Evangelical inclusivists capitulate to culture a third way – by assuming the culture’s high view of human goodness. Pinnock and other inclusivists claim “caution” in their assessment of other religions. They recognize that other religions have “depths of darkness, deception, and bondage in them.”
But though inclusivists seek to be cautious in regards to other religions, they appear much too enthusiastic. Pinnock openly praises Mohammed as a “prophet figure in the style of the Old Testament,” respects Buddha as “a righteous man,” celebrates Hindu literature that articulates a “personal God of love,” and gushes over the “grace” he sees in a Japanese cult! Christianity is unique in that it fulfills, not only the Old Testament religion, but “all religious aspiration and… the human quest itself.”
In Pinnock’s view, all humans are on a quest for the divine. Though he would probably deny the charge, his works indicate that humans are basically good people who simply have gone astray. The people who go to hell will choose to go there because they have consciously chosen to reject Christ. In an interesting twist, Pinnock turns upside-down the traditional teaching that people are bound for hell unless they choose Christ and his heaven and instead teaches a doctrine implying that people are bound for heaven unless they reject Christ and choose hell.
Inclusivists assume that the only sin that people go to hell for is a rejection of salvation in Jesus Christ. Ronald Nash offers a helpful reminder that “rejecting Jesus is not the only reason that men and women are lost. There are no innocent human beings.”
Inclusivism capitulates to the culture’s high view of human morality. Pinnock and others continually point to the goodness and saintliness of the adherents of other religions.
But this brings up a question: who determines what is good? By failing to answer this question, Pinnock and the other inclusivists simply adopt the world’s standard of “goodness” and apply it uncritically to the people around them. It is true that a good Buddhist, a good Muslim and a good Hindu will all go to heaven – if by “good” we mean what Scripture teaches (absolute moral perfection). The problem is not that good people do not go to heaven. Scripture teaches that the problem is there are no good people.
By claiming that saintliness is something other than a consequence of reconciliation with God on the terms he himself has stipulated, the inclusivists divorce “goodness” from the character of Jesus and thus advocate a doctrine of human innocence that is sub-biblical. Pinnock and other inclusivists affirm their position by appealing to God’s overflowing love. But others may ask: “Why should God’s love rather than his truth or holiness ‘overflow’ in the way suggested?” The subordination of God’s holiness to his love is one of the key points of inclusivism’s capitulation to the culture’s view of God.
Inclusivism seeks to answer many of the difficult questions raised by the traditional exclusivist position regarding the fate of the unevangelized. These posts have sought to show how inclusivism’s responses are unbiblical and represent a capitulation to certain cultural assumptions, including the culture’s view of “fairness,” the culture’s definition of “faith,” and the culture’s high view of human goodness.
Though it may be necessary to engage in debate with our inclusivist brothers and sisters, exclusivists should not allow such debates to replace the evangelistic calling of the Church. Though Scripture seems to offer no hope for the unevangelized, wise exclusivists will refrain from dogmatic declarations regarding the extent of God’s salvation.
Christians should participate in missions and evangelism with the belief that Scripture teaches universal human guilt and culpability. We evangelize, not only to improve the lives of those here on earth, but to announce the rescue for those headed for destruction in the life to come.
As for the question as to whether or not God can or will save any unevangelized persons apart from explicit faith in Christ, exclusivists would do well to follow the example of John Calvin and others, who have discouraged speculation into God’s hidden ways. Christians trust in the justice and mercy of a loving, holy God. Ultimately, both the evangelized and unevangelized are in his hands.
written by Trevin Wax © 2007 Kingdom People blog