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Exclusiveness and Inclusiveness - Johannes Aagaard

Examined From the Point of View of Mission Theology

Very little agreement is found these days concerning questions raised in the field of mission theology. In dialectical mission theology, at the time within Protestantism when Karl Barth struck the keynote (which in turn everybody else modified), there was a tendency of general agreement among mission theologians. But, in the post-dialectical period there have been trends in all directions.

Undoubtedly, however, there have been two main developments. There is a major trend represented by The Dialogue of the World Council of Churches which mainly gives voice to an inclusive attitude in relation to people who are not Christians. And, there is the evangelical counter-movement Lausanne which represents mainly an exclusive attitude, in particular towards non-Christians.

It is a basic viewpoint in this exposition that by this division, man has put asunder what God has joined together. Two partial positions have emerged which neutralize each other, but the two perspectives which they separate, form in the biblical context, a closely knit unity.

The present work is a draft and consequently no-one should quibble over trivialities and wording which, no doubt, can be improved. Let us try to think together in order to fight the devastating sectarianism which constitutes a threat to mission theology.
Who Is Outside and Who Is Inside?

Let us begin by stating some elementary and simple facts: in all parts of the world there are basically two different views on salvation. Some maintain that everybody who does not hear the Gospel, obtain a personal faith, and become a member of the church will be lost. Others maintain that everybody can be saved irrespective of their relation to the Gospel, the Christian faith, and the church. Representatives of the first group, having a highly exclusive view on salvation, which only comprises true Christians, may be designated as "exclusivists"; the second group which includes everybody under the possibility of salvation, may be called "inclusivists".

It is likely that this difference is one of the most important reasons for divisions among Christians all over the world. Persons holding exclusive or inclusive views are not able to carry on a mutual communication and tend to polarize one another. "Exclusivists" advocate the idea that their exclusive attitude is true in a biblical sense and is the only proper basis for mission. Their motive for mission is crystal clear: without their mission men will be lost. "Inclusivists" on the other hand, do not think that this kind of mission is even necessary in the world of religions, for God is already with man. Even Christ is active, for example, in Hinduism; and there are numerous anonymous Christians who are not further removed from salvation than ordinary Christians. True mission consists in accepting people, in neighbourly co-existence, as co-workers in peace and justice. The contrast between the two positions may, of course be depicted in other words, but the fact remains: there is a split in the churches and their mission. There are two parties who do not really communicate and who cannot stand each other. Often they will not admit that they have antagonistic feelings and will do anything they can to hide their mutual distrust under cover of being nice people who do not want to provoke discord.

In this exposition an attempt will be made to prove that the split between "exclusivists" and "inclusivists" may have been brought about by a sectarian reading of the Scriptures. The Bible as a whole contains both exclusive and inclusive texts. A right understanding depends on their being read in their proper context. Interpretation of Biblical texts irrespective of their context is sectarian and dangerous.

By way of demonstration we may make use of two text from the Gospel according to St. Luke, which apparently contradict each other. In chapter 9:49 St. John says to Jesus: "Master, we saw a man, casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us". The religious activity involved here is one that takes place outside the church, a kind of good works in the name of Christ but not as part of the community of the Church. What did Jesus answer? "Do not forbid him, for he that is not against you is for you". (3:50)

This text points to, what we could call, an ecclesiastical inclusiveness. The church should have an open attitude towards good works done in the name of Jesus even though they are not part and parcel of the church structure.

But further on in the same gospel (11:23) Jesus says " He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." The reason for such "christological exclusiveness" on the part of Christ is to be found in the verses 14 ff. where the opponents of Jesus see him as acting in collusion with the evil power. He drives out evil by evil, they say. The point is that these people do not know the difference between good and evil and therefore they are rejected by Jesus. Their depraved relationship with Jesus is due to their depraved relation to the difference between good and evil. In reply, Jesus points to the connection between his works and the coming of the Kingdom of God (v.20)

The two incidents both belong in a context where demons are driven out. The exorcist from chapter 3 who acted outside the Church knew and acknowledged in whose name he had the power to drive out demons, although he did not become a disciple. The point is that he did the right thing and knew why it was right. The mockers (in chapter 11) understood nothing and did nothing. They saw the acts of goodness, but misinterpreted this goodness in a perverse way. They thereby excluded themselves from truth. But, this is not so when people do not join the church. There is salvation outside the church, but not outside the truth.

