Who Will Be Saved? Defending the Biblical Understanding of God, Salvation, & Evangelism. Paul R. House and Gregory A. Thornbury, Editors. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000. 239 pp. Paper, $19.99.
This multi-author book should be of particular interest to JOTGES readers for two reasons. First, the authors are dealing with views such as open theism that have crept into Evangelism in recent years. Second, the authors make some candid comments on the need for Evangelicals to get along, despite significant soteriological differences, and not to anathematize one another.
Part one of the book is entitled, “Who Saves?” (pp. 13-74). This section concerns a proper view of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Part two of the book is entitled, “Who Will Be Saved?” (pp. 75-160), and is the heart of the book, sharing the book’s title.
Much of part two concerns the issue of inclusivism and whether people who’ve never heard of Jesus can be born again without faith in Him. There is an interesting chapter in which Clark Pinnock, who advocates that view, interacts with Doug Geivett, who does not.
Part three is entitled, “How Shall They Hear the Gospel?” (pp. 161-224). This, in my estimation, is the most fascinating section for JOTGES readers.
One of the editors, Gregory Thornbury, writes a fascinating chapter in this section. It is entitled, “The Proper Subject of Theology: Giving Voice to the Doctrine of Salvation in a New Century” (pp. 209-224). This chapter is worth the price of the book.
In a section within that chapter entitled, “Potential Dangers from Certain Sectors of Reformed Evangelicalism,” Thornbury cites Reformed apologist Michael Horton as saying, “If we are really convinced of the justice in the Reformation’s critique of medieval Rome, we can no longer…regard Arminianism within Protestant circles as any more acceptable” (p. 216).
For years many Reformed theologians have been calling Arminians, those who don’t believe in justification by faith alone, brothers and sisters in Christ. I find it refreshing to see Horton rejecting that conclusion. However, Thornbury cites Timothy George as criticizing this position: “We should not draw the evangelical circle too tightly lest, like Jesus’ cliquish disciples we exclude those who are earnestly doing the Lord’s work because they ‘are not one of us’” (p. 217). Thornbury agrees with George, saying that we “must avoid the temptation of theological hubris and of excluding true brothers and sisters in Christ” (p. 217). “When dealing with our brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we passionately disagree, we must exhibit a spirit of grace” (p. 218).
Of course, what is a brother in Christ is precisely what concerns Horton and should concern Thornbury and all Evangelicals. This book does not delineate what makes a person regenerate and what does not. The impression is given that as long as someone believes that Jesus is his Savior (whatever that means, whether by faith alone or faith plus) and then is found to be “earnestly doing the Lord’s work,” he is born again.
(Note: an earlier chapter in this section is a printed sermon on Ephesian 2:1-10. In that chapter the author, Timothy McCoy says, “So what is the truth about salvation? The truth is that salvation is by grace, through faith, in Christ, and unto good works!” He then invites the reader to “Cast yourself upon Christ and Christ alone.” He then quotes John 6:37. The very next sentence makes his position clear, “If you have already been transformed by the gospel truth, then rejoice that God has enabled you to know the truth, and that the truth has made you free [John 8:32]” (pp. 176-77). Good works, transformation of life, are the proof of who is born again and who is not.)
I recommend this book.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society