I think Bell’s questions are fair, as they reflect the rather glib approach to these matters that too many evangelicals assume, at least at a popular level. With respect to the first question, the possibility that God’s grace may be wider than the visible Church is hardly unique to Bell. It is maintained by a wide assortment of religious inclusivists (like Pinnock and Rahner) who maintain that while Jesus is the sole source of salvation, grace is still available through channels other than the Bible, the sacraments and Christian preaching. This position is not far from that expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which does not exclude from the possibility of salvation those who “through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church” (para. 847). “Through no fault of their own” can embrace a wide variety of circumstances, and it allows for people who may know “of” Christ and his Church (different from knowing Christ and his Church), but for various reasons do not come to a saving acceptance of grace prior to death. And the charitable Christian hope (and that is all that orthodoxy can express) for the eventual salvation of all or at least many human souls who die outside the Church is found (with different emphases and details) in Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Ulrich Zwingli, some of the Anabaptist Radical Reformers, Karl Barth, C. S. Lewis, Thomas Torrance, and (with more caution) Richard Mouw and the late Donald Bloesch.
Thanks to Craig Adams for this, via Facebook.
I am unsure as to the points which the reviewer makes about Zwingli, but wouldn’t it be interesting if we had a blogger who was an expert in all things Zwingli, who, you know, could possibly shed light on what Dr. Owen is speaking about…?
Did Zwingli really make room in heaven for those who didn’t know Christ? And what does God have to say about that?
- Zwingli As Exegete: The Jeremiah / Lamentations Commentary (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- Today With Zwingli (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- Zwingli’s Theology in a Paragraph (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- Zwingli: On the Spirit and Scripture (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- It’s Zwingli’s Birthday! (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)