Category Archives: Inclusivism

Does Romans 10:13-14 Rule Out Inclusivism?

In the past I’ve written several posts about why I’m an Inclusivist.  Inclusivists hold that it’s possible that some who haven’t been evangelized can still be saved through Christ.  For a more complete explanation of the view, see this post.

Exclusivists, on the other hand, hold that the unevangelized will not be saved, since they do not know of Christ.  This is a view that I respect (since I’m not certain of my view).  Recently a fellow Arminian named Brendan Burnett wrote a good post advocating for the Exclusivist view.  Even though we disagree, I appreciate his challenge to my thinking and his gracious tone. You can see his post here.  I wrote a comment on his blog, and this post is an expansion of those thoughts.

One of the passages that Exclusivsts refer to is Romans 10:14-15.  Brendan references it in his post.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

On the face, this text would appear to rule out Inclusivism.  Paul seems to be saying that someone can’t believe or call on Jesus unless they have heard the good news preached to them.  However, I think that is an over-reading.  That’s not Paul’s argument.  To understand what Paul is talking about, it’s necessary to take a wider look at Romans 9, 10, and 11.  Paul’s concern in these chapters is is with the physical descendants of Abraham, the nation of Israel. Most of the Jews of Paul’s time did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.  Paul was grappling with that fact.  Israel is God’s chosen nation.  How then can it be that so many Jews do not believe?  That is the background for Romans 10.

Arminians generally agree that Romans 9 is about the unbelief of Israel.  It is not about Calvinistic election.  The problem with the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9 is that they initially acknowledge that it’s about Israel, but when it gets down to the particular examples of Romans 9 (Jacob, Esau, Pharaoh, etc), they forget that it’s in reference to Israel, and claim it’s about individual election and reprobation instead.

I think Exclusivists make a similar jump in conclusions with Romans 10. Romans 10 is not about the unevangelized (who are not addressed at all), it’s about the Jews who actually have been evangelized, and who still don’t believe.  Israel is still in focus.

Specifically in chapter 10 Paul asks if the the reason Israel does not believe is because they have not heard the good news or do not understand it. But he comes to the conclusion that Israel has heard the good news and does understand it. He writes, “But I ask: Did they [Israel] not hear? Of course they did…” (Romans 10:18)   Paul’s argumentation in Romans 9-11 follows this line: he repeatedly presents possible reasons why Israel doesn’t believe in Jesus, and then he shows how each of those possible reasons is not the actual case.

For example, are the Jews in their predicament because…

God has failed? No, God hasn’t failed (Romans 9:6).
God is unjust? No, God is just (Romans 9:14-15).
They haven’t heard the good news? No, They have heard the good news (Romans 10:18).
They haven’t understood the good news? No, They have understood the good news (Romans 10:19)
God has rejected them? No, God hasn’t rejected them (Romans 11:1)
They have stumbled too far to be redeemed? No, they haven’t stumbled too far (Romans 11:11).

Romans 10 is not about the unevangelized, even though it initially looks like that on the first reading. Rather, Paul is asking if the reason the Jews haven’t believed is because they haven’t heard or understood.  But he then comes to the conclusion they have.  In other words, the Jews had been evangelized but still didn’t believe.  So, I think the exclusivist interpretation of Romans 10:14-15 is a misapplication and an over-reading.

 

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Inclusivism

Evidence of Inclusivism in Luther, Zwingli, and Arminius

A while back I did a post quoting from well known apologists throughout history that have advocated inclusivism (see here).  The list demonstrated that inclusivism  has been held by orthodox Christians since the time of the church fathers.  I have updated that post to include some relevant quotes from Luther, Zwingli, and Arminius.

Inclusivists believe the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ.  Since Jesus died for everyone, inclusivists are also hopeful that some can be justified through Christ without explicit or complete knowledge of who He is. Inclusivists argue that unless salvation is universally accessible, it is meaningless to speak of Christ’s atonement being for all people.

Among the Protestant reformers, Zwingli was the most vocal inclusivist.  He sparred with Calvin over the issue (Calvin was an exclusivist).  Zwingli proposed that pre-Christian Greeks like Socrates would be saved, as well as others.

“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, page 16)

Although less outspoken than Zwingli (at least on this issue), there is evidence that Luther also was an inclusivist.  In his commentary on Romans, Luther proposed that the unevangelized can be forgiven by God by responding to Him in the best way that they understand, that God can save them though His prevenient grace, and that God gives forbearance to the ignorant.

