Inclusivism Leads to Pluralism

We saw earlier that Roman Catholicism teaches that Muslims and Christians worship the same God and that the plan of salvation includes Muslims as well. Catholicism also teaches that Jews do not need to believe the gospel in order to be saved. This has led the Catholic Church to completely redefine what “No Salvation Outside the Church” means. I am going to explain in this article why this inclusivistic stance on salvation is actually a form of religious pluralism.

Theological inclusivism is inherently inconsistent because it does not take into account that every member of an unreached people group who has not heard the gospel is a member of a false religion. The unreached people groups of the world fall into one of five categories: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, atheism, or some form of animism that is almost always polytheistic. Therefore, to say that the unevangelized can be saved apart from believing the gospel is to say that members of false religions can be saved. That is, they are saved as practicing members of a false religion believing in things that are directly contrary to the gospel. Inclusivism, taken to its logical conclusion, demands that God has placed salvific elements in other religions besides Christianity that can lead its practitioners to salvation.

This is why the general revelation inclusivism of Protestantism is inconsistent in comparison to the world religions inclusivism of Roman Catholicism. “Holy pagans” never stop believing in pagan things until they are brought the gospel. Therefore, theological inclusivism undermines the gospel because it teaches that members of false religions do not need to believe in Jesus to be saved. A person can believe in the heresies of these religions and still be saved even though the unique beliefs of these religions are far worse than anything found in the heresies the early church fought against.

If people are saved in these false religions, then they die believing in false doctrine and worshiping a false god or gods. To worship any God besides the Lord is idolatry and no idolater has eternal life (1 Cor 6:9). Let’s take the example of a man who lived and died in Papua New Guinea before the gospel message was brought to his tribe. He believed in animism or the belief that physical objects are possessed by spiritual beings that need to be placated by us and polytheism or the belief in many different gods. Must he abandon his beliefs in polytheism and animism to be saved? Can a person worship God acceptably while believing in these things? Can a person be saved and not be a true worshiper of God? If the unevangelized are saved, then they must worship God through the religion they are a member of.

The Catholic theologian Hans Küng elaborates on his view of how God is active in other religions:

“Since God seriously and effectively wills that all men should be saved and that none should be lost unless by his own fault, every man is intended to find his salvation within his own historical condition . . . within the religion imposed on him by society. . . . A man is to be saved within the religion that is made available to him in his historical situation. Hence, it is his right and duty to seek God within that religion in which the hidden God has already found him” (Theological Investigations, trans. Karl and Boniface Kruger [Baltimore, MD: Helicon, 1969], 6:395).

Pope Francis, in a speech to a group of Lutherans, takes this logic a step further in response to a question asking whether Christians should try to convince others of our faith by saying, “It is not licit to convince them of your faith. Proselytism is the strongest venom against the ecumenical path.” In other words, it is wrong to try to convert members of other religions to Christianity. Now, why would anyone believe this? The only answer I can think of is that he believes other religions are acceptable paths to God because God works through them to bring people to salvation. This is why the pope can kiss the Quran, receive a bindi from a priestess of Shiva, or say that we are all children of God. These religions are viewed as different paths to God which is pluralism, not just inclusivism. In contrast to this false belief, the Bible teaches that we are not all children of God and that only those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God overcome the world (1 John 5:5).

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Sunday Meditation – Suffering for the Word of God

“It is not every suffering that makes a martyr, but suffering for the Word of God after a right manner; that is, not only for righteousness, but for righteousness’ sake; not only for truth, but out of love to truth; not only for God’s Word, but according to it: to wit, in that holy, humble, meek manner, as the Word of God requireth. It is a rare thing to suffer aright, and to have my spirit in suffering bent only against God’s enemy, sin; sin in doctrine, sin in worship, sin in life, and sin in conversation. The devil, nor men of the world, can kill thy righteousness, or love to it but by thy own hand; or separate that and thee asunder without thy own act. Nor will he that doth indeed suffer for the sake of it, or out of love he bears thereto, be tempted to exchange it, for the good will of all the world. I have often thought that the best of Christians are found in the worst of times. And I have thought again that one reason why we are no better, is because God purges us no more. Noah and Lot, who so holy as they in the time of their afflictions? And yet who so idle as they in the time of their prosperity?”

