Is Jesus the Only Savior?
By Ronald H. Nash
Reviewed by Dr. Trevor Craigen
6.1 (Spring 1995) : 109-111
Another book has come from the pen of a professor of philosoBook phy at Reformed Seminary in Orlando, Florida. This one, despite its simple title, is a critique of those schools of thought which refuse to view Jesus as the only Savior. Rejection of Christ as the only Savior surfaces in both pluralism and in inclusivism. Nash tackles these two views—or movements (or even convictions might describe them)— separately. His critique of the pluralism propounded by John Hick is followed by his critique of the inclusivism followed by Clark Pinnock and John Sanders. The preface points to what should be correctly seen as a disturbing trend in colleges and seminaries, namely that a growing number of professors who hold and teach that the answer to the simple question in the book's title is a qualified one. Pluralists would answer with an outright "No!" and exclusivists with an outright "Yes!" but inclusivists would much rather prefer a "Yes, but . . . !"
In chapter one, Nash makes what frankly must be the only evaluation of pluralism: "To be a pluralist is unthinkable apart from a repudiation of the doctrinal heart of the historic Christian message" (18). Whatever may be the steps in the philosophical path Hick has followed, whatever may be the desire to appear more compassionate and tolerant, it becomes clear from the first six chapters that those who propound pluralism have not only emasculated Christian doctrine of its content and robbed the Scriptures of their authority as being propositional truth, but have also reduced God to being not God but something, or some term, to which no predicates apply. All of this is a devastating departure from biblical truth, yes, from orthodox Christianity. To reject it out of hand is the only correct action to take. As Nash remarks, "Any theory that so mishandles truth and logic cannot stand" (68). Listen, further, to this appropriate response: "Any Christians who would become pluralists must cease being Christians. They must also, for that matter, commit themselves to what amounts to a version of a non-Christian faith." Well said! This is a needed declaration after an examination of the proposals and propositions of pluralism.
Although Nash makes clear that inclusivists are not universalists, the effect of acknowledging that this might very well be accurate is not sufficient to detract from the serious concerns about what they do teach. The four chapters which interact with the reasoning of inclusivism leave the evangelical believer disturbed. What else can he be after being introduced to, or perhaps hearing again, of "The Particularity Axiom" (Jesus is the only mediator) and "The Universality Axiom" (salvation is intended to be available to all humans)? The mind and heart is troubled after hearing of "anonymous Christians" and "holy pagans," of "faith not theology, trust not orthodoxy," of "positive elements in other faiths," and of saving faith not having to have a knowledge of Christ in this life, as well as of the logic of God's love for the world necessarily demanding access for everyone to salvation, and of general revelation being salvifically sufficient.
The chapter, "Inclusivism and the Bible," alone makes the book worthwhile, for it highlights most effectively, yet succinctly, just how the Scriptures are used (and abused), both in supporting inclusivism and in explaining away exclusivism. Given the warnings in Scripture about false teachers and given the history of error and heresy and the accompanying twisting of Scripture, one should perhaps not be that surprised at what is being done with Romans 1—3, and 10, with Acts 4, 10, 14, 15, and 17, and with John 14.
Nash also uses a chapter to deal with those questions which do arise: what about other religions, hell, salvation after death, and salvation by works for some? Nash also points out that the troubling and emotionally laden question of salvation and the death of infants and the mentally incompetent provides an opening for inclusivists to exploit against exclusivists. It was good that he acknowledges that this issue is not really answerable and that little is gained by extending speculation beyond what God has said.
A hearty note of agreement is in order when Nash writes, "In many cases, what Christians have historically regarded as a significant New Testament passage testifying to Christ's exclusive role as savior is watered down so that it becomes a trivial or unimportant utterance" (119).
It is perhaps something of an understatement for him to write in the closing paragraph of the book, "But I have tried to show that the adoption of inclusivism is not theologically harmless. The acceptance of this biblically insupportable opinion carries an enormously high theological cost." Yes, it does! But upon reflection does it not put one who holds to it outside of what is rightfully defined as evangelical and orthodox? Perhaps Nash is willing to be a little more gracious, forgiving, and yielding than this reviewer is prepared to be. One thing is certain: reading this book will challenge missionaries, pastors, and teachers to an unequivocal and unapologetic affirmation of exclusivism.