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What is Inclusivism?

By Matthew Barrett –

What is inclusivism? While inclusivists believe Jesus is the only Savior and that no person can be saved by anyone but Jesus, what sets the inclusivist apart is his belief concerning the necessity (or lack thereof) of sinners to trust in Christ for their salvation. For the exclusivist, it is necessary that a sinner have faith in Christ to be saved. However, for the inlusivist, while faith in Christ is best, it is not the only way to be saved. In other words, those who have never heard of Christ may very well be in heaven one day since they responded genuinely to the general revelation that was available to them.

As you might have guessed, the debate over inclusivisim has caused quite a stir in evangelicalism. The theological contours of the debate cannot be quarantined either. Everything is impacted by an inclusivist view, including general revelation, divine justice, one’s view towards world religions, one’s understanding of Old Testament “pagans,” and the nature of saving faith itself.

And it would be naive to think that inclusivism has not affected Baptists as well. While many Baptists have affirmed the exclusivity of the gospel, other Baptists have differed. Terrance Tiessen, Clark Pinnock, and Stanley Grenz have all made the argument that the unevangelized may be saved through general revelation. Even those in other religions can be saved through general revelation, though other religions are not a means of salvation. Other Baptists, like Mark Heim, go even farther, arguing that not only general revelation but other religions contain truth sufficient for salvation.

But is this what Scripture teaches? In this issue of Credo Magazine we shall argue that inclusivism cannot be supported by Scripture. To the contrary, Scripture teaches that faith comes by hearing the gospel message of Jesus Christ. It is only through faith in Christ that a sinner can be saved from hell and the wrath of God. Therefore, it seems appropriate to title this January’s issue, “In Christ Alone.” 

Matthew Barrett (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the executive editor of Credo Magazine. Barrett has contributed book reviews and articles to various academic journals. He is married to Elizabeth and they have two daughters, Cassandra and Georgia. He is a member of Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, KY.

This editorial was taken from the January issue of Credo Magazine. Read “In Christ Alone” today!

The January issue argues for the exclusivity of the gospel, especially in light of the movement known as inclusivism. This issue will seek to answer questions like: Can those who have never heard the gospel of Christ be saved? Will everyone be saved in the end or will some spend an eternity in hell? Must someone have explicit faith in Christ to be saved? Contributors include David Wells, Robert Peterson, Michael Horton, Gerald Bray, Todd Miles, Todd Borger, Ardel Caneday, Nathan Finn, Trevin Wax, Michael Reeves, and many others.

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