“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)

It’s also evident that Arminius was an inclusivist.  He didn’t write too much about the topic – no doubt because the Supralapsarian Calvinists were looking for reasons to have his head.  However, he held that God saves some by the internal revelation of the Spirit (without the intervention of human missionaries).  He also alluded to an even greater view of God’s mercy, but was unwilling to advance that view in writing.

“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 James Arminius, Volume 1, Article 8)

12 Comments

Filed under Inclusivism

The Case for Inclusivism

Inclusivism is the Christian doctrine that teaches it is possible to be justified through Jesus Christ without explicit or complete knowledge of who he is.  Specifically, inclusivists hold that it’s possible that some who have never heard the preached word can still be saved through Christ.  Inclusivists believe that Jesus died for the world, and that God is working in the heart of each person in order to draw them them to Himself.  Given God’s character, we can trust Him to do what is right.  The intent of this post is to illustrate that inclusivism is Biblical, and that it is a position that Arminians should endorse as orthodox.

Inclusivism is often maligned by those from the Reformed perspective.  It has nothing to do with universalism or pluralism (see this post, where I address what it is, and what it is not).  Inclusivists believe that non-Christian religions are in error and keep people from God.  But we also believe that God has the capability to save some non-Christians.  This is in spite of their errors, not because of them.  Inclusivists believe that Jesus is the only way.  We also believe that those who reject Christ will be eternally lost.

I am a hopeful inclusivist.   Given what scripture teaches about the character of God, inclusivism makes the best sense to me.  God can be trusted.  He sees the heart.  Through Christ, God is capable of saving those who have a distorted view of who he is.

Biblical support
A plenary reading of scripture gives us evidence that inclusivism is likely to be true. God shows no favoritism, but accepts people everywhere who fear him.  God is love.  Jesus’ blood purchased people from every tribe and nation.  Jesus is good news and great joy for all people.  The shepherd seeks out the lost sheep.  Jesus is the light of the world.  Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Jesus died for the world. God is not willing that any should perish, but wants all to repent. The grace of God brings salvation to all men. God did not send his son to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Jesus is the propitiation not just for our sins, but also 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 will be before the throne.  These verses (and other verses like them) make inclusivism probable.

Every Tribe and Nation?
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9). People from every tribe and nation will be represented in heaven.  Every tribe.  This presents a problem for exclusivism, as there are tribes who have not heard of Christ.  Moreover, there are extinct people groups who never heard the preached word.   Inclusivists believe that people from those groups will be represented before the throne, just like John’s vision affirms.  One such tribe is the Teotihuacans – a group that lived in southern Mexico between 300 BC and 900 AD.  Other tribes in the Americas (and throughout the world) disappeared prior to the arrival of  missionaries.  Since these tribes never heard the preached word, they will only be represented in heaven if inclusivism is true.

Mercy Trumps Doctrine – the Good Samaritan
The Samaritans were the heterodox heathens of Jesus’ time.  We have a tendency to romanticize them today, however, their history and religion were despicable.  Imagine a voodoo worshiper who integrates a few Christian symbols into his religion, and you have a pretty good idea of what Jews thought about Samaritan religion.  The Samaritans were those from the northern kingdom that had intermarried with pagans, and had worshiped Baal.  In Jesus’ time they refused to worship in Jerusalem, and they had dedicated their mountain temple to Zeus.1  In one case they opposed Jesus simply because he was on his way to Jerusalem.  James and John despised them so much they asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to have them all destroyed (Luke 9:51-56).  Yet only a few verses later in Luke, an expert in the Law asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved. Jesus’ answer was the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus said that the Samaritan who had mercy was preferable to the Levite and Priest who did not.  Jesus said the same thing about the sheep and the goats. “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” (Matt 25:31-46). John said the same thing about love.  Everyone who loves others has been born of God. Whoever “claims” to love God yet hates his brother is a liar (1 John 4:7-21).  In God’s view, mercy trumps doctrine every time.

