Don Richardson -The spirit of Inclusivism
A heaven that contains more than believers in Christ
Richardson is a Canadian Christian missionary. Most are familiar with his books Peace child (first book) Lords of the Earth (his second book), later Eternity in their Hearts.
From 1977, Richardson served as ambassador-at-large for World Team, a mission organization. He has honorary doctorate of literature from Biola University in La Mirada, California, is an ordained pastor and international speaker of numerous church conferences each year.
What He teaches is to look for remnants of similar beliefs of a monotheistic god in various cultures throughout the world, hidden among tribal cultures. These are often practices or understandings which he calls "redemptive analogies", which can be used to illustrate the meaning of the Christian Gospel. Some of his ideas such as using points to make the gospel understood were decent, other ideas were terrible.
In his book Eternity in Their Hearts he attempts to show how God uses redemptive analogies to bring all men to Himself, claiming from Ecclesiastes that God "has also set eternity in the hearts of men." Unfortunately this is not what the Hebrew scripture actually means. It goes against the plain teaching of the word that all have gone astray, there are none who seek after God; that it is not eternity but darkness, sin in mans heart.
Richardson's new book “Heaven Wins” may seem different from his previous books but it really is the working theology found in his book “Eternity in their Hearts.” His presentation is that there will be many in heaven from cultures that have not heard the gospel.
Richardson begins his book by examining two different views held by Rob Bell and Mark Galli, in his attempt to clarify what the Bible teaches about the ultimate destiny of individuals. Are a majority of people destined for hell, as many Christians assume, or will heaven harvest the greater part of mankind? Could it be that the good news is even better and more expansive than we have dared to hope? The answer may surprise you.”
The author questions the majority held evangelical position that there will be more people in hell than there are in heaven. God, he says, “will not merely win a pyrrhic victory.” Its fine to question something if you have substantial proof, but he has a theory.
We will first look at the basis of his theory. First, general revelation and then the matter of original sin, being active or inactive when one is born until an age of accountability. We will go deeper into these topics as we progress.
Is General revelation sufficient or insufficient
Richardson believes that natural revelation has brought salvific saving knowledge to many (more in Old Testament times than the New) and uses Job as a main example numerous times. He sees Job a first responder of general revelation.
Richardson says he began as an exclusivist (general revelation is informative, special revelation informative and salvific), but he became an inclusivist.
“I myself, a former Exclusivist, felt so alone when both the weight of Scripture and mission field experience made me an Inclusivist. In the on-and-off struggle between these two competing schools of Christian thought, Exclusivists have long been claiming the higher ground. I think that is about to change. (p. 49)
This becomes the focus of his theology. Is the sin in all men condemning, or, is his explanation another alternative derived from Scripture?
“I described several such in my first three books: Peace Child, Lords of the Earth, and Eternity in Their Hearts. But Exclusivist influence in that season of my life restrained me from identifying them correctly as Job-like first responders. (p.55)
It says in his forward, chpt. 10 “deals with examples of New Testament and modern-era “Jobs” who are taught by natural revelation and come to God in faith as a result.”
Many statements I had to reread over and over to make sure I understood what he is presenting. This is because there is a number of points he contradicts himself on (as well as the Scripture) that it made it difficult to decipher at times. So I have to depend on the definitive and qualitative statements made, like this one:
Salvific means it saves (Richardson also redefines general revelation). Salvific is a Latin phrase which means having the intent or power to save or redeem. Leading to salvation, which is attributed to the Lord.
He takes issue with the exclusivists view ‘“Salvific” means viably appointed to induce genuine repentance and faith in the minds, hearts and wills of otherwise indifferent people. Due to their definition of general revelation as informative only, Exclusivists—in terms of who will be saved—focus “exclusively” on special revelation’s salvific ingathering of two “remnants” of people amid the masses of mankind” (p.48)
Richardson points out two categories “Christians commonly divide the entirety of what God has revealed into two major categories: general revelation (the “single poignancy” persuasion described earlier) and special revelation, which, when clearly understood and perceived in concert with general revelation, draws mankind to God with a “double poignancy” persuasion. General revelation includes all that can be known about creation—God’s artistry—along with everything that can be known via creation about the Artisan of creation, God. Special revelation, conversely, includes all that God explains about himself and the plan of redemption and has sovereignly ordained to be included and preserved in the inspired canon of Old and New Testament Scripture.p.47)
“all Exclusivists—Reformed or otherwise—value God’s general revelation as informative only. Special revelation, conversely, is both informative and salvific! “Salvific” means viably appointed to induce genuine repentance and faith in the minds, hearts and wills of otherwise indifferent people. Due to their definition of general revelation as informative only, Exclusivists—in terms of who will be saved—focus “exclusively” on special revelation’s salvific ingathering of two “remnants” of people amid the masses of mankind.”(P.48)
Explaining his definition of the differences, “Whereas Exclusivists regard general revelation as informative only and special revelation as both informative and salvific, Inclusivists, by contrast, regard general revelation as both informative and salvific and special revelation as even more deeply informative and even more effectively and widely salvific! (p.49).
