Thanks for some great discussion on part two of If Jesus is the only way, what about people of other faiths and those who never hear the gospel? The question we’re dealing with is who can be saved and how that happens. Specifically, is it possible for people to be saved apart from Jesus? If not, is it possible for people to be saved through Jesus even if they don’t know he’s the one saving them? More than ever after the discussion on the last entry, I’m convinced that this whole debate gets muddied up because we’re unclear on what “being saved” actually means. I include myself in this, and I admit that whatever answer I offer now probably suffers a bit from this lack of understanding or clarity. Nevertheless, here’s how I’d answer the question:
I do believe that no one can or will be “saved” apart from Jesus. I think he alone broke the stranglehold of sin under which we were all enslaved. But does God save people apart from conscious faith in Jesus? Even if no one can be saved apart from Jesus, can they be saved apart from knowing they are saved by Jesus? I don’t know that God has told us this will happen, so I can’t say yes with great confidence. But based on what God has revealed in Scripture (as laid out in part 2, including some of the comments), I do believe it might happen. I’d even say I think it will happen (IMHO!). I do not think it would contradict the character and ways of God revealed in Scripture’s witness to Jesus Christ.
So does God save people apart from explicit faith in Jesus? We don’t know, but we don’t know for sure that he doesn’t and we wouldn’t be shocked if he did. Most importantly, we believe that God has come to all of us in Jesus, offering salvation in both the next life and this one. Our task is to faithfully respond to what we believe God has revealed.
I also promised to deal with objections to this position (technically called inclusivism), first from Christians and then from non-Christians. There are three primary objections that I’ve heard from Christians against the possibility that God might save people who never identify themselves as Christians in this life. Continue reading