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Message from the Pastor

Pastor Danyal Mohammadzadeh

Three Views of the Fate of Non-Christians

There are three broad views held by Christians regarding the eternal fate of non-Christians: Christian Exclusivism, Christian Universalism, and Christian Inclusivism.
  1. Christian Exclusivism (five percent of our congregation identify themselves as Christian Exclusivists.)
    This position is held by a significant number of Christian fundamentalists, conservatives, and many evangelicals. Christian Exclusivism holds that unless someone personally accepts Christ and the salvation he offers, they continue to be “dead in their sins,” and, of necessity, alienated from God. Sin is part of the human condition. Jesus came to address and atone for human sin, but like an inoculation, Exclusivists believe, his atonement is only effective for an individual if they accept it by faith.

    It is here that the Exclusivists’ position regarding the eternal fate of non-Christians takes its stand: The saving grace of Jesus must be received or accepted by faith. No one can be saved apart from repenting of their sin and calling upon Christ to save them.

    There are nuances to the Exclusivist position. The most extreme position says that children, the mentally disabled, and people who never heard the gospel of Christ will perish, even though they had no real opportunity to receive the gospel.

  2. Christian Universalism (eleven percent of our congregation identify themselves as Christian Universalists.)
    Christian Universalists are often associated with more liberal expressions of Christianity, but there are evangelicals who hold this view as well. There is an opposite view held by some in the Christian community called Christian Universalism. This is not to be confused with Unitarian Universalism.

    Christian Universalism claims that Christ is the only Savior of the world, and that God’s intention is to save all people. And since God intends to save all people, God ultimately will save all people.

    Again, as with Exclusivism, there are nuances to this position. Some believe that there will be people who may be subject to judgment for a time, but that, ultimately, all will be reconciled to God. They note that there are many scriptures that point to the fact that Christ died for all, that God “so loves the world,” and that God cares about “the nations” despite the fact that they worship other gods.

  3. Christian Inclusivism (seventy seven percent of our congregation identify themselves as Christian Inclusivists.)
    This position is held by a large number of mainline Protestants, the Roman Catholic Church, and many evangelicals as well. Like the other two views, it affirms that Christ is the only Savior of the world. Salvation is found in no one else. Like Christian Universalism, it emphasizes God’s desire that all should be saved, and that Christ’s redeeming work was for all people. It believes, with John 14:6, that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus, and with Acts 4:12, that there is no other name—no other savior—by which the world can be saved but Jesus. All who ultimately enter heaven will do so because of the work and grace of Jesus. All will meet Christ at their death and most will recognize him as the Savior.

    With moderate Christian Exclusivists, Christian Inclusivists believe that God can show mercy to children who were too young to understand the gospel, as well as persons with cognitive disabilities, and that God will judge those who never heard the gospel according to their hearts and how they responded to what they could know of God through nature and their consciences. The Christian Inclusivist embraces this idea that a just, merciful, loving, and compassionate God would not condemn to hell those who had no real ability to hear, understand, and respond to the good news of Jesus, to accept his saving grace. But they would go beyond the moderate Exclusivist.

    The Inclusivist notes that there are billions of people who were raised in another faith and culture, or with no faith at all, who, even if they heard the Christian gospel, might have a difficult time embracing it. Imagine from the time you were small having your faith and ideas about God lovingly shared by your grandparents, parents, and religious leaders. Their faith is the defining story of their lives.

    Might God see the faith of those of other religions, and the way they sought to live their lives, and understand that their prayers, worship, trust, and actions were intended for him even if the individual did not understand or embrace the Christian gospel? I have met Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and others whose lives reflected a deeper love of God and neighbor than some Christians that I have known. (7% of our congregation did not fall into any of the above three categories.)

    Jesus spent most of his ministry with people who, for whatever reason, had turned away from God. I believe God is still seeking these folks out. Unlike the Christian Universalist, however, the Inclusivist believes that God will not force anyone to heaven, and that Christ gives us the freedom to reject his grace to the end. They may say, “I am not interested in living in your realm; I don’t want to dwell in a place where I’m expected to live a life of selfless love, to let go of my resentments, to give up my desires and to no longer do things my way.” Perhaps, in God’s mercy, he created a place for those who reject him, his love, his kingdom. The Christian Inclusivist trusts that God knows the heart of each person, that God judges in the light of his mercy and love, and that God can apply the saving work of Jesus to anyone God chooses. And, Christian Inclusivists reject the idea that all people who do not personally accept Christ will be eternally tormented in hell.

Pastor Danyal