Inclusivism and Pluralism

I was interested in exploring the details of inclusivism and pluralism. For inane accusations of heresy aside which of these I agree with depends on the wording.

The article mentioned gives the following definitions:

Inclusivism : This is the view that there is one way to be saved, Jesus Christ, but that some who do not follow Christ in this life will nonetheless be saved through Him.

Pluralism : This is the view that there are many ways to be saved.

Accordingly I do not agree with either of these. I believe instead that there is no way to be saved. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” There is no thing which you can do or way which you can follow in order to be saved. Salvation never belongs to any of us. There is no way we can hold God in bondage in order to require Him to save us. God alone is the author and owner of salvation. This is something He alone can do, and that is all there is to it.

Though I suppose if we overlook this detail in the wording then some looking at the whole of my belief would probably think I fit the inclusivist category. But mostly I think the categories are bogus. Take for example the biggest argument for exclusivism in Jesus words, “no one comes to the Father except through me.” Well duh… since Jesus and the Father are one God then obviously that would follow. But does this mean that Christianity owns God and God cannot act outside of Christianity as if He had turned it all over to Christianity to speak for Him and dispense salvation? No way in hell!

I also do not agree with another common definition of “pluralism” that “all religions are equally valid.” That is absurd. Are the human sacrifice religions of the Aztecs equally valid. Don’t make me laugh!

The Wikipedia article on religious pluralism, however, gives quite a number of meanings to this term and I seem to agree with most of them.

1 As the name of the worldview according to which one’s own religion is not held to be the sole and exclusive source of truth, and thus the acknowledgement that at least some truths and true values exist in other religions.
2 As acceptance of the concept that two or more religions with mutually exclusive truth claims are equally valid, this may be considered a form of either toleration (a concept that arose as a result of the European wars of religion) or moral relativism.
3 The understanding that the exclusive claims of different religions turn out, upon closer examination, to be variations of universal truths that have been taught since time immemorial. This is called Perennialism (based on the concept of philosophia perennis ) or Traditionalism.
4 Sometimes as a synonym for ecumenism, i.e., the promotion of some level of unity, co-operation, and improved understanding between different religions or different denominations within a single religion.
5 As a term for the condition of harmonious co-existence between adherents of different religions or religious denominations.
6 As a social norm and not merely a synonym for religious diversity.

The only one here I disagree with is number 3.

Meanwhile the wikipedia article on inclusivism gives the following versions:

  • Traditional Inclusivism, which asserts that the believer’s own views are absolutely true, and believers of other religions are correct insofar as they agree with that believer.
  • Relativistic Inclusivism, which asserts that an unknown set of assertions are Absolutely True, that no human being currently living has yet ascertained Absolute Truth, but that all human beings have partially ascertained Absolute Truth.

The first is absurd while the second is much more reasonable. But I wouldn’t take the latter to mean that beliefs which are contradict each other as stated cannot both be true. There is still this belief I have that reality is not entirely objective but that there is an irreducibly subjective aspect of reality which is responsive to our beliefs and desires, and thus not the same for everyone. One of the implications of this is that truth and reality isn’t the only issue. If part of reality is responsive to our beliefs and desires then there is also a matter of simply which is better.

For example… I consider theism and atheism to be both valid belief systems. But that doesn’t mean that both are equally as good. Atheists will often say that it would be nice if there were a God but we simply have to accept the cold hard reality that there is none. But if there is a portion of reality responsive to our desires and belief then that represents a flaw in this claim by these atheists, doesn’t it?

1 Like

Reminds me of a philosophical mind game me and my brother had about if God saved people outside of the Jewish faith during the OT and saves people outside of the Christian faith today.
I will have to look into the issue more deeply later on today when I get back from church before I can give a solid answer but as of now this seems like a good philosophical question for me to pong around in my mind throughout the day.

Great one! Like Melchizedek?
And if children under the age of accountability are saved, why not those who are mentally challenged or have never heard…or raised in a difficult environment?
“As a father has compassion on his children, the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows our frame; He remembers we are dust.”