John Bunyan

Do Jews Need to Believe the Gospel to Be Saved?

In a document released by the Vatican called The Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable, the Catholic Church teaches that Jews do not need to believe the gospel in order to be saved:

“From the Christian confession that there can be only one path to salvation, however, it does not in any way follow that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. Such a claim would find no support in the soteriological understanding of Saint Paul.”

The same document also says that “the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.” But this is a complete repudiation of the gospel message which is “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16). It is tantamount to saying that a person can know the gospel message, reject it, and still be saved. But what did Jesus say to the Jewish leaders in John 8? He said to them:

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Jesus said, “unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” But the Catholic Church teaches that Jews don’t need to believe that Jesus is who he says he is to be saved from their sins. Jesus taught that to reject him is to reject the one who sent him (Luke 10:16). By rejecting Jesus, they have rejected the God of Israel.

John 3:18 says, “Whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:36 leaves no exceptions when it says that all who do not obey the Son will not see life: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” If a person does not believe in Jesus, he does not believe in Moses either since Moses wrote about Jesus (John 5:46). If a person does not come to Christ, it shows that God did not give him to the Son (John 6:37). It is only those who abide in the teaching of Christ who are his true disciples (John 8:31). If a person does not know or rejects the teaching of Christ, he cannot abide in them.

Those who do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah demonstrate that they are not part of the flock of Christ: “But you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:26-27). All of those who reject Christ will be judged on the last day: “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (John 12:48). If a person does not know Christ, he does not have eternal life (John 17:3).

Paul did not believe that the Jews who rejected Jesus were saved and that is why he intentionally went to the synagogues to convert them to Jesus (Acts 9:20; 13:5, 14-15; 14:1; 17:1-2, 10-12, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8-9). When the Jews rejected Jesus, Paul and Barnabas let them know that they were unworthy of eternal life:

“And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles’” (Acts 13:46).

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, prayed earnestly for the salvation of the Jews because he knew they were lost apart from faith in Christ:

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. . . . Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:1-4, 9).

If Jewish people can be saved apart from faith in Christ, then why was Paul willing to go to hell if that would mean their salvation? As he lamented:

“I am speaking the truth in Christ – I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit – that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom 9:1-3).

Why would Paul want to be “accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers” if his Jewish brothers could be saved apart from embracing Christ? It is this very problem that gives rise to the question of how God is just to not save those who are Abraham’s descendants according to the flesh. Paul’s response makes no sense if he believes that a person is saved because he is a child of Abraham:

“This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Rom 9:8).

That is, a person is not a true child of God because of physical descent, but by the sovereign choice of God resulting in salvation (Rom 9:14-16). According to Paul, those who reject the message of the cross are perishing: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). The message of the cross is foolishness to Jews and Muslims. Both groups believe that God would never allow his Messiah to be crucified. Therefore, Jews deny that Jesus is the Messiah and Muslims deny that Jesus was crucified. But according to the author of Hebrews, those who neglect this message will not escape:

“For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard” (Heb 2:2-3).

According to Paul, “those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” will be condemned to hell for their sins:

“And to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. . . . In order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess 1:7-10; 2:12).

Jesus is only “the source of eternal salvation” to those who obey him (Heb 5:9). That is why those who go back to Judaism after claiming to embrace Christianity will not be saved:

“If they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned” (Heb 6:6-8).

Only those who confess the Son have the Father (1 John 2:23). Only those who confess Jesus are from God (1 John 4:3). Only those who listen to the apostolic message know God (1 John 4:6). Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God overcome the world (1 John 5:5). Only those who have the Son have life (1 John 5:12). Only those who abide in the teachings of Christ have God (2 John 1:9). To say otherwise is to deny the gospel and the message of the apostles.

Sunday Meditation – Love of the World

“Nothing more hinders a soul from coming to Christ, than a vain love of the world; and till a soul is freed from it, it can never have a true love for God. What are the honours and riches of this world, when compared to the glories of a crown of life? Love not the world; for it is a moth in a Christian’s life. To despise the world is the way to enjoy heaven; and blessed are they who delight to converse with God by prayer. What folly can be greater than to labour for the meat that perisheth, and neglect the food of eternal life? God or the world must be neglected at parting time, for then is the time of trial. To seek yourself in this world is to be lost; and to be humble is to be exalted. The epicure that delighteth in the dainties of this world, little thinketh that those very creatures will one day witness against him.”

