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are we all bound for heaven christian theology and other religions

Are We All Bound for Heaven?Christian Theology and Other Religions

Is it possible?

“Western society is now irretrievably mixed, pluralist in character…It is a visible and obvious fact to be seen in every major city, where Caucasian and Afro-Caribbean, South Asian and Chinese ethnic types jostle on every street. The questions of the British census were available in English, Welsh, Bengali, Cantonese, Greek, Gujurati, Hindu, Italian, Punjabi, Turkish and Urdu…”

- Christopher Lamb


“One religion is best but salvation is possible in other religions”

religion polls
Religion Polls

Polls of 1006 people

is britain a
Is Britain a…
  • 82%

of all respondents think religion causes division between people

  • 57%

Think religion is a force for good

  • 49%

of those from non Christian backgrounds are religious

  • One of the several approaches to understanding the relationship between religions.
  • Asserts that while one set of beliefs is absolutely true, other sets of beliefs are at least partially true.
  • It stands contrast to exclusivism, which asserts that only one way is true and all others are in error.
  • Also in contrast with pluralism, which asserts that all beliefs are equally valid within a believer’s particular context.
  • Inclusivist theology was originally set out by the Roman Catholic theologian Karl Rahner, and formally adopted at Vatican II by the Roman Catholic Church’s as their official position regarding those in other religions.
  • "Those also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them by the dictates of their conscience." Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium, 16
there are two groups of inclusivist thought
There are two groups of Inclusivist thought:
  • Traditional Inclusivism – asserts that the believer’s own views are absolutely true, and believers of other religions are correct insofar as they agree with that believer.
  • Relativistic Inclusivism – asserts that an unknown set of assertions are Absolutely True, that no human being currently living has yet ascertained Absolute Truth, but that all human beings have ascertained Absolute Truth to one degree or another.
  • Strands of both types of Inclusivist thought of both types run through all faiths.
  • Christian inclusivism was a response to a very simple dilemma not readily accommodated in Christian exclusivism. If, as Exclusivists teach, salvation is only found in Jesus and received through hearing and accepting the gospel (e.g. Romans 10:9) then what is the eternal fate of Old Testament figures such as Abraham and Moses who are clearly saved (Hebrews 11), yet did not directly hear the gospel?
  • To deal with this Inclusivists see a wideness in God’s mercy as effected through the love of God and the cross

- ‘For God so loved the world that he sent his Son…’ (John 3:16)

- ‘He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9)

  • They believe that we are not born out of a relationship with God (exclusivism) but already in a relationship with God. The grace of God (which is required for salvation) is said to be already present within us as a divine gift. So when people hear the gospel and accept it they are not turning from darkness to light but are merely confirming what they already are; a child of God.
  • This is why there is religion outside of Christianity. It is not that people have turned from the Truth and created false religions but rather people are seeking God by the best means available to them at that time. Therefore, if people in other religions do not hear the gospel they will still be saved. However, this is not by their religion, but because of their religion.
evidence in the different religions
Evidence in the different religions
  • Christianity

- Jesus said “He who is not against me is for me” Gospel of Mark 9:40

- Jesus said “Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” Luke 12:10

- The Apostle Peter wrote of God: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9

- An aphorism common in some Christian circles: “All Truth is God’s Truth”

  • Judaism

- The Talmud states: “The righteous of all peoples have a place in the World-To-Come” (Tos. To Sanhedrin 13:2, Sifra to Leviticus 19:18) and affirms that the great majority of non-Jewish humanity will be saved, due to God’s overwhelming mercy.

- Rabbinic tradition asserts that the basic standard of righteousness was established in a covenant with Noah: anyone who keeps the seven commandments of this covenant is assured of salvation, no matter what their religion. This is standard Jewish teaching for the past two thousand years.

  • Islam

- The Qur’an revealed through Muhammad, states “Those with Faith, those who are Jews, and the Christians and Sabaeans, all who have Faith in Allah and the Last Day and act rightly, will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow” (Qur’an, Surat al-Baqara; 2:62).

- “Our God and your God are one and we submit to Him” (Surat al-’Ankabut; 29:46)

  • Hinduism

- Gita states: “O Arjuna, even those devotees who worship lesser deities (e.g. Devas) with faith, they also worship Me, but in an improper way because I am the Supreme Being. I alone am the enjoyer of all sacrifical services (Seva, Yajna) and Lord of the Universe” Gita 9:23

inclusivism says
“Inclusivism says…
  • …that even though the work of Christ is the only means of salvation, it does not follow that explicit knowledge of Christ is necessary in order for one to be saved.
  • In contrast to pluralism, inclusivism agrees with exclusivism in affirming the particularity of salvation in Jesus Christ.
  • But unlike exclusivism, inclusivism holds that an implicit faith response to general revelation can be salvific. God expects from man a response proportional to the light given. Saving faith is not characterised so much by its cognitive content as it is by its reverent quality”

– Ken Keathley

Romans 2 indicates that there are justified law-doers without exposure to the Law--law-doers not in the sense of sinless perfection, but in the sense of the obedience of those in Romans 2:7,9.

