A Biblical Argument Against Religious Inclusivism

“Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”  — John 20:30-31 (NASB)

I’ve mentioned Greg Koukl et al. from ‘Stand to Reason’ and drawn from their wonderful materials in previous posts. This will be another of those times.

Greg Koukl

I was listening to a podcast from early 2016 in which a caller asked Koukl about a proper definition and understanding of biblical faith (i.e., a step of trust based on evidence). This was in the context of the caller being a student at a Catholic university, so the discussion also touched on the inclusivist teaching now common in Roman Catholic churches and institutions (as of Vatican II), as the caller was discovering. This doctrine might be summarized as, “Yes, Jesus is necessary for salvation, but that doesn’t mean you have to believe in Him.” Koukl noted that this is a radical departure from what Jesus and the Apostles taught, as we see in New Testament Scripture.

The ‘faith’ discussion included the attesting miracles, as referenced in the above quote. Koukl continued:

“The claims are either true or false, and we know they’re true because there are good reasons to believe they’re true, and that’s the evidence that John is talking about there — the attesting miracles. And, so, now that we have good reason to believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be, now it’s up to us to act on that by putting our trust in Him.

And, by the way, if the reason he wrote the Gospel of John is so that we would believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in believing have life, then if you do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, then you don’t have the life that believing in Him gets you. Which means their [i.e., the Roman Catholics’] inclusivism is false. There is no such thing as ‘implicit faith in Christ’, that Jews — “well, they’re really believing in Jesus, even though they don’t know about Jesus.” There is no such thing. Hindus don’t have implicit faith in Christ by worshiping idols! They are disobeying God by breaking the First Commandment! And the same with Buddhists and everybody else who is ‘pursuing their faith tradition as best they know how.’ It may be the best that they know how, but it’s false. They are deceived by the Deceiver, and they are going to suffer as a result of being deceived.

This is something that I don’t think the Roman Catholic Church wants to stand up to, or to step up to. And that is the reality of the deception in the world, that other religions are false ways of characterizing God and salvation, and therefore they are false religions. If they are false religions, then they are not going to get people to God.”

A little bit later, they got back to the inclusivism doctrine…

“I think it’s entirely coherent. It makes all the sense in the world, if you say you don’t have to believe in Jesus in order to be saved by Jesus, you can believe in something else and God honors that as faith in Jesus. That makes perfect sense. I just don’t think it’s true. And the only way we know what’s true is going back to the text, and the text teaches this NOwhere.”

Koukl pointed to Acts 4, where Peter and John heal a lame man and are then arrested “because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” They are brought before the high priests and other Jewish leaders assembled in Jerusalem, who ask Peter, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” Peter answers that it is by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, and he ends with, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 (NASB))

“And he doesn’t say, ‘And, by the way, you can just ignore what I’ve said, because you are really good Jews, doing the best you can following Judaism. So, you’re already in. No need for you to whip me again for saying what I said, because I’m acknowledging that you are really in! No worries.’ Now, why did the Jewish leadership scourge Peter? It’s because he was declaring Jesus, the resurrection, and the necessity of faith in Jesus. Look at his opening sermon there in Acts 2. There is no way you can take Peter’s words in Acts 2 or 4 and make them conform to this inclusivistic gospel. There just is no possible way.

But, it’s worse than that, because you can also go further in the Book of Acts to chapter 10. This is where Peter is called in a vision by God to go speak to Cornelius, who is a God-fearer. Now, a ‘God-fearer’ is a kind of guy who’s doing the best he can under the circumstances to follow God by the light he’s been given. So, he’s a Gentile; he’s not in the assembly of the Jews. But, he’s doing the best that he can, right? An angel appears to Cornelius, and then an angel appears to Peter and brokers a meeting.

Here in verse 34 of Acts 10, when Peter finally goes to see Cornelius, he’s a little reluctant, because this guy, after all, is a Gentile. Here’s the way the text describes Cornelius: ‘Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.’ (Acts 10:1-2 (NASB)) And then, in virtue of all this godliness, has a vision from an angel.

Wow! He’s in! Right? He’s the guy! He’s doing everything that the inclusivists say. And then Peter goes and visits him and says, verse 34-35 (NASB), ‘I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.’ Wow! End of issue! Peter gets up and he leaves…. No, he doesn’t. What he just gave was the inclusivist gospel of the Roman Catholic Church. But, Peter knew Cornelius still wasn’t saved. He needed the Gospel, which he then gives him….

It’s interesting that what he says to Cornelius in verse 42 (NASB) is that this is a message that He, Jesus, ‘ordered us to preach to the people.’ Well, how is it, if Jesus orders them to preach to the people, that some church official here in the Roman Catholic Church is ordering their people *not* to preach it?! So, I encourage you to read Acts 10, because I think this passage all by itself proves that the inclusivist message is just, flat-out false. Because, if it were true, then Cornelius would already be saved.”

I think he’s absolutely correct.

Unfortunately, the RCC subordinated Scripture to Catholic tradition and the rulings of the Magisterium long ago….

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