John Bunyan

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Roman Catholicism teaches in its Catechism that Muslims worship the same God Christians do and are included in the plan of salvation:

“The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day” (841).

If there is any confusion about the meaning of the Catechism, the document Nostra aetate from Vatican II clears it up:

“The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. . . . Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”

When it comes to the question of whether Muslims worship the same God we do, the answer must be a resounding no. Muslims deny the crucifixion of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the pre-existence of Christ, the sonship of Christ, the deity of Christ, the deity of the Holy Spirit, that God is Father, the Trinity, and have a long history of persecuting Christians. No one can worship the one true God who does not honor the Son in the same way he honors the Father:

“That all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23).

Do Muslims honor the Son just as they honor the Father? They cannot by definition because they deny that the Son is God and they deny that God is Father. Because they do not honor the Son as God, they do not honor the Father. Because they do not honor the Father, they do not worship him. Can one honor God by dishonoring his Son? Is God honored by worship that denies who he is?

No one can worship God who is not saved. Worship is something that is pleasing to God and only those who are in the Spirit can do anything pleasing to him (Rom 8:8-9). But only those who are saved have the indwelling Holy Spirit. Muslims are not saved because they deny the deity of Christ and his death and resurrection (Rom 10:9).

The book of 1 John answers this question directly:

“No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:23-24).

Muslims deny the heart of the gospel: that Jesus is God, that he died on the cross for sinners, and that he was raised from the dead. Because Muslims deny the Son, they do not have the Father. How can they worship God when they deny the Father and the Son?

Because Muslims deny that Jesus is the Son of God, they do not have salvation: “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5). Muslims do not abide in the teachings of Christ and therefore do not have God: “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9).

False religions like Islam are a rejection of the gospel because they reject that Jesus is God’s Son. The Jesus of Islam is “another Jesus” about which Paul warned us (2 Cor 11:4). Muslims may claim that they worship the God of Abraham, but we know that the God of Abraham is not unitarian in person, but exists eternally as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God can only be worshiped in truth and therefore those who do not worship him according to his Word do not worship him at all. As John 4:24 says, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Sunday Meditation – Sanctify the Lord’s Day

“Have a special care to sanctify the Lord’s day; for as thou keepest it, so it will be with thee all the week long. Make the Lord’s day the market for thy soul; let the whole day be spent in prayer, repetitions, or meditations; lay aside the affairs of the other part of the week; let thy sermon thou hast heard be converted into prayer: Shall God allow thee six days, and wilt not thou afford him one? In the church, be careful to serve God; for thou art in his eyes, and not in man’s. Thou mayest hear sermons often, and do well in practicing what thou hearest; but thou must not expect to be told thee in a pulpit all that thou oughtest to do, but be studious in searching the Scriptures, and reading good books; what thou hearest may be forgotten, but what thou readest may better be retained. Forsake not the public worship of God, lest God forsake thee, not only in public, but in private. In the week days, when thou risest in the morning, consider, 1. Thou must die. 2. Thou mayest die that minute. 3. What will become of thy soul. Pray often. At night consider, 1. What sins thou hast committed. 2. How often thou hast prayed. 3. What hath thy mind been bent upon. 4. What hath been thy dealing. 5. What thy conversation. 6. If thou callest to mind the errors of the day, sleep not without a confession to God, and a hope of pardon. Thus every morning and evening make up thy accounts with Almighty God, and thy reckoning will be the less at last.”

