With the release of Rob Bell’s book, there has been more conversation on the topic of inclusivism. There are a number of myths out there about what inclusivism entails, and the aim of this post is to correct some of the misconceptions.
Inclusivists hold that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ. Perhaps more controversially, inclusivists also hold that it is possible to be justified through Christ without explicit or complete knowledge of who he is.
Now on to the myths…
Inclusivism is the same as Universalism: Universalism teaches that all will be saved, and that there is no hell. Inclusivism teaches that many people will perish and spend eternity in hell.
Inclusivism is the same as Pluralism: Pluralism teaches that all religions are equally good and lead to God. Inclusivism teaches that salvation is only through Jesus. Inclusivism teaches that God justifies some heathens despite their religion, not because of it.
Inclusivists hold to Annihalitionism: Annihalationism is the belief that hell is not eternal. It is unrelated to inclusivism. Many inclusivists believe that hell is eternal. Likewise, there are exclusivists who hold to annihalationism.
Inclusivism is Philosophical Rather than Scriptural: It is true that Inclusivism is not explicitly taught in scripture. The same is true of the doctrine of the Trinity. Like the Trinity, inclusivism is a view that is arrived at with a plenary reading of scripture. Inclusivism flows out of a Biblical understanding that God is love and desires to reconcile everyone to himself. Some verses inclusivists point to (paraphrased): God shows no favoritism, but accepts people everywhere who fear him. God did not send Jesus to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Jesus is the propitiation not just for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world. When Jesus is lifted up he will draw all men to himself. The servant who does not know his master’s will is beaten with few blows. A multitude that no one can count from every tribe and nation will be before the throne.
Inclusivists hold to Post Mortem Grace: Post mortem grace is the teaching we have an opportunity to be saved after we die. Thus, it is possible to be saved after spending time in purgatory. Inclusivism and post mortem grace are entirly seperate issues. Many inclusivists (myself included) believe that all people will be judged at the time of death.
Inclusivism Takes Away the Motivation to Evangelize: Inclusivists do not believe that heathens have an equal chance to be justified. Heathens are rather to be pitied than blamed for the narrowness of their faith (Wesley). The more heathens know about Jesus, the better for them, because Jesus is the light of the world. And many inclusivists have had a heart for evangelism. Billy Graham, DL Moody, and John Wesley are examples.
Inclusivism Devalues the Cross: Inclusivists believe it is possible to be justified only because Jesus died and shed his blood for all mankind.
Inclusivists are Theological Liberals: The term “liberal” is often used as pejorative rather than a descriptive term. Many inclusivists are theologically conservative, and are wary of modernism and its influence on Christianity. Inclusivists affirm a high view of scripture, hold to the deity of Christ, are typically Trinitarian, believe in the resurrection, believe in miracles, believe in the supernatural, etc. Inclusivists such as C.S. Lewis have been instrumental in the defense of Christianity against liberals. Other inclusivists such as Wesley and Zwingli, predate the advent of modernism and the associated debate.
Some more for fun:
Inclusivists love Rob Bell: True. All inclusivists love Rob Bell, Brian McClaren, Tony Campolo, and Jim Wallis. And of course Gandhi.
Inclusivists want to set up disco balls in your church sanctuary: True. Inclusivists think the Village People will be in heaven.
Inclusivists want to sell books and make lots of money: False. Inclusivists are Democrats, and hate capitalism. If they find any money, they give it to NPR.
Inclusivists want to bake children in matzo bread: True. By baking children in Matzo bread, inclusivists ensure that children go to eternal paradise by dying before the age of accountability. Yum.
Inclusivists voted for Obama: Don’t make me hit you.