It is beyond doubt that a person, who looks upon Jesus as an embodiment of Satan, puts himself outside salvation. But it is also quite clear that not knowing that one, in fact, reflects the Kingdom of God does not cut a person off from salvation.
Exclusiveness in Theological Statements about God

It is evident that both the Old and the New Testament contain numerous exclusive statements about man’s relation to God; from the very first of the Ten Commandments to the reality of being lead astray on the last pages of the Book of Revelation. The nature of this exclusiveness finds a plain and biblical expression in Ps 115: "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to thy name give glory, for the sake of thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness! Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands..." The conclusion is brought out plainly in verse 8: "Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them!" You become what you believe. It is therefore of vital importance that you know the difference between the gods and God. Show me your god and I shall tell you who you are!

Different prophets have spoken so emphatically against the worship of idols, that there is no getting around it not even today. (see for example Isaiah 42:17, 44:19, 46:6-7; Hosea 13:2-4, 8:5-6)

Such idols are not God! They are merely "divinities". Jeremiah does not mince his words in condemning idols (Jer. 10:1-16) Such an idol is like "a scarecrow in a cucumber field" (v. 5) and those who believe in it are "both stupid and foolish, for the construction of idols is but wood and metal. A molten image is a lie and there is no living spirit in it." Jeremiah takes no pains to keep within the bounds of politeness and there is no tolerance at all in such statements.

The counter-argument, however, in the polemics against idols is always a positive one: God has created all men - also the worshippers of idols! They are, therefore, not the main target of the controversy as are their dead images, who keep them trapped in a world of confusion and suppression. The alternative message is a message of freedom, offered by the real God who has created all men, and who makes use of the polemics of the prophets in order to save men from the idols.

The New Testament proceeds along similar lines. Men are not only invited but called to embrace a faith that can set them free from oppression. They are called out of the old world and its idols and into the new world where God alone is Lord. This is the plain message of the Gospels.

The perspective is not, however, one of condemnation but of salvation! "God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him." The judgement falls upon those who disbelieve the message of freedom in the Gospel, for they simply remain suppressed (John 3:16 ff.)

It is faith and obedience alone that make the difference in this context: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him." (v.36) St. Mark (16:16) expresses the same understanding: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." Another important point here is that it is faith, not baptism alone that is the decisive thing in salvation. It does not mean that baptism is not essential, but it is not the ultimate limit as is faith, that is, the obedience of faith in relation to God.

The crux of the matter is, from a theological point of view, the relation to God as disciples of Christ. The numerous exclusive texts find their true meaning only within this perspective.
Inclusiveness in the Relation of the Church to the World

It would be utterly misleading to only emphazise the exclusive statements in the Biblical texts. It is equally important to call attention to the many inclusive statements which set off the exclusive ones.

In the great hymn at the beginning of the letter to the Colossians (1:14-23) the two aspects have been joined to form a perfect union. To Christ as the Ruler of the world - inclusiveness is added Christ as the head of the Church - exclusiveness. But, these two sides of the same issue often are treated in isolation, and in this way they often appear isolated one from the other.

There is no doubt that Genesis 1-11 has been placed at the very beginning of our Bible to prevent such an insulation and as a result of theological considerations. These eleven chapters are a prologue to the whole Bible, although they are not the oldest texts. "The first" in significance is not necessarily "the first" in time.

These eleven chapters deal with the creation by God of the whole world and all men, and God’s covenant with Noah. At the same time these chapters describe the apostasy of all men and the universal reality of sin.

It is important to note how Paul applies this canonical beginning in his letter to the Romans, which begins with God passing judgement on all nations. They are under judgement because they knew God perfectly well from God’s general revelation in creation - from the handiwork of God. (Rom. 1:19-20). All men have knowledge of God. Not only the nation which was entrusted with the special revelation, but also all other nations which have a law already, the law being written in the hearts of men and expressed through their conscience. This was true long before the Jews got their special law, and it is still true for all mankind. It is thus the reality of creation, which gives the reason why no one was ever outside God’s reality. All men are under God’s goodness and severity.