John Bunyan

Roman Catholicism on Reading the Bible

Did you know that Roman Catholicism has historically opposed the idea that reading the Bible is for all people? Only certain people were given permission to read the Bible. The Council of Trent declared:

“Since it is clear from experience that if the Sacred Books are permitted everywhere and without discrimination in the vernacular, there will by reason of the boldness of men arise therefrom more harm than good, the matter is in this respect left to the judgment of the bishop or inquisitor, who may with the advice of the pastor or confessor permit the reading of the Sacred Books translated into the vernacular by Catholic authors to those who they know will derive from such reading no harm but rather an increase of faith and piety, which permission they must have in writing. Those, however, who presume to read or possess them without such permission may not receive absolution from their sins till they have handed them over to the ordinary. Bookdealers who sell or in any other way supply Bibles written in the vernacular to anyone who has not this permission, shall lose the price of the books, which is to be applied by the bishop to pious purposes, and in keeping with the nature of the crime they shall be subject to other penalties which are left to the judgment of the same bishop. Regulars who have not the permission of their superiors may not read or purchase them” (Rules on Prohibited Books, approved by Pope Pius IV, 1564).

This is an infallible decree from Pope Pius IV on a matter of faith and morals during the ecumenical Council of Trent. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the pope and ecumenical councils are infallible when defining issues of faith and morals:

“It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. . . . To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals” (890).

In the infallible decree Unigenitus, Pope Clement XI condemned the following errors of the Jansenists:

  1. It is useful and necessary at every time, in every place, and for every kind of persons, to study and know the spirit, piety, and mysteries of sacred Scripture. 1 Cor. xiv. 6.
  2. The reading of sacred Scripture is for all. Acts viii. 28.
  3. The obscurity of the holy word of God is not a reason for the laity to excuse themselves from the reading thereof. Acts viii. 31.
  4. The Lord’s day ought to be sanctified by Christians with the readings of piety, and above all, of the holy Scriptures. It is damnable to wish to restrain a Christian from such reading. Acts xv. 21.
  5. It is an illusion to persuade oneself that a knowledge of the mysteries of religion ought not to be communicated to females by the reading of the sacred books. The abuse of the Scriptures has arisen, and heresies have sprung up, not from the simplicity of women, but from the haughty knowledge of men. John iv. 26.
  6. To snatch the New Testament out of the hands of Christians, or to keep it closed to them, by taking from them that method of understanding it, is to shut the mouth of Christ against them. Matt. v. 2.
  7. To interdict to Christians the reading of sacred Scripture, especially of the Gospel, is to interdict the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a certain kind of excommunication. Luke xi. 33.

This document meets the conditions for infallibility since Pope Clement XI was defining doctrine for all time and claiming to be protected from error by divine light:

“Having heard, therefore, the suffrages of the above-mentioned cardinals and other theologians exhibited to us both by word of mouth as well as in writing, and having invoked the protection of the divine light by proclaiming private and public prayers to that end, we by this our constitution, destined to be in effect for ever, declare, condemn, and reprobate all and each of the previously inserted propositions as false, captious, ill-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and her practice, and contumelious not only to the Church, but also to the secular powers; seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected of heresy, and savouring of heresy itself, and also as abetting heretics and heresies, and also schism, erroneous, near akin to heresy, several times condemned, and finally heretical, and manifestly renewing respectively various heresies, and those particularly which are contained in the infamous propositions of Jansenius, taken, however, in that sense in which they have been condemned.”

These condemnations were reaffirmed by Pope Pius VI in Auctorem fidei which also condemned the idea that the church should introduce “the use of popular language into the liturgical prayers” which was overturned by Vatican II when the Tridentine Mass was set aside in favor of one where the popular language is used.

In addition, the Catholic Church has a long history of banning books and prohibited Catholics from reading the writings of Martin Luther and John Calvin. It is no wonder then that modern Catholics are confused as to why a pope would forbid anyone from reading the Bible when this is not the current teaching of the church.

One of the arguments used by Catholics that Scripture should not be read by all is based on Acts 8:30-31: “So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” Therefore, because the Ethiopian eunuch could not understand Isaiah 53 unless Philip explained it for him, we need the Catholic Church to explain the Bible to us in order for us to understand it. This is the infallible proof text that is cited against proposition 81 in Unigenitus. But the reason why the Ethiopian eunuch could not understand Isaiah 53 is not because we need the church to interpret it for us, but because he had never even heard of Jesus and his death for sinners! If a person has read about the life of Jesus and then reads Isaiah 53, he will be able to understand that this chapter is a prophecy about his death. It does not take an infallible magisterium to teach people the gospel message. It is the responsibility of every Christian to do what Philip is doing here and tell the story of Jesus to those who have never heard the gospel before.