For You 10 O’Clock (Sunday) Scholars: Inclusivism…


“A diller, a dollar, a ten o’clock scholar…” (Mother Goose, c. 1760)

Unwilling to come too late to the table of this popular dispute, here’s a brief explanation of why Inclusivism and Universalism are not the same. Universalism (which is not biblical) claims that since Christ died for all sinners, then all sinners are automagically delivered from death into Eternal Life. The Bible is clear in too many passages that however warm and fuzzy this idea is, God still allows for human beings to reject Him.

But many church people (influenced by a mishmash of ultra-Calvinism, ignorance and arrogance) declare that though they themselves are “safe”, everyone throughout the history of the earth who has not “heard the Name of Jesus Christ preached” and given intellectual or rational acceptance of that teaching, is damned. This is not the same thing as saying that every human being has the God-given right to reject God’s gracious offer of Eternal Life. Instead, it’s saying that if by an accident of time and location, people have not heard the official, doctrinally sound preaching of Jesus’ death and Resurrection, they will not and can not be saved.

Universalists — who rightly reject this nonsense (as does everyone who knows the Father) — respond by dreamily affirming that God is “so kind” that “no one” will experience the Second Death (á la, Revelation 20.14)

But an alternative response has been offered throughout the centuries by the likes of Justin Martyr,  A.D. 103–165; Erasmus, A.D. 1466 – 1536; Martin Luther, A.D. 1483 – 1546; Jacob Arminius, A.D. 1560-1609; John Wesley, A.D. 1703-1791; Dale Moody (Southern Baptist), A.D. 1915-1992; Billy Graham, A.D. 1918-?; etc.

This response is called “Inclusivism”. Simply put, Jesus’ death has delivered all humankind from sin and death,  but that doesn’t mean that explicit, doctrinally accurate knowledge of Jesus Christ is necessary in order for one to be saved — God has revealed Himself in various ways including through the mere existC. S. Lewis Time coverence of the Creation itself [cf. Psalm 19] or even via direct, personal enlightenment — and that people can be saved by an implicit faith response to such general revelation. In other words, God only expects from any person a response proportional to the light given. Eternal Life is not received so much by a person’s cognitive agreement with any particular church’s dogma as it is by a person’s confidence and trust in God as He reveals Himself on the individual level.

One of my fav Inclusivists is C.S. Lewis, (Christian Apologist & Sometime Heretic); c.1898-1963: “…The truth is, God has not told us what His arrangements about the other [unreached] 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.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity; ital mine.)


N.B. Excellent expansion of the above list can be found here: Bart’s Barometer: Inclusivist Quotes Throughout History


Comments RSS
  1. Rick Kilgore

    In the second chapter of Romans Paul speaks to this truth.

    • EmDog

      To wit: [Rom 2.13ff] “It is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
      “When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves.
      “They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the [Judgment] Day…

      Thanks, Rick!

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