Christianity, non-believers and salvation: the case for inclusivism

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The Christian Flag

It's no secret that the world is full of religions. Even within any given religion one is sure to find various flavors” and varieties. Christendom alone offers something like 40,000 different denominational flavors. Suffice it to say, there isn’t much agreement about what is true spiritually. Of course, this in no way means that some view isn’t correct, but discerning which, if any, is correct is a significant undertaking.

Now, generally speaking, Christianity is an exclusivist religion. This means that Christianity (or Christians) maintain that the tenets (or at least some of the tenets) of Christianity are in fact true and that any propositions, including other religious beliefs, that are incompatible with these tenets are false.

For the record, I agree with the exclusivist position of Christianity. All roads may lead to Rome, but the same cannot be said for truth. The question of whether Christianity is, in fact, true is a topic for another time. Rather, let us suppose for the sake of argument that Christianity is true. What I would like to consider is the following question: Is there both a philosophical and biblical basis for inclusivism?

This may seem like a strange question given that I just endorsed exclu- sivism, so allow me to clarify. By “inclusivism” I mean more specifically soteriological inclusivism, which is the view that although Christianity is true (in the exclusivist sense), there are individuals who are saved despite not having formed the belief set B generally taken to be sufficient for salvation. This set B of beliefs would include beliefs such as I am a sinner and Jesus is God.

At this point I leave this as an open question and am interested in what people think. In another post I’ll argue why I think inclusivism might be true on Christianity.

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Amy  Rice


This is a really interesting question, and I am not sure I can do it justice.

What I can offer, though, is a perspective from C.S. Lewis, one that has always intrigued me, although it might not be “orthodox” to think that way.

In The Last Battle, the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis describes a situation in which every living person (and animal) is given a chance to see Aslan face-to-face, to choose (albeit somewhat unconsciously) whether to see joy and hope in Aslan or whether to see Aslan and be filled with fear and hatred. Those who saw Aslan and rejoiced entered into his country. All others veered away.

And in another section of the same book, a man who has served another god all his life is a bit confused when he ends up in Aslan’s country. Aslan tells the man that because the things he did in the name of the other god were good and right, they were really done for Aslan. Why? Because the other god represented the antithesis of goodness and righteousness. Similarly, if the man had done horrible things in the name of Aslan, it would not really be for Aslan, because Aslan represents goodness and righteousness.

It appears that C.S. Lewis might have been open to the idea of inclusivism, of finding a different path to God (Aslan).

I think there are real-life examples of this as well. More important, although at one point Jesus claims, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6) he also says elsewhere that whatever a person does to “the least of these” (i.e. feeding the poor) is really something they do to him, and this is how they are ultimately judged.

So I can definitely see where you’re coming from by saying that Christianity is exclusivist, while potentially leaving room for inclusion. It may be that there are multiple avenues by which we come to the main road leading to God, though there are certainly avenues that will not lead to that main road.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x