What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

By John Sanders, ed.
Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity (1995). 166 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Alex Montoya
7.1 (Spring 1996) : 140-141

The eternal destiny of the heathen has always been an intriguing question for Christians. Do the heathen need to hear the gospel to be saved? This is the question debated in What About Those Who Have Never Heard?. John Sanders, an instructor in theology and philosophy at Oak Hills Bible College, has edited this concise book to show the various positions on the ultimate destiny of those who have never heard. The format of the book presents the three most popular positions held by the Christian church, and subsequent rebuttals of each position by the other two.

John Sanders, one of the writers, advocates the position known as inclusivism, which holds that God saves people only because of the work of Christ, but people find salvation without knowing about Christ. God grants them salvation if they exercise faith in God as they know Him revealed through creation and providence.

Gabriel Fackre, Professor of Theology at Andover Newton Theological School supports a second position called divine perseverance. Fackre argues that those who die unevangelized receive an opportunity for salvation after death. It says that "God condemns no one without first seeing what is his or her response to Christ" (13).

The third view, called restrictivism, has as its advocate Ronald H. Nash, Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary. Nash argues that God provides salvation only in Jesus Christ, making it necessary to know about the work of Christ and exercise faith in Jesus before one dies to receive salvation. "God has divinely appointed the means of salvation, and that is exclusively through the preaching of the gospel—there is no other possibility" (12).

The merit of this work is its clear presentation of each view and the subsequent rebuttal by its opponents. It does much to help the reader think through the issues and clarify positions based on Scripture and/or logic. The reviewer profited much from the analysis of the texts offered in support of each position, and found help to clarify further his restrictionist position. This is a helpful tool for those concerned about world evangelism.