June 26, 2012

They Live Among Us

Exclusivism and Inclusivism

The fear of Exclusivism to me is the bane of Christianity. To some extent an aversion to exclusivism has crept into our churches through uninformed or uneducated laity. At worst it has actually taken over pulpits and soapboxes that have the ear of influential people in powerful positions in the form of ecumenicalism. It is looked down upon because many believe that if we as Christians begin to define our faith and what we believe in absolute terms and do so with certainty we are somehow being unloving or somehow bearing bad or poor witness to the world of our Christian walk. The bottom-line is that we have misinterpreted Jesus statements about being weak and are becoming doormats to the world…even when it comes to orthodoxy and doctrine. Many believe that if we just get the world to like us, not only will we convert them, we make Christianity look good too.  No, we become Christian doormats. Frankly, this spineless approach to evangelism is gaining ground in the world. In spite of this, the Holy Spirit is doing the work winning these people anyway. We can plant seeds but the Spirit does the work in the heart. The adherents of the idea that we need to continue to water things down to try and win people at the simplest level is na├»ve. Jesus didn’t do this and neither should we. Jesus told the truth and never backed down from it. When He did it with the Pharisees and Sadducees he actually was quite harsh. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”

Working with others to see where there are comparisons between denominations is one thing but when I see interfaith gatherings and adherents of different religions entirely trying to “work out their differences”, what I usually end up seeing is Christians compromising some piece of their faith or forsaking entire core tenants in an attempt to meet people where they are. It is always the Christian that jumps out of orthodoxy first to be as Christian as possible. There is a point where compromising is not acceptable and it just turns into apostasy or a forsaking of the faith and that is just plain sinful (and stupid).  We are to engage the culture, not accept the culture. The Bible tells us to “renew” or minds, not “remove’ our minds.

To varying levels and degrees adherents of the philosophy of inclusivism in the Christian faith end up watering-down the One True God and the truths that stem from His self-revelation in the Holy Bible. On this very point I will be mercilessly attacked as hackneyed and ignorant in backwoods uneducated kind of way. I will be told that I need to be more open to other truths and this I believe is exactly where Inclusivists get it totally wrong. Sadly, some of these attacks will come directly from Christian brethren that believe I am delivering the Gospel or Message without love. These people need to go back and read their Bibles and see how Jesus dealt with false teachings and false teachers.

Those that tried to embrace inclusivism to keep the wolves of pluralism at bay ended up throwing out the baby with the bath water. One cannot abandon the idea that Salvation is through Christ alone. I agree that inclusivism is indeed a de facto pluralism. Call it whatever you like, the gate is narrow for salvation and not all can get in. I suspect that this lean towards pluralism is spurred by the mad headlong rush into postmodernism. It is the reason pluralistic religions of the Far East like Hinduism have become all the rage. They tend to be more accepting of a larger variation of “diversity”. Christianity in and of its very nature makes it exclusivist. If you attempt to make it pluralistic or de facto pluralism (inclusivism), you’ve made it not Christian. The Bible tells us that we can only approach God in a specific ordained manner. It is concise in these statements.

The source here, states that: “private inclusivism contends that one who is accepted by God apart from the preaching of the Gospel is saved in spite of whatever religion to which he may be an adherent. His religious orientation plays no part in his salvation and in fact is a definite hindrance. The non-Christian’s ignorant beliefs, if sincere, are inculpable but have no positive role in his relationship with God."

This is repulsive because it totally diminishes the work of Christ on the cross and essentially alludes to or suggests that it wasn’t necessary. To me this is a turn towards Universalism (hello Rob Bell). This makes God a liar and the Bible a tome of false statements as revealed from God. This is absolute tripe. Corporate inclusivism says that the non-Christian religions mediate the work of Christ. Corporate Inclusivists try to distinguish their position from pluralism (as if they could) …but the bottom line is that they agree with pluralists that the world religions can be conduits of saving grace. This fallacy, like private inclusivism, diminishes the work of the cross. I find this absolutely unacceptable as this then negates statement of the Bible such as, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). So who are we to believe, love-dovey touchie-feelie capricious humanity or the time-tested inerrancy of Scripture. I’ll take the latter. Postmodernism and pluralism is a trend and the Scriptures will outlast them. My belief is that inclusivism is nothing more than a cultural aberration doomed to the funeral pyre of history but not one jot or tittle of Scripture will pass away until the Lord returns.

