Credo magazine is a free online publication produced bi-monthly. The January edition tackles the issue of inclusivism under the title "In Christ Alone." Matthew Barrett's Editorial lays out the exclusivist position:
"It is only through faith in Christ that a sinner can be saved from hell and the wrath of God."
Trevin Wax distinguishes exclusivism and inclusivism by listing the following two propositions:
"Jesus is the only way to God.” “One must place faith in Christ in order to be saved.”
Exclusivism affirms both statements. Inclusivism affirms the first and denies the second. (He doesn't address the issue of infant salvation, though other contributors do mention it).
Wax identifies the negative implications of inclusivism in the following way:
"Unfortunately, adopting the inclusivist approach does harm to our Christian witness by lessening the urgency of taking the gospel to people who have never heard of Jesus Christ. It also represents a capitulation to Western notions of “fairness,” subjective views of faith, and worldly descriptions of “goodness.”
So the problem with inclusivism is, 1) we lose the urgency to reach the unreached, 2) it arises when we follow our feelings rather than what the Scriptures actually say.
From here on, the magazine repeats these themes again and again. The urgency of missions and the need to be biblical rather than PC-driven.
I am whole-heartedly with them in these aims. Christ must be proclaimed in all the nations and there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). But what's interesting to me is the way in which the question is framed. Again and again I got the feeling that Christ was being held forth as the sole distributor of eternal fire insurance. Salvation is defined pretty consistently as "not hell" and Christ is portrayed as the means of escape. When put like that, the exclusivist position can sound like a heavy-handed assertion rather than something arising from the nature of the gospel.
Many times the magazine's writers anticipated objections, yet their response was usually a re-assertion of certain verses and a plea to be biblical and not worldly. All of which begs the question why do we insist on Christ alone? Is it that the Bible has this embarrassingly narrow doctrine but true believers will stick to the Scriptures, no matter how unpopular?
Or is it that Christ is actually so vast that naming the true Lord of this world means naming Christ alone?
One article stood head and shoulders above the others. And you won't be surprised to hear me say it was Mike Reeves'.
Here's how he began and ended his article:
What does it look like when a church starts to assume that people can be saved without faith in Christ? If I had been left to guess, I might have said it would look much the same, only a bit flabbier: comforted by the thought that good Buddhists and religious Hindus will be saved, the church would lose its evangelistic zeal, of course – but otherwise, life would go on.
However, the situation in Britain today proves that guess wildly over-optimistic. In the last few decades, the belief that people can be saved without trusting Christ has come to be the standard assumption here, even in relatively conservative Christian circles. And wherever that idea reigns, I am seeing a sickness that goes much deeper than apathy. More than no evangelism, it means no real evangel. Quite simply, that is because if ‘salvation’ is thought of as something other than being brought to know Christ, then that ‘salvation’ is something quite different to what Christ himself offers.
...to say that it is not important to know Christ explicitly is to say that salvation is something else....
...Where faith in Christ is considered inessential for salvation, there people are left with little more than a boiled-down religiosity – a tedious God and a meagre salvation. It may wear Christian clothing – as Arius did – but anyone that thinks that knowing Christ is superfluous simply cannot have grasped how different the God he reveals is, the nature of his salvation, how great the assurance to be found in him. In which case, no wonder their Christianity seems lifeless and dreary.
At first glance, of course it seems more generous and attractive to ‘lower the bar’ of salvation and make knowledge of Christ unnecessary. But the joyless, unassured lives of so many Christians in Britain testifies to the fact that when knowing Christ is considered insignificant, there is no truly good news left.
Christ is not the sole distributor of fire insurance. He is the true God and eternal life! (1 John 5:20) No wonder salvation is in Christ alone. Salvation is Christ alone!