The Spirit and Salvation (Post #5 on the Holy Spirit)



In Flame of Love Clark Pinnock takes issue with a theology that teaches only a few will be saved by God and he writes that many will be saved since the Father draws people to himself not only by the particular work of Jesus but also by the work of the Spirit apart from Jesus.[1]


Scripture is abundantly clear that salvation is accomplished by the cross of Jesus (Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20); this salvation is then applied by the Spirit (John 3:6-7), who makes new creatures out of fallen humans in anticipation of the re-creation of all things (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:18-23). The Spirit then has the vital role in justifying sinners positionally before God and creating in them the freedom to obey God with a new nature.

So salvation is accomplished on the cross, proclaimed in the Gospel, and applied powerfully by the Spirit (Romans 10:14-18; 2 Corinthians 3:17-4:6). In this way the work of the Son and the Spirit is aligned in trinitarian unity. As Karl Barth would say, Jesus is the Revelation of God, and the Spirit initiates the application of that Revelation to humans as the Father, the Revealer (who stands over and against us) graciously and powerfully draws us to himself.

What Pinnock fails to recognise is that this particular joint work of Son and Spirit affects the entire world. According to Scripture, far from being exclusive, this salvation that is revealed in the proclaimed gospel is massively transformational and encompasses “all things” (Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 15:28). For this reason, John, in the Apocalypse, beholds a “great multitude that no one could number” before God’s throne (Revelation 7:9).

Is salvation the particular work of God? Yes. Is it only accomplished by the joint work of the Son and the Spirit? Yes. Is it a small and exclusive work that results in only a few in heaven and loads in hell? No way!

[1] Clark A. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 192-93.


One thought on “The Spirit and Salvation (Post #5 on the Holy Spirit)

  1. I’m pretty critical of Pinnock, and you’ve hit on several of the issues I like to bring up when I teach this class on campus, and that’s why I have assigned this reading. But I do want to clarify something and say something I think Pinnock would have said in response to your post. Some of this comes out more clearly in his, “A Wideness in God’s Mercy.” Pinnock is responding to a strand of the Christian tradition he calls the “fewness doctrine,” which he finds especially represented in Augustine. He would not argue that the Spirit saves people apart from Christ, but that the Spirit can lead people into a semi-saving faith apart from explicit knowledge of Christ. This brings up a couple of points. First, Pinnock argues that Jesus really is the savior, even if he saves people who don’t know about him. People are not saved apart from the work of Christ. Second, Pinnock suggests (tentatively) that those people who experience this semi-saving faith (not his term) that comes from the Spirit might have an opportunity to hear the gospel after death and experience “full-strength salvation” (his term) at that time.

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