Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson

Don Richardson (in Eternity in their hearts, p.56-58) tells the story of the gospel of salvation coming to the Gedeo people in Ethiopia. Warrasa Wanga had a vision of two white men coming to his village – with significant details of how they would come. In the vision he was told that they would bring a message from God.

Eight years later, two Canadian missionaries, Albert Brant and Glen Cain arrived. Unknowingly they did all that Warrasa had seen in his vision – so, not surprisingly, he became one of their first converts. 30 years later there were more than 200 Christian churches among the Gedeo people, with each church averaging more than 200 members.

The full story is well worth reading. John Piper muses on it in Let the Nations be Glad (p.146f). It has implications for our quest to understand whether salvation is in Christ alone; and if so, whether salvation is only possible for those who know the Christ in whom alone is salvation.

In our previous blog, we noted that there are three essential lenses through which people approach the question: pluralism, inclusivism, and exclusivism. How would each respond to the story that unfolded in Ethiopia? We will consider that by asking the question: “Did missionaries Brant and Cain need to go?” The three perspectives would offer different answers:

  • Pluralism asserts that all roads lead to God. The Gedeo people already had their own religion, their own way to salvation. Conclusion: Brant & Cain did not need to go. 
  • Inclusivism suggests that all who are in Christ will be saved (in Christ alone) – even if they don’t know it. Perhaps Warrasa was saved already – for God was speaking to him and he was responding in faith, though he had never heard of Jesus. Conclusion: Brant & Cain may not have needed to go. At least, the need to go had to do with enabling the Gedeo people to understand the Christian faith, rather than being necessary for their salvation. 
  • Exclusivism insists that only those who consciously put their faith in Christ will be saved. In his vision Warassa was being prepared to know Christ, but salvation only came when the gospel was preached. Conclusion: Brant & Cain needed to go. 

Did Brant and Cain need to go to Ethiopia? Do missionaries need to go to unreached people groups – if they go, what are they needed for? These questions reflect the implications of the discussion about the meaning of “salvation in Christ alone”. For a fuller introduction to the debate, a series of audio messages   is available on our website.