Passages such as Acts 4:12 indicate the ontological necessity of Christ's work, but not knowledge of that work.

People like Cornelius and Melchizedek show that one can be a God-fearer who pleases God, in right relationship, before hearing special revelation.

That infants who die are saved, without respect to faith or lineage (something that almost all proponents of exclusivism hold), shows that special revelation is not absolutely necessary for salvation.

That God is loving and good infers that God would save the unreached.

It would be unjust of God to damn those without knowledge of the gospel

Critics of inclusivism argue that general revelation, or anything else for that matter besides Christ himself, is not sufficient for salvation.

", not professing the Christian religion, [cannot] be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. And, to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested, (Westminster Confession of the Faith, X.4, emphasis supplied, quoted in Robert Reymond's, Contending for the Faith, s.v. "The 'Very Pernicious and Detestable' Doctrine of Inclusivism", p. 367).

The only way to the father is through Jesus (John 14:6), furthermore, "he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:12).

Most emphatically, Paul declares: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent." (Romans 10:13-15)




karl rahner
Karl Rahner
  • Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner. In volume 5 of his Theological Investigations, he argues that:

1. "Christianity understands itself as the absolute religion, intended for all people, which cannot recognize any other religion beside itself as of equal right."

2. revelation of God in Christ took place at a specific time in history. Those who lived before, or who have not yet heard of it, would seemed excluded from salvation. This is incompatible with God's will to save all.

3. Knowledge of God, and God's saving grace must therefore be available outside Christianity, including other religions, despite their errors and shortcomings

4. faithful adherents of non-Christians religions should be regarded as "anonymous Christians"

"Somehow all people must be able to be members of the church."

5. Religious pluralism will always be part of human existence

  • In other words, Rahner says:

Christianity and Christ have a unique and exclusive status that other religions do not share


knowledge of God (God's self-revelation) may be present in other religions

the grace of God and even salvation may be present in other religions

grace might be mediated by the lifestyle they evoke, e.g. selfless love

  • Rahner justifies his position as follows:

Consider the Old Testament, the outlook of a non-Christian religion, Judaism.

We discard some practices we regard as unacceptable (e.g. dietary laws)

We retain others as valid (e.g. moral laws)

We can do the same with other religions

criticisms of inclusivism
Criticisms of Inclusivism…
  • The term "anonymous Christians" has been widely criticized:

- John Hick: paternalistic: "honorary status granted unilaterally to people who have not expressed any desire for it."

- Hans Küng: "It would be impossible to find anywhere in the world a sincere Jew, Muslim or atheist who would not regard the assertion that he is an 'anonymous Christian' as presumptuous" 

  • In Rahner's defense, the term "anonymous Christian" was perhaps intended to suggest that Christians should give the faithful adherents of non-Christian religions the same "status" in their reflections on the People of God as they give to their fellow Christians.
inclusivism and multiculturalism is it possible
Inclusivism and Multiculturalism - Is it possible?
  • “…In the wake of Islamic migration and increased secularization in the West, many people and their politicians are beginning to turn their backs on a multicultural path to the future.”
  • “In the course of history, Christians moved from a state of relative insignificance to an oppressed minority group until the fourth century when they became oppressors of other minority groups.”
  • “In Book IV of ‘The Republic’ Plato gives a report of the dialogue Socrates has with one of his dialogue partners, Adeimantus, about the question what makes a city a just and good city. Do you know, Socrates asks, what the difference is between Athens, our city, and the barbarian cities? It is this that Athens is united, it is a unity, it is one. The barbarian cities, Socrates says, are “in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other the city of the rich”. Our city, Athens, is just and good, Socrates says, the barbarian cities are not just and not good, because they are divided into two.
  • In this sense, our cities today are barbarian cities. New York with its innumerable black quarters, London with its quarters full of inhabitants from its former colonies, Rotterdam with plenty of its no-go areas. Why is this?”...(continues on article ‘The Multicultural Drama: Religion’s Failures and Challenge’).
on being a christian
On Being a Christian…
  • "... it is impossible today for any one religion to exist in splendid isolation and ignore the others. Today more than ever, Christianity too is brought into contact, discussion and confrontation with other religions. To the extension of the geographical horizon of religion at the beginning of modern times there has been added in our own time an enormous extension of the historical horizon."

- Hans Küng, On Being a Christian, p. 89