From Four Views of Salvation in a Pluralistic World, edited by Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips:
From Chapter 4: A Particularist View: An Evidentialist Approach by R. Douglas Geivett and W. Gary Phillips. This is a refutation of Universalism (all religions lead to God) and Inclusivism (One can only come to God through Christ, but other religions can be salvific in that they lead to Christ).
Acts 4:12- “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Peter heals a lame man in the name of Jesus (Acts 3:6). He explains that faith in the name of Jesus made the man whole (Acts 3:16). Under arrest, Peter repeats this (Acts 4:10). In Acts 4:12, Peter extends and reinforces his point.
Both clauses of Acts 4:12 make a case for particularism. In the 1st clause, Peter excludes the possibility of salvation in any other than Jesus. The 2nd clause is stronger and more precise. The word “for” indicates that the 2nd clause is added to in order to explain Peter’s initial claim. The four terms of the 2nd clause reveal Peter was a particularist.
Term 1. “Under heaven”-shows just how extensive is the exclusion of any other name but Jesus Christ concerning salvation.
Term 2. “Given among men”- The universality of the requirement that salvation is found only in the name of Jesus.
Term 3. “must”- dei, or edei, in Greek. In Luke-Acts, all uses of dei or edei are related directly or indirectly to Jesus as the one who fulfills the Father’s salvation plan.[ This is true even in childhood (Lk. 2: 49). It determines his activity (Lk. 4:43, 13:33, 19:5). It leads to Jesus’ suffering, death, and glorification (Lk. 9:22, 17:25, 24:7, 26, Acts 1:16, 3:21, 17:3). Has as its basis in the will of God concerning him which is written in scripture and which Jesus follows unconditionally (Lk. 22:37, 24:44). This will of God applies to the entire Christian community, even down to every detail of individual Christians’ lives (Lk. 12:12, Acts 9:6, 16, 14:22, 19:21, 23:11, 27:24). This revelation of God’s will demands a response of faith in those who are lost (Acts 4:12, 16:30. In response to the jailor’s question, Paul’s reply in 16:30 has the force of saying “you must believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved.) See also Jn. 3:7. This info is from a footnote citing Walter Grundemann in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.]
Term 4: “name”- refers to the authoritative fullness of the being and work of Jesus. Includes specific knowledge of Jesus as savior- Acts 8:12, 35, Acts 9:15 (cf. 9:27), Rom 15:20, 3Jn. 7. Persecutors of the Church associated the name of Jesus with the message of salvation- Acts 4: 17-30, 5:28-33, 40, 26:9. The name of Jesus was the dividing point between believers and their persecutors. There was such a close association between the content of the Gospel and the name of Jesus that the words “Jesus” and “name” are used interchangeably- Acts 5:41, 9:34, 3Jn. 7. The subjection of demons is apparently made in direct reference to the name of Jesus- Acts 19: 13-15, cf. Mt. 7:22.
In conclusion, see Phil. 2:10.
John 3: 16, 18- “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life…He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
God’s universal salvific will is executed through a particular divine arrangement, belief in the name of the Son. There must be something that is an object of saving faith. These verses stress belief. Belief has as its object is this passage which is Jesus.
Rom. 10: 9-15- “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call upon Him whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”
Paul was compelled by God to preach the Gospel (1Cor. 9:16), especially to those who had never heard it (Rom 15: 20-21). He opens Romans with the declaration that it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which saves all who believe (Rom. 1: 16-17). All men and women are sinners deserving God’s wrath (Rom 1: 18-20, 2:1, 3:9-24, 5:12-21); individual faith in Jesus Christ removes one’s guilt and satisfies God’s wrath (Rom. 3: 21-31, 5: 1-11, 6:23). It is difficult to account for the evangelistic mandate and the sufferings God’s witnesses are called to endure if the unevangelized need not have to hear the Gospel to be saved. To be saved, specific truths must be believed and a specific confession must be made (Rom 10: 9-10). Hearing the Gospel is a natural prerequisite to salvation for both Jews and Gentiles (Rom 10: 14). As there are many who cannot call upon the name of the Lord (Rom.10: 13) Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9), an evangelist must be sent. Only then can the unevangelized hear and believe and be saved (Rom. 10: 13-15).
