Inclusivist Theologians

Below is a list of well known preachers and apologists that have advocated inclusivism.  The list demonstrates that inclusivism is not a modern innovation.  Inclusivists hold that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ, but that it is also possible to be justified through Christ without explicit or complete knowledge of who he is.  Inclusivism is contrasted with restritivism.  Restrictivists believe that people without knowledge of Christ are damned by necessity.

Justin Martyr,  103–165:  “We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and men like them; and among the barbarians, Abraham, and Ananias, and Azarias, and Misael, and Elias, and many others…” (The First Apology 46)

Clement of Alexandria, 150-215 Accordingly, before the advent of the Lord, philosophy was necessary to the Greeks for righteousness. And now it becomes conducive to piety; being a kind of preparatory training to those who attain to faith through demonstration. “For thy foot,” it is said, “will not stumble, if thou refer what is good, whether belonging to the Greeks or to us, to Providence.” For God is the cause of all good things; but of some primarily, as of the Old and the New Testament; and of others by consequence, as philosophy. Perchance, too, philosophy was given to the Greeks directly and primarily, till the Lord should call the Greeks. For this was a schoolmaster to bring “the Hellenic mind,” as the law, the Hebrews, “to Christ.” Philosophy, therefore, was a preparation, paving the way for him who is perfected in Christ. “ (Stromata 1,5)

Origen, 185–254: “I reply that there was never a time when God did not want men to be just; he was always concerned about that. Indeed, he always provided beings endowed with reason with occasions for practicing virtue and doing what is right. In every generation the Wisdom of God descended into those souls which he found holy and made them to be prophets and friends of God.” (Against Celsus, Chapter 7)

Erasmus, 1466 – 1536: “Sacred scripture is of course the basic authority for everything; yet I sometimes run across ancient sayings or pagan writings – even the poets – so purely and reverently and admirably expressed that I can’t help believing the author’s hearts were moved by some divine power.  And perhaps the spirit of Christ is more widespread than we understand, and the company of the saints includes many not on our calander.” (Erasmus, The Godly Feast)

Martin Luther, 1483 – 1546: Whoever fulfills the Law is in Christ, and he receives grace because as much as he is able he has prepared himself for it. Original sin God could forgive them [the unevangelized]  (even though they may not have recognized it and confessed it) on account of some act of humility towards God as the highest being that they know. Neither were they bound to the Gospel and to Christ as specifically recognized, as the Jews were not either. Or one can say that all people of this type have been given so much light and grace by an act of prevenient mercy of God as is sufficient for their salvation in their situation, as in the case of Job, Naaman, Jethro, and others…”They have therefore fulfilled the Law. Whatever was lacking (and for this lack they are excused on account of their invincible ignorance) God in His forbearance without doubt supplied so that it might be made perfect through Christ in the future. This is not different from what He did for the children who were uncircumcised and killed for His sake (cf. Matt. 2:16). He does the same thing today for our children.” (Luther, commentary on Romans, see Romans 2:10)

Ulrich Zwingli, Protestant Reformer,  1484-1531:   Zwingli believed that the righteous heathen would be saved, calling them “unconscious Christians”. He  taught that Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Plato were saved, and called them “pre-Christians”.   He also was alone among the Reformers in holding that unbaptized infants were saved.  (see History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff)   “Then you may hope to see [in heaven] the whole company and assemblage of all the saints, the wise, the faithful, brave, and good who have lived since the world began. Here you will see the two Adams, the redeemed and the redeemer, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Phineas, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and the Virgin Mother of God of whom he prophesied, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, the Baptist, Peter, Paul; here too, Hercules, Theseus, Socrates, Aristides, Antigonus, Numa, Camillus, the Catos and Scipios; here Louis the Pious, and your predecessors, the Louis, Philips, Pepins, and all your ancestors who have gone hence in faith. In short there has not been a good man and will not be a holy heart or faithful soul from the beginning of the world to the end thereof that you will not see in heaven with God.” (Zwingli, Exposition of the Christian Faith, see page 16)

