Volume 46 - Issue 3

On Being Soteriologically De-motivated

By Daniel Strange

Sometimes, in fact oftentimes, an option presented as an ‘either-or’ is in actuality a ‘both-and.’ For the last twenty years I’ve been trying valiantly (I hope not vainly), to argue that one’s passion for cultural engagement and the socio-political-imaginary implications of the gospel does not mean a diminution or denigration of the summons to personal repentance and faith in Christ, but is rather its pre-requisite. Public theology is public apologetics is public evangelism. The reality of the Parousia, of final judgement, and of the eternal destinies of heaven1 and hell means there is always an ‘ultimacy’2 and ‘radicalness’3 to evangelism. Of course working out the precise dynamics between these two foci, together with the consequent practical implications for ministry, has been a long-standing and thorny talking point. One of my favourite rehearsals of this discussion and shown annually to seminary students in my public theology class is an early 2008 TGC round-table between Don Carson, Tim Keller and John Piper on the theme of ‘Ministries of Mercy’.4 In that round-table discussion, Piper references a Bethlehem Baptist Church adage and one that has formed the basis of an essay question regarding its suitability for a church’s theological vision: ‘At Bethlehem we care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.’5 In our various cultural contexts, just how does one practically cultivate and institutionalise an ‘especially’?6

Two recent pieces in matters ‘last things’ have caught my attention and require a response: Terry Muck’s short piece ‘Who is saved? A friendlier answer to a modern question?’,7 and James Beilby’s large monograph, Postmortem Opportunity: A Biblical and Theological Assessment of Salvation after Death.8 In their own ways, and however well-intentioned, in my opinion both are fundamentally flawed and cut the nerve of missionary evangelistic urgency, the former by wanting to reframe the soteriological question, the latter by offering a heterodox answer. Moreover, both are illuminating in that they raise methodological concerns in their doctrine of Scripture on which their respective theses rest. As a result, and as I’ll conclude, I’m de-motivated to follow either.

1. A De-motivating Question

Terry Muck’s article questions the traditional question which we have all asked: ‘Who is Saved?’ He admits to having himself wrestled both with the question and the labelling of his own position. Believing ‘that soteriological judgements are God’s alone’9 he moved from the label ‘soteriological agnosticism’ to the term ‘soteriological limitism’.10 However, more recently he has concluded that his answer to the question was unsatisfactory, indeed all answers were unsatisfactory: ‘it dawned on me that I didn’t need a friendlier answer, I needed a friendlier question.’11 He now regards ‘Who is Saved?’ itself to be too modern and ‘conflict-producing instead of shalom-enhancing’.12 It is the wrong question. ‘One of the problems the question Who is Saved? is designed to answer is this: “We don’t know who is saved and we would like to know” Is that really a problem we want to solve? Is that a problem we should be trying to solve? Is that the problem that God wants us to be working on? Perhaps not.’13 Muck argues that not only do we have more frequent contact with the religious Other than ever before, but that these contacts are or should be friendly relationships stating that friendship is friendship be it with a Christian or non-Christian. Given this fact he states, ‘I believe the new question, the one that should replace the ‘Who is saved? question, should be: How do interreligious friendships contribute to God’s kingdom? To such a question, every interreligious friendship is a contributing answer, a piece of the puzzle depicting the mosaic of Christian life and living.’14 His conclusion is that while ‘Who is Saved?’ creates an atmosphere of distance and suspicion which makes God-honouring relationships impossible, in the new question ‘we go at least half way in accepting what this child of God has to say about his or her relationship to whatever transcendent person or principle they have learned to embrace.’15

Muck has been one of the most influential evangelical scholars of religion in the past forty years, and his co-edited Handbook of Religion: A Christian Engagement with Traditions, Teachings and Practices16 is my current first choice of textbooks in terms of the study of other religious traditions. In the introduction to that volume, Muck’s calling out as spurious ‘neutral’ religious studies in favour of a ‘partisan objectivity’ is most welcome.17 However, in this most recent essay I think he goes awry. While he may be correct that the question ‘Who is saved?’ can belie a simplistic cookie-cutter theology of religions, and an unloving boorish confrontational missiological approach, the theological tenets underlying both his ‘new’ question and his old ‘soteriological limitism’ need to be questioned. First, while Muck affirms hospitality, friendship and love for the religious Other, which one could undergird with attendant biblical doctrines such as the imago Dei and common grace, there is no reflection of other equally prominent biblical doctrines and themes: the doctrine of the antithesis between the seed of the women and the seed of the serpent described by God in terms of enmity (Gen 3:15); the call from Genesis to Revelation of the need to turn from idols; the fact that we are by nature ‘children of wrath’ and only can be called ‘children of God’ when adopted and united to Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone; and the elenctic missionary zeal, out of love and in love, to reveal to unbelievers humanity’s sinful plight and the only way of rescue.18 Muck’s opening contention that ‘we should shape the way we relate to persons of other religious traditions acknowledging the possibility that we may be sitting next to him or her in heaven for all eternity’19 seems to cut against the grain of evangelical orthodoxy and a biblical worldview which was birthed within a world of religious plurality.