Sadly, what I see being allowed to happen is marginal Christians or people that are not even Christian are controlling real believers en masse. We are essentially are allowing shepherds and  Inclusivist types of people in leadership positions to dictate to a large extent how Christians react to what amounts to heresies or outright apostasy. We are literally being asked to accept wolves into the sheepfold and we are being told they are our friends. Instead of us converting them, they convert us. It is the same old story of Israel and how they did not drive out the pagan's from their midst. This bodes poorly for us just as it did for Israel as we read in Joshua/Judges. These books describe the apostasies and subsequent invasions and oppressions of Israel (Joshua 13:13, 16:10, 17:11-13 Judg. 1:29, 37 to name a few). God shows us in that narrative why He treated His people as He did. It was their failure to obey God's instructions regarding driving out the corrupt pagan nations of Canaan. Joshua may have succeeded in conquering Canaan but the failure to drive pagan's out of the land or destroy them only left these bad influences to hang around to cause trouble later either through violence or more subversively, through syncretism.

Am I an Exclusivist? Yes, I am. We see from history what happens when we allow godless ideas to intermingle and intermarry with believers. Man's natural inclination is to be a sinner (Romans 3,5,7). We of ourselves have no way preconditioned to be able to resist these infectious evils when we are in the midst of them constantly. Through attrition they eventually wear us down until we slip. We must be vigilant in guarding our flock. Not calling wolves shepherds and bringing them in among the flock to shepherd the sheep. This then only makes us later wonder why our flock is diminishing right before our eyes. I can not disagree more with people like Stanley Grenz when he states:

“Just as in the biblical era, so also today, wherever people are drawn—even through other religions—to worship the most high God, there the true God is known." ~Stanley Grenz

Mr. Grenz is being severely disingenuous when he makes a statement like this. He using semantic posturing to make a nebulous point akin to universalist beliefs. If people are drawn to a god through other religions it is a god that could not be the one described in the Bible as the Bible is the only true revelation of the One True God outside of the incarnate revelation of His Son. To say otherwise is blasphemous. Therefore the god they think they are following is not the one revealed in the Scripture, it is one revealed from other non-authoritative sources. These so-called converts to this religion would then not be Christian, would they? Christianity is not the "best among all the religions to chose from", it is the only religion. 

The corporate Inclusivist view holds that the world religions are more salvation-based and therefore more effective than the preaching of the Gospel (the question I pose is: What are we saving people to?). This should be utterly repulsive to any that hear this statement. Romans 10:17 specifically state that Faith comes by hearing. What Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 is absolutely damning to this view:

"...I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures"

What was preached? The Gospel
By what were we saved? The Gospel (of Jesus Christ)
What did believers take their stand on (for eternal life)? The Gospel
The Gospel (Good News) of whom? Jesus Christ
What is this Gospel? "That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures"
What validated this event? The Scriptures & The Resurrection itself
What documented this event? The Scriptures
What foretold of this event? The Scriptures

I see no Inclusivism in this passage unless you believe exactly what this Scripture states as any true Christian would. Otherwise, for all others this is indeed viewed as Exclusivist and should be. I didn't make these stipulations, God did in the Scripture. Inclusivism (corporate and individual) and its misbegotten siblings neo-ecumenicalism and interfaithism, were born out of an unwarranted panic brought about by the supposed failure of the Church to accomplish evangelism and saving people (as if people could). The true conversion of new Christians is the work of the Spirit, we need only try to inform people of other religions what is the truth of the Bible without watering it down. This doesn't even mean that we need to bludgeon people over the head with it either. Christianity needs to be relational not revolting.

Instead we have watered down what the Gospel really is so we end up preaching something that isn't even the Gospel. In this respect we failed the Great Commission anyway because it is not what Christ told us to preach to all the world (Matthew 28:19-20). In the end it is better to preach the entire truth of the Gospel in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4)  no matter how biting and exclusivist to save a few, rather than preach a lie and damn people in droves.

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