Within Christian Theology there are many different points of view in relation to Soteriology; the study of salvation. And within Chrtistian theology these theories and doctrines try to maintain the supremacy of Christ and the belief that HE is the doorway to salvation. Inclusion falls within these brackets.
It is not to be confused with theology stating things like ‘all roads lead to God, all religions are the same, God is the same in every religion.’ There is only one religion which actually believes this – the Bah’ai, and ironically you have to join their religion to believe it. This belief taken by the Bah’ai is what is popularly understood to be a ‘universalist approach’ and no other religions other than the Bah’ai hold this view. The doctrine of Inclusion is as far removed from this as can be. Universalism has to be rejected for some obvious reasons:
Every religion believes contradictory things about God- concerning His nature (whether he is Loving, angry or fickle), How many Gods there are (polytheism/ monotheism), whether He is active in the world or not (Deists believe God is not active or concerned with humanity), the name of God (although ‘Allah’ is the arabic for ‘God’ and Christians in arabic speaking countries call God Allah, in Islam there are 99 other names for God including ‘the Humiliator’). Most importantly the role and identity of Jesus is contested; in Islam and Judaism He is only a prophet but Christianity believes He is Christ the Messiah, the Son of God and one third of the Trinity. No other religion believes in the Trinity. Logic leads us to conclude that only one way can be right and we believe in the Biblical understanding of salvation – that this comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God!
The doctrine of Inclusion teaches the Biblical view that God intended to save the whole world through Christ Jesus; that Jesus is the only way into Heaven and only through His blood are we saved. It upholds the belief that there is only one God; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that as Ephesians 1 states He is seated above every principality and power.
Inclusion holds that God intended to save the whole world, not just a few ‘elect’ as opposed to calvinist’s predestination view. While supporting the Arminian belief that salvation is for everyone it takes Karl Barth’s side. It holds that God predestined himself through Jesus, the elect man for God to save; that Christ took the place of the world on the cross and died for our sin. God then resurrected Christ and defeated death. We died with Christ and so the sinful nature of man was destroyed on the cross as Romans 6 and Galatians 2 state. It holds that all of man’s sin was already forgiven on the cross as stated in Colossians 2 and God made all things new as written in 2 Corinthians 5.17. The Original Sin of Adam was destroyed, that Jesus came as the Last Adam and took our place:
21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15.21.
The power of the one man Christ, to redeem humanity was stronger than the power of the one man Adam, to curse humanity. That God’s ultimate plan – to unite man with God, has been completed through Jesus Christ and that the Law has been accomplished and fulfilled through Christ.
We also have to ask whether it fits with the character and nature of God found in the whole Bible, rather than just in single verses. So lets look at the different aspects of God’s character: Grace, Love, Justice, Righteousness, Mercy, Sovereignty and Lordship.
Grace- does it show a gracious God? Yes
Love- does it reflect a loving God? Yes
Justice- does it reflect God’s justice? Yes- the consequence of sin has been dealt with through Jesus
Righteousness- God has dealt with sin and wiped the slate clean, 2 Corinthians 5.21: ‘He became sin so we could become righteous’.
Mercy- Is God’s mercy reflected? Yes
Sovereignty- Does it reflect a God in control? Yes
Lordship- Does it reflect His Lordship? Yes- ‘One day every knee will bow and every toungue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord’, Philippians 2.10-11.
Does this mean man can do what he wants and still get to Heaven? No. 2 Thessalonians 1 clearly states that those who reject the Gospel and don’t know God will be excluded from the Presence of God. How does this fit with the fact that ‘nothing can seperate us from the love of God’? I don’t know! Does hell still exist? Yes.
Psalm 22, the Psalm Jesus recited on the cross beginning with ‘My God, my God why have you forsaken me’ and ending with ‘It is Finished’ states that “27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall bow down and worship before You.” Proclaiming someone to be Lord who you have rejected is not a nice thing to do. Especially if you are still at war with God in your own mind.
In regards to Inclusion then, there are several things which are still important- faith, repentance, having your mind renewed, intimacy and knowing God and understanding your real identity as a Son. Romans 2.4 states that it is the Goodness of God that leads man to repentance. It is His Grace and forgiveness which causes man to repent. The greek word for repentance is ‘metanoia’ which literally means to ‘turn around’. Being faced with such mercy and grace the New Testament urges those who believe to turn their lives around to live according to the Good News which they have heard. When we realise who we really are we are then called to live holy lives and act like it! Understanding we are the righteousness of Christ will cause a manifestation of righteousness in our lives.
The most important aspect within this whole debate is Love. We are called to love God, get to know Him and enjoy His presence. Although we might have all been included in Christ’s death we are still called to be lovers of God. And this is the most important thing! God is love!
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13.13
I have tried to unpack some of the issues here and thoughts in regards to inclusion. Martin Scott once said ‘this is what I believe now, but I may not believe it next year’. We are learning more and more, going from glory to glory and so must keep in humility, realising we don’t know everything yet! I don’t know all the answers and have a lot questions myself still while following and letting truth lead me.
*Amendment: Having read more stuff by William Barclay about other beliefs he held, particularly concerning the divinity of Christ I have removed the recommendation to read his writings.