So Richardson is arguing that the differences are far less than we think, as one can be saved by general revelation just as they can be saved by special revelation (he also states general revelation can lead one to special revelation).
Thus his conclusion: “I submit that the book of Job attests that general revelation is both informative and salvific.” (P.55)
The accepted definition of general revelation is what is available to all humanity. It is discovered through natural means, by observing nature (the physical universe), by philosophy and reasoning, human conscience. This can include knowing basic right and wrong through our human nature, or conscience that was made in the image of God.
God has revealed Himself in two very different ways; Natural /General Revelation and Special /Supernatural Revelation. “Revelation” means to reveal, both General and special revelation is an act of communication to man. Both contain a certain amount of knowledge. But there is a reason one is called general and the other special.
Nature is subject to Godits creator, so general reveals what is invisible behind the visible to a certain extent.
Two main Scriptures are defined by Paul are found in Romans. Rom.1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Thus, general revelation.
In other words there is a God who made things and holds them in order by His power but it cannot communicate salvation no matter how well one becomes familiar with it. Natural Revelation only reveals to us that God exists, (you are no longer are an atheist but a theist or deist) but it does not reveal Who God is or the way to be in relationship with Him.
One can look at the sun and the rain and the crops growing, the order of seasons and understand that an intelligent God made and keeps this physical world. There is nothing Paul says in Romans 1 (or other passages) that suggests that the knowledge of general revelation is sufficient to save.
Thus natural revelation is weaker, insufficient in the purpose of God (as is the law compared to the new covenant). General Revelation does not provide enough information for salvation because it is
1) obscured by the sinfulness of mankind: they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. 2) A denying of the moral likeness they were made in by their maker: that which is known about God is evident within them. As Paul stated in this very epistle as it unfolds, there is none that seek after God.
Special revelation is beyond nature, it is supernatural. God’s special revelation involves a more direct means of communication which has been done in a variety of ways, dreams, visions, visitation of angels, but is complete, found in the only real and accurate source to know God – the Bible, (Psalm 19:7-14) which speaks of Jesus (Jn.5:39). ONLY by special revelation doesGod make Himself known to us. It is by His Word (Titus 1:1-3), “the gospel to bring salvation."
Rom. 10:14 “And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Paul points to the message as special revelation.
Paul goes on to explain in the next chapter of Romans why ALL are guilty before God for their sin
Rom. 2:14-15, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.”
The law is the standard of God introduced to man by Moses, it shows a Holy God’s nature, it is a nature that we are made in a moral likeness of our creator but is now corrupted.
Special (or direct) revelation is that revelation of God (that is in the Bible) which is revealed either by hearing it though someone, reading it or experiencing it. In contrast to General Revelation revealed only through nature only. Special Revelation (the gospel) gives one salvation. The gospel can only be known by being taught, heard or read. This message of salvation, the new covenant is made by God himself. In Jobs day there was the covenant God made with Noah and what was given to through Adam for man to be right before God, by sacrifice (Gen.4. Shows us that God taught man to sacrifice an animal to cover his sin, not just offer what we want).
Special (direct revelation) is God revealing Himself, His nature, His character and the way to Him.
Now that we understand the Bibles meaning, let’s look at Job and decide what is taking place.
If Richardson’s examples of general revelation are inaccurate, then his whole theory falls apart. The problem is with his premise: Job had special revelation, NOT general revelation. It was passed onto him as we see Job specifically records by writing about Adam and portions of creation accurately (Job 38:4-11) as found in Genesis. Richardson’s first assumption brings only adds more assumptions. I take issue with Richardson’s assumption. The book of Job gives no teaching on General revelation leading Job to salvation.