The Shortcomings of the “Biblicist” Argument
Exclusivists argue that inclusivism is wrong because it is not explicitly affirmed in a particular proof-text. But there are other doctrines that exclusivists do not hold to the same standard – such as the doctrine of the Trinity, and the doctrine of Prevenient (or Irresistible) grace.   A teaching that deserves special attention is the “age of accountability”. Outside of a few hyper-Calvinists, there is broad consensus that those who die in infancy and the severely mentally handicapped will be saved.  This doctrine is arrived at through a plenary reading of scripture that appeals to the character of God.  The “age of accountability” is a type of inclusivism. It affirms that God will not by default reprobate those who lack the capability to understand the gospel.  In order to be consistent, those who reject inclusivism because it’s not “Biblical”, also ought to hold the same standard for infant salvation.

Inclusivism in the Early Church
Perhaps without realizing it, today’s exclusivists are promoting doctrinal prejudices that are holdovers from Roman Catholicism. Wesleyan Jerry Walls notes that “There is a significant tradition of Inclusivism going all the way back to the church fathers.”2  Forms of inclusivism were advocated by church fathers such as Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria,  Origen, Athanasius, and others (see this post).  These include the same fathers who spoke Greek natively, defeated Arianism and wrote the creeds.  But after Rome began to control the church, inclusivism dropped off the radar until the time of the Reformation.  The state church had a vested interest in dictating who was and wasn’t saved.  Augustine went so far as to state that all Christians not submitting to Rome were damned3, as were all non-baptized infants4.  Augustine’s view became the default one.  During the Reformation, theologians both inside (Erasmus) and outside the Catholic Church (Luther, Zwingli) began to consider inclusivism once again.  They placed more emphasis on scripture, and less on Catholic tradition.  Some Reformers continued to hold to exclusivism, replacing “Catholic” with their own state sponsored Protestant denominations.

Exclusivism is Synonymous with Calvinist Thought
All Arminians ought to reject exclusivism for the same reasons they reject Calvinism. Our view of God ‘s character demands it.   Calvinists claim that God wants everyone to be saved, but then go on to argue that God doesn’t give grace to everyone, and justly leaves the reprobate in their sin.  Exclusivists claim that God wants everyone to be saved, but then go to argue that some don’t hear the gospel, and God justly leaves them in their sin.  There is no practical difference.  Neither group has genuine means to be saved. Anyone who believes that God is drawing everyone to himself ought to be at least sympathetic with the inclusivist view.  We can leave those who do not hear the preached word to our good and capable God.  He always does what is right.

—————————————————————–
(1) David Carson, Who were the Samaritans?
(2) Jerry Walls, Heaven: The logic of Eternal Joy, p81
(3) Augustine, Address to the People of the Church at Caesarea “Outside the Catholic Church one can have everything except salvation. One can have honor, one can have the sacraments, one can sing alleluia, one can answer amen, one can have faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and preach it too, but never can one find salvation except in the Catholic Church”
(4) Augustine, On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants

108 Comments

Filed under Inclusivism

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?)

19 Comments

Filed under Inclusivism

Inclusivism: Myths and Realities

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.

60 Comments

Filed under Inclusivism

Wesley the Inclusivist

It appears that John Wesley was what might be called a “hopeful inclusivist”.  An inclusivist is one who believes that we are saved only through Jesus, however, it is possible to be saved through Jesus without explicit and/or complete knowledge of him.  The following quotes from Wesley give insight to his leanings.  Take special note of Sermon 106, On Faith.

[4-7-11 Post updated to include some additional quotes]

Muslims:

….I have no authority from the Word of God “to judge those that are without.” Nor do I conceive that any man living has a right to sentence all the heathen and Mahometan world to damnation. It is far better to leave them to him that made them, and who is “the Father of the spirits of all flesh;” who is the God of the Heathens as well as the Christians, and who hateth nothing that he hath made. Sermon 125: On Living Without God, point 14.

Heathens and Muslims:

It cannot be doubted, but this plea [lack of  knowledge] will avail for millions of modern Heathens. Inasmuch as to them little is given, of them little will be required. As to the ancient Heathens, millions of them, likewise were savages. No more therefore will be expected of them, than the living up to the light they had. But many of them, especially in the civilized nations, we have great reason to hope, although they lived among Heathens, yet were quite of another spirit; being taught of God, by His inward voice, all the essentials of true religion. Yea, and so was that Mahometan, and Arabian, who, a century or two ago, wrote the Life of Hai Ebn Yokdan. The story seems to be feigned; but it contains all the principles of pure religion and undefiled. Sermon 106, On Faith, I 4.