Second, Muck’s ‘new’ question appears to have been motivated, in part at least, by his contention that the Bible is not clear enough on the question ‘Who is Saved?’ He writes,

It may be we find that ourselves today in between Who is Saved? as a modern question and whatever form the question might take in a postmodern era. We are sufficiently suspicious of it as a question to acknowledge that the biblical texts seem to supply data in support of a range of answers? That is, one can make a biblical case for answers ranging from the naturalist ‘no’ to the universalists’ shouted ‘yes’ using biblical texts alone.20

Such ambiguity prompts his change of question, but is the Bible so confused or opaque to the question ‘Who is saved?’ Yes, we cannot ‘play God’ in terms of knowing with certainly the eternal destiny of particular individuals. However, the biblical revelation is coherent enough and clear enough in giving us a canonically limited polyphonous (and not discordant) picture in which the criteria for the eternal destiny of men and women is a central plotline.

Third, and related, is a methodological concern regarding Muck’s doctrine of Scripture which sets up his call for the change of question. For him ‘Who is saved?’ is asked by theologians, ‘looking back at what the biblical writers wrote about the subject and systematizing those comments into what they hope is a consistent and coherent position.’21 However, for Muck this theological point of view is incomplete and needs supplementation by a different method that he calls ‘the biblical writers’ point of view’22 which ‘consists of experiences we have of God’s world and the people in that world. When the biblical writers wrote they were rarely interpreting and systematizing text already written.’23 Consequently therefore,

The theologians then, are interpreters of the primary material—their writings are secondary. My suggestion is that when it comes to our relationships with people of other religious traditions, our point of view should primarily be primary. We should not be trying to fit the results of those friendships into a theological structure (at least not immediately); we should consider them fresh data out of which the ongoing narrative of the Kingdom of God continues to be told….

What if instead of predetermining the inadequacy of relational experiences, at least as truth claims, we accepted each and every one of them as a piece of data, incomplete and partial by itself but as an indispensable incident in the life of the Kingdom of God on earth.24

Once again, while I appreciate Muck’s emphasis on the importance of human relationships which experientially and phenomenologically are often nuanced and complex, there seems to be a stress on the human authorship of Scripture to the detriment of divine authorship which prompts me to ask what sola Scriptura might mean for Muck? He claims, ‘I am not for a minute suggesting we replace our theologies with a collection of ad hoc experiences’,25 but what is the authority of the ‘fresh data’ of inter-religious relationships in relation to the closed canon of biblical revelation?26 Surely even what we experience as ‘friendships’ are cannot to be interpreted as brute facts but must be discerned and interpreted by the theological anthropology revealed in Scripture. Such an anthropology is admittedly richly complex, yet is nevertheless clear and coherent, providing the foundation for missions and evangelism which must confront idolatry as well as connect with the imago Dei. In reality though, one wonders whether Muck is really calling for a more a-theological method, or whether he has a more inclusivist theological framework through which he seeks to interpret the religious Other. Either way, as a result of these misgivings, I am de-motivated in wanting to follow Muck and change the question. For myself, ‘Who is saved?’ remains a relevant and contemporary (not modern) question for Christian believers in the twenty-first century.

2. A De-motivating Answer

Another theologian who is firmly attached to the traditional theological question ‘Who is Saved?’ is James Beilby, professor of systematic and philosophical theology at Bethel University in St Paul, Minnesota. Beilby notes that apologetically and pastorally, the question of the destiny of the unevangelised is a perennial defeater belief for those outside and inside the Christian community. In his study, Postmortem Opportunity: A Biblical and Theological Assessment of Salvation After Death, Beilby offers a defence of a version of theory of Postmortem opportunity which he defines thus:

The defender of Postmortem Opportunity assumes that explicit, conscious, and intentional faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation, but they also make a claim that many have discounted as impossible, theologically liberal, or otherwise problematic: that death is not the end of salvific opportunity and that some might receive their first and only opportunity to hear the gospel and respond to God’s salvific offer after death.27

