The battle for the gospel in counter-cult ministry: Is affirming the deity of Christ a necessary epistemological component of saving faith?
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The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate and evaluate whether one must affirm the deity of Jesus as a necessary epistemological component of saving faith. Chapter 1 defines the two competing views currently being discussed in counter-cult ministry. Attention is given to the brief history of the controversy, the importance of this present issue, the birth of neo-inclusivism (which rejects Jesus' deity as essential to the gospel), as well as the arguments, presuppositions, and claims made on either side of the deity of Jesus controversy. Chapter 2 begins with an analysis of the most fundamental assumption: Does anyone have to know anything to be saved? Specifically this chapter examines the nature of faith, the elements of saving faith, and the role of knowledge within saving faith. Chapter 3 investigates the second question: Does anyone have to know Jesus to be saved? Analysis of the traditional inclusivist arguments, both biblical and theological, examine the role of general revelation, Old Testament soteriology, and the need for conscious, explicit faith statements. Chapter 4 addresses the heart of the dissertation: Does anyone have to know Jesus is God to be saved? Analysis of the concept of Messiah , Jesus' deity as revealed in Scripture, conversion accounts in the New Testament, and the response of the early Church community is included. Chapter 5 summarizes the conclusions from the preceding chapters. Attention is returned to the nature of saving faith, the importance of identifying Jesus correctly, and highlighting Him as the proper object of saving faith and worship. This work contends that the deity of Jesus was a central element in gospel presentations as well as early Christian theology as taught by the apostles. By focusing in a logical progression (faith requires knowledge, knowledge includes Jesus by name, and that knowledge recognizes and accepts Jesus as deity) this work concludes that a proper gospel presentation does indeed affirm Jesus' deity as an indispensable descriptor of His nature and must be fully accepted. Such recognition correctly identifies the biblical Jesus as the proper object of one's saving faith and the only hope of eternal life.