Just as the Old Testament opens with the eleven universal chapters presenting the whole world as God’s reality, it also closes with a grand perspective embracing all nations, namely the Prophet Malachi. Malachi puts forward the traditional idea of God’s love for Israel and His rejection of Edom. In the same breath, however, God castigates the priests of Israel because of their offerings, but from East to West "from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations" (1:11).

It is worth noting that the gentiles are emphasized not for their good works in a general sense, but for their factual religion, for their right forms of worship.

Malachi makes use of this perspective in announcing the coming judgement, and the Old Testament canon closes with a cry for conversion, that is, a cry to the chosen people of God’s church: "Return to me and I will return to you" (3:7)

This cry for conversion by Malachi is continued in the cry for conversion by John the Baptist in the prologue to the New Testament (Matt. 3); for he is the one who prepares a way for the Lord who makes the paths even for men. In this connection we hear again the imagery employed by Isaiah in chapter 40: "Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning of the foundations of the world? (v. 21)" They are not wanting in knowledge of God, but they are lacking in obedience! And this lack of obedience is as usual in Scripture made to stand out in relief against a hymn about the Creator and creation (Is. 40:22-31)

John the Baptist is the last Old Testament prophet. In the mission of Jesus to the world, the full expectation of the prophets comes true; not least the universal expectation for all nations, for the whole of creation, and the call to repent, directed first of all to Gods People, the church of Israel.

It is important to understand both the restriction imposed on missionary activities (Matt 10:5-6) and the encouragement of a universal mission (Matt 28:18-20) At the beginning of chapter 10 Jesus tells his apostles: "don’t go", but at the end of chapter 28 he tells them: "go." What is the relation between the two statements?

He who would read Matthew 10 as a temporary ban on realizing the universal mission to the nations would fail to appreciate the profundity of the thought. Something had to take place first - the resurrection of course! This is not untrue, but it is not the whole truth either.

To the restriction placed on mission there is also added an alternative: "Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" These lost sheep are not simply "the towns of Israel", that is, all Israel. According to Matthew 10 the sending out of the apostles to these towns was a sending out in vain. The first real mission was in fact to "the lost sheep," the marginalized people who would accept the Gospel about the Kingdom of God, for what else could they do?

The first mission thus went beyond all frontiers to "the miserable ones," who were outside the system, who lived "outside the camp," where also later Jesus died. In this way the first mission was a preparation for the second mission. Jesus did not proceed from a mission to Israel to a mission to the nations as a quantitative augmentation so to speak, or from home mission to foreign mission, No, the mission of Jesus was always to people who were held in no esteem and even were of bad reputation.

Both the gospels and St. Paul’s letters testify to the fact that the church which resulted from this kind of mission really embraced "the refuse of the world" (I Cor. 4:13) and St. Paul included himself among them! So the real purpose of mission was not and is not to search for and find those who were qualified, but "the lost sheep" .

Exactly that perspective makes mission universal and makes "the gentiles" its goal, and such a mission causes the widespread emphasis on elitism in the world of religions to collapse. The important thing is not to win the powerful and the mighty but to reach out towards the humble, the oppressed, the worthless.

The Church was made up of such people and it still is, if it is the church of Christ. The Jewish People that is "the Chosen People" had its ideology but it crumbled under the disobedience of the people! "The gentiles", the masses, the whole human race in its plight and misery became the goal of the mission. The good news were intended for such people whether they belong to "the lost sheep" of the house of Israel or to the lost sheep among the gentiles.

Inclusiveness means just that. The term inclusiveness is tied up with saving the lost sheep!

Therefore the New Testament canon closes with the Revelation of John, which presents to us a church with different forms but united under the Cross. That is the meaning of the Church being inclusive. All are invited to follow the example of the suffering Christ. No one has to qualify for this "imitatio".
Inclusiveness of the Church in Mission

Such inclusive texts are not only found first and last in the Bible but also dispersed in the Biblical texts themselves, not as a secondary motif but as central perspectives.