Richardson used this same argument found over 30 years ago in his book Eternity in their Hearts. In 30 years he hadn’t noticed what the Bible actually teaches on this matter. Jobs knowledge of sacrifice to the true God is not from general revelation. Richardson’s warmed over error is his opinion, not what the Bible teaches as the truth.
“The book of Job, believed by many to predate the actual writing of Genesis, appears to have been added to the canon of Scripture primarily to celebrate general revelation’s potentially salvific presence everywhere” (p.54)
According to Richardson God put Job in the Scripture to show us the power of general revelation? How about that what the scripture says of Job as an example of endurance (Jms.5:11) in suffering and the enemy of mankind who is at war with the Saints. In fact, in the book Jobs friends lectures speak presumptuously by their opinion of what they think God is doing when they do not know.
(How does Richardson think Moses got the Taldots, if not recorded by pre and post flood writers before Moses included it in Genesis).
The book of Job is dated to the Patriarchal period (2100-1800 B.C.) before the time of Moses, Job refers to writing and the material on which one writes.
"Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever! (Job 19:23-24, which gives us an idea of period this took place.)
Soft Clay was also a material used to write upon, preserving the words of the writer. The Code of Hammurabi was written on black basalt (volcanic stone) and has been preserved for more then 3700-years. http://factsanddetails.com/world/cat56/sub363/item1525.html
Job must be after Noah and the flood, otherwise he would be mentioned in the Taldot between Enoch and Noah. He lived 140 years after the trial (he had 10 children) which puts him near the post- flood era because of his age. In Jobs book there is no law of Moses mentioned, nor speaking of Israel captive in Egypt which means it was prior to all this.
The book of Job opens with Job as a believer who is practicing his faith, he is not a seeker but a spiritual man, he is different than everyone else living. If Job learned his knowledge from general revelation (available to all who are born with Adam’s nature who are separated from God) why does God say, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1). V.8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" (repeated in 2:3)
Is Job like this by observing [his] environment (nature) that illumined [his] mind? Hardly the case!
There is no evidence of Job learning of God from nature, God already said there is none like him on the EARTH, not just in his land. Certainly the Bible would have far more examples than him at the time (his friends?) if what Richardson states about general knowledge is the case. He is used as an example of an upright man - a godly desire to walk with God; perfect (blameless Heb. tam).
This is basically the same word that God says of only two others before him. Noah (Gen.6:9 perfect in his generations) Enoch (11:5), both are considered unique in their time. One is removed from the earth, the other is removed from the flood to begin mankind again.
Richardson: “the key insights job and his friends derived via general revelation were not really conclusive as we, blessed with special revelation from god a millennia later, understand and enjoy”
So Richardson is building an argument that cannot be supported by the example of Scripture, but is putting it together as his personal view point, theorizing by piecemeal statements.
He includes Jobs friends as equivalent to Job when God has already made a distinction. He goes on to explain how it is salvific by this unbiblical statement that makes it some kind of panacea “I submit the book of Job attest that general revelation is both informative and salvific. What Job and his friends observed in their environment illumined their minds and gripped their consciences sufficient to cause them to cast themselves on the mercy of “the God of heaven” and live in relationship with him” p.88)
The term God of heaven is not a term mentioned at all in Job, he is purposely trying to make a connection of heaven with general revelation. If one reads the book of Job it does not teach of Him observing his environment, it opens with Job as a blameless servant of God. This antinomy is present in many arguments for inclusiveness.
The message is that special revelation is not necessary, as he explains general revelation from their environment brought them to the mercy of God. That is not even close to what one gets from the message of Job.
Richardson tries hard to prove that general revelation brings salvation. He calls others like Job as widely scattered Jobs, and he calls like minded individuals, Job-ians.
This is the main focus of the book and it is no small matter because it affects the necessity of the gospel as God’s message to save today. This underlying theme Richardson has also applied to cultures previously, that general revelation was sufficient, which he presented (in) as Eternity in the Hearts, instead of sin in their hearts. “These, like Job are already secure in a “sheep pen” gated by the initial revelation of god as creator only.” (Which Rom.1 directly disagrees with) But Job knew far more of God than just being the creator. Job through his attack from Satan learned even more from God by direct communication. Some of the longest dialogues in Scripture are found in Job.