On coming to the end of nearly three hundred and fifty pages of argument, there are a number of reasons to commend Beilby for his ambition, thoroughness and irenic spirit in his defence of a postmortem opportunity. First, and as he himself recognises, even in these late modern times, attempting anything inter-disciplinary and by ‘inter’ I only mean within ‘theological and biblical studies’, can still raise an eyebrow or worse a smirk from a culture of compartmentalized ‘specialists’. Beilby’s study which integrates exegesis, doctrine and history, is a good model that should be imitated. Second, I appreciated Beilby’s intra-systematic sense and sensibilities which, as will become apparent, are crucial in this area of study together with some interesting questions pertaining to evangelical prolegomena and method which could be applied more broadly than the doctrine of the unevangelised. Beilby’s study is an interesting microcosm. Third, in an area of doctrine where there can be confusion caused by conflation, Beilby is able to describe and delineate what he is and isn’t arguing for and what he believes to be legitimate and illegitimate bases for his defence. In particular Beilby affirms the ontological necessity of Jesus Christ for salvation, that explicit faith in Christ is necessary for salvation (fides ex auditu), and the reality of heaven and hell. Conversely, and crucially, he not arguing for a soteriological ‘second chance’, nor is he advocating universalism, recognising there is ultimately a soteriological finality and irrevocability in terms of the eternal destinies of hell and heaven. Unusually, but (in my opinion) advisedly, Beilby’s argument is actually strengthened in not putting all his exegetical eggs in the 1 Peter 3:19–20; 4:6 basket. As I have written elsewhere in my own dialogue with the Roman Catholic scholar Gavin D’Costa, who advocates his own version of postmortem evangelism, I do not think these infamously opaque passages in 1 Peter (Millard Erickson somehow, and for some reason, calculates 180 different exegetical options!) can be made to do the ‘heavy lifting’ in support of this thesis. Just by way of interest I myself am most persuaded by Karen Jobes’s expert navigation of the passage in terms of drawing on the Enoch-Noah tradition to encourage derided and maligned Christians of ‘the sweeping scope of the efficacy of Christ’s victory in his resurrection and ascension.’28

However, having commended Beilby in all these areas, in terms of the substance of his argument, I remain thoroughly unpersuaded believing a postmortem opportunity to be unnecessarily convoluted and speculative ‘going beyond what is written’, while recognising the necessary nature of this unnecessariness given his commitment to an Arminian synergistic soteriological framework including his presuppositions of a universal salvific will and, crucial to my mind, universal accessibility. This will come as no surprise to Beilby given he himself rightly notes on a number of occasions that ‘the motivational core of Postmortem Opportunity is eviscerated by monergism’.29 As a committed and thoroughgoing Calvinistic monergist, rather than using the extreme language of disembowelment which might imply a refusal to engage with him at all (!), I will be a little more ‘British’ by unpacking why I am ‘de-motivated’ to follow Beilby exegetically, theologically and historically, recognising for evangelicals the inextricable relationships between these categories.

First, Beilby attempts to ‘de-fang’ a number of scriptural passages that would seem to be objections to a postmortem opportunity, before looking at the scriptural evidence for it. He concedes that the Scriptural evidence for a Postmortem opportunity is not decisive but argues that a postmortem opportunity can be based on Scripture even it does not directly and explicitly teach it.30 For him ‘based on Scripture’ means there must be a lack of biblical contradiction plus reasonable inference. However, I wonder whether this falls foul of self-reference incoherence and in terms of evangelicalism is an exercise in methodological alchemy in that he is constructing an argument from biblical silence which cannot be measured against his own criteria of what makes a biblical case. With no direct scriptural evidence, how does one know that his argument lacks contradiction? Beilby will say that there is enough to create reasonable inference, but I would like to challenge both this inference and his claim there are no scriptural objections.

Rather than straightforward re-rehearsal of specific individual ‘proof texts’, I would invite us to think about the texture, tone and timbre of Scripture in terms of an ecosystem: ‘an environment in which many factors interact in a subtle web of effects rather than a series of single, linear consequences.’31 Positing a postmortem encounter disrupts this ecosystem. I would like to focus on a number of areas.