Both in the Old and the New Testament we find texts which testify to the fact that God’s relation .to ,’’the nations" is one of inclusiveness. Isaiah takes no pains to keep within the bounds of politeness, when denouncing the idols and describing their empty reality, hut he does not write off those nations which are called "worshippers of idols." They too are part of God’s future. In the oracle about Egypt (Is.19:16-25) it is stated that "In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day and shall do sacrifice and burn offering, yea, they shall make vows to the Lord and perform them ... In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the works of my hands, and Israel my heritage."

Even in Amos we find a verse like the following, "Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? Said the Lord. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? And the Philistines from Caphtor, and the" Syrians from Kir?" (9:7)

Jesus met various "gentiles" of the New Testament with an attitude of acceptance such as the Canaanite woman. (Matt. 15:21-28). But the grand judgement (Matt. 25: 31-46) is perhaps of greater significance. Even the slightest suggestion in the text of making a difference between "Christians" or "non-Christians" would blur the vision. If those "outside the fold" are "enemies’’ then they certainly are those enemies that Jesus loves and also encourages his disciples to love. (Matt. 5:43-48) In reality, however, the enmity has come to an end - on the part of God.

We might also mention the Acts of the Apostles which give ample evidence of the fact that in spite of much inertia this insight gradually gained ground. The story about Cornelius (chapter 10) reveals that even St. Peter himself had to be converted before the conversion of the gentile Cornelius could be recognized by him. And even the apostles had to be converted at the synod in Jerusalem in order that the gentiles could be admitted to the Church (15:10-11).

Especially chapter 17 reveals how brilliantly St. Paul uses his missionary theology at Areopagus in Athens. He preaches the Gospel to the Athenians by pointing out the reality and presence of creation. He addresses himself to gentiles and says that God is not far away from anyone of us, in fact as men we live and move and have our being in God, for we all’ belong to God’s family.

Contrary to the point of view that this inclusive attitude should imply that St. Paul had nothing new and provocative to tell them, we find that on the basis of this inclusive perspective he turns against idols and preaches conversion, the final judgement and resurrection (v. 30f.).

St. Paul writes in the same way in his letter to the Romans. His inclusiveness is (strongly expressed in the two first chapters (1,20; 2,14f.), but in order to emphasize the radical nature of the Gospel. Repentance and conversion is necessary - for all. All are included.

The great chapter 8 is actually about the relation between the world on the one hand and the "children of God" on the other. The point is that the world is the victim of frustration, but with hope! And the "children of God" not the world exclusively but "we ourselves are groaning in travail" together with the world. It is in this hope that we are saved. As part of this world we are all totally dependent on the Holy Spirit to teach us the fundamental things, even how to pray,

In chapter 10, which we will examine later, the keyword again appears to be "everybody". There is no difference between Jews and gentiles. They all have the same Lord and everybody who calls upon the name of God shall be saved.

Thus inclusiveness is a decisive perspective which cannot be ignored unless you deliberately want to end in sectarianism.
Is there Salvation outside the Church?

It was Bishop Cyprian, from Carthage in Northern Africa, who in the middle of the second century formulated the sentence "salus extra ecclesiam non est" (in the paper ‘De catholicae ecclesiae unitate’): "there is no salvation outside the church."

In order to understand the meaning of this sentence it is important to remember that the church at that time suffered hard persecution. The goal of Cyprian was to keep the flock and the shepherd together. The political authorities did not want too many martyrs and tried to tempt Christians to turn away from their leaders:

"After all it does not make much of a difference whether you are inside or outside the Church." It was a great temptation for the Christians who were threatened to cherish the argument that it was just as possible to attain salvation outside as inside the Church. In order to save one’s skin, one could leave the Church.

To counteract this emergency, the bishop as the shepherd of the flock, accentuated the idea that he who leaves the Church can not expect salvation. To go outside the Church was treachery and he who would not acknowledge the Son of Man would not be acknowledged by the Son of Man either. Martyrdom was the inevitable way. To evade martyrdom was to lose salvation.

Only with this situation in view is the truth of the sentence understandable but also how this true sentence could be turned into a lie. And it was: When it was used, not to keep Christians loyal to their church but to gloat over non-Christians, because they were outside the Church, and therefore outside salvation.

After the divisions of the Church the sentence was even used against other Christians, Being outside "the true Church" they could not expect salvation.