After we are introduced to Job the book opens with the challenge from Satan to the creator, who we see working behind the scene. Job gives us insight into the invisible war with saints from the beginning of man, something that only the New Testament speaks of. He is as an upright man, and his trials came because of who he is (blameless). God said to Satan, go ahead and test Job. God allowed Satan to test Job because He knew him and was confident in his character.
God’s enemy throughout history has continually attacked the men God would use for his namesake. The Bible speaks of those serve Him: Abraham feared God Gen.22:12, Job feared God Job.1:1 and shunned evil (1:8; 2:3). Noah was moved with godly fear (Heb.11:7)
God’s name: El Shaddai is used forty-eight times in the Old Testament, Job speaks of God as as Shaddai without the prefix El over thirty times. He uses Elohim a few times 20:29 32:3, 38:7.
But most important of all, Job used God’s personal name, YHWH in his writing of the book.
And after Satan is allowed to begin his attacks, Job says in 1:21 And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
How can he use the Lords personal name (YHWH) by general revelation? Three times in this one verse. It was told to him or revealed. This is not general revelation at work; God’s name was revealed to Noah, Abraham and Moses.
Satan complains, "Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. (Job 1:10). God has done this for Job, no other at the time, he has a special relationship with the Lord.
Richardson writes, “Job and his friends, despite having no inspired Scripture to teach them about God, were hardly stymied in faraway Uz. They acclaimed “God above” or “the God of heaven” as the one “who teaches more to us than to the beasts of the earth” (Job 35:11). As a result, Job knew how to worship (see 1:20). He and his people offered sacrifice to atone for sin (see 1:5). (p.54)
Go read 1:5, it was only Job who sacrificed. In the end God had Job sacrifice for his friends because it was Jobs sacrifices that God accepted. He was not like everyone else. It is not until the end of Jobs ordeal God speaks to his friends by rebuking them and instructing them to bring the sacrifice to him and have Job pray for them.
For one to be right with God they had to sacrifice what is right and in faith. We have the example of Abel, and then Noah who was instructed to bring 7 of the clean animals on the ark (Gen.7 for sacrifice). Job 1:5 Job was concerned that his children may have ‘cursed God in their hearts." Which means he served his family and knew God sees the innermost of our being, and that only sacrifice can cover sin.
We do not know what Job had that was written. Sacrificing for sin comes from knowledge of the Holy one. Job had direct transmission of the truth. Job had been taught specific revelation, this is why he is called blameless by God. He is one of the few that are walking with Him, which does result in an attack from the enemy.
Job 42:7-9 “And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” "Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has." So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the LORD commanded them; for the LORD had accepted Job.”
Notice God calls job HIS SERVANT (several times), Job God accepts. (Few are called a servant by God, Abraham is called a servant by God in Gen.26:24)
V.10 ‘And the LORD restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
There are numerous other points to endorse special revelation: Adam’s name and his disobedience are mentioned by Job. You cannot know the name of Adam and what he did nearly 2 thousand years before without special knowledge passed on to you, general revelation from nature cannot deliver this. Job 31:33 “If I have covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom.” This is why we see him sacrificing, even for his sons. Where did Job learn to sacrifice for each of his children? He didn’t learn this from Moses, whose law was yet future. He understood the necessity of sacrificing for sin just as Noah did; by being taught.
Job spoke and practiced accurately his faith before his conversation with the Lord expanded his knowledge. Job did not learn this from nature.
Those who are biblically grounded in the Scripture know the applications. They understand there is a vast difference between general and direct (special) revelation. The Bible, the gospel is what gives direct revelation today for salvation. There is no justification to accept a lower common denominator from the witness of creation (nature) for salvation. Salvation is not vague communication; as Jesus said, He is the way and He is the truth and the ONLY way to the Father (Jn.14:6), and has commanded all to repent (Acts 17:30) and believe (exercise faith) in HIM (His sacrifice for their sins). There is no salvation without one trusting in the message called the gospel according to the Bible. This is inclusive that all are invited, it is exclusive that there is not other way.
Examples of further direct revelation: Job 26:13, By his Spirit [He adorned] the heavens; Job 37:18, He spread out the sky [like] a molten mirror which refers back to Genesis. Job 4:19, God’s hands formed man out of clay and can return him to dust”; Job 10:8-9 'Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity .... You have made me like clay. And will You turn me into dust again? (a unity of spirit and body) (Job 33:6,). Job 32:8 “But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.” Job 33:4 The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 17:16, he speaks of the bars of Sheol …when once there is rest in the dust; (Zophar also spoke of this). Job also mentions the flood Job 22:15-16 “Will you keep to the old way which wicked men have trod, Who were cut down before their time, whose foundations were swept away by a flood?” These are just a few of numerous examples throughout the many chapters and we should not forget that he is referring to YHWH.
