The Central Claims of Inclusionism
(or Am I Fairly Representing this Dubious Doctrine?)
Whenever I warn people of the dangers of inclusionism, someone will usually say I am misrepresenting the doctrine. “Paul, I’m an inclusionist, but I have never heard inclusionism described in that way.”
This response tells me that the some of those who identify themselves as inclusionist, don’t really know what they have bought into. Perhaps they’ve heard a few sound bites or read a few quotes, but they haven’t gone deeper than that. Which is fine – except that what you don’t know can hurt you.
So that you might be better informed, I want to list five core claims of inclusionism. None of these claims is my own invention; they all come from an inclusionist source which is the Grace Communion website.
Why this source? Because those who preach inclusionism typically recommend it. I can’t tell you the number of people have said to me, “Paul, you don’t really know what inclusionism is. You should check out GCI.org.” Well, I did. I am also familiar with the teachings this website draws on and can confirm that it offers an accurate summary of inclusionist thinking.
To be fair, the GCI website makes many wonderful claims that I wholeheartedly agree with (eg: unconditional love, universal forgiveness, the need for faith to walk in what Christ has provided). But these are the claims of the gospel of grace and not the special claims of inclusionism. There is a difference. As I have written elsewhere, grace is inclusive, but inclusionism is not grace.
Below I list five claims which make inclusionism unique. For each claim I provide supporting evidence lifted straight from the GCI website. Whether these claims are valid or not, I leave for you to decide. My personal view is that these claims are contrary to the gospel that Jesus revealed and the apostles taught.
Five claims of inclusionism
1. Humanity has been raised, has ascended, and is now seated with Christ
“When Jesus rose, all humanity rose to new life with him; when Jesus ascended, all humanity ascended and became seated with him at the Father’s side.”
2. Humanity is righteous/justified
“Through Jesus, all humans are justified through the faith of Christ… Objectively, all people, past, present and future, are justified already …”
3. Humanity is sanctified
“All are sanctified.”
4. Humanity is reconciled/in union with Christ
“All humans—believers and non-believers—are united to God in and through Jesus… Through union with Jesus, all humanity is… reconciled to the Father…
5. Humanity is not lost but saved
“Through Jesus, all humans are… at peace with God, standing in his grace… (and) saved through Jesus’ life.”
This last claim is perhaps the most contentious which may explain why it doesn’t get much coverage on the GCI website. But it is fair to say that inclusionism teaches that since all are now in Christ, and Christ is saved, then all are saved.
Two contentious claims
The claims above are the core claims of inclusionism. However, two additional claims are worth mentioning because they are diametrically opposed and thus cannot both be true. If you wish to be an inclusionist, you must choose one or the other.
6. Inclusionism is universalism in disguise
The GCI website is agnostic on this point: “We cannot profess to know whether every person will finally come to faith.” However, it is accurate to say that some inclusionists are universalists, that is, they believe in the ultimate reconciliation of humanity. It is also accurate to say that many inclusionists (the majority?) are not universalists. That is, they subscribe to historical reconciliation but not ultimate reconciliation. This leads to the following claim.
7. Inclusionism says you’re in until you’re out
You won’t find this on the GCI website but this is the inescapable conclusion of inclusionism. If everyone is now saved (see claim #5 above), but faith is still needed to make what is objectively true become subjectively true, then it is inevitable that some will not be saved in the end. In other words, you’re in until you’re out.
Many inclusionists are horrified when they hear this and think I am misrepresenting their beliefs. I sincerely hope I am! But I am not misrepresenting inclusionism.
Two plus two is four. Either inclusionism is universalism in disguise, or it preaches insecurity to those who are in Christ. If inclusionism says all are now saved (and righteous, holy, and in union with Christ), but all won’t end up saved (and righteous, holy, and in union with Christ), then what God has joined together, man can tear apart.
This is just one of many reasons why the doctrine of inclusionism is not good news.