Throughout history millions have lived and died without hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Despite vigorous missionary efforts, large populations of the world today have never been evangelized. And now religious pluralism has set up shop on Main Street. The question “Who can be saved?” forces itself on the minds of Christians like never before.
- Is there a wideness in God’s mercy?
- Does God reveal himself in a way that invites all people to respond positively in saving faith?
- Does one have to be an Arminian to believe so?
- Or is there a way for Calvinists to see how God might reveal and save apart from the explicit “gospel” and yet exclusively through Jesus Christ?
- And if so, what does this say about the role of religions within the sovereign providence of God?
These are big questions requiring thoughtful care. In this intriguing study, Terrance L. Tiessen reassesses the questions of salvation and the role of religions and offers a proposal that is biblically rooted, theologically articulated and missiologically sensitive. This is a book that will set new terms for the discussion of these important issues.
Recipient of an Honourable Mention in the 2001 God Uses Ink Contest! “Lord, please give me a parking space!” That prayer sounds right on your third time around the block, frustrated and late for an appointment. But is it consistent with how God works in the world? Does prayer change God’s mind or only our feelings? Does God do things because we ask him to? Or do we ask him because he prompts us to do so? How much control does God really have in the world, anyway? If he has given us free will, can he always guarantee that things will happen as he intends or wishes? Is our need for parking spaces important enough to bother God, or is he only concerned about things that advance his program of salvation? If God has already decided how things will turn out, what use is it to pray? On the other hand, if our freedom limits God’s ability to achieve his wishes all the time, how much could he do even if we asked for help? How much does God know about the future, and how does this factor into the way our prayers affect the outcome? And how does God’s relationship to time enter into the whole equation? With such questions in mind, Terrance Tiessen presents ten views of providence and prayer–and then adds an eleventh, his own. He describes each view objectively and then tackles the question, If this is the way God works in the world, how then should we pray? The result of his investigation is a book that puts us at the intersection between theological reflection and our life and conversation with God. It prods and sharpens our understanding, making us better theologians and better prayers.
Few questions have troubled Christians more than the destiny of those who do not hear the gospel. For reasons described in this work, Irenaeus (second century Bishop of Lyons) did not directly address the issue of the salvation of the unevangelized. A careful analysis is therefore made of the saving effects of the various modes of revelation about which Irenaeus wrote, in the context of his conflict with the Gnostics. Particular attention is given to his understanding of the respective roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in divine revelation, the role of the Church, and the human response to divine revelation which is necessary for salvation.
Tiessen concludes that Irenaeus should not be cited as an early proponent of Karl Rahner’s “anonymous Christianity” without careful qualification. Some aspects of his thought, however, indicate that he might have granted the possibility of salvation for individuals outside of the institutional Church, if he had known a situation such as we know today.
The work will be of particular interest to patrologists, missiologists, and theologians interested in the issues of revelation and salvation.