE REWARDED' TYPE SCRIPTURES IN BOTH TESTAMENTS;
Ps 12: 5, Ps 34: 6, Ps 35: 10, Ps 37: 14-17, Ps 72: 4, 12-14, Prov 17: 5, Prov 19: 1, 17, Ps 126:6, Prov 21: 13, Prov 22: 16, Prov 28: 6, 11, Matt 5: 3-12, Luke 6: 24-25, Luke 16: 19-31. (There are more than this; these are the ones which tend to quickly come to mind).
NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES WHICH REVEAL A BROADNESS OF SALVATION GOING BEYOND 'THE LITTLE FLOCK';
Matt 25: 31-46, Luke 15: 2-32, John 1: 9, 29, John 3: 16-17, John 6: 33, 51, John 12: 31-32, Acts 10: 1-35, Acts 14: 16-17, Acts 17: 23-28, Roms 2: 6-16, Roms 5: 15-20, Roms 11: 12, 15, 2 Cor 5: 14, 19, 1 Tim 2: 4,6, 1 Tim 4: 10, Titus 2: 11, Hebs 2: 9, James 1: 27, 2 Peter 3: 9,
1 John 2: 2, Rev 20: 12, Rev 21: 24, Rev 22: 2.
Robin A. Brace, 2000 (Somewhat updated 2004). Further punctuation edit: 2012.
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The reader may also wish to read two related articles:
AN EVANGELICAL INCLUSIVIST DEFENDS EVANGELICAL INCLUSIVISM
(This is an exhaustive look at the same subject, but always readable and always compelling)
TO EVANGELIZE THE LOST - WHY WE SHOULD DO IT
MUSELTOF COUNTERCULT AND APOLOGETICS
WITNESS TO THE WORD
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