An Examination and Application of Rule Theory for Addressing the Theological Question Regarding the Fate of the Unevangelized: A Reformation Proposal

  • Kyle Faircloth

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis seeks to formulate a Reformation solution to the disputed question
in theology concerning the fate of the unevangelized by applying George Lindbeck’s rule theory approach through the doctrinal principles of solus Christus, sola fide, and fides ex auditu (salvation through Christ alone by faith alone and faith from hearing).

The proposal develops through three stages of argumentation: 1) the
mitigation of unresolved concerns in the literature regarding Lindbeck’s view of truth; 2) the critical evaluation of contemporary theories on the fate of the unevangelized; 3) the construction of a prospective fides ex auditu solution using conceptual materials in early church and Reformation theology.

After the publication of The Nature of Doctrine there are a cluster of scholars
who take issue with Lindbeck’s epistemology as he seems to disregard the ‘usual’ ways of speaking about truth. Thus, the first section offers an interpretation of Lindbeck that relocates his view in the history of ideas and demonstrates the conventional nature of his epistemic approach.

Using rule theory, the second section analyzes three evangelical and two
Roman Catholic proposals on the question of the unevangelized and reveals ways in which each fall short of the noted doctrinal principles. Yet it also asserts that Gavin D’Costa’s use of the preparatio evangelica tradition and his incorporation of thedoctrine of Christ’s descent into hell brings rich theological resources to the discussion.

Taking D’Costa’s cue, the final part seeks to explain the preparation of an
unevangelized person for the gospel and their possible future salvation in a way thatmakes the prospective fides ex auditu approach an intelligible option in Reformation theology. The section employs a systematic evaluation and creative extrapolation of relevant themes and concepts from early church writings and the works of Magisterial Reformers Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and Martin Luther.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorBenedetta Lomi (Supervisor) & Gavin G D'Costa (Supervisor)

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