Having never attended seminary, most of my “views” are somewhat jumbled around. I’ve been slowly coming to take certain positions and stand firm on them. Positions like “Christus Victor” as the umbrella atonement motif, “Covenant Theology” as the correct way to read the scriptures, “Divine-spiration” as a way to understand biblical authority, “Union with Christ” as a way of understanding justification and a variety of other things.
But there are many areas where I very well might like to hang a “Under Construction” sign. Most of those places are places where I’ve not reflected very deep on certain subjects which I’ve long taken for granted.
I’ve always believed myself to be an “exclusivist”. But when pushed I remember even as a teenager entertaining the thought that God will ultimately judge someone according to the light given them. Especially if that “someone” could not possibly have heard the Gospel.
So you might say that I’ve always been somewhat of an “inclusivist”, even if by accident.
I have friends who are exclusivists and other’s who are inclusivists. Both are not happy with me because I somewhat wobble between the two. One day I’ll take a position, but for now let me share one reason why evangelism is sometimes hindered by some of my exclusivist thinking and inclusivist thinking.
The Exclusivist In Me: What else are we saying when he tell them that they need a conscious commitment to Jesus Christ to be saved?
When I share the Gospel with someone and tell them that they must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved, I have this nagging thought on the back of my mind. There is something I hope they do not ask.
What about my loved one’s who never heard your message and are already dead?
What I’m telling them (even if I’m not saying it) by preaching an exclusivist Gospel is, “Your loved one’s are already lost, buck up so that you can be saved.” It’s a hard message with serious implications. We might like to think that people are just selfish enough to accept the message that at least they will be saved, and not really care about their lost loved ones. To this we might hope that the people we preach the Gospel to are somewhat like Hezekiah who, when hearing that his actions will bring judgment on Jerusalem in a later generation says, “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” (2 Kings 20:19).
The Inclusivist In Me: What’s the point? Why bring further condemnation by preaching the Gospel?
I must admit, the more “inclusive” I become the less I desire to evangelize. It’s as if I subconsciously think that it would be better if I did not share the Gospel to them because if they will be judged according to the light given them, I say, “let God give them the light of nature. Why condemn them more by making them explicitly aware of the Gospel?”
My teetering will frustrate many people and I have no doubt that my quiet exclusivist friends will have a pile of ready verses to answer my struggle, and my many vocal inclusivists friends will have many answers for me as well. It will be some time before I find my own way in this debate. I’m always looking for the third door. The option less considered. A way beyond the impasse that will do the best justice to the biblical testimony. I’m open to suggestions.