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When They Haven't Heard
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Millard J Erickson
How Shall They Be Saved?:  The Destiny of Those Who Do Not Hear of Jesus (Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1996.  278p.)

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This is a thoughtful presentation of considerations from a Christian perspective of the status of people who have not heard the Gospel, and the possibilities for their salvation in light of the Christian understanding of salvation in reference to Jesus Christ.  Erickson reviews the various factors and evidence from traditional, scriptural and logical perspectives.  He competently presents and analyzes the views of major thinkers throughout the Christian era on this question.

He discusses general "schools" of thought on this in the traditions of Christina theology and practice.  He then evaluates the positive aspects and strengths of each position, then likewise the negative or weak aspects.  He deals with some difficult questions that are often ignored, especially in popular theology and common preaching, but even in formal theologies.  One strength of this work is the detailed consideration of major contributions on this topic in the last 25 years.

But Erickson also reviews current Christian thinkers like Pinnock and Sanders, and the previous generation, such as Rahner, as well as masters throughout history.  He covers both Catholic and Protestant thinkers, and reflects of various historical councils (of the Western church), including changes in perspectives from Vatican II and later.  He reviews in detail every passage from the Old and New Testament that he can find that relates to this question.

In the process he debunks many popular ideas that supposedly are based on some of these passages.  I was impressed, and frankly surprised, at the objectivity and care he takes to honestly say what he feels can be drawn from each biblical passage.  He does not seem slavishly indebted to a certain fundamentalist line of thought, nor is he beholden to popular liberal ideas.

This is a great resource on the history of Christian attempts to deal with the question on those who have not heard, the mentally deficient and others who for various reasons are incompetent to understand and decide for themselves.  Erickson lays out clearly the concepts of God entailed in the various views on this question.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[TXT] The Exclusively Inclusive Gospel
[Review] Saved without the Overt Gospel? -- A Deep Analysis
[TXT] A Simple Theology of Religions
[TXT] What about the people who were born before Christ?

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First written 23 May 2007
Posted on Thoughts and Resources 25 September 2007
Reviewed on Amazon 3 March 2009
Reread and reviewed on GoodReads 8 May 2015

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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