Inclusivism represents a capitulation to the current cultural climate first by its adoption of Western individualistic notions of “fairness” and then its subsequent contention that God’s actions should necessarily correspond to these notions. The inclusivist argument begins with an emotional appeal to humanity’s innate sense of “fairness.” Even the much-revered C.S. Lewis (though more agnostic about the fate of the unevangelized than a self-professing inclusivist) succumbed to the temptation of judging God according to human standards of fairness.
“Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what his arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.”
Clark Pinnock takes Lewis’ notion to the next level by seeking to prove that salvation must be available to all human beings. “If God really loves the whole world and desires everyone to be saved, it follows logically that everyone must have access to salvation.” For Pinnock and other inclusivists, it is “unfair” for some to have access to God’s salvation while others perish without ever hearing the gospel. Therefore, salvation must either be accessible through general revelation (the created order) or through a post-mortem opportunity for decision.
Pinnock’s inclusivism is difficult to defend because of his “open theist” view of God. According to Pinnock’s version of open theism, God cannot and does not know the future decisions of the free creatures he has made since his foreknowledge would necessarily impinge upon human free will. But it is here that Pinnock’s open theism contradicts his inclusivism. How can Pinnock so forcefully announce that God will offer the news of his salvation to every unevangelized person in the world? If God does not know the future, God himself does not know if this feat can be accomplished, much less Pinnock.
Furthermore, Pinnock’s view is driven by his notion of fairness, one that depends heavily upon the American ethos of individualism, free choice, and equal opportunity. For Pinnock, it is unthinkable that a loving God would present some with the opportunity to accept or reject his salvation, but not others. This picture of God conflicts with Pinnock’s Western notions of fairness and equality. Therefore, Pinnock brings in the universality axiom: God’s salvation must be accessible to every human being regardless of their knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Though the inclusivist position may seem attractive on the surface, it falls apart under the weight of its own appeal to fairness. For this essay’s present purposes, let us concede for a moment the inclusivist statement that God’s salvation is accessible to every human being. Even if this affirmation were true, a question begs to be asked: is salvation accessible to every human being equally?
Consider a Buddhist child growing up in the United States in a Buddhist family that has emigrated from a Buddhist country. The Buddhist family moves next door to a Baptist family. The Baptist child places her faith in Christ, as God uses the testimony of a godly heritage and a nurturing church to bring her to faith. The Buddhist child hears the gospel, but the cultural and familial pressures of Buddhism prove too great for her, and she rejects Christianity and remains a Buddhist. Both children heard the gospel. Salvation was accessible to both, and yet the inclusivist charge of “unfairness” can still again be leveled against God because salvation was not equally accessible. According to the inclusivist position, the Buddhist child will be punished after death for her rejection of the gospel. Yet considering the circumstances that God in his sovereignty placed her in, it is difficult to imagine her doing otherwise (apart from the Holy Spirit’s power of conviction). The inclusivist position does not “justify” God’s fairness; it only exacerbates the problem.
Other similar charges can be leveled “against” God’s fairness. Is it not unfair that a person who lives sixty years may have more opportunities to hear the gospel than the person who dies in a car accident at the age of thirty? Is it not unfair that the child who is born to hypocritical Christian parents rejects the Christian faith while the child born into a warm, authentic Christian family places saving faith in Christ?
The inclusivist position fails to show how the accessibility of salvation resolves the issue of “fairness.” In fact, inclusivism fails to show how God must be held accountable to this notion of fairness in the first place. Carl Henry gives us a healthy reminder.
“To accuse God of misconduct, to fault him and disparage his electing grace, is to forget that God himself is the standard of truth and justice and love. Scripture nowhere derives its doctrine of truth, justice, and love from heathen sources. The perversion of truth, justice, and love is what makes humans heathen. God’s fairness is demonstrated because he condemns sinners not in the absence of light but because of their rebellious response. His mercy is demonstrated because he provides fallen humans with a privileged call to redemption not extended to fallen angels. He continues to extend that call worldwide even while some rebel humans spurn it as unloving and unjust and prefer to die in their sins. All are judged by what they do with the light they have, and none is without light.”
Later, we’ll look at inclusivism’s capitulation to culture by adopting world’s definition of “faith.”
written by Trevin Wax © 2007 Kingdom People blog