You probably know by now that inclusionism teaches that everyone – whether they believe it or not – was included in Christ’s resurrection and ascension and is now saved and seated at the right hand of God. In union with Christ, humanity is as righteous and holy as he is.
As I have explained elsewhere, inclusionism complicates the gospel and draws on early church teachings you may not have heard of. It parrots the language of grace but is ultimately an ungracious form of Frankengrace.
Needless to say, those who espouse inclusionism have not responded to my writings with grace!
Last year I listed some of the ways inclusionism contradicts the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. That post attracted all sorts of responses, the vast majority of which were positive. However, some complained that I was misrepresenting inclusionism. Apparently I am misguided and ill-informed. This accusation is understandable since I am not in the habit of citing my sources. But in this post I do and once should be enough.
Others assumed that since I am against inclusion, I must be for exclusionism – whatever that is. But this is a false dichotomy that does nothing to promote dialogue. It’s angry Anakin swinging his lightsaber and saying, “If you’re not with me, you must be against me.”
Others have countered by setting up straw-men. “Why do you wish to condemn people to eternity in hell?” Who said anything about hell?
Still others have said these are frivolous debates and one day we’ll look back and laugh. I sincerely hope we do! But no one is laughing now and that’s because inclusionism is a bruising and divisive issue. We’re not debating semantics. We’re talking about something that has fractured friendships and split churches.
Inclusionism bears bad fruit because it is a bad tree. It was born from the seed of human understanding and fertilized with manure of manmade reasoning. It appeals to the intellect but deprives the soul of heaven’s peaceable wisdom. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: inclusionism differs from the gospel Jesus revealed and the apostles taught. You literally have to rewrite the Bible to find support for it.
You may be wondering, “Why all the fuss? Isn’t this just a bunch of theologians with too much time on their hands?” These are fair questions that deserve good answers. So let me list three ways that inclusionism hurts people.
1. Inclusionism distorts the love of God
The gospel of grace portrays a divine love that is unconditional and free – a love that seeks to woo and win even those who reject it. But inclusionism portrays a “love” that takes the unwilling by force. This is a central theme of the inclusionist message: “Since first Adam took you against your will, Last Adam had to do the same.” This is a horrendous distortion of the love of God.
The Jesus of the New Testament is described as a King wooing his bride (Mt 22:2, 25:1). He is the Beauty that saves the world; the One who, in his own words, draws all to himself (John 12:32). But the Jesus of inclusionism is a thief who takes what has not been given and then expects you to like it.
The gospel imperative is, “Come to Jesus.” This imperative is repeated in one form or another more than 200 times in the New Testament. (A full list can be found in the appendix of this note.) However, the imperative that follows inclusionism is “Jesus married you against your will – better get used to it.”
This twisted picture of Christ’s love is unreal and unbiblical. It is a deterrent to the freely-chosen intimacy that Jesus desires to have with all of us.
2. Inclusionism damages hope
Jesus says, “Those who come to me I never cast away” (John 6:37). That’s a fact you can bank on. In contrast, inclusionism says you were born in union with Christ but you could end up severed and cut off. Of course it doesn’t say this in so many words. Instead it dances around the issue by describing a confusing mix of overlapping realities. This confusion promotes doubt and insecurity. Ask a direct question like, “Am I safe?” and you’ll get three different answers: Yes, no, and maybe.
Jesus said what God has joined together no man can separate, but inclusionism disagrees. Jesus said God doesn’t believe in divorce, but inclusionism suggests he does. Paul spoke of the hope of a gospel that is backed by the unshakable promises of God (Col 1:23), but inclusionism deals in the uncertainties of human experience. Fail to wake up to the objective reality of your union with Christ and your subjective reality will create a new objective reality – one where you were in but now you’re out.
3. Inclusionism diminishes faith
The gospel of grace says that because of Jesus, we all get the same choice Adam had – the choice to trust God or trust self. But inclusionism says you have no choice except to accept that which was done on your behalf. Adam was invited into a relationship based on trust but you are not. According to inclusionism, your union with Christ is a fait accompli. This damages faith two ways:
First, it suggests that God makes mistakes. God made a mistake giving Adam freedom to choose, but he’s learned his lesson and won’t repeat that mistake with you. Problem is, a God who makes mistakes can’t be trusted. Nor can you trust his Word. The Bible says God gives grace to the humble (1 Pet 5:5), but inclusionism says he has forced his grace upon us all. Since faith is a positive response to what God has said, any message that contradicts what God has said will undermine faith.
Second, inclusionism suggests you can’t be trusted either. A dark theme sometimes heard in inclusionist circles is that the Father’s plan was too big and important to be left to the choices of mankind. In other words, God doesn’t redeem us, he overrides us, like a heavenly fascist. Some have even gone as far to say that “free will is an illusion.” This is a dehumanizing doctrine of demons that reduces God’s beloved children to untrustworthy pawns in a cosmic chess game.
A better narrative is the one the gospel offers – the one where God gave Adam the freedom to choose knowing full well that it would ultimately cost him his life. God did this to show us that true love is free. And he did it to show us that he’d rather die than live without us.
The gospel declares that God believes in you. It’s his love and his faith that prompt the response of love and faith from our side (1 Jn 4:19). Faith isn’t something you have to manufacture. Faith is a rest. It’s ceasing from the hard work of resisting his radical and hyper-grace. Faith is being persuaded that God is good and that he loves you as you are and not as you should be.
In his writings the apostle Paul repeatedly identified three cords that connect earthly man with his heavenly Father, namely, faith, hope and love (1 Cor 13:13, 1 Th 1:3, 5:8). It is by faith in the hope of Jesus that we experience his love here and now.
Since inclusionism is a worldly philosophy, its effect is to sever these heavenly links. It does this by presenting a distorted view of love and a brittle hope that inevitably lead to a diminished and fruitless faith.
I suggest you have nothing to do with it.
[What do you think? Have you encountered inclusionism? How has this teaching affected you or your relationships within the Body of Christ?]