“Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.” (Isa. 43:10-11)
Inclusion has become a watchword in our culture in recent years. The philosophy supporting inclusion has many admirable goals: that every person be accorded respect, given opportunities to succeed, and be treated with equal justice. The drive to overcome the effects of prejudice, poverty and perks for the privileged is laudable, if not fully attainable. But as with all philosophies, there are cases where the mantra of inclusion doesn’t add up.
The doctrine of inclusiveness is used to castigate Christianity as elitist because it asserts there is only one God, represented in the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It does not affirm other religions as equally valid. To those committed to inclusion, this seems unloving, disrespectful and just plain wrong.
Christianity is certainly exclusive in its belief there is one truth, and one God who has revealed that truth. By its very definition, truth is exclusive. Any statement that can be made is either completely true, partially true, or completely false. Truth is not about opinions, feelings or imaginings; it’s about reality. Our acceptance or rejection of truth doesn’t affect the reality. Someone may passionately believe that 2 plus 2 is 3, but I won’t validate that answer because it flies in the face of what can be demonstrated to be true.
God repeatedly affirms in His Word that only He is God. There are thousands of ‘small-g’ gods, of course, but every one of them is an imposter. Following them takes us places, and none of them is good. The reason God is so insistent on this point is that unless we understand this truth, we’re being set up for griefs of every kind. That’s not what God wants for His children, and we are all His children. It’s not out of conceit that God underlines His unique place as Creator and Sustainer of the universe; it’s out of concern that we know what is true and make our decisions based on that truth.
Our belief in God is not mere conjecture or magical thinking. It’s not a philosophy generated by a human mind. And God doesn’t demand that we just take His word for it. Through the millennia of human existence, God has repeatedly communicated directly with His creation, revealing who He is, His plans for us, His purposes, and our choices. He’s shown us the right way to live, with plenty of pertinent details, and warned us of the consequences of choosing other ways. He has performed outstanding miracles, and announced future events in great detail long before they happened.
“I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said . . . ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right. (Isa 45:19)
“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I made known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ ” (Isa 46:9-10)
Most crucial of all, God has sent HIs own Son to teach and reach us hands-on. Jesus is the greatest revelation of God the world has witnessed, and His death and resurrection the irrefutable and conclusive evidence that He is exactly who He said: God’s incarnate Son and our loving Savior. His resurrection transformed His disciples from fearful men who were in hiding into fearless witnesses ready to die for the truth He proclaimed and so clearly demonstrated.
Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
For any Christian who understands this truth, saying that other faiths are equally valid would really be unloving, disrespectful and just plain wrong. We are to love, respect and pray for every person, regardless of their belief system, and answer their questions truthfully, but not harshly. We must be careful not to be intimidated by potential backlash from society, but to gently affirm both God’s love for others and stand on His unchanging truth.
While God is exclusive, His love and His outreach is totally inclusive. There is no more level ground than the place on which every human being stands before God. He has no favorites. Every living person is a sinner who needs a Savior, and sinners are the people God seeks and longs to embrace. They’re the ones for whom Jesus died. In God’s eyes, we are all equally important, and He is not willing that any should be lost. We are free to reject Him, but in doing so we condemn ourselves and break God’s heart.
God is truth, and the truth is exclusive. God is inclusive in His desire for every person to be saved by coming to Jesus, who has made salvation possible. Jesus’ resurrection is conclusive proof of this truth, and the truth precludes everything else.
Exclusive, inclusive, conclusive: God stands alone, but we never have to. He’s proven that conclusively through our Lord Jesus Christ, and the presence of His own Holy Spirit within all who believe.
Thanks be to God, both now and forevermore!