Jacob Arminius, Dutch Reformer, 1560-1609: “The ordinary means and instrument of conversation is the preaching of the Divine word by mortal men, to which therefore all persons are bound; but the Holy Spirit has not so bound himself to this method, as to be unable to operate in an extraordinary way, without the intervention of human aid, when it seemeth good to Himself….this very common sentence obtains our high approval…What peril or error can there be in any man saying, “God converts great numbers of persons, (that is, very many) by the internal revelation of the Holy Spirit or by the ministry of angels; “provided it be at the same time stated, that no one is converted except by this very word, and by the meaning of this word, which God sends by men to those communities or nations whom He hath purposed to unite to himself. The objectors will perhaps reply, “It is to be feared, that, if a nation of those who have been outwardly called should believe this, rejecting external preaching, they would expect such an internal revelation or the address of an angel.” Truly, this would be as unnatural a subject of fear, as that a man would be unwilling to taste of the bread which was laid before him, because he understands, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” But I desist; lest, while instituting an examination into the causes of this fear, I should proceed much further, and arrive at a point to which our brethren might be unwilling for me on this occasion to advance. A word is sufficient for the wise.” (The Works of Arminius, Volume 1, Article 8)

John Milton,  Puritan, 1608-1674: “…it ought not to appear wonderful if many, both Jews and others, who lived before Christ, and many also who have lived since his time, but to whom he has never been revealed, should be saved by faith in God alone: still however, through the sole merits of Christ, inasmuch as he was given and slain from the beginning of the world, even for those to whoe he was not known, provided they  believed in God the Father.” (A Treatise on Christian Doctrine,  XX)

Robert Barclay, Quaker, 1648-1690:Therefore “Christ hath tasted death for every man:” not only for all kinds of men, as some vainly talk, but for every one, of all kinds; the benefit of whose offering is not only extended to such, who have the distinct outward knowledge of his death and sufferings, as the same is declared in the scriptures, but even unto those who are necessarily excluded from the benefit of this knowledge by some inevitable accident;” (Barclay, Apology for True Christian Divinity, Proposition 6)

John Wesley, 1703-1791:I believe the merciful God regards the lives and tempers of men more than their ideas. I believe he respects the goodness of the heart rather than the clearness of the head; and that if the heart of a man be filled (by the grace of God, and the power of his Spirit) with the humble, gentle, patient love of God and man, God will not cast him into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels because his ideas are not clear, or because his conceptions are confused. Without holiness, I own, “no man shall see the Lord;” but I dare not add, “or clear ideas.”  (Wesley On Living Without God, 15.)

William Shed, Presbyterian, 1820-1894:That some unevangelized men are saved, in the present life, by an extraordinary exercise of redeeming grace in Christ, has been the hope and belief of Christendom. It was the hope and belief of the elder Calvinists, as of the later.”

Augustus Strong, Reformed Baptist, 1836-1921 Since Christ is the Word of God and the Truth of God, he may be received even by those who have not heard of his manifestation in the flesh…We have, therefore. the hope that even among the heathen there may be some, like Socrates, who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit working through the truth of nature and conscience, have found the way of life and salvation.” (Strong, Outlines of Systematic Theology)

C.S. Lewis, Apologist, 1898-1963: “…But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other [unreached] people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Dale Moody, Southern Baptist, 1915-1992:It is possible to say that this general revelation of God has only a negative function that leaves man without excuse. But what kind of God is he who gives man enough knowledge to damn him but not enough to save him? The perception of God in creation has both negative and positive possibilities.” (Moody, The Word of Truth, p59)

Billy Graham, Evangelist, 1918-  “I think that everybody that loves Christ knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the body of Christ… Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light they have and I think they’re saved and they’re going to be with us in heaven.”(Billy Graham, Interview with Robert Schuller)

William Lane Craig, Apologist, 1949-  ” But the Bible says that the unreached will be judged on a quite different basis than those who have heard the gospel. God will judge the unreached on the basis of their response to His self-revelation in nature and conscience. The Bible says that from the created order alone, all persons can know that a Creator God exists and that God has implanted His moral law in the hearts of all persons so that they are held morally accountable to God (Rom. 1.20; 2.14-15). The Bible promises salvation to anyone who responds affirmatively to this self-revelation of God (Rom. 2.7)..” (Craig, Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?)