The Boston heresy-case in 1943, however, plainly demonstrates that the sentence is not generally accepted as church doctrine. It is almost unknown although it is one of the most important incidents in the history of modern theology. The so-called Boston heretics, a number of Jesuit professors, demanded that the sentence of no salvation outside the Church should be strictly observed. Only members of the Roman Catholic church could be saved.

Rome, however, warned them repeatedly not to propagate such doctrines because they were incompatible with the teaching of the church, which, however, the Jesuits categorically denied. In spite of several warnings they went on asserting the universal application of the sentence. They were told that they would be turned out of the Church if they went on propagating the doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church. They did not stop and their leader, Feeney, was expelled from the Church, i.e. excommunicated, so that he outside the church could maintain that there is no salvation outside the church.

The decisive answer in the case was given by Pius XII himself and dates from 8 August 1949. It was forwarded to Feeney’s archbishop, Gushing, and was published as late as 1952 in the Ecclesiastical Review. The essential part of the answer is "the votum-theology" which states that men can be saved if they have a genuine wish and a genuine longing which does not even need to be couched in words. The wish to follow the will of God is for all men the possible prerequisite for salvation. The sentence, that there is no salvation outside the church, does not say who may be saved but how men will be saved. Salvation is definitely found outside the church but not without connection with the Church.

It is very fortunate that the Boston fanatics were called to order and turned out of the Church, to be counted with those who according to Feeney’s theology were lost. Without this clear-cut decision it would not have been easy to hold the ground against adherents of this brutal version of catholic salvation-theology.

Had Pius XII supported these fanatics, it might then have been very difficult to arrive at the even more open attitude towards the issue of salvation which was manifested by the Second Vatican Council.
Is the Proclamation of the Gospel Necessary For Salvation?

Faith comes from hearing the Gospel. Consequently there should be some who are sent to preach the Gospel. As faith is what saves and to many Protestants the only thing that saves, then man’s salvation is dependent on the fact that missionaries are sent out. In this way the salvation of mankind depends on getting as many missionaries as possible sent out to spread the Gospel. At worst this may give rise to a senseless mass production of missionaries.

This misunderstanding is parallel to the above mentioned Catholic misunderstanding and it may be formulated like this: is there no salvation outside the preaching of the Gospel? According to that formulation men can only obtain salvation where and when the Gospel is preached,

A few explanatory words may be needed here. Firstly: The biblical expressions which we have translated as "preaching the Gospel" also imply that the Gospel is heard and understood. To preach the Gospel in the biblical sense implies not only that the word is preached and heard, but also that it is understood. It does not, however, imply that it is accepted! Maybe it is turned down but then by people who are fully aware of the issue at stake.

Much contemporary preaching, however, is not understandable at all. It is sometimes unintelligible even meaningless. Salvation is certainly not dependent on such forms of proclamation.

As a matter of fact salvation is not dependent on anything human, at all. There is a modern Gospel-industry which in reality is propagating the doctrine of "justification through works". It is working under the illusion that salvation depends on evangelising achievements! Evangelism thus becomes the link between God and man and actually turns out to be an obstacle to salvation.

Secondly: Adherents of this doctrine of salvation - just as their Catholic counterparts are usually falsely assuming that they themselves are comfortably off on the safe side of the dividing line. But exactly that fact shows that it is not a biblical understanding of salvation. We have seen already that the Bible takes a critical attitude towards those who have embraced the Christian faith. According to the Bible judgement always begins from God’s house! With God’s people! The false salvation theology, on the other hand, is always characterised by its inclination to judge others, those who are considered "outsiders"

Those who advocate the vulgar comprehension of salvation are often of the opinion that they faithfully repeat what Paul writes in the letter to the Romans in chapter 10. We will therefore examine this text more closely.

The train of thought they use is found in Romans 10:14-15. According to these verses potential believers begin by calling upon God, which implies that they have heard, which implies again that somebody has preached the Gospel, which implies that preachers have been sent out. But but the real and embasic implication are stated in the preceding verse: the reality of salvation comprises everyone who believes. "There is no difference between Jew and Greek for the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him, for everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved." Evidently the fundamental view is highly inclusive and serves no exclusive purpose ! Verse 16, however, clearly states that in spite of the fact that all heard, not all heeded the Gospel. In fact, they did hear but their faith was not translated into obedience.