Heathens, Muslims, Jews:

But with Heathens, Mahometans, and Jews we have at present nothing to do; only we may wish that their lives did not shame many of us that are called Christians. We have not much more to do with the members of the Church of Rome. But we cannot doubt, that many of them, like the excellent Archbishop of Cambray, still retain (notwithstanding many mistakes) that faith that worketh by love. Sermon 106, On Faith, II 3.

Modern Jews:

It is not so easy to pass any judgment concerning the faith of our modern Jews. It is plain, “the veil is still upon their hearts” when Moses and the Prophets are read. The god of this world still hardens their hearts, and still blinds their eyes, “lest at any time the light of the glorious gospel” should break in upon them. So that we may say of this people, as the Holy Ghost said to their forefathers, “The heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed ; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Acts 28:27.) Yet it is not our part to pass sentence upon them, but to leave them to their own Master. Sermon 106, On Faith, I 6.

Heathens Who have Never Heard of Christ:

But one considerable difficulty still remains: There are very many heathen nations in the world that have no intercourse, either by trade or any other means, with Christians of any kind. Such are the inhabitants of the numerous islands in the South Sea, and probably in all large branches of the ocean. Now, what shall be done for these poor outcasts of men “How shall they believe,” saith the Apostle, “in Him of whom they have not heard And how shall they hear without a preacher” You may add, “And how shall they preach, unless they be sent” Yea, but is not God able to send them Cannot he raise them up, as it were, out of the stones And can he ever want means of sending them No: Were there no other means, he can “take them by his Spirit,” as he did Ezekiel. (Ezek. 3:12,) or by his angel, as he did Philip, (Acts 8,) and set them down wheresoever it pleaseth him. Yea, he can find out a thousand ways to foolish man unknown. And he surely will: For heaven and earth may pass away; but his word shall not pass away: He will give his Son “the uttermost part of the earth for his possession.” Sermon 63, The General Spread of the Gospel, 24.

Indians (from India), Pakistanis, Pacific Islanders:

We cannot account for his present dealings with the inhabitants of the earth. We know, “the Lord is loving unto every man, and his mercy is over all his works.” But we know not how to reconcile this with the present dispensations of his providence. At this day, is not almost every part of the earth full of darkness and cruel habitations In what a condition, in particular, is the large and populous empire of Indostan! How many hundred thousands of the poor, quiet people, have been destroyed, and their carcases left as the dung of the earth! in what a condition (though they have no English ruffians there) are the numberless islands in the Pacific Ocean! How little is their state above that of wolves and bears! And who careth either for their souls or their bodies But does not the Father of men care for them O mystery of providence! Sermon 69 – The Imperfection Of Human Knowledge. II 4

Those with Distorted Ideas of who Christ is:

Perhaps there may be some well-meaning persons who carry this farther still; who aver, that whatever change is wrought in men, whether in their hearts or lives, yet if they have not clear views of those capital doctrines, the fall of man, justification by faith, and of the atonement made by the death of Christ, and of his righteousness transferred to them, they can have no benefit from his death. I dare in no wise affirm this. Indeed I do not believe it. 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.” Sermon 125: On Living Without God, 15.

Roman Catholics:

…the faith of the Roman Catholics, in general, seems to be above that of the ancient Jews. If most of these are volunteers in faith, believing more than God has revealed, it cannot be denied that they believe all which God has revealed, as necessary to salvation. In this we rejoice on their behalf… Sermon 106, On Faith, I 7

 

 

 

31 Comments

Filed under Inclusivism, John Wesley, Wesleyanism

Jerry Wall’s Review of “Love Wins”

Asbury Professor Jerry Walls has done a review of “Love Wins”.  Go to Hell Rob Bell?  Thoughts on Rob Bell.  If the title doesn’t give it away, it’s a mostly positive review.

[Update 4/7/2011: There is a part 2 now, co-authored by Jerry Walls and  Kyle Blanchette.  HELL’S BELL: PART 2]

On the flip side, Asbury president Timothy Tennent has a more critical four part review, it can be found here: Why Rob Bell Needs to Return to Seminary…and bring along quite a few contemporary evangelical pastors

3 Comments

Filed under Inclusivism, Jerry Walls, Universalism