Exclusivism vs. inclusivism


#1

I have a TV appearance on the 4th of June on the topic of those who haven’t heard the Gospel etc, exclusivism vs. inclusivism vs. pluralism etc… I should be giving the modern Catholic position of inclusivism i.e. while there is one true religion and full way of salvation yet others can be saved as well.

Now I’d like some help with some of the main problems.

  1. It seems (at least it’s a general opinion) that Vatican II marked a decive shift in Catholic teaching from exclusivism to inclusivism.
  2. Romans 1-3, especially 2:12 ; and Romans 10:9-15 are often used against inclusivism. What would be the best way to interprete these?
  3. How come we now stress dialog and the possibility of salvation in other faiths while the first Christians, facing pagan religions, simply preached the Gospel? (similar situation, different conduct/approach)
  4. How on earth do we deal with the hypothetical good Muslim/pagan who’s going to be saved in terms of regerenation/justification? If he’s not born again, how can he attain eternal life? If he is, what if a preacher meets him and proclaims faith and baptism as the means of salvation - he’s proclaiming falsely since the man is already regenerate. Suppose he accepts the message - then baptism doesn’t regenerate him since he was already born again. Suppose he refuses - then the Gospel has un-saved a person while it’s supposed to do the opposite, in which case it’d be better not to proclaim and leave it to the uknown secret ways of God’s grace.

Very much appreciate all your help. Hope we have a good discussion.


#2

I don’t cotton to modern “-isms”


#3

Anyone else, then?

I seriously have a problem with this now that I’m looking into it. I have read exclusivist biblical arguments and find them rather convincing, it seems the clear NT teaching is that faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation and that is the only way. Contrarily there seems to be no evidence at all in either the NT or any of the Church Fathers for inclusivism, which now seems to be the official teaching of the Church in Vatican II. This is really troubling - has the Church gone wrong big time?

I looked up the Search thingie on CA and found a couple of This Rock articles on the topic but their biblical evidence was very poor. The references to God’s universal salvific will always go together with a knowledge of Christ and Christ’s salvific work, Cornelius’ case isn’t good because it was the gospel message that saved him (Acts 11:14) and Romans 2 is ambiguous at best, clearly exclusivist at worst (Rm 2:12 according to a certain interpretation), and if it did support inclusivism it’d strike as odd that it’s such an isolated passage not at all in line with the rest of biblical teaching - and it’s definitely not explicit anyways, doesn’t say non-Christians can go to heaven.

So I’m left wondering whether the Vatican II statements and a couple of non-infallible papal statements in the 19th and 20th centuries are good enough a case for inclusivism when compared to the huge amount of biblical, patristic and magisterial evidence for exclusivism…

Which makes me conclude at the moment that we should perhaps interpret Vatican II very carefully, stressing the traditional position and the hypothetical nature of the V2 declarations…that non-Christians may/can be saved but that we definitely have no positive assurance or evidence they will. This seems to go against the current since almost no theologians and no post-V2 Popes have held to exclusivism it seems… and the whatever council or delegation or congregation for this in the Vatican explains the documents in a very liberal way, saying people can be saved by following their conscience and the good things in their religious traditions… which really makes me wonder whether the Church is interested in staying faithful to revelation or simply following trends or human opinions… Please get the best people you know to help me with this as soon as possible! It’s really urgent.


#4

good luck, inclusivism is not unbiblical but I would say that pluralism is. I don’t agree with everything this guy says he has some good passages you could read,
ukapologetics.net/evinc.htm


#5

Not true. The concepts of baptism by desire and invincible ignorance were in place before that. It seems to me that Vatican II took a drastically more optimistic tone than had been prevalent before, moving from an admission that maybe some non-Catholics could be saved to a broadly generous appreciation of the truth and goodness found among non-Christians and non-Catholic Christians. But I don’t think it’s true that strict exclusivism was the Catholic position before Vatican II.

  1. Romans 1-3, especially 2:12 ; and Romans 10:9-15 are often used against inclusivism. What would be the best way to interprete these?

