Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Inclusivist's Reason for Missions: Your Best Life Now [?]

In his book Who Can Be Saved? Reassessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions Terrance Tiessen promotes a kind of inclusivism. In response to the question of why, if inclusivism is correct, Christians should send missionaries, Tiessen offers the following:

Although God may be saving people beyond the reach of the church’s gospel proclamation, he desires for them a fullness of life, here and now, that is impossible apart from full knowledge of Christ’s blessings and life in a community of followers of Jesus. (p. 259)

Tiessen believes that "God may be saving people beyond the reach of the church's gospel proclamation:" he expresses great optimism that people in other religions might be saved, but he writes that apart from faith in Christ [I almost typed "conscious faith in Christ," but that is surely a redundancy given the biblical definition of faith] people are missing out on "fullness of life, here and now." Therefore, Christians should send missionaries.

There is a certain sense in which it is true that faith in Christ does lead to a special fullness of of living in the present: Jesus speaks about abundant life in John 10:10 and He speaks about "here and now" blessings in Mark 10:29-30a. So there is a legitimate sense in which Jesus does offer 'your best life now.'

But look at the verses mentioned above. In John 10:10 Jesus says that He came that "they" [i.e., those who follow Him, as seen from the context] might have life and have it abundantly. There is a reason that Jesus orders His statement in the way He does; a person cannot have "it" [i.e., "life"] abundantly until he first has been given life. That is why Jesus first mentions the giving of life. And in Mark 10:29-30, Jesus ends His statement with a mention of eternal life for those who follow Him.

If it is true that these verses offer "fullness of life, here and now" to those who follow Christ, and that the blessings of abundance are not found outside of following Christ [for if they could also be found apart from following Christ, then we would still be left without a motive for sending missionaries at this point in Tiessen's argument], it is equally true that these verses offer life-- eternal life-- to those who follow Christ and that the blessings of eternal life are not found outside of following Christ. These things are consistently connected in Scripture: faith, life, and blessings; one cannot have the life without the faith or blessings.

On the other hand, a believer may go through seasons-- even prolonged seasons-- when the blessings of the gospel are obscured by present hardships. The Apostle Paul promises that "everyone who wishes to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim 3:12). Jesus speaks of grave hardships that will be faced by those who follow Him (see Matt 10:16-25). It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul writes, "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied" (1 Cor 15:19 ESV). In the face of these sober warnings, the idea that Christians should send missionaries to improve the quality of life of people in other religions seems ludicrous.

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