First, when it comes to the unevangelised, Beilby is not satisfied with agnosticism, quoting Clark Pinnock’s chiding of Lesslie Newbigin: ‘What kind of theologian refuses to speak about the possibility of salvation of the majority of the human race?’ (166 n. 86). However, even after Beilby’s breakdown of what something ‘based on’ Scripture means, I am still left with a version of Pinnock’s question. Given the innumerable references of direct, explicit and in places detailed biblical teaching concerning eschatology and in particular the final judgement, it seems odd that a revealing God and a perspicuous Scripture would be silent on a means to salvation for the majority of the human race (if we agree with Beilby’s unevangelised and pseudo-unevangelised categories).

Second, put simply, there is a straightforward and stubborn ‘separationism’ in Scripture that casts a long shadow over the entire plotline and that cannot just be scratched out with ordinary evangelical interpretative tools. Although I have written about this elsewhere in my critique of evangelical universalism,32 I think some of it applies here re-iterating that Beilby is not a universalist. This separationism has at least two overlapping aspects. The first is a fundamental separation of humanity into two types, antithetically related and described in a series of stark contrasts from Genesis 3 onwards: seed of the women/seed of Satan; good/evil; belief/unbelief; light/darkness; sighted/blind; sheep/goats; in Christ/in Adam. Of course, it needs to be noted that the ultimate cause of the separation will be different according to prior theological commitments.33 However, whatever the ultimate cause, the relationship between these two groups is one described in the strongest of terms, e.g., enmity, hatred, and hostility. In such an inimical context, I think Beilby is out of tune when he advocates a ‘soteriological vagueness’ for unevangelised and pseudo-unevangelised: ‘some people never have the opportunity to hear the gospel but does that mean they are necessarily in opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not necessarily. I suggest that we cannot speak to the spiritual disposition of those who have not heard the gospel.’34

Rather, I would like to argue that what is direct and explicit biblical evidence is that of the universality depth of human sin by which all humanity ‘know God’, are ‘without excuse’, and all are justly accountable and condemned by law and gospel. To quote Herman Bavinck:

The standard in the final judgement will in the first place be the gospel (John 12:48); but that gospel is not opposed to, and cannot even be conceived apart from, the law. The requirement to believe, after all, is itself grounded in the law, and the gospel is the restoration and fulfilment of the law…. In the final judgment, therefore, the norm will be the entire Word of God in both its part: law and gospel.

But in connection with this, Scripture nevertheless clearly states that consideration will be given the measure of revelation that any given person has received. Those who knew the will of the Lord and did not do it will be given ‘a more severe beating’ (Lk. 12:47). It will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgement than for Jerusalem and Capernaum. Those who did not hear the gospel are not judged by it but by the law. The Gentiles who did not know the Mosaic law but sinned against the law known to them by nature perish apart from the Mosaic law, whereas Jews are judged above all by this law (Rom. 2:12). Although Scripture views the judgment as extending to all humans without exception…, it nevertheless makes a distinction between the nations that knew the gospel and finally produced anti-Christianity, and the other nations that never heard of Christ and therefore first learn of him at his Parousia.35

The second separation is between the states of pre-mortem and postmortem, and the barrier between the two that we call death. From a human perspective in time, these two separate arenas operate under defined and different terms and conditions—the first, which we call human history, revealing a certain fluidity, and the latter, a finality and irrevocability. While my cultural transformationalist soul has sympathy for some of Beilby’s responses to what he calls ‘irrelevance of this life’ objections to a postmortem opportunity,36 I still believe these objections to have biblical force. First, is the overwhelming and intense urgency of the need for repentance and faith now in this life to avoid facing exclusion from what is variously called the “age to come,” the “kingdom” and “eternal life.” Jesus’ teaching and parables all have this urgent flavor, which cumulatively suggest the need for decision now while it is still possible, because there will come a time when it will not be, and the nature of this exclusion will be unimaginably terrible. The parables in Matthew 13 and 25 of the wheat and tares, good fish and bad fish, wise and foolish virgins, and sheep and goats are spoken in the starkest of terms. There is no hint that destinations can be reversed “at the end of the age” (13:40), thus the warning to act now, even if it means radical surgery (18:8). Second, is what can be simply called history. While it is correctly pointed out that Scripture never uses the term “final” with regard to judgment, to suggest that there will opportunities for repentance and faith post-parousia and judgment seems at odds with the contours of history, where the above-named urgency is matched with a divine patience, long-suffering, and tolerance that, while totally gracious, will cease at judgment day. There is universal “nowness” about history, again linked to “urgency.” For Beilby, what is naturally portrayed as historical climax and end is now in actuality a penultimate and “false” end and therefore something of an anticlimax. However, the taste of death is not only that it is universal but also that it is an end of a particular state of affairs. Again, positing a postmortem encounter takes away something of the terror and potency from the ‘sting of death’ which Christ so wonderfully triumphed over and which we see in the dramatic nature of the raising of Lazarus. For myself a postmortem opportunity means that ‘death’ just doesn’t taste right. This takes us to my final point here, which is the issue of agency. The overwhelming stress in Scripture is on the need to hear the gospel from a human messenger in this life.37 To summarise here, for Scripture to be silent on a postmortem opportunity is, to my ears, quite deafening, particularly when we consider the loud themes we do hear concerning universal sinfulness, urgency and history. As Herman Bavinck puts it, in his own refutation of postmortem evangelism: “If it is not in scripture, theology is not free to advocate it.”38

