Pluralism, Inclusivism, and Exclusivism
Of the 3 “camps”, the pluralistic may be quickly discarded based on a wealth of consistent Bible passages and human reason as well. The Bible is clear that there is only one God, one truth, and one Savior. What is truth ?Truth is the Word of God(Jn17:17). Part of that truth is that God only has one plan for the redemption of mankind, and that is the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Pluralistic view would say that truth is relative, what is true for me is not true for you, everyone is free to come up with their own truth. Nonsense, they would not apply this logic to any other important field like mathematics or medicine. 2 plus 2 always equals 4 even if you want it to be 5. You can’t take just any medicine for what ails you, it must be the specific medicine prescribed. Also, remember that all the other world religions like Islam are also exclusivistic. Christians are polytheistic idol worshipping infidels going to hell according to Islam.
Inclusivism has some merit, but be careful not to take it too far. I agree with CS Lewis that the Magi were of a different culture and religion but remember they worshipped Jesus, and the God of Israel led them there, and they were seeking the truth. Do you think they went back to worshipping the creation after God revealed Himself to them ? Inclusivists say faith is the only prerequisite to salvation, but the object of your faith is all important. The quality of faith is determined by the reliability of the object being trusted. You trust your money to banks every day but if a known con man opened a bank and offered you a deal too good to be true, would it be reliable to trust in that bank to keep your money ? True, faith is not determined by verbally saying I accept Jesus, but by doing so in your heart and God examines the heart. Nevertheless, that faith must be in the true object of valid faith, the God of the Bible. Hindus have faith but it is polytheistic and they seek salvation through works based on the law of Karma which drives the transmigration of souls( reincarnation). Buddhists seek salvation through the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path. Muslims are saved by works according to the Five Pillars of Faith(reciting the shah-ha-da, observing Ramadan, praying 5 times a day, tithing,and a pilgrimage to Mecca). Therefore when you say they are faithful, what is the object of their faith ?
You can’t just believe in anything, any god,any way or faith that man has made up for his own purposes. Consider the issue of world religions in Romans 1: 16—32. God is angry, ready to pour out His wrath upon the unrighteousness of man. What is unrighteousness here? Not just specific sins, but the general superceding sin of unbelief in the true God. Its not that they were not religious or did not believe in God. They made up their own version of God and their own version of truth. God holds them all responsible. God made us all with an inherent knowledge of Him and if we seek Him, He will reveal Himself to us. Rom.10:1-5 also makes it clear that truth is not relative. Paul’s countrymen are sincere and religious but not “according to the truth”, they seek to establish their own righteousness through their own religion but righteousness only comes through Christ.
As for infants, handicapped, or autistic we must rely on God to save them. Virtually all denominations have traditionally believed in allowing God plenty of freedom in taking care of them. Some call it “accountability” but basically you believe in Gods love and grace to take care of them. The favorite passage is 2 Samuel 12:23 where David is certain his dead infant is in heaven.
The popular question is “What about those who have never heard ?” We say this in such a way that there are just many people that we cant get to who have no opportunity to hear. Maybe they are in a rain forest or a jungle or on a mountain in Tibet and they have no opportunity. I say there is no such person because that is the way the Bible presents it. All people are created with an inherent knowledge of God, if anyone seeks Him , God will reveal Himself . There are many stories of this happening in the Bible like the Ethiopian in Acts 8 or the Samaritam in John 4 or Abram in Genesis 12. Today in every country in the world God is revealing Himself to whoever seeks Him.
The false assumption that it is impossible for everyone to hear about Jesus simply omits the role of God in evangelism. God made us all with a knowledge of Him, and is any geographic location too tough for God to reach ? I just read Abraham Sarkers book about growing up a Muslim in Bangladesh. If he could be reached for Christ anyone could. God has promised to be sovereignly involved in evangelism so it is up to Him and not limited by our inability or by geography.
I know what you are thinking, “Can it be true that 4 billion people are not seeking God according to the truth ?’ Surely God would not create all these people in His image and then send them to hell . In the Bible the saved are always the minority. In Elijah’s day there were only 7000 believers. Jesus said in Matt 7:13-23 that the road to heaven is very narrow but the road to destruction is very wide.
We all have moral standards that we cannot perfectly maintain, and our conscience tells us of our inadequacy. At the same time God has made Himself known to all both internally in our heart and externally through the creation so that as Paul said “they are without excuse”. Paul also said there in Rom.1:21-23 that all the religions of man were spawned not out of a search for truth, but as a perversion of the truth that mankind originally had. Religious systems of salvation by works minimize two essential truths: the wretchedness of sin and the holiness of God. To be saved, a person must recognize his own inability to atone for his own sin and then cast himself on the mercy and grace of the one true God. The only acceptable work we can do is faith in Jesus Christ –Jn.6:28-29