A Theology of Inclusivism. By Neal Punt. Allendale, MI: Northland Books, 2008. 263 pp. Paper, $14.95.
The author, Neal Punt, is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church and a graduate of Calvin College.
Punt’s thesis is that Calvinists should not say, “All persons will be finally lost except those the Bible declares will be saved,” but instead, “All persons will be saved except those who the Bible declares will be finally lost” (pp. 8-9). In his view the vast majority of mankind will be saved and only a small percentage of people will be lost (pp. 30-38, 156). Of course, most Calvinists believe just the opposite.
In terms of those who have never heard about Jesus, Punt takes the view that they will be judged based on how they responded to what had been made known to them. Like Pinnock (who Punt favorably cites on p. 156), faith in Jesus is not required if a person has never heard about Him (pp. 10, 28, 64-65).
Oddly Punt includes one chapter written by someone else, famed annihilationist Edward Fudge. In a chapter called “Restoring Hell” Fudge argues, with Punt’s approval, that the lost will be annihilated once and for all and that no human being will spend eternity in hell (pp. 190-97).
Lordship Salvation is advocated by Punt. To be numbered among the saved one must repent, believe, and obey (pp. 213-14). Punt does not discuss precisely what a person who has heard of Jesus must believe, or what a person who hasn’t heard of Jesus must believe.
According to Punt we should view everyone as a child of God for whom Christ died (p. 179) and we should view all strangers who visit our churches “as one of us” (p. 184). When we do get around to wondering who the few are in the world that are lost, Punt says, “We can only judge their deeds” (p. 183).
In order to argue that most will ultimately get into the kingdom, Punt of necessity argues for unlimited atonement (pp. 158-70). This is a good discussion most JOTGES readers would enjoy.
It is sad to read a book in which the author departs so drastically from the Scriptures. Most are on the broad way that leads to destruction, not the narrow way that leads to life. Hell is a place of conscious, eternal torment for all who fail to believe in Jesus for eternal life while they are still alive. No one will be annihilated. The sole condition of eternal life is faith in Christ, not repentance, belief in some unstated object, and obedience.
This book is definitely not for new or untaught believers. I recommend it only for pastors, elders, and others who wish to be well informed about the inclusivist position in Evangelicalism today.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society