Inclusivism Based on Anti-Biblical Assumptions
“What [Jesus] doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him” (Bell, Love Wins, 154).
“There is inclusivity. The kind that is open to all religions, the kind that trusts that good people will get in, that there is only one mountain, but it has many paths. This inclusivity assumes that as long as your heart is fine or your actions measure up, you’ll be okay” (p. 155).
The last phrase is key: "This inclusivity assumes that as long as your heart is fine or your actions measure up, you'll be okay."
I. The Bible teaches, contra the assumptions of Bell's inclusivism, that apart from a work of God -- a work performed by means of His gospel: a work that inevitably leads to faith in Christ -- my heart and your heart is NOT fine. The Bible is consistent in this:
A. Before the Great Deluge: "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Gen 6:5 ESV)
B. After the Deluge had subsided: "he intention of man's heart is evil from his youth." (Gen 8:21b ESV)
C. During the time of the prophets: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer 17:9 KJV)
D. During the ministry of Jesus: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." (Matt 15:19 NKJV)
->This "heart problem" is why we need God's New Covenant work, by which he removes our old heart and gives us a new heart (Eze 11:19; 36:26). God's promise to give new hearts to His people comes in the context of freeing us from idolatry (Eze 11:18; 36:25), so the inclusivist has no grounds for saying that people following other religions may similarly be given new hearts.
II. The Bible teaches, contra the assumptions of Bell's inclusivism, that our actions, flowing from our sin-corrupted hearts, DON'T measure up:
A. Works-- even the best of works: the works of the law-- will not save anyone; God prescribes good works (at least primarily) to bring knowledge of sin: "because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." (Rom 3:20 NASB)
B. The Law (that only list of works that even has some appearance of being salvific) requires PERFECT obedience: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (Jas 2:10 NIV)
C. We have all fallen short of God's holy standard: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom 3:23 HCSB)
D. When people are actually saved, it is by faith, not by works: "For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift— not from works, so that no one can boast." (Eph 2:8-9 HCSB)
->We are not "okay" because our actions do NOT measure up. Further human actions are not the means that God has ordained to make up the deficit so that we can be "okay" in God's sight; seeking to gain God's favor through our actions will only further expose our sinful condition. We need God's grace; we need Him to grant us salvation through faith apart from works. This salvation from God leaves no room for boasting so that God alone receives all the glory.