What Does It Mean to Be Saved? Broadening Evangelical Horizons of Salvation

By McGrath, Gavin J. | Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

What Does It Mean to Be Saved? Broadening Evangelical Horizons of Salvation


McGrath, Gavin J., Anglican Theological Review


What Does it Mean to Be Saved? Broadening Evangelical Horizons of Salvation. Edited by John G. Stackhouse, Jr. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic Press, 2002. 198 pp. $17.99 (paper).

If evangelicals are anything, they are gospel people because of gospel theology. The gospel is Gods plan in Jesus Christ for the salvation of his people in a recreated cosmos. Problems arise, however, when evangelicals and evangelical theology limit the gospel's view of salvation.

This collection of essays, edited by John Stackhouse, argues that contemporary evangelicalism has done just this. We have a deficient eschatology, understanding of our humanity or creatureliness, and the holistic purposes of God. Accordingly, the contributors plead (to use the title s analogy) for evangelicals to broaden their view of salvation to see the breadth, depth, and majesty of God's salvation.

The collection begins with some reconsiderations of the theology of salvation. Rikki Watts s recapitulation of his impressive Isaiah's New Exodus ana Mark views the "big picture" of salvation through an exegetical lens, aided further by the lens of biblical theology. Bruce Hindmarsh offers a fascinating historical study of John Wesley's teaching on salvation-one that, according to Hindmarsh, was more comprehensive than today's evangelical theology. Henri Blocher's outstanding study on the atonement as vicarious and penal is worth the price of the book alone as he rebuts Gustaf Aulen's widely held view of the atonement. Surely, at the heart of salvation is the cross of Christ; but, regrettably, how easy it is for evangelicals to reduce the meaning and significance of Christ's death by minimizing substitutionary atonement.

The remaining articles form the second part of the book. Each of the articles in this section attempt to expand particular zones within an evangelical view of salvation: Vincent Bamcote on a soteriology and pneumatology that necessitate, for example, racial reconciliation; Cherith Fee Nordling on Christology as the model for the new humanity; Amy Sherman on salvation associated with God's promised place (symbolized in the New City) for his saved people; and Loren Wilkinson on the necessity for Christians to see biblical salvation as the true response to paganism's misguided but legitimate quest.

There are particular strengths to this collection. First, Watts's essay is a model of careful biblical theology. One might wish for a clearer treatment of the atonement from Watts than he presents in his essay when he pushes the picture of salvation as the exodus and Christ as the true image-bearer. Whatever is missing from Watts's essay is more than redressed by Blocher's essay on the atonement. Equally, Sherman's study of the New City as the locus of God's eschatological salvation reveals a biblical theology that can be preached. In fact, Sherman is to be congratulated for incorporating material from notable evangelical preachers like Tim Keller and John Piper-showing that evangelical scholarship and evangelical pulpits can and must work together if todays evangelicals are to gain (or, as Hindmarsh would put it, regain) a comprehensive view of salvation.

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