I happened to stumble across this free book on Christian Audio.com and took a listen to it today. It was a convenient time to find it as our community group was just talking about Universalism yesterday. I’m sure this book will find great readership due to the swirling debates among “Christendom” regarding universalism, annihalationism (which I did not know that , etc; as well it should. It’s a really good book. Then again, it’s John Piper, so this should not come as a surprise. I have yet to find anyone that digs as deep into the scriptures and then exegetes them so well in a readable format as John Piper. He’s pretty sweet. Ok, onto the book.
It’s a short read, which was great because I have some catchup to do. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in comprehensive scriptural outlook on an ever-important Christian doctrine. The book goes through three questions rather quickly to focus more on the bigger, more controversial subject (as if the first three aren’t controversial in themselves). The first three questions in succession are: Is Jesus the only way of salvation?, will anyone experience eternal, conscious, torment under God’s wrath?, and is the work of Jesus necessary for salvation? Certainly these are not questions to just brush by; I know there are other authors that have given entire books to these subjects, but Piper wanted to focus, rather, on the final question: Is conscious faith in Jesus necessary for salvation?
It’s this topic with which he spends over half of the book. It is also a topic that I have wrestled with recently–aspects of it at least. He begins by addressing the “times of ignorance” from Acts 17 and what salvation looked like in the Old Testament. He then goes to what I thought was the most interesting and compelling view on the subject. John Piper always manages to take something from scripture and then reveal it in such a way as to make me think, “how did I not see that before?” He did this very thing here in his discussion of Cornelius from Acts 10. This has always been my favorite chapter from Acts but apparently I never read it with the detail to be able to understand it on the level that John Piper reveals. This passage happens to be one of the texts often used to discredit the book’s primary question, but Piper, very systematically, throws that idea on its head through a few proofs from the text that negate that possibility. After hearing his explanation, I found myself wondering how anyone could contend with that from the other side.
Piper uses his final two chapters to discuss Acts 4:12, “no other name under heaven”, and then bring it all around to the effect that such a thought would have on missionaries as we know it. He mentions just how devastating that would be to a missionary career to suddenly believe that these people might be better off not being told–that there’s another way toward salvation. It’s a sobering thought.
Over all, it’s a great book that I would highly recommend, particularly if your community group just went through Chapter 7 of Radical like ours did. What a help it is in answering this very difficult, yet incredibly important question.