For an evangelical committed to biblical authority, Beilby’s espousal of a postmortem opportunity despite the lack of biblical support might seem strange, but then, as they say, pressure does strange things to people. The pressure to which I’m referring are the theological commitments and presuppositions which stand behind his belief in a postmortem encounter. Beilby’s synergistic Arminianism means his affirmation of conditional election, libertarian freedom, God’s universal will, unlimited atonement and the resistibility of divine grace in a prevenient form. As with Clark Pinnock’s inclusivism, I think Beilby is right that with these commitments there is an intra-systemic consistency which necessarily leads to a commitment to a universal accessibility of salvation. However, as Pinnock argued many years ago, universal accessibility is ‘far from self-evident at least biblically speaking’.39 Under this theological pressure, or perhaps better in this theological pressure-cooker, the steam has to be released somewhere to prevent combustion. For Pinnock this was his pneumatological inclusivism (noting that ‘the scriptural evidence for postmortem encounter is not abundant…. Its scantiness is relativized by the strength of the theological argument for it’).40 For Beilby who wants to add into the mix the fides ex auditu (which, it should be noted, still allows him to posit to a form of implicit faith inclusivism based on what he calls the ‘solidification of faith’),41 I think his affirmation of a postmortem encounter it inevitable yet erroneous. In this regard, for a monergistic Calvinist restrictivist the ‘pressure is off’ meaning there is not the need to let off steam.

So far I have dealt with motivational and de-motivational concerns focusing rightly on evangelicalism’s magisterial authority—Scripture. Before I conclude, though, I would like to briefly note the ministerial authority of history and tradition to which Beilby devotes a chapter. Beilby marshals evidence in support for the postmortem hope (in all sorts of shapes and sizes) within the early church fathers, and he gives a number of reasons why this hope was lost (Augustine’s ‘pernicious influence’42 directly and indirectly looms large), before noting a number of contemporary advocates. That said, Beilby admits the controversial nature of his thesis and one that is ‘contrary to traditional belief.’43 Given the ministerial authority of tradition, to be persuaded of a postmortem opportunity is yet another hurdle for me to jump over and once again I’m de-motivated to do so given that in two thousand years of orthodox Christian teaching, not many have chosen to jump. The burden of proof lies with Beilby. What I do find interesting here is how a postmortem opportunity is an interesting test-case that asks questions concerning doctrinal progress (or regress), questions concerning under what circumstances would something like postmortem evangelism become accepted as part of the tradition and ‘within bounds’, and questions as to whether and on what criteria is postmortem evangelism more (or even less) acceptable than an evangelical inclusivism or universalism whose advocates wish to normalise as a legitimate evangelical option.

3. Conclusion

No doctrine is an island. As Beilby himself recognises, in positing a postmortem opportunity for the unevangelised and pseudo-evangelised, we are not dealing with an atomistic or isolated doctrinal point which has no bearing on other doctrinal loci, but a question which is one part of theologically inter-connected, organic and systemic ‘wholes’, hierarchically ordered on various hermeneutical and theological presuppositions. These are ‘basic’ beliefs that are cherished deeply. Given that these hermeneutical presuppositions interpret evidence before us, even the biblical evidence which we believe to be so blindingly ‘obvious’, the danger of incommensurability between differing positions is always near, and the possibility of persuasion frustratingly distant. In such a scenario one needs a strategy to break such a stalemate and of breaking through the seemingly impregnable defences of the rival position. Those familiar with the apologetic method known as presuppositionalism will know that in this scenario of competing, hermetically sealed positions, which can be likened to ‘worldviews’, the ‘truth’ of a position can be demonstrated not by ‘direct’ arguments which point to one’s own worldview, but rather ‘indirect’ arguments which demonstrate the truth of one’s position by pointing to fundamental flaws in the competing worldview. This is sometimes called an argument with a ‘transcendental’ thrust, or alternatively, an argument for the ‘impossibility of the contrary’. Or put it another way. As is well-known, in the Ptolemaic view of the world, as it became increasingly difficult to believe that the sun revolved the earth, more and more complex and confusing ‘epicycles’ had to be added to make the model work. Then Copernicus came along with the resulting revolutionary paradigm shift. I would argue that a postmortem opportunity for the unevangelised and pseudo-evangelised creates a number of epicycles which takes us further from the biblical data and an evangelical hermeneutic. Given the ‘impossibility’ of a postmortem opportunity, I would call for Beilby to question the Arminian presuppositions on which his arguments rest and to consider a Calvinist Copernican revolution.