Lets summarize: You do not have God’s revealed name from general revelation nor the actual name of Adam and his activity after he sinned. General revelation cannot be made equivalent to special revelation.
Jobs life was a testimony of one who feared God. God calls Job his servant in 1:8; 2:3; 42:7, 8. You’re not called God’s servant (like Job) by living by general revelation, he knew whom he served and was blameless, unlike any other; even his friends.
Ezekiel 14:13 "God speaks to Ezekiel on a land that sins against him, that he will judge their food supply. V.14 "Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness," says the Lord GOD.” Job is specifically named among the faithful who knew God.
Job in the end says "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."(Job 42:5-6).
Now he has experienced God personally in an interchange. He says he knew God by being taught, not by observing nature; now he has seen Him work personally in his own life. Richardson has ignored what the Scripture says of Job.
What we find in the book of Job is documentation of long conversations with God, and we have insight of God’s way of dealing with man. Job is recording direct revelation that is why is it in the bible? It has 42 chapters written in Hebrew prose and is an amazing piece of literature. Even men who do not believe in God see Job as a philosophical masterpiece. And this is attributed to general revelation?
These are not words from general revelation. Job did not have general statements of God as we may find in other cultures, he was accurate and that is why his book is included in Scripture, it is God breathed. According to Richardson Abraham is included with Job and Melchizedek in general revelation until Gen.15.
Richardson states “the witness of creation alone (general revelation) compares more to a smoking firepot … the blazing torch represented the fuller, much more expansive revelation” “Immediately after the two light sources appeared, we read, “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram” (15:18). Prior to that day, then, Abraham was like another Job, another Melchizedek. But, from that time onward, Abraham’s name would be associated with the launching of a new category of divine revelation” (p.68)
Richardson then asks “why was the first light source, the smoking firepot, so much dimmer than the second light source that followed, described as a blazing torch? (p.69)
Let read Gen. 12:1-4 Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”
Gen. 13:14-15 And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: "Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are-- northward, southward, eastward, and westward;"for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.”
Apparently, the Lord speaking, instructing and prophesying to Abraham from Gen. 12 onward is considered general revelation to Richardson. Most would call this special revelation, since God is directly involved. It is after Abram meets Melchizedek that God reminds him of his promise and gives more details to his prophesy of Gen.12 (Gen.15:1-21). Gen 15:7 Then He said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it." Then the Lord proceeds to make the covenant.
According to Hebrew Scholar Dr. Fruchtenbaum, Genesis 15:17 records the actual signing and the sealing of the Abrahamic Covenant; and it came by means of the Shechinah Glory….
The term smoking furnace in Hebrew means “a smoking flower pot,” “a smoking oven.” It was a pillar of smoke. The point of comparison is the cylindrical form, the circular, cylindrical shape of the appearance. The term flaming torch in Hebrew means “a rising flame,” and this would keep the fire going in the oven. What the Shechinah Glory did was to pass between these pieces, meaning it passed by in between the two rows of animal pieces.” (Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s Book of Genesis)
This has absolutely nothing to do with two types of revelation (general and specific) that Richardson interprets this verse to mean. It showed an unconditional covenant to the future Jewish people via Abraham, that cannot be changed. The promise in Genesis 12-13 was visibly sealed by God, by His glory. The smoking oven and a burning torch was only one light source, His glory. How Richardson applies this to general revelation is beyond me.
It becomes sophomoric the way Richardson adjusts his worldview to interpret the Bible. Job can’t be referring accurately to things of God which happened over hundreds, or a thousand years before he lived without direct knowledge. One has to concede that Richardson’s point on this (which is his basis for his theory of inclusivism) is wrong. Therefore when he builds on this foundation he becomes progressively wrong on everything else attached to it. Richardson has direct revelation to Abram defined as general revelation; God speaking and instructing and prophesying.
Richardson has previously used Job and Melchizedek to support his theory of general revelation (the Melchizedek factor) permeating other cultures with surviving elements that are considered equivalent to an authentic knowledge of God (pagan cultures whose supreme God teaches myths: see the review of “Eternity in their Hearts”). Let’s now turn our focus to Melchizedek