Romans 2 as a whole implies that some Gentiles will be justified based on the fact that they have “done by nature the things contained in the law.” Of course, the standard Protestant/Calvinist interpretation is that everyone is in fact condemned because the class of persons who are justified in this manner is empty. I do not see this as a necessary conclusion to be drawn from Romans as a whole, precisely because such a reading makes this passage in Romans 2 an empty mockery. I think this is a very unfortunate passage for opponents of inclusivism to draw attention to–it is one of the two principal witnesses in favor of inclusivism in the New Testament (the parable of the sheep and the goats being the other).

  1. How come we now stress dialog and the possibility of salvation in other faiths while the first Christians, facing pagan religions, simply preached the Gospel? (similar situation, different conduct/approach)

Some early Christians, such as Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria, did speak generously of the good aspects in pagan religions and spoke of the “seed-bearing Word” which was present even outside the formal boundaries of divine revelation. Furthermore, it is understandable that the early Christians would take a generally harsh line. They were confident in the holiness of their own community (I am not accusing them of self-righteousness here) and were aware of the great sinfulness of pagan culture, which was furthermore oppressing and persecuting them. After 2000 years, many of them full of sin and oppression committed *by Christians, *and all of them bringing further reflection on the implications of our faith, it is reasonable that we take a more generous approach.

Furthermore, when we encounter Hinduism or Buddhism we are encountering “pagan” religions that have undergone a lengthy process of moral and spiritual reflection and transformation. This did begin in ancient Greco-Roman paganism (partly perhaps under pressure from the Christian critique), but it was short-lived because Christianity took over and assumed into itself the moral and spiritual insights that were developing among pagans. Contrary to what C. S. Lewis (who knew almost nothing about Hinduism) claims in Mere Christianity and elsewhere, Hinduism does not seem simply to leave the philosophical/moral/mystical reflection and the everyday practice to flourish separately and unconnected from each other. Hinduism as we know it today has been deeply shaped by the centuries of reflection and devotion focused on a single Divine Reality. That is not to say that we can simply endorse Hinduism as Christians. Obviously we have deep disagreements with it, and there may be many places where the denunciations of the Hebrew Prophets and the ancient Christians apply to Hinduism. But we can’t simply assume that because it is in some sense “polytheistic,” therefore it is exactly the same as the ancient pagan religions of the Mediterranean. (Obviously we’d have to discuss other non-Christian religions one by one–I pick on Hinduism because it is in some sense “polytheistic” and thus relatively closer to ancient paganism than Islam or even Buddhism.)

  1. How on earth do we deal with the hypothetical good Muslim/pagan who’s going to be saved in terms of regerenation/justification? If he’s not born again, how can he attain eternal life? If he is, what if a preacher meets him and proclaims faith and baptism as the means of salvation - he’s proclaiming falsely since the man is already regenerate. Suppose he accepts the message - then baptism doesn’t regenerate him since he was already born again. Suppose he refuses - then the Gospel has un-saved a person while it’s supposed to do the opposite, in which case it’d be better not to proclaim and leave it to the uknown secret ways of God’s grace.

My own view (but remember that I’m not Catholic) is that no non-Christian can strictly be said to be regenerate. I would say that the grace such people receive is “prevenient grace”–grace that leads them toward Christ.

Edwin


#6

Thanks Edwin for the edifying response.
I just finished reading professor Ruokanen’s book “The Catholic doctrine of non-Christian Religions according to Vatican II” and it helped me a bit. The conclusion is that V2 didn’t really change anything but represents a true development of preconciliar papal teachings, the only novelty being positive descriptions of non-christian religions, which I believe people recognized even before the council (=there are good and true elements in other religions).

The points about Hinduism and morality as well as the one about Christian holiness vs. sin were good ones, thanks.

Yes Romans 2 as simple hypothetical speculation is silly because then the Jews could’ve easily refuted Paul’s whole argument against them.

I guess the person who’s invincibly ignorant but has at least fides implicita and does good comes under prevenient grace but the point is, prevenient grace makes one come to Christ and thus receive sanctifying grace. Perhaps God grants that at the moment of death if the person has been faithfully living under the prevenient grace till the end.


#7

By the way, after my recent visit to England I began wondering if I perhaps should start believing Anglicans/Episcopalians actually are Catholic, heh…have a look at my blog post on it:
emilanton.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/our-lady-of-walsingham-2452008/


#8

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