Because author and friend Mike Duran has been exploring a theological position termed inclusivism, I’ve been reading Scripture with this view in mind. As a review, inclusivism agrees with the traditional view of salvation—that Christ’s sacrificial death paid the price for sin and that salvation is only through His atoning work.
Where inclusivism departs from the established evangelical position, is that actual belief in Jesus is not necessary. Rather, a person, particularly someone who has not heard the gospel of Christ, may be covered by His blood without knowing it, if he lives according to the light he’s been given through general revelation.
With this idea in mind, then, verses such as John 14:6 in which Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me,” are explained as applicable to the means by which a person is saved and not how that person must come to God.
As I said, now that I’m fully aware of this theological position, I’m reading Scripture anew. I can see how a person holding the inclusive view can then interpret many of the clear statements of Scripture in that light—not stating what a person must do to be saved but what God will do (apply the blood of Christ to him on the bases of his following to the best of his ability the light he has been given).
The problem as I see it is that a person must arrive at the position of inclusivism apart from Scripture in order to interpret certain passages in this way. Scripture itself, as a meta-narrative, points to Christ and Christ alone.
In fact, Jesus is the Light and therefore the means by which a person is reconciled to God. Scripture states this plainly more than once.
For instance, after John introduces Jesus as the True Light, he said,
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12, emphasis here and in the verses to follow are mine)
Then towards the end of his book John gives the purpose for recounting the details about Jesus’s life and ministry:
these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).
Shortly after feeding the five thousand with a few loaves of bread, when Jesus was teaching about eternal life, the people asked him the key question: what do we have to do? Jesus’s answer was clear:
Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:28-29)
When Peter first preached on the Day of Pentecost, the people responded with a question to which Peter also gave a clear answer:
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-38)
Paul and Silas had someone ask almost the exact same question:
After [the jailer] brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Interestingly, the only thing the latter two answers have in common is Jesus. But the sum of the two is clear: to be saved a person must believe in Jesus, repent, and be baptized in Jesus’s name.
Many evangelicals today understand baptism to be the public profession of faith in Christ, not a work that earns salvation. But even those who don’t adhere to “believer’s baptism” nevertheless correlate baptism and the saving work of Jesus. In other words, baptism is not a work that earns a person favor in God’s eyes, nor is it a service that indentures God to save. Rather, it is an identifying act enjoining the work of Christ on behalf of the person being baptized.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he clarifies his answer:
if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Rom. 10:9-10)
Peter clarifies his in the first epistle bearing his name:
knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Jesus also expanded on His statement:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”
Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. (John 6:32-35)
The significance here is that inclusivism lacks any such clear scriptural basis. At best those who hold this position apply a reinterpretation to passages pointing to Christ’s redemptive work, removing the “belief component” which is so clear in the scriptures above.
Further, Jesus, the gospel writers, and those who penned the epistles identify Jesus as the unique link between God and humankind. For instance, John states, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18).
Jesus made that same point:
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9)
Paul states emphatically in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
Peter says, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).
The point then is that Christ, as the perfect High Priest, brings reconciliation between God and those He saves.
The inclusivist view, however, inverts this work of Christ so that God, through general revelation, brings sinners to Christ in order to cover them with His blood.
It’s true that God has chosen those who are His and that He has called His children, and yet salvation—the work that justifies a sinner before God—is Christ’s work. To say that God draws sinners in order to apply Christ’s blood without them knowing it is to ignore Christ’s purpose—to explain God, to show us the Father, to mediate, to serve as the High Priest.
The inclusivist view has no place for this part of Jesus’s work. In so truncating Christ’s role, it reduces His glory, and in the end, God’s glory, because it is through Christ that He is glorified:
. . . so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11b)