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{See the first post for an overview. I am interacting with a book called: Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World.}

Clark Pinnock presents the inclusivist view in the book. Inclusivism is the view that although salvation is indeed only through Christ, it is possible for those who have not known Jesus during this life to nevertheless be saved by Him. Think of inclusivism as middle ground between pluralism and exclusivism. (FYI: Clark Pinnock died in 2010. February 1937 – August 2010. See the Wikipedia page here.  He’s another man very respected in his field.)

I can agree in a surface way with some of the ideas of inclusivism.  As Christians, we should try to look with a more positive eye towards other faiths, instead of seeing them only as evil and in error. There are certainly things to appreciate in other religions.  Pinnock emphasizes that he believes in uniqueness and common ground, similarities and differences, among the world religions. Looking for seeds of truth in other religions can help us build bridges to share the Christian gospel.  However, the inclusivists take this position too far.  Pinnock believes that if a non-Christian honestly searches for God and responds to the light that he has, that this person can be considered a latent member of the body of Christ and will someday receive salvation through Christ, whether it is in this life or after death. He applies this principle broadly. General revelation is salvific.

Inclusivism teaches that God can use both general and special revelation in salvific ways. In contrast, exclusivism makes a sharp distinction between general and special revelation.  Even though God makes himself generally known in the world through creation and human conscience, general revelation is not salvific. Salvation can only be found through special revelation, revealed in the Bible and in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. My view is exclusivist in this regard.

Additionally, if according the inclusivists, all the “good” Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims (who honestly seek God and respond to the light that they have) will be saved by Christ in the end, this, for me, takes away just about all motives to evangelize! Why bother? Pinnock disagrees and states that inclusivism can increase our motivation. Even if people have responded appropriately to general revelation, the Christian mission still calls us to bring people into the fullness of salvation found only in Christ. The feeling of panic created by exclusivism is removed, and we can go out with more confidence that God has prepared the way for us as we call people to know God better through Christ. Pinnock’s explanations do not work for me.

The exclusivists Geivett and Phillips argue quite effectively that inclusivism seems to be highly suspect in the light of biblical data. Something that stood out to me in their critique of inclusivism is that inclusivists seem to be rather selective in their use of Scripture to support their view. For instance, they emphasize verses about the expansive and inclusive nature of God’s plan of salvation yet seem to conveniently overlook verses that refer to the redeemed in a more restrictive way.

That’s all I really have to say in response to Inclusivism. Some might find it a nice middle ground between 2 extremes, but as my comments reveal, this “ism” is not for me. Next post: here.

LINKS:  Here is an article where Trevin Wax of The Gospel Coalition shares 3 concerns he has with inclusivism. I also recently found this review of the book Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. Check it out for a more detailed review than mine.