What about Those Who Have Never Heard?

Book Notice

What about Those Who Have Never Heard? by Gabriel Fackre, Ronald H. Nash, and John Sanders (InterVarsity, 1995)

Written by three evangelical Christians, this volume asks the question, “If Jesus is the only way of salvation, then what about those who have never heard about him?” Recognizing the significance of the issue, each of the three authors presents a different model for alternative evangelical understandings of scripture on this issue, to which the other two authors respond.

Nash’s view, called “restrictivism,” holds that it is “necessary to know about the work of Christ and exercise faith in Jesus before one dies if one is to be saved” (12). Sanders argues for “inclusivism,” meaning “people may be saved even if they do not know about Christ. God grants them salvation if they exercise faith in God as revealed to them through creation and providence” (13).

Most interesting to Latter-day Saints will be the third position, which Fackre identifies as “divine perseverance,” also called “postmortem evangelization.” In other words, some evangelicals are willing to entertain the possibility that “those who die unevangelized receive an opportunity for salvation after death. God condemns no one without first seeing what his or her response to Christ is” (13). While not yet countenancing the possibility of baptism for the dead, the evangelical proponents of divine perseverance derive the scriptural teaching that the gospel will be proclaimed to the dead from 1 Peter 3:18–4:6 and several other biblical texts.

An old German proverb says, “A good question is half an answer.” This book clearly identifies an important question. In their suggestions for further reading (167–68), however, the authors should look a little further for the other half of the answer.


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