“Exclusivism” is the traditional Christian view that states that mankind can be saved only by personally placing faith in Jesus. There is considerable biblical evidence that this is so (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; John 3:16-18; and Romans 10:13-15).
“Inclusivism” is the flip side of the coin. This view typically teaches that God’s gift of salvation is related somehow to the work of Christ, but people do not necessarily have to believe in Christ or His gospel to experience salvation. They believe that salvation is made available to people through various means. Those who are saved apart from Christ are sometimes referred to as “anonymous Christians.”
Ravi Zacharias, (born in 1946 in India) is the most compassionate Christian apologist that I have ever read or heard. He addresses the issue of exclusivism/inclusivism in his book “Jesus Among Other Gods.”
He first elaborates on how he was raised in a way that was by no means Christian and far from a belief in only one god or a singular path to redemption.
Ravi, a committed exclusivist, encountered and turned in personal faith to Jesus at 17 years of age. Of his spiritual encounter with Christ, he passionately states, “I came to Him because I did not know which way to turn. I remain with Him because there is no other way I wish to turn. I came to Him longing for something I did not have. I remain with Him because I have something I will not trade. I came to Him as stranger. I remain with Him in the most intimate of friendships. I came to Him unsure about the future. I remain with Him certain about my destiny.”
I also hold to the exclusivist view and I have taught this consistently over the years. Consequently, I am sometimes asked how I dare to say that Jesus is the only way to freedom and forgiveness. It is a valid question and I answer it by saying, “I don’t dare say that! I just repeat what Jesus and the Bible have said on the matter.”
I can appreciate the concern, compassion and good intentions of those who hold to the inclusive view, but I cannot come to a place of agreement. It is quite simply a position that is supported by human logic, not biblical teaching.
It is clear to me that God, throughout the Bible, has been calling people to a singular decision to follow Him. Today His appeal (which Bible believing Christians continue to share) is to make a decision for Jesus. He is after all, “… the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Him.” (John 14:6)
Pastor Ross Helgeton is the senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.