The SBJT Forum: Responses to Inclusivism -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 02:2 (Summer 1998)
Article: The SBJT Forum: Responses to Inclusivism
Author: Anonymous

The SBJT Forum:
Responses to Inclusivism

Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the Forum’s format. Timothy George, Carl F. H. Henry, D. A. Carson, Scott Hafemann, and C. Ben Mitchell have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. The journal’s goal for the Forum is to provide significant thinkers’ views on topics of interest without requiring lengthy articles from these heavily-committed individuals. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the Forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.

SBJT: Historically, why have Christian missionaries believed salvation does not come through other religions?

Timothy George1 : In 1792 William Carey, an English shoemaker turned Baptist pastor, published a little treatise entitled An Inquiry Into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. Using the best statistics available to him at the time, Carey surveyed the religious state of the world and concluded that “a very considerable part of mankind is still involved in all the darkness of heathenism.” Against certain hyper-Calvinistic Christians, he argued that the Great Commission was still in effect and that the missionary mandate of Jesus required believers “to use every lawful method to spread the knowledge of His Name” to all peoples everywhere. For forty-one years Carey himself labored in India proclaiming to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and all others a “free salvation for poor and perishing sinners.”

Carey is still honored as “The Father of Modern Missions,” but his understanding of the exclusive claims of Christ has been denigrated by many modern theologians. Today we wince at words such as heathen and sinners when applied to those who do not consciously profess faith in Jesus Christ. Is there really a culture-permeable gospel without the knowledge of which men and women are irretrievably lost? What about those who have never heard the name of Jesus? Is Jesus indeed “the only way” or merely one of several possible pathways to God? Both religious pluralism and Christian inclusivism seek to answer these questions in ways that soften the offense of the message Carey and generations of missionaries who followed in his wake believed they had been commissioned to proclaim: Personal faith in Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation for all peoples everywhere, and those who die without this saving knowledge face eternal separation from God.

Religious pluralism holds that the divine transcendent reality has many different “faces” revealed in the various religious traditions among humankind. Thus wh...

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