The point is that chapter 10 of the Letter to the Romans does not emphasize that preachers must be sent. This chapter says that preachers have already been sent out. In fact, the whole world has already heard the Gospel. It has gone out to all the earth and to the ends of the world (verse 18).

It is not a text that speaks of those who have not yet heard but are about to hear because missionaries will be sent out. It is a text that speaks of the Jews to whom the Gospel has already been preached but who are a disobedient and recalcitrant people.

St. Paul’s text in chapter 10 is an expositional and interpretational explanation of a number of important Old Testament verses, which are all inclusive and emphasize that justification is attained by faith and that the word of salvation is close to all people, so that everybody can believe and call upon God, cry out for help, and thus be saved.

It is clearly stated that the Gospel, which St. Paul himself was anxious to propagate to "the ends of the world", had already preceded him. The Gospel itself is inclusive. In this context Psalm 19:5 is very important as it also is in connection with Col 1:6,23. The universal Gospel is the basic text in this chapter. The text does not encourage us to be anxious to send out preachers in order to save the world. It is not its perspective. The text reveals that the Gospel has already been preached to all people and not least to the Jews, but exactly they are without understanding. They are "zealous for God, but without understanding" (Rom 10:1) They have heard the Gospel (v. 18) but are wanting in understanding (v.19) They are a disobedient and recalcitrant people (v. 21).

Therefore it is not possible to use this chapter as a base for an argumentation that makes the salvation of mankind dependent on the necessity of sending out preachers. It is a text which rejects the elitism of the Chosen People, and cannot be used to support another elitism by another Chosen People.

This text does not even support the idea that those who have not heard the Gospel will be lost, for it states that all have heard the Gospel! Those, who do get lost, do so because they hardened their hearts towards the Gospel. The reason for their fatal end is not ignorance. When people are saved, it happens because they believe which in this context is clearly the equivalent of comprehension and obedience. When they do not understand, but disobey it is not because the prerequisites are lacking. On the part of God everything is in order, but men harden their hearts towards God and their fellowmen.

It seems as if quite a number of people who want to be Biblical theologians hesitate to take the Bible as it is when it emphasizes the universal message of creation as it is expressed for instance in Psalm 19 and in the letter to the Colossians chapter 1 and in the letter to the Romans chapter 10. It is as if the Bible on this point is not "Biblical".

But is it really impossible to uphold the idea of the universal message? One thing is certain: if we have to abandon this idea, then the whole structure behind the Pauline comprehension of salvation collapses. Paul regards himself as a servant for the Gospel which has already been preached for the whole of creation, for the whole created world. Col 1:23)

Psalm 19 is a great creation hymn: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth"...

That is pure creation theology. It is true that God is silent in creation, but God’s silence is very eloquent. In fact the Gospel is preached in this silence, if we take St. Paul by his word and I think we should!

What happens if we don’t? The Church and its zealous missionaries will set themselves up as masters of the Gospel and will figure out, who has been reached by it and who has not. God has, however, not reserved the preaching of the Gospel for the Church. The question of salvation is basically up to God, but we are allowed to be his servants in the process of sharing the Gospel with the whole world. In this sense it is really true that God has been there long before the missionaries! To believe that the missionaries bring God - even that they bring the Gospel is in fact against the core and substance of the Gospel as preached by the Biblical witnesses.

We can therefore recognize the faith when we meet it, also when it is found far away from the borders of the Church and we can feel reassured that the faith is inspired by the Gospel itself, when it carries the fruit of the spirit.

When creation in this way reveals the Gospel, then there is quite a lot which ought to be revised in for instance Lutheran theology. We are very quick to connect creation and the law just as we connect the Gospel and the Church. In making these two connections we in return separate creation from the Gospel, in fact we even separate creation from salvation. But exactly that is destroying the fundamental view of the Biblical texts and is disregarding the decisive inclusiveness which is the all-pervasive motif throughout the Bible. It is such a destruction that makes sectarian theologians.

Rightly understood creation and salvation are two aspects of the same reality. Creation theology is the universal dimension of salvation theology, and salvation theology is the personal and eschatological dimension of creation theology.