My view on who gets saved is a straddling of Exclusivist that Jesus is the only way to salvation and Exclusivist [Inclusivist?] which is Jesus’ salvation is available to all. We are saved by the power of Jesus’ blood and atoning death on the cross, from that act there is more than enough redemptive power for all of mankind in all of time to be saved. How do we get access to the saving power? We can by explicit declaration and acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord. What about those who do not or are born in the wrong time or place such as before Jesus’ incarnation or in the wrong part of the world where they didn’t have the opportunity to hear about Jesus or even the Old Testament God? Just out of luck?
God “who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Is there some sort of second chance for people who die as unsaved sinners? God wants all to be saved; does God get what he wants? We cannot limit either the power or mercy of God. The Jonah story shows us that God’s mercy is greater than our expectation and understanding. His message to Nineveh wasn’t repent or else, but simply a doomsday message that the end is nigh due to their wickedness and sin. How would a second chance work? We don’t really know. CS Lewis’s the Great Divorce is a great imagining of the mechanism of how this could possibly work, where hell itself is a form of purgatory for redemption. The Crucifixion itself is a Godly solution to the seeming contradiction of how God can fulfill His justice and still be merciful to sinners. Cannot God do an even more amazing act to save those who initially did not explicitly accept Jesus as Lord and Savior that we haven’t yet understood how?
Ultimately though I may believe that there is some sort of extended redemption that is possible, I only know that we are saved explicitly through our trust in Jesus as Lord as savior. More importantly though is the definition of the Salvation that Jesus brings. It should not just being saved from the fires of hell, but to experience love and intimacy with God. As one person in our group put it beautifully, “I don’t want a finite time with God, I want an infinite time with God.”
Personally I used to believe that only explicitly having Jesus as Savior to go to heaven. I have since learned that focusing only the afterlife for me was a very selfish view of my relationship with God.
Internally, I have almost always held to an “Inclusivist” view of salvation; however, for a while I did hold on strongly to an “Exclusivist” view of salvation in the formative days of my faith. One of the reasons for me switching from an exclusivist view over to a more inclusivist view was trying to reconcile with the fact that many people all over the world throughout history who never had the opportunity to hear Christ either because they were born too late or were in the “wrong” geography. Would God damn a person to everlasting torment just because he was born in the wrong place at the wrong time? What if he or she didn’t have the mental capacity to understand the gospel? I do agree, in general, to Migliore’s definition of inclusivism which “teaches that Jesus Christ is the definitive revelation of God, that the salvation accomplished in him embraces all people, and that it is somehow made available to all.” (p. 306)
I do see Christianity being the “fulfillment” of all other religions. Because of the Incarnation (that God truly came historically in the flesh), Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, I believe that it offers the best possible path to knowing the Creator that no other religion or belief system offers in my opinion. Furthermore, since I believe that God is ontologically the eternal Trinity, I believe that all three persons are involved in salvation, therefore people are saved by God through his grace that has been operative before the advent of Jesus Christ. I am in agreement with Migliore’s mentioning on page 322 about the freedom of God in that “we cannot restrict the freedom of God to work when and where and how God pleases”. It is entirely up to God to choose who he wants to save regardless of how we may feel about certain persons. (“For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’” – Romans 9: 15; Exodus 33: 19) But I do not see Him dispensing salvation in a whimsical or arbitrary way. God is just, and He will reward those whom he deems worthy of his salvation through His sovereign wisdom, grace, and mercy.
In conclusion, I see my faith and trust in Christ to be the most direct way to know and understand God, the Creator of the Universe. In my view, the world is far too complex to hold onto a naïve dualism of an either/or of choosing Christ for eternal salvation or an eternity in hell. I don’t hold all the answers of course and I try to hold my views with utter humility rather than with dogmatic, rigid firmness. However, if it turns out that God Himself holds on to a strictly exclusivist view, then so be it- that’s his prerogative. I agree with Pannenberg, when he states that all our theologies, religious beliefs, sciences, and understanding are provisional and will come to light only during the parousia. In the same spirit, I stand with Migliore in his mantra that God and Christ are above and beyond all our Christologies, creeds, and systematic theologies, and that in the end His wisdom will prove right at the end of the day.