I’m sorry to say, but, in general, Fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity loves to be exclusive.
Black and white thinking: saved or unsaved; in or out; blessed or cursed.
We are the Chosen Ones; everyone else is wrong to some degree, and we are the only ones who have most of it right at least.
In the Old Testament (OT), so beloved of the more judgmental sectors of Christianity, there are – of course! – lists of people who are ‘excluded from the assembly’; in other words, they’re not allowed to ‘go into the presence of God’. The main list that springs to mind is the one in Deuteronomy 23:1ff, but there are others too.
Quite apart from those exclusion lists being part of the Old Covenant, of course, many modern Christians have not only revived the lists but have also enthusiastically gold-plated them by adding people from groups that they personally – or corporately – disapprove of. For instance, LGBTQ+ people, unmarried single parents, men who don’t wear ties 😉 , well, the list goes on and its contents vary depending on whom you ask. Maybe it’s best not to ask then? 😉 But it’s going to be that the main criteria for a given ‘exclusive’ Christian’s exclusion of certain people from the Kingdom of Heaven are: a) (in the wider sense) anyone who is not a ‘Christian’; b) (more narrowly) anyone who is not in their specific denomination; and c) (in the narrowest sense) anyone and everyone who does not believe the exact same things as he does. I suppose it gives them a sense of superiority or something.
But, to be fair, the reasons and the heart behind these actions and attitudes are not my target today; instead, I want to use an excellent piece, by Jacob M. Wright, to show why the main verse normally used to justify exclusiveness – John 14:6 – is actually a really inclusive passage of Scripture, not exclusive as it has of course been twisted to mean. Let’s take another look at it:
On the surface, when Jesus says “No-one comes to the father but (except) through Me”, it does look at first sight as if that’s what He’s saying, especially when we see the word ‘except’, which is of itself an exclusive kind of word. Jesus is the only way to the Father. And in a sense, I agree, but for other reasons which are not germane to this present piece. I too have written on this idea before in this blog (but I can’t remember all the places, but one such piece is here 😉 ) There is also Acts 4:12, which appears to say a similar thing, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name [Jesus] under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” But, look, I’m going to stop blathering and let you read Jacob’s piece; it’s a real eye-opener, and will give you a great perspective on this verse. I learned something new from Jacob when I read this.
Here we go:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” (John 14:6)
Today, I would like to discuss this statement. Typically this statement has been interpreted by many Christians as an exclusive statement, but I would like to show how it can and should be interpreted as an inclusive statement. Usually when you hear this verse, it is a Christian trying to use it to basically say that you must be a Christian by saying the sinners prayer or believing the correct things about Jesus in order to “go to heaven instead of hell.” This is just not what the verse says.
Rather, Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father but through me.” This is the same as saying, “Everyone who comes to the Father, comes through me.” It’s like saying, “No one is alive on earth but through breathing the air.” Yes, and everyone who is alive on earth is breathing air. In other words, everyone who has a relationship with the Creator, has it through the Spirit of Christ at work within them, whether they know it or not. Jesus was simply pointing to himself as the incarnation of this reality.
Christ was a universally ever-present reality before he assumed the body of Jesus of Nazareth, and still is now. As John tells us, he is the divine Logos through whom the universe was made, and his life is the light of all mankind (John 1:3-4), not just Christians. Furthermore, Paul tells us that in him we all live, move, and have our being, as well as that the whole universe exists and is sustained in and through Christ (Col. 1:17).
So, with this in mind, Jesus is simply saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. If anyone knows God, they know him through me and my Spirit at work within them.” Jesus was simply saying that he is the embodiment of the universal Christ that John and Paul later attested to. By this, Jesus was both saying he is the inclusive universal reality that everyone can and does access AND putting exclusive importance on his own life, teaching, and person that signifies and clarifies this reality.
– Jacob M. Wright, shared with his kind permission
I’d just add as a final point that there are many other verses that agree with Christian inclusivity (did I just invent a new phrase?? 😉 ). A good place to start would be in the list of Scriptures given by Mo Thomas in the recent post of his that I shared here.
And in any case, if there is no Hell, as I firmly believe, what other conclusion can there be but total inclusion? Even if not in this life, certainly in the Hereafter…but hey, why not start now?
Grace and peace to you 😀
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||⇧||Ah, surprise, surprise – good old Deuteronomy again! Don’t you just love it? 😉|