>The following was a forum question in my Systematic Theology class at Southern Seminary and my response to the question. Feel free to comment and add to the discussion!
Since the Holy Spirit “blows where he wills” (John 3.8) discuss the implications of his work among non-Christian communities.
The idea that other people groups can encounter salvation apart from the Christian model through Jesus Christ is a very controversial issue. I would highly recommend the book 4 Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World edited by Stan Gundry. In that work, the pluralist, inclusivist, and particularist views are laid out with the particularist view being represented by a moderate and conservative branch. I tend to (at this point) side with Alister McGrath in this work as a Particularist / Agnostic. The theme of Scripture from beginning to end is found in the person and work of Christ and the sovereignty of God. I cannot see through the biblical evidence a way to salvation except through the blood of Christ and His grace through faith. The Holy Spirit is the agency by which that salvation process is worked out in each believer. I enjoyed reading the specifics of this process in Ferguson’s book and was enlightened as to the implications of the biblical record on the Spirit’s work in salvation. It made me have a fresh look at the entire doctrine and the Spirit’s work in my own life! With regards to the question posed here, Ferguson points out in his work that the role of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Trinity are to glorify the other members of the Trinity. Therefore, the Spirit’s work is found within the parameters of the glory of the Son and of the Father. The Spirit will not do anything that does not glorify the Son and the Father and vice versa. John Piper in his excellent book Desiring God says that the chief end of God is to Glorify God and enjoy himself forever. The Triune God’s main task throughout eternity has been His glory for His name sake. That means that the Holy Spirit will work and act in concert with the Son and the Father. I don’t see how salvation or a working of the Spirit can occur outside the preaching of Christ crucified and resurrected and of God the Father and His providential plan for humanity. Nonetheless, I am not God nor will ever consider myself knowledgable to understand the fullness of His mysteries – and the question of the eternal destiny of those who are “moral pagans” of this era or of antiquity is definitely a mystery! Therefore, I must claim that I am agnostic in that regard and defer to the sovereignty of God and his perfect plan for all the universe. Nonetheless, I must say that Jesus did say that “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). That passage (in the midst of Jesus’ discussion of the Holy Spirit who was to come) along with the witness of scripture points on a Christocentric salvation experience. Anyone who feels that they can come to a salvation experience outside of Christ is “playing with fire”. Although I am saying that I cannot be one hundred percent sure that moral individuals of other faiths will be condemned, I certainly would not want to “test” the Lord on that issue. I would much rather now “fall on my knees and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior” (Philippians 2:5-11) than as to wait until the day of Judgement and be forced to do it and then hope for an exception to the rule.