I said that I agree with all of the wikipedia explanations of pluralism except the third one, but some may wonder about number 2. So perhaps I will give an example to illustrate…

Religion A says light is a wave.
Religion B says light is a particle.

Everything in common sense says that these two claims are mutually exclusive and yet science has demonstrated that both are equally valid. Like I said above, if it was the claim that all religions are equally valid then I think that is absurd. But just because two or more religions make mutually exclusive claims doesn’t mean they cannot be equally valid. I suppose you can argue that the claims of religions A & B are not really mutually exclusive. But I think this example demonstrates that we cannot really tell when things are “really” mutually exclusive or not and thus insisting that religions with mutually exclusive claims cannot be equally valid is effectively without meaning. Our linguistic categories are often misleading and far from perfect accuracy and thus claims which look mutually exclusive may have little to do with the realities to which they refer.

Seems to me to be a paradox at best and self defeating at worse.

Perhaps the best course is not to dwell on such things? The problem with all notions of salvation is saved from what? If it is anything to do with an existence after the one on earth then we just do not have enough information to form a viable conclusion.

And this seems to be the place that modern Christianity falls down, or at least certain branches of it. Did Christ come to adjust the behaviour on this world or recruit people for the next? Is Heaven (and Hell) a carrot (stick) for good behaviour or a straightjacket?

It is when religion starts to dictate and dominate that problems arise. Faith must be personal as is our relationship with God. The church is about finding God not Heaven or Hell. (IMHO)


This seems to be the motivation for so many to change Christianity into something completely different. If not something they can control then what good is it? So they prefer a religion like the Pharisees where you control what happens by what you do, and like the rich man in Matthew 19 they want guarantees – a salvation where they are the master rather than something where you surrender your fate to someone else.

Thus we end up with so many versions of Xtianity in name only which are really the legalism of the Pharisees all over again and like the majority of human religions which are all about appeasing God or gods with rituals and blood sacrifices.

Religions made into a tool of power, as most are, really would rather people not think about such things.

Indeed that is a crucial question. For religions of appeasement it is all about being saved from their big bad god. A big bad god is exactly what the man made religions want for threatening people into obedience to their dictates.

That only applies if the existence after is utterly different and unrelated to the one on Earth. But it makes more sense that the existence after is a continuation of things which we can see in our physical lives. And instead of magical promises of differences this is really about understand the very same things which make life worthwhile right now.

This is what many many people have realized and seen in the words of Jesus, that He makes no distinction between life now and life then. He doesn’t speak of the Kingdom of God as if it is some distant other reality and but as if it is right here and now in our everyday lives.

So the suggestion is that these are really the same thing.

I believe in hell precisely because I see it on the Earth. The mistake is in thinking these are about scenery, when it is really about the kind of world our own behavior creates around us.

I quite agree that this idea of heaven and hell as reward and punishment does not work. It is not about that. It is about the natural logical consequences of our behavior and how we deal with them.

Again… these are the same thing.

1 Like

It is unfortunate that many Christians have adopted this worldview, I see salvation as in saving us from ourselves and reconciling us back to God our Father.

Amen to that! Jesus preached on the idea of a realized eschatology in that the Kingdom of God is here and among us.

It shouldn’t be that way, but sadly the “church” has turned it into that. a “do good and you go see sky daddy in happy play place, be bad and you visit uncle Satan in the fire pit down in the basement.”

Christ came first thing to show the Love of the Father and teach us that love and how to live with each other, (Matthew 5-7). Secondly Jesus came to die in our place and redeemed us with the Father. Thirdly He came to give us the ministry of reconciliation as told in 2nd Cor. 5:18-21.

1 Like

From what I have seen the opposite applies. The main thrust seems to be making sacrifices or doing duties now for future rewards. I am not convinced of the “big bad God” image, it is more like an inflated, exaggerated (impossible?) ideal. The “impossible Dream” of Man of La Mancha. A noble cause that cannot be achieved, so we then claim God will assist us. No, must assist us! Which sort of makes our creation pointless really. God created us to fail! What a great God we worship (Need a sarcastic font)


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.