[1] Or rather, the new heaven and the new earth.

[2] Christopher Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2006), 319.

[3] Timothy Keller, Ministries of Mercy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989), 114.

[4] ‘A Conversation: Tim Keller, John Piper, D. A. Carson (1 of 6)—Ministries of Mercy’, The Gospel Coalition, 12 October 2008, Much to our amusement, the aforementioned gentlemen are seated surrounded by what look like garbage liners. As I said, it was early TGC days.

[5] John Piper, ‘Abortion and the Narrow Way That Leads to Life’, Desiring God, 23 January 2011,

[6] Cf. Galatians 6:10 for a similar question.

[7] Terry C. Muck, ‘Who Is Saved? A Friendlier Answer to a Modern Question?’, Missiology 47 (2019): 29–36.

[8] James Beilby, Postmortem Opportunity: A Biblical and Theological Assessment of Salvation after Death (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2021).

[9] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 33.

[10] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 33.

[11] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 33.

[12] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 32.

[13] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’,34.

[14] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 34, original emphasis.

[15] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 35.

[16] Terry C. Muck, Harold A. Netland and Gerald R. McDermott, Handbook of Religion: A Christian Engagement with Traditions, Teachings and Practices (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014), 4.

[17] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 4.

[18] See Daniel Strange, ‘Coming to Our Senses: The Case for a Civil Elenctics and an Elenctic Civility’, Themelios 46 (2021): 5–17.

[19] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 30.

[20] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 32–33.

[21] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 30.

[22] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 30.

[23] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 31.

[24] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 31.

[25] Muck, ‘Who Is Saved?’, 31.

[26] Muck likens this to a Bayesian statistical method, ‘whereby conclusions are calculated constantly, changing with every new piece of evidence’ (‘Who Is Saved?’, 31).

[27] Beilby, Postmortem Opportunity, ix.

[28] Karen Jobes, 1 Peter, BECNT (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2005), 258.

[29] Beilby, Postmortem Opportunity, 204.

[30] Beilby, Postmortem Opportunity, 160–66.

[31] David Smith, On Christian Teaching (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2019), 32.

[32] See Daniel Strange, ‘Does the Love of God Require Universalism?’, in The Love of God, ed. Chris Morgan, Theology in Community (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 143–60. See also my earlier essay: ‘A Calvinist Response to Thomas Talbott’s Universalism’, in Universal Salvation: The Current Debate, ed. Robin Parry and Chris Partridge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 145–68.

[33] In a more Reformed framework, election and reprobation are based on God’s foreordination; in a more Arminian framework, they are based on divine foreknowledge of free libertarian decisions.

[34] Beilby, Postmortem Opportunity, 117. Twice (pp. 99 and 117) Beilby cites the following Lewis quotation: ‘The world does not consist of 100 per cent Christian and 100 per cent non-Christian. There are people (a great many of them) who are slowly ceasing to be Christians but still call themselves by that name: some are clergymen. There are other people that are slowly becoming Christians though they do not call themselves so.’ C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, reprint ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1978), 176.

[35] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 4:701.

[36] Beilby, Postmortem Opportunity, 217.

[37] For a detailed defence of this, see Daniel Strange, The Possibility of Salvation among the Unevangelized (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 2000).

[38] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 4:631.

[39] Clark Pinnock, A Wideness in God’s Mercy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 157.

[40] Pinnock, A Wideness in God’s Mercy, 169.

[41] Beilby, Postmortem Opportunity, 269.

[42] Beilby, Postmortem Opportunity, 202.

[43] Beilby, Postmortem Opportunity, 96.

Daniel Strange

Daniel Strange is director of Crosslands Forum, a centre for cultural engagement and missional innovation, and contributing editor of Themelios.

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