Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Terminology Tuesday: Inclusivism

Inclusivism: A theory of salvation that suggests that although God saves people only on the merits of Christ, not all who are saved have consciously known of Jesus or heard the gospel. God saves those who, although they have not heard of Jesus, nevertheless respond to the best of their knowledge to the revelation of God available to them. This view stands in contrast to both exclusivism, which suggests that God saves only those who consciously respond to the presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to pluralism, which sees saving value in non-Christian religions.1

1. Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 65.


failedatheist said...

Hmm not sure I've ever understood Inclusivism to be meaning that which is interesting...I always associated it with universalism.

Davitor said...

Yes, Dan nothing more interesting than thinking of a god that will send you to hell for never hearing of Christ.

MaryLou said...

I think some people give God too little credit. He knows who has a heart for him and who hasn't. If someone truly wants to know him, then he will reveal himself to that person no matter where that person is.

Many Muslims in countries where Christian missionaries aren't allowed first encounter God through dreams and visions. Although God gives us the privilege of witnessing for him, he doesn't need us.

And if there are people who God knows would never enter into a relationship with him, then it really doesn't matter if they never heard of Jesus because they wouldn't accept him anyway.

The bottom line is this: God is just and we can trust him to judge rightly.

Jeremy said...

I've tended to side with inclusivism (although I hear 'exclusivism' has been the traditional position), because of the reality of the Old Testament - salvation for those who had never heard of Christ, or the gospel. Exclusivism seems too rigid, or ad hoc, in how it accounts for this 'reality'. Mind you, I'm not a pluralist or universalist. I just don't see how one must understand the gospel, or hear of Christ to be saved, when that wasn't the case previously.

I just wrote on a post on this topic, actually: Salvation for those who haven't heard the Gospel?

failedatheist said...

Davitor - have you heard of Christ?

Davitor said...

Yes Dan, but what of those who lived prior to Christ?

Jeremy said...


P1. Salvation is only available to those who accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.

P2. The Old Testament records the salvation of individuals who were not able to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.

C1. Therefore, salvation is not necessarily dependent on an acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ*.

(*Be aware that this is not the same as saying that salvation is available to those who reject Christ.)

I don't know how proper a syllogism that is (Modus tollens?), but you should get the point. Incidentally, the argument applies to today as well as 'yesterday'.

Russell said...

Perhaps I am wrong, but I was under the impression that the exclusivist position allows that old testament people were saved based on their belief in God (Yahweh). They held to the promise that would one day be fulfilled in Christ, and therefore, in a sense, were believers in Christ.

Randy Everist said...

The problem is that not all OT believers could be said to know about a Messiah (see the Ninevites, or Job). Besides, most Christians accept babies and the mentally disabled, so the set of those who receive the benefits of salvation and do not hear the Gospel is not empty. Therefore, we know it is not necessary (in the logical sense) to demand their hearing of Christ. That said, the best way for people to accept Christ is to hear about him. Perhaps there are those who would not believe in the one true God and confess their sins to him unless they heard the Gospel. This is the case with most everyone. I suspect that God may reveal himself to anyone he likes in any way he likes. The ontological foundation for salvation is always Christ's death, and only those who receive those benefits get into heaven. Only those who believe God. God holds them responsible for the light they have, which according to Romans 1 is their knowledge of God. It's not something to be too dogmatic about, for sure.

Jeremy said...

Russell, that is probably a better formulation of exclusivism; although, it isn't consistent with the definition above (maybe that's not a bad thing).

Ex N1hilo said...

Job 19:25-27 (ESV) For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

John 8:56 (ESV) “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad."

Hebrews 11:24-26 (ESV) By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

tearfang said...

@Jeremy //although I hear 'exclusivism' has been the traditional position//
I'm not sure how this can be the case for the def of 'exclusivism' given. Tradition has held that OT ppl are in heaven. Tradition also tends towards babies going to heaven, though I think there was some dispute on that. I think it far more likely that ppl claiming 'exclusivism' as the 'traditional' position are misrepresenting or ignorant of the traditions they speak of.

I think the defs above are unhelpful to clear thought on the topic. Exclusive also means to some that Christ is the only means of salvation leaving open the question of if explicit knowledge of Him is required or not- which falls under a different category.

David B Marshall said...

I don't think this is a very good definition. Inclusivism CAN mean this, but it can also mean a view of how religions relate to one another in terms of truth, what I call "ontological inclusivism:"


Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment. By posting your comment you are agreeing to the comment policy.

Blog Archive