When I wrote Who Can Be Saved?, everything I had read by William Lane Craig regarding his Molinist understanding of the situation of the unevangelized fell within the gospel exclusivist position. (See my “Typology of Positions Concerning the Salvation of the Unevangelized.”) At that time, he posited that “God in his providence so arranged the world that those who never in fact hear the gospel are persons who would not respond to it if they did hear it” (The Only Wise God, pp. 150-51). What I was hearing him say then is that knowledge of the gospel is necessary to salvation, but that we need not be troubled by fears that some people are eternally lost because the church had failed to get the gospel to them. Even if we had taken the gospel to them, they would have been lost.
I cited Craig’s position regarding the salvation of the unevangelized, in the chapter in which I was asking: “Can People Be Saved if They Only Have General Revelation?” (Who Can Be Saved?, pp. 138-64), and I did not, at that time, hear Craig affirming that this would be possible. Hearing the gospel was deemed necessary for saving faith, but God chose to actualize a world in which everyone who would believe if they heard the gospel, does hear it.
Whether Craig has changed his position since my book was published, or whether I had simply failed to come across a different perspective than I had encountered in my reading of his work, I do not know. But, I can say that I am delighted to have read yesterday his answer to the “question of the week,” on July 8, 2018 (“Q&A #586 Middle Knowledge and the Essentialism of Origins.”) What I read there indicates that Craig does not now belong in the category of gospel exclusivism, but he affirms “universal revelation accessibilism.” (By “accessibilism,” I mean the belief that every human being receives divine revelation that is sufficient for salvation, because the faith that is instrumental in justifying sinners is appropriate to the revelation which God has given of himself to an individual.)
As the title of the Q&A indicates, the salvation of the unevangelized is not the issue which was being discussed, but it is the example cited in raising the question of the essentialism of origins. It is not my purpose to get into that particular discussion. Rather, I want to draw attention to Craig’s clear affirmation of the possible salvation of people who receive no more than God’s universal revelation. God’s universal revelation, in other words, is sufficient for salvation, if one responds to it with the faith which is appropriate to such revelation. I see that faith clearly delineated in Romans 1:21. This puts him firmly outside of the gospel exclusivist camp, and I am delighted that he holds this view, since I myself am a convinced accessibilist (a term, incidentally, which I appropriated from Craig (“Politically Incorrect Salvation,” in Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World, p. 84).
In his answer to the question of the week, Craig states: “There may be people who never hear the Gospel and are saved through their response to God’s general revelation in nature and conscience alone, but who would also have accepted the Gospel (had they heard it) and been saved.” He posits that “there may be people who never hear the Gospel but who would have accepted it, had they heard it.” Some theologians have drawn on Molinism to assert a position I call “Molinist accessibilism,” but Craig is not taking that route. For this I congratulate him. Rather than affirming that God saves people through a faith they do not have but would have had if they had received sufficient revelation, Craig asserts that the revelation God gives of himself to everyone, is sufficient to elicit actual saving faith, if it is the only means by which God makes himself known to a person.
So, Craig now proposes “that people who never hear the Gospel and reject general revelation would not have accepted the Gospel even had they heard it” but, as noted above, such people are not inevitably lost because of the inadequacy of their knowledge of God. If all God makes known of himself to some people is his self-revelation through his creative work and the human conscience, salvation is still possible.
The principle I see at work here is that, although the new covenant has been instituted through the death of Christ, God does not require new covenant faith from people who do not receive new covenant revelation. God judges people according to the covenant under which they live existentially (though not historically), and salvation was always possible by faith under every covenant. The faith God requires is determined by the covenant under which one lives, and that is determined by the revelation God has made known to an individual.
Craig might not state his present position in the way I have just done, but what he does clearly affirm is consistent with that framework, and I am delighted to see this.