Inclusivism

Inclusivism

Inclusivism, one of several approaches to understanding the relationship between religions, asserts that while one set of beliefs is absolutely true, other sets of beliefs are at least partially true. It stands in contrast to exclusivism, which asserts that only one way is true and all others are in error, and as a particular form of religious pluralism, though that term may also assert that all beliefs are equally valid within a believer's particular context.

Broadly speaking, there are two schools of Inclusivist thought:

  • Traditional Inclusivism, which asserts that the believer's own views are absolutely true, and believers of other religions are correct insofar as they agree with that believer.
  • Relativistic Inclusivism, which asserts that an unknown set of assertions are Absolutely True, that no human being currently living has yet ascertained Absolute Truth, but that all human beings have partially ascertained Absolute Truth.

Strands of both types of Inclusivist thought of both types run through all faiths.

Ancient Greece

Interpretatio graeca the common tendency of ancient Greek writers to equate foreign divinities to members of their own pantheon. Herodotus, for example, refers to the ancient Egyptian gods Amon, Osiris and Ptah as "Zeus," "Dionysus" and "Hephaestus." Could be seen an example of inclusivism, as could syncretism.

Syncretism functioned as an essential feature of Ancient Greek religion. Overall, Hellenistic culture in the age that followed Alexander the Great itself showed syncretist features, essentially blending of Persian, Anatolian, Egyptian (and eventually Etruscan-Roman) elements within an Hellenic formula. The Egyptian god Amun developed as the Hellenized Zeus Ammon after Alexander the Great went into the desert to seek out Amun's oracle at Siwa.

Christianity

  • Jesus said, "He who is not against me is for me." Gospel of Mark 9:40.
  • Jesus said, "Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven." Luke 12:10.
  • The Apostle Peter wrote of God: "He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)
  • An aphorism common in some Christian circles: "All Truth is God's Truth."
  • Some Evangelical scholars believe that God judges all people based on their response to the Holy Spirit, and that just as Romans 2:14-15 shows that God is righteous by condemning people who violate natural law as they understand it, it also shows His mercy in forgiving those who have lived up to all the light they have had. Thus, it is possible for people to be saved through hearing the Gospel message of forgiveness of sins by Christ, even if they have not been instructed by Christian missionaries.
  • Supporters of inclusivism include C. S. Lewis, John Wesley, Clark Pinnock, Karl Rahner, John E. Sanders, Terrance L. Tiessen (Reformed) and Robert Brush (contributor to the Arminian Magazine). While Billy Graham faithfully preached "salvation by faith in Christ alone" throughout his 60 year ministry as an evangelist, he has recently made controversial comments that border on inclusivism (but he does not like to refer to it by the term, because he is concerned that many people mean universalism when they refer to inclusivism). Many evangelicals believe that his sudden change in theology is a result of his old age and diminished mental capacity, since he is nearly 90 years old.

Judaism

  • The Talmud states: "The righteous of all peoples have a place in the World-To-Come" (Tos. to Sanhedrin 13:2, Sifra to Leviticus 19:18), and affirms that the great majority of non-Jewish humanity will be saved, due to God's overwhelming mercy (BT Sanhedrin 105a).
  • The Torah mentions a number of righteous gentiles, including Melchizedek who presided at offerings to God that Abraham made (Gen. 14:18), Job of the land of Uz who had a whole book of the Hebrew Bible devoted to him as a paragon of righteousness beloved of God (see the book of Job), and the Ninevites, the people given to cruelty and idolatry could be accepted by God when they repented (see the Book of Jonah).
  • Rabbinic tradition asserts that the basic standard of righteousness was established in a covenant with Noah: anyone who keeps the seven commandments of this covenant is assured of salvation, no matter what their religion. This is standard Jewish teaching for the past two thousand years.

Islam

  • The Qur'an, revealed through Muhammad, states, "Those with Faith, those who are Jews, and the Christians and Sabaeans, all who have Faith in Allah and the Last Day and act rightly, will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow." (Qur'an, Surat al-Baqara; 2:62)
  • Say, 'People of the Book! come to a proposition which is the same for us and you - that we should worship none but Allah and not associate any partners with Him and not take one another as lords besides Allah.' If they turn away, say, 'Bear witness that we are Muslims.'(Surah Al 'Imran; 3:64)
  • Today all good things have been made halal for you. And the food of those given the Book is also halal for you and your food is halal for them. So are chaste women from among the muminun and chaste women of those given the Book before you, once you have given them their dowries in marriage, not in fornication or taking them as lovers. But as for anyone who rejects iman, his actions will come to nothing and in the akhira he will be among the losers. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 5:5)
  • Among the people of the Book there are some who have iman in Allah and in what has been sent down to you and what was sent down to them, and who are humble before Allah. They do not sell Allah's Signs for a paltry price. Such people will have their reward with their Lord. And Allah is swift at reckoning. (Surah Al 'Imran; 3:199)
  • Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair admonition, and argue with them in the kindest way. Your Lord knows best who is misguided from His way. And He knows best who are guided. (Surat an-Nahl; 16:125)
  • ...You will find the people most affectionate to those who have iman are those who say, 'We are Christians.' That is because some of them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant. (Surat al-Ma'ida; 5:82)
  • Only argue with the People of the Book in the kindest way - except in the case of those of them who do wrong - saying, 'We have iman in what has been sent down to us and what was sent down to you. Our God and your God are one and we submit to Him.'(Surat al-'Ankabut; 29:46)
  • ...There is a community among the People of the Book who are upright. They recite Allah's Signs throughout the night, and they prostrate. They have iman in Allah and the Last Day, and enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and compete in doing good. They are among the salihun. You will not be denied the reward for any good thing you do. Allah knows those who have taqwa. (Surah Al 'Imran: 3:113-115)

Hinduism

  • A well-known Rig Vedic hymn stemming from Hinduism claims that "Truth is One, though the sages know it variously.", thus proclaiming a pluralistic view of religion.
  • Krishna, incarnation or avatar of Vishnu, the supreme God in Hinduism, said in the Gita: In whatever way men identify with Me, in the same way do I carry out their desires; men pursue My path, O Arjuna, in all ways. (Gita:4:11);
  • Krishna said: "Whatever deity or form a devotee worships, I make his faith steady. However, their wishes are only granted by Me." (Gita: 7:21-22)
  • Another quote in the Gita states: "O Arjuna, even those devotees who worship other lesser deities (e.g., Devas, for example) with faith, they also worship Me, but in an improper way because I am the Supreme Being. I alone am the enjoyer of all sacrificial services (Seva, Yajna) and Lord of the universe." (Gita: 9:23)

Bahá'í Faith

  • Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith states: "The fundamental principle enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh, the followers of His Faith firmly believe, is that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process, that all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony, that their aims and purposes are one and the same, that their teachings are but facets of one truth, that their functions are complementary, that they differ only in the nonessential aspects of their doctrines, and that their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society." (The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh" in World Order, Vol. 7, No. 2 (1972-73))

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