Last year I addressed a false teaching that seems to have gained some traction among Evangelical Christians—inclusivism. As a reminder, that view rethinks salvation, so “while no one is saved apart from the redemptive work of Jesus, it is not necessary either to know about the gospel or to believe in Jesus for salvation.” (See “The Way Of Salvation” and “The Way Of Salvation: An Addendum”).
Since then I’ve been mindful of the numerous places in Scripture that refute the concept that someone could love God and seek to know Him but remain ignorant of the gospel. In those earlier posts, I stated that such an idea was inconsistent with God’s character, and I cited in discussion comments, at least, that James lays out God’s promise to draw near to those who draw near to Him.
In other words, God is not going to let someone who wants to know Him floundering in the dark. Believing this, I have still been surprised at the host of passages that make clear God’s promise to rush to those who choose Him.
I started with Proverbs 2:
For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the LORD
And discover the knowledge of God. (vv 3-5)
If you look, then you’ll discover. In reality, then, there are no hosts of pagans or Muslims or any other religion loving God and wanting to know Him but remaining ignorant of Jesus. How could there be? Each of those would put the lie to this passage.
Or how about this in Jeremiah:
‘I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.’ (24:7)
Some people might quibble that this verse is addressing Jews returning to Israel after the exile. That’s true, certainly, but all Scripture is for our profit, and the passage refers to “My people.” God’s promise would seem to be for His people regardless of place and time—He will give us a heart to know Him.
Here’s another one. Jesus said this, recorded both in Matthew and Luke:
“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Matt. 11:27)
I don’t know how much clearer Christ could be: The Son reveals God the Father; He’s the only One who knows the Father and it would stay like that unless He disclosed Him to us.
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
Eternal life is conditioned on knowing: knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ.
John repeats this truth in his first letter:
And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)
Understanding from the Son lets us know that He is true, that were are in Jesus and that being in Jesus is what eternal life means. In fact, “This is the true God.” Any concept of God apart from Jesus is false.
Sincere Buddhists or pagans or Hindus are not saved. We might as well say sincere atheists are saved.
It’s actually cruel to suggest that someone who is separated from God by his sin is doing just fine by sacrificing his chicken on a high place outside his village in the sincerity of his heart, desiring to know God; or that by sincerely working toward enlightenment, he’ll actually be saved.
That’s like telling someone he isn’t going to die. Well, no actually he will die because we all face death, unless we’re caught up with Christ when He returns. Meanwhile, the person thinking he isn’t going to die, is living as if he isn’t going to die. He’s not taking care of his health or making a will or doing anything to prepare spiritually for life after death. By believing a lie, he’s neglecting what he needs.
Anyone without Christ needs to get that message—Christ shows us who God is; Christ is the door to eternal life. Inclusivism is nothing more than a human invention at best, and a demonic one at worst. It’s a lie, and telling dying people lies is cruel when what they need is saving truth.