John 14:6 and 17:20- “Jesus said unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”
This is Jesus’ upper room discourse which is the centerpiece of John’s Gospel. In it He promises to give the disciples the Holy Spirit and reminds them of essential teachings with the phrase “these things I have spoken unto you.” (See Jn. 14:25, 15:11, 16:1, 4,6, 25,33. Geivett/Phillips write in a footnote, “The use of the perfect tense stresses the abiding nature of the words Jesus has spoken, which later the Holy Spirit will help the disciples to recall.”) Jesus does not just have knowledge of the way, truth, and life; He is the way, truth, and life. No one (oudeis) comes to the Father but by this way. Therefore, whoever wants to come to the father must come by this unique way, by Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way to God because He is the truth of God (Jn. 1:14) and the life of God (Jn. 1:4, 3:15, 5:26, 11:25). The use of the definite article before “way”, “truth”, and “life” expose all other alternatives as false ones. Belonging to “the Way” was a mark of distinction between believers and unbelievers in the early Church (Acts 9:2, 19:9, 23, 24:14, 22). Jesus prays for believers and their witness to the world. He specifically states that He does not pray for those who do not believe (Jn. 17:9). He does pray for those who will believe in Him through the message of the Gospel (Jn. 17:20). This shows a link between those who will be save in the future with the proclamation of the Gospel message.
Other verses that indicate that particularism is more naturally evident in the Bible than inclusivism: Jn. 1:12, 14, 18, 5:23, 1Jn. 2:23, 5:11-12.
In both Testaments, other religions are viewed as non-redemptive at best and at worst as the domain of darkness: e.g., Ex 20:3-6, 2Chron. 13:9, Is. 37:18-19, Jer. 2:11, 5:7, 16:20, Acts 26: 17-18, Col. 1:13. God’s wrath abides on those Gentiles who are not rightly related to Jesus Christ: 1Thess. 2:16. Those who repented of idol worship turned to God: 1Thess. 1:9. Other religions are religions are devoid of salvific truth and reality: Acts 19:26, 1Cor. 1:21, 8:4-6, 10:19-20, Gal. 4:8, 2Thess. 1:8, cf. 1Thess 2:13.
There is in scripture a motif of “fewness” in those saved and “wideness” in those who face judgment. Only 8 survived the flood in Genesis. Peter saw the flood as a pattern for eschatological judgment: 1Pet. 3:20-21, 2Pet. 3:6-7. See also Heb. 11:7. See the scriptures concerning Babel, Sodom, Pharaoh’s Egypt, the Canaanites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, etc.
There are those in scripture who had received special revelation, yet were required to receive more redemptive truth before they could be saved: Jn. 4: 9, 24, Acts 2:5, 38, Rom. 10:1-3, Acts 9:2, cf. 10:33, 43. See also Acts 19: 4-5.
Inclusivists base their hope that people can be saved apart from knowledge of Jesus Christ on God’s universal salvific will. See 2Pet. 3:9, 1Tim. 2:4.
2Pet. 3:9- 2Pet. 3:1-2 anchors the discussion of salvation in 3:9 solidly within special revelation. 3:6 offers a picture of fewness, not wideness, in salvation. One should consult Acts 2:38 for Peter’s own account of the connection between repentance and belief in the name of Jesus.
1Tim. 2:4- The target of God’s desire is described with two infinitives: for all to be saved and for all to come to the knowledge of the truth. This implies that God’s universal salvific will is that all come to salvation through Jesus Christ, not apart from Him, v. 5. Verses 5-6 tell us that there is only one mediator “who gave himself a ransom for all.” Geivett/Phillips write, “Finally, assuming that God’s will is coextensive with his salvific plan, inclusivists would, it seems, be compelled to argue that 1Timothy 2:4 teaches universal salvation (that is, universalism) and not merely access to salvation. As has been observed, inclusivists confuse God’s wider heart with wider hope.”
