Is Jesus the Only Savior? – Inclusivism (Pt. 1)

JesusANALYSIS

Ronald H. Nash, after illustrating the inadequacy of pluralism’s rebuttal to exclusivist claims, now moves to the second major view of his book: inclusivism. This analysis of inclusivism constitutes the whole second part of his work.

Chapter Seven

Nash begins with a basic introduction to inclusivism; he assumes that his reader knows nothing. This permits the author to build his examination throughout the next chapters, whereby every reader ought to be able to function from a basic understanding of inclusivism. Nash also utilizes the inclusivist scholars that he later focuses on – e.g. John Sanders and Charles Pinnock – to establish a preface to inclusivist thought. This seams the whole book together, as well as generates a consistency in the reader’s mind. The author continues to define some important terms, which will be utilized in the following chapters, as well as note the variety of inclusivist prevalence. Nash exhaustively summarizes the necessary points of inclusivism that provide distinction from exclusivism and pluralism. There are a plethora of concise definitions that the reader can easily retain and apply for the rest of the analysis. Essentially, Nash is consitent by defining pluralism according to its answer to the two questions proposed at the beginning of his work: 1) “Jesus Christ is the only Savior” and 2) “No one can be saved unless he or she knows the information about Jesus’ person and work contained in the Gospel and unless he or she exercises explicit faith in Jesus Christ.”[4] Pluralists reject both (1) and (2), and inclusivists accept (1) but reject (2). It is with this definition of inclusivism that Nash moves to the critique of the view. Concluding the chapter, he alerts the reader to his structure: chapter eight will deal with the theological issues, and chapter nine will address the biblical issues.

Chapter Eight

 The first paragraph of the chapter alerts the student of a somewhat structural and systematic issue. “Despite the separation of chapters, no strict segregation of the biblical and theological issues is really possible.”[1] When one is conducting Christian theology, given the superiority of the special revelation of Scripture, it becomes impossible to analyze theological truth-claims apart from biblical studies. Nash affirms this assumption by consistently using biblical references in the chapter. The extent of non-biblical theology is almost non-existent.

The first theological issue is that of general revelation. “A key assumption of inclusivism is the belief that general revelation is sufficient to bring people to salvation.”[2] Nash’s mode of correcting this inclusivist skew is through Scripture, Romans chs. 1-3. In this passage, “Paul makes it plain that general revelation does not and cannot save.”[3] The author builds a conclusive claim to refute inclusivism’s view of general revelation. Also, Nash presents some common ‘proof-texts’ used by inclusivists to support their position. As it will later be observed in the following chapters, this ‘proof-texting’ method by inclusivists is severely misguided. The author methodically and succinctly addresses the few texts, and moves to his next theological issue: the distinction between believers and non-believers.

Nash analyzes this last theological issue by addressing three areas within the issue: 1) the understanding of faith, 2) believers in the Old Testament, and 3)‘holy pagans.’ He proceeds through each of these issues, and frankly devastates inclusivism’s skewed theology. Nash is concise and clear; each paragraph is so weighted that the reader is almost overwhelmed with proofs against inclusivism. Before moving onto the biblical issues, the author touches on many more inconsistencies within inclusivist thought – e.g. the love of God, God’s foreknowledge, the self-glorifying ‘new gospel,’ infants’ link to the unevangelized, etc. All of these analyses culminate in a strong case for exclusivist theology.


[1] Ronald H. Nash, Is Jesus the Only Savior? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 117.

[2] Ibid., 118.

[3] Ibid., 119.

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