My Position Reiterated
Postmodern philosophy is an enemy to the gospel as surely as was the philosophy of modernism. As modernism assaulted the Word of God through rationalistic “higher criticism” that undermined the inerrancy of Scripture and proceeded to deny the posibility of God through embracing materialism, which is contrary to Jesus’ teaching that “God is Spirit” (cf. John 4:24). Postmodernism assaults the Word of God by an experientialism that undermines the sufficiency of Scripture and proceeds to deny Jesus through embracing relativism, which is contrary to Jesus’ teaching that “I am the Truth” (cf. John 14:6).
Postmodern Inclusivism Explained
A prime example of the assault waged by postmodernism against the gospel of our Lord can be seen in the chapter “Between Exclusivity and Plurality: Toward a Postmodern Christian Philosophy of Other Religions” by Andrew Dell’Olio found in the book Postmodern Philosophy and Christian Thought, edited by Merold Westphal. In this chapter, Dell’Olio states that he wishes to “bracket” the issue of salvation and speak instead of truth– he decries what he refers to as the error of “soteriocentrism”– indeed, he directly identifies the idea of soul-winning to the crusades or jihad: acts of violence by religious fanatics.
He states, “I will argue that the postmodern Christian philosopher ought to reject the position of religious exclusivism.” [In this case, “religious exclusivism” refers to the belief that Christianity is true and all other religions are false.]
Calling for “a posture of openness to the other religion,” the author promotes “a postmodern version of Christian inclusivism [which] maintains that divine truth is definitely in Jesus Christ, but that Christianity- the religion- does not enjoy full possession of this truth. Postmodern Christian inclusivism thereby refrains from granting the teachings and practices of the Christian religion any absolute status vis-a-vis other religions.” The author asserts that as all people are made by God for God, any person of another religion may have had divine truth revealed to them, and so we should listen to them. As could already be expected from the previous statements, it is clearly stated in this chapter that people will not go to hell for choosing some religion other than Christianity.
The Biblical Response Examined
First, I would like to point out that the attempt to discuss truth in this context while ignoring the question of salvation is an impossible task. For all religions have an ultimate goal at their core, such as gaining the favor of a god, attaining spiritual enlightenment, or living in harmony with the universe. When a Christian speaking from the biblical perspective makes the claim that the teaching of God’s Word is true and all other religious perspectives are false, the point is not that the various world religions are incorrect on all points of fact, but rather that they fail to achieve the end to which they claim to aspire, whereas only biblical Christianity has the hope of achieving its stated goal- that of eternal reconciliation with God.
The basic, insurmountable problem of seeking to unite a philosophy that promotes inclusivism with Christianity is that the Christian Scriptures– the authority on which the Christian religion rests– are outspokenly exclusive in the sense mentioned above.
To list all the verses that prove this point would basically reconstruct the entire Bible right here on this blog, so I will give a limited sampling from some of the major groupings and teachers recorded in Scripture:
The Law, the Psalms and the Prophets
The Law of Moses commands worship to the LORD exclusively (Exodus 22:20 NKJV): “He who sacrifices to any god, except to the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.”
The Psalms teach us to that there is no god but the LORD alone, and so those who worship other gods are idolaters (Psalm 96:5 NKJV): “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens.”
The prophet Isaiah records the words of the LORD mocking other gods and naming worshippers of other gods as an abomination (Isaiah 41:21-24 NKJV):
“Present your case,” says the Lord. “Bring forth your strong reasons,” says the King of Jacob. “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, That we may consider them, And know the latter end of them; Or declare to us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together. Indeed you are nothing, And your work is nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination.”
The New Testament Witness
The Apostle Paul preached an exclusive gospel (Galatians 1:6-9 ESV):
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel: not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
The Apostle Peter taught an exclusive gospel (Acts 4:11-12 ESV):
“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus taught an exclusive gospel (John 14:6 ESV):
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”
It has been my desire in this post to obey the command of God:
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. (I Thessalonians 5:21-22 NASB)
Postmodern inclusivism has been demonstrated to be a form of evil as it directly contradicts the Word of God.
In seeking to “bracket” the issue of salvation, this philosophy has utterly forsaken the only hope of salvation, found in God’s Word alone:
Where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached. (I Corinthians 1:20-21 HCSB)
[For further reading on related subjects, please see the following links: “The Law of Contradiction” by Phil Johnson, “A Word About Labels” by Phil Johnson, “What Should We Think of the Emerging Church?” Part One and Part Two by Al Mohler.]