Inclusivists, in explaining how access to universal access to salvation is accomplished, point to what they see as a “faith principle” in Heb. 11:6. They claim that saving faith has a theocentric focus rather than a Christocentric object. They see this principle operating in the Old Testament in the lives of those redeemed without special revelation, such as Jethro, Job, and Melchizedek. This line of reasoning faces difficulties. Those saved prior to the Incarnation were recipients of special revelation which they responded to in faith: Enoch (Gen. 5:22), Job (Job 39-42), Noah (2Pet. 2:5), Melchizedek, Jethro (Ex. 18:11), Naaman (2Kings 5:15), the Queen of Sheeba (2Chron. 9:8), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4: 34-37, the inhabitants of Nineveh (Jonah 3:5). They were not among the untold. Even if there was such a “faith principle” in Heb. 11:6, one must still insist upon belief in a personal God. This would bar sincere Hindus and Buddhists from salvation, as well as the ethical agnostic and atheist. Finally, Heb. 1:1-2 states that at a particular moment in history, the focus of special revelation has narrowed to God’s incarnate Son.
The Inclusivist “Faith Principle”- Inclusivists appeal to Heb. 11:6, saying that saving faith has a theocentric focus rather than a Christocentric object. Principle operates in Old Testament on those redeemed apart from special revelation: Melchizedek, Job, Jethro, others.
Difficulties: Those saved prior to the Incarnation always were saved through special revelation to which they responded to in faith-Enoch (Gen 5:5), Job (Job 39-42), Noah “a preacher of righteousness” (2Pet. 2:5), Melchizedek, the King of Righteousness, Jethro (Ex. 18:11), Naaman (2Kings 5:15), the Queen of Sheeba (2Chron. 9:8), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4: 34-37), inhabitants of Nineveh (Jonah 3:5). They were not among the untold; inclusivists who advance this principle have weighty burden of proof. Also, Heb. 1:1-2 states that the focus of special revelation has narrowed to the incarnate Son. This chronology cannot be dismissed; salvation is now only available through explicit faith in Christ.
The Inclusivist “Logos Doctrine”- States that the second person of the Trinity is the unique Logos which is not confined to one segment of human history or world geography. Logos gives light to every man (Jn. 1:9) so that anyone can be saved by the universal Logos apart from specific knowledge of the incarnate Logos.
Difficulties: Verb for light in Jn. 1:9 cannot refer to causing salvation because that would imply universalism since the light goes out into all the world. John had the incarnation in mind (according to D.A. Carson). The light is the divine invasion which divides the human race, forcing distinctions (Jn 3:19-21, 8:12, 9:39-41) as it shines on every person, regardless of whether they receive it or not (Jn. 1:13-14). It is through the incarnation that the light comes into the world. The Logos became incarnate, there is no salvation through a non-incarnate, universal Logos. The Logos is not theocentric, but Christocentric.
Alleged “Wideness Texts”- Inclusivists believe these texts reveal God’s benign, or even, optimistic attitude toward other religions, ex. Acts 10: 35.
Difficulties: Acts 10: 34-35 emphasizes God’s impartiality in His provision of salvation; anyone, regardless of nationality, can be saved if they believe. Acts 10: 43 puts salvation in this context, everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”
The Inclusivist “Cornelius Paradigm”- Inclusivists state that Cornelius should serve as a paradigm of God’s redemptive pattern among the unevangelized; they believe that as Cornelius was saved before Peter arrive, that his heart was moving in the right spiritual direction apart from further revelation.
Difficulties: The point of the episode was to show the disciples the far reaching ongoing mission of God’s mandate (Acts 1:8), that salvation was also for the Gentiles. Cornelius’ salvation was still regarded as in the future (Acts 11:14). This future salvation was tied to special revelation (Acts 10: 1-6, 22, 33, 11:14). The result of Cornelius’ obedience resulted not more information only, but also redemption (Acts 11:15). The focus of Cornelius’s faith was solely Christological (Acts 10:43, 48, 11:17). Cornelius is an example of a God-fearing sinner who responded to special revelation concerning Jesus Christ so that he could be saved.
Four Views of Salvation in a Pluralistic World was originally published by Zonderavan.