Inclusivism Vs. Exclusivism

Q. My husband and I have really enjoyed your teachings and they have caused us to grow and seek God more than ever. I am writing with a question regarding the view of “inclusivism” or “universalism”. Do you know anything about it? Is it Biblically sound? Our understanding of inclusivism is that Christ died for all and therefore all are saved, regardless of religion or belief system. This means we’ll be seeing Hindus and Muslims in heaven. Is this true?

A. The general idea behind inclusivism is that although salvation is only available to man because of the death of Jesus, as long as a person sincerely petitions his or her deity for forgiveness, the Lord’s gift of grace would apply. This began as liberal theology’s answer to the question about the disposition of people who never hear the gospel.

It’s true that with His death, Jesus took away the sins of the world, (John 1:29) so in effect everyone’s debt of sin has been paid. Exclusivists say that each of us has to petition the Lord personally in order to receive the pardon His death purchased for us, and that if we don’t ask for it we won’t receive it (Matt. 7:7-8, Romans 10:13). Belief that His death was sufficient for us is a requirement for salvation, (John 3:16) and asking Him to save us demonstrates that belief. A literal reading of Scripture supports this view.

As with many things Scriptural, we get into trouble applying our logic to God’s ways. We don’t see how the native in the jungle could hear the gospel so we say he doesn’t have to, that as long as he prays to his god, he’s met the requirement.

Here’s how I see it. God is just and fair. He doesn’t hold people responsible for things they couldn’t possibly know. But Romans 1:18-20 says that we’re all responsible to recognize that there’s a Creator. (I’m excluding children too young to understand and the mentally incompetent, who are already under His protection.)

Once someone fulfills that responsibility, I believe God does two things. 1) He places in their heart an undeniable desire to know Him, and 2) He brings someone into their lives to tell them about Him. Just because we don’t see how He could do that, doesn’t mean that He can’t. Credible sources tell of numerous cases where Jesus has even appeared in the dreams of Muslims, Hindus, and those of other religions preaching the gospel to them.

If God is Just and doesn’t want anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) and if belief in Jesus is a requirement for salvation (John 14:6), then everyone has to have the opportunity to make an informed decision about Him sometime during their life. Those who are denied access to Heaven have to know that it’s because they refused His pardon, or else they could legitimately cry “Foul” at the final judgment.

Inclusivism is a dangerous doctrine because it removes the one condition God has established for our salvation, the belief that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4). As Peter testified, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

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