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Tuesday
Aug172010

Theological Term of the Week

inclusivism
The view that while Jesus Christ is the only Saviour and everyone who is saved is saved by the work of Christ, explicit knowledge of Christ and faith in him is not necessary to be saved, because it is possible for someone to be saved by responding rightly to the light of general revelation or by sincerely believing and practicing in accordance with the bits of truth found in a non-Christian religion.

  • Scripture used by some to defend inclusivism:

    to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life…. (Romans 2:7 ESV)
  • Scripture that shows inclusivism to be in error:

    That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 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? (Romans 10:9-14 ESV)

  • From the Westminster Larger Catechism:

    Question 60: Can they who have never heard the gospel, and so know not Jesus Christ, nor believe in him, be saved by their living according to the light of nature?

    Answer: They who, having never heard the gospel, know not Jesus Christ, and believe not in him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, or the laws of that religion which they profess; neither is there salvation in any other, but in Christ alone, who is the Savior only of his body the church.

  • From The Gospel, Missions, and Inclusivism by Andreas Kostenberger:

    Scripture makes clear that humanity is universally sinful, and that God’s wrath remains on every individual who has not placed his or her trust in Jesus Christ on the basis of his substitutionary death on the cross and his subsequent resurrection. While there may be philosophical or larger theological objections to such a notion (such as the difficulty experienced by some of reconciling this notion with the love of God), while there may be commonsense concerns on the basis of human conceptions or “fairness” or other similar considerations, there can be little doubt that Scripture nowhere teaches, or easily allows the implication, that there is a way to salvation other than through explicit faith in Jesus Christ during a person’s lifetime (e.g., Heb 9:27-28). In fact, this is not an obscure topic; it is the central contention of the biblical message concerning the gospel, that “[s]alvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Learn more:

  1. GotQuestions.org: Inclusivism vs. exclusivism - what does the Bible say?
  2. Dan Musick: Inclusivism
  3. Robert Reymond: The “Very Pernicious and Detestable” Doctrine of Inclusivism
  4. A. B Caneday: Evangelical Inclusivism and the Exclusivity of the Gospel: A Review of John Sanders’s No Other Name (pdf) and Faith Comes By Hearing: Inclusivists’ Abuse of Romans 10:9-17
  5. John K. Barrett: Does Inclusivist Theology Undermine Evangelism (pdf)
  6. Michael Reeves: The Cruelty of Inclusivism
  7. Timothy Beougher: Does Belief in Inclusivism Weaken Motivation for Missions and Evangelism
  8. Todd Borger: Can Inclusivism Be Supported by the OT?
  9. Dr. Tim Beougher: Understanding the Isms: Universalism, Inclusivism, Pluralism and Exclusivism (mp3)
  10. Greg Koukl: Revisiting Inclusivism, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (YouTube videos)

Related terms:

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it.

I’m also interested in any suggestions you have for tweaking my definitions or for additional (or better) articles or sermons/lectures for linking. I’ll give you credit and a link back to your blog if I use your suggestion.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms organized in alphabetical order or by topic.

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Reader Comments (3)

Despite the fact that this post has made me cranky, because this is my first comment on your site I should tell you that it is a lovely place and that I have enjoyed reading it several times. It astonishes me, however, to find someone who truely loves God so much and talks about grace so much, and yet believes that God is so stingy in giving his grace to our unrighteous race.

Was Abraham saved by "explicit faith in Jesus Christ"? Did Abraham call on the name "Jesus"? He did not. Rather, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Does that mean that Abraham was saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ? Absolutely not, but it does not seem to pass the test of "explicitness" required by the exclusivist for the modern day unevangelized person. Rather, he had faith in God's promise, which *turned out* to be about Jesus (but without Abraham knowing that).

But as for the quotation from Romans, exclusivists are on sketchy ground when they derive their position from Paul's rhetorical questions "How can they call on...etc." The exlcusivist assumes that the answer is "They cannot." The trouble iis that Paul goes on to give a different answer in just a few verses.

"Consequently faith comes through hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. But I ask, did they not hear? Of course they did: `Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world" (10:17-18)

So in order to have faith it is necessary to believe the message. But who is the messenger in this passage? Whose 'voice' goes out into all the earth proclaiming the "word of Christ". Paul tells us with his quotation from Psalm 19. Go back to Psalm 19 and you will find the answer: "The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands...there is no speach or language where there voice is not heard" (19:1,3). In other words, in the very passage which exlcusivists use to justify their position, Paul talks about faith as coming about from *general revelation* of Christ.

August 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAron Wall

Hi Aron,

Thanks for commenting. I'm on vacation right now and won't return to blogging or responding to comments for a week, but I have read your comment and will respond when I can.

August 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

I've got a reponse posted here and here.

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

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