Filed under Inclusivism

19 responses to “Inclusivist Theologians

  1. bethyada, Blogger, 19xx- “One cannot reasonably follow someone they have never heard of. They can however know something of Christ indirectly. Romans informs us there is enough in natural revelation to point to a creator. Because the Holy Spirit is always at work, even amongst the unsaved, he can in some sense draw men to God. The knowledge of God these people have is very limited compared to what we have with the more specific revelation of the Bible, as well as the Holy Spirit indwelling us, but it is still knowledge…. Because these people are sinners they deserve death as we all do. But I do wonder whether Jesus will allow his blood to cover those who truly wish to live for God as best they know how. It is as if they are looking for God all their lives and when they die and face Christ they recognise him as the one they were looking for.” (bethyada, Who gets saved?)

  2. Thanks for this list, Kevin. I just updated and re-blogged an earlier post to include the quotes in this post:

  3. Er…Kevin…I dunno how excited I’d be to have Clement and Origen on their list. Their idea of “inclusivism” was far removed from the vast majority of people on this list, and was condemned by virtually every orthodox Christian after them. I certainly wouldn’t quite compare them to the theology of John Wesley or C.S. Lewis.

    • I was more loathe to put Zwingli on there than Clement or Origen. ;) Many of the church fathers held to “Logos” Christianity. Origen went too far in his speculations, however, he was condemned for entirely separate matters.

      • Indeed. One thing I found funny was (in “Love Wins”) Rob Bell cites Origen as an example of someone long ago who believed what he did (eventual universal restoration). He then cites Jerome talking about such people existing in his day. What he leaves out is that Jerome HATED Origen’s theology, and the reason he was writing it was to CONDEMN it as heresy. In fact, Origen’s teachings (and all their various forms) were condemned (I believe) at the Fifth Ecumenical Council.

        Which is sad, because Origen did a lot of good things before diving off the deep end (IIRC, he was the first major church figure to write a commentary on entire books of the Bible).

  4. Of course the bottom line is whether the Bible teaches inclusivism. While I find it interesting to see these lists of who supports the position and who doesn’t, to me in the end I doesn’t matter. It only matters what Jesus held to. And you and I disagree over that.

  5. I meant to say, “it doesn’t matter” and not “I doesn’t matter” though I do believe that is the case! :)

  6. Kyle

    What matters is what Scripture teaches, but Scripture is not interpreted in a vacuum. That many leading orthodox thinkers have held to inclusivism, thinkers who were led by the Spirit and guided by sound scholarship, should open us up to the the possibility of an inclusivist reading of Scripture.

  7. Rather they are justly and fittingly condemned based upon the fact that they are sinners. ..While the Bible affirms that Christ is the only Savior Acts 4 12 it also states that God is truly just Job 34 12 and that He loves humanity with an everlasting love John 3 16 . 10 13-15 knowing that there is no other way to reach Him except through His Son — the Lord Jesus Christ John 14 6 .

  8. Pingback: The Case for Inclusivism | Wesleyan Arminian

  9. Pingback: Inclusivism? Exclusivism? Or could there be a Third Way? | The Daily Arminian

  10. Reblogged this on Persona and commented:
    An interesting list, for the use of my exclusivist friends.

  11. Pingback: ‘The Case for Inclusivism': An Arminian Response | The Lord's Disciple

  12. Pingback: Society of Evangelical Arminians | ‘The Case for Inclusivism’: An Arminian Response

  13. Pingback: What Is Arminianism? – James Attebury

  14. The key Biblical Argument for Inclusivism is the Sheeps and Goats Judgment in Matthew 25. If you read it carefully, clearly the Sheeps and Goats were both unbelievers during their mortal lives, Believers are the Brethren.

    But it’s backed up by Revelation 20, where most Christians assumption have blinded them to that clearly many of the Second Resurrection do not enter the Lake of Fire and are written in the Book of Life. And then 21 has Nations of the Saved outside New Jerusalem.

    I’m ultimately a Unviersalist. But the Inclusivism argument is interesting to me in terms of determining who does and doesn’t enter the Lake of Fire.

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