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(MiG Tournament) Exclusivism is Sound Christian Doctrine

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/29/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,255 times Debate No: 24906
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (13)
Votes (5)




This debate is part of round 4 of Man-Is-Good's Debate Tournament.


The resolution should also be understood to read, "Does the Bible teach Exclusivism or Inclusivism?" In other words, Logic_on_rails and I have agreed to share the burden of proof. We will each make positive cases for our respective positions. I will be arguing for Exclusivism and Logic_on_rails will argue for Inclusivism.


Inclusivism – The position "that even though the work of Christ is the only means of salvation, it does not follow that explicit knowledge of Christ is necessary in order for one to be saved." [1]

Exclusivism – The position "only faith in the Jesus Christ of the Bible leads to salvation or heaven." [2]

Sound - Based on valid reasoning. Free from logical flaws. Logic of or relating to an argument in which all the premises are true and the conclusion follows from the premises. [3]

Christian - Relating to or characteristic of Christianity or its adherents. [4]

Doctrine – A principle or body of principles presented for acceptance or belief, as by a religious, political, scientific, or philosophic group; dogma. [5]


The debate shall adhere to the following structure:

Round 1: Acceptance, Rules, and Definitions
Round 2: Opening Statements, No Rebuttals
Round 3: New Arguments and Rebuttals
Round 4: Rebuttals and Closing Statements (No new arguments)

The only rules I insists upon are the following, but I will accept any reasonable clarifications or amendments Logic_on_rails might choose to provide in Round 1.

  1. Arguments and source citations must appear within the four rounds of this debate only. Arguments and citations may not appear in offsite links, other debates, forums, or comments.
  2. Dropped arguments are not concessions. Arguments should be seen as whole units from opening to closing statements.




Many thanks to KRFournier for the debate. Thanks to MIG for the tournament.

Points of note

Just to be perfectly clear to the reader, we're obviously presuming the existence of God in this debate. Furthermore, I'll tend to be arguing based on the traditional conception of Hell (I don't agree with this totally, but KR does, and exclusivism doesn't benefit based on the traditional conception... that's for later though) being presumed .

One other point is that it's best for the reader not to get stuck on semantics here. For instance, a debate over the purpose of doctrine is likely to be a side issue in this debate.

Finally, I have one thing to state - although R2 is not to be used for rebuttals, it is possible that my arguments may lend themselves to countering KR's naturally. Basically, my intent will be to provide arguments that contradict with KR's, although these won't be rebuttals per se.

I hope the above doesn't confuse anybody. Let's have a good debate!
Debate Round No. 1


I'd like to begin by thanking Man-is-Good for persevering in his management of this very long, drawn out tournament and Logic_on_Rails for patiently working to find a resolution we'd both enjoy debating.

I will argue that exclusivism is the preferred doctrine to accept given that it is (a) best supported by scripture and (b) a more philosophically tenable position.

Biblical Support

The subject of salvation is often described in trivialities, usually summarized as "faith in Jesus Christ." While such a description adequately describes the ontology of salvation, it usually leads to many questions regarding the methodology of salvation. Salvation is composes of many pieces, and theologians often refer to this as the Order of Salvation. [1] They are as follows:

  1. Election (God's choice of people to be saved)
  2. The gospel call (proclaiming the message of the gospel)
  3. Regeneration (being born again)
  4. Conversion (faith and repentance)
  5. Justification (right legal standing)
  6. Adoption (membership in God's family)
  7. Sanctification (right conduct of life)
  8. Perseverance (remaining a Christian)
  9. Death (going to be with the Lord)
  10. Glorification (receiving a resurrection body)

I contend that the above Order of Salvation is doctrinal and irreducible. There is no scriptural warrant to remove any of the above steps. Since all steps are required, and since those steps include faith specifically in Jesus Christ, it follows that exclusivism is proper doctrine. In particular, the steps of the gospel call, conversion, and justification require faith in Jesus. Exclusivism, as we will find, is inescapable.

Election. Salvation begins with God's election at the beginning of time of those who He will save. (Rom. 8:28-20; 9:11-13; Eph. 1:4-6; 1 Thess. 1:4-5; Rev. 13:7-8) His choice is not based on foreknowledge of our performance or faith, for that would contradict the notion of justification by faith alone. (2 Tim. 1-9) His choice is, therefore, unconditional.

The gospel call. Election occurs before our time, so the gospel call is the first point in time in which God acts on his election. He "summons" us to Him through the human proclamation of the gospel. (1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Thess. 2:14;) Moreover, the gospel call cannot be skipped. Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." (John 6:44)

Regeneration. Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) Jesus teaches that all people are blind to the kingdom of God. This is our default position. So, although we might have heard the gospel message, we are not yet able to receive it. We need to be born again into a new kind of creature, and that is not something we have can even remotely do.

Conversion. Up to this point, salvation has all been God's doing. It is with a new spirit that we are now able to see the truth of the gospel message and respond to God's call, which we demonstrate through faith and repentance. Conversion entails both. (2 Cor. 7:9-10; Heb. 6:1; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 2:37-38; 3:19; 5:31; 17:30; Rom. 2:4) Repentance is a critical piece of salvation, but repentance requires knowledge of one's need for salvation, approval of the means to salvation, and trust in the promise of salvation. If one does not repent, then one or more of these attributes is missing, which begs a very serious question: without the gospel of Christ, how does one repent and enter into salvation in the first place? How do you turn away from sin and towards righteousness without knowledge of either one?

Justification. Conversion demonstrates our renewed spirits, but it does not erase our guilt for both the sins of our past and the sins that we will yet commit in our future. This is where Jesus' death on the cross fits into the picture. Salvation necessitates right legal standing with God. This is done by imputing Jesus' righteousness upon us. We are told that this justification comes through faith. (Romans 4:1-5:21) That is why it comes after Conversion in the order. Opponents to exclusivism risk putting the cart before the horse. Justification is not merely a get-out-of-jail-free card, but the result of putting one's faith firmly in God's special plan for redemption.

Adoption. With justification comes the privilege of being adopted into God's family, and as such we become heirs to his inheritance, which is eternal life and communion with God. Again, salvation is not merely an escape from Hell, it is relationship with God. How does one enter into God's family without knowing what it really means?

Sanctification. As children of God, we are not yet perfect and will continue to sin throughout this lifetime. However, we will grow increasingly into the image of Christ. Our steady spiritual maturity is a sign of the salvific work of God in our life and is cause for worship since it brings us security in our salvation. Knowledge of Christ is imperative in order to grow more Christ-like.

Perseverance. While some Christians do denounce the faith, never to return, those elected by God will never become un-elected. Though the salvation process will undoubtedly manifest differently from saint to saint, God's choice in his elect will be realized.

Death. Death is the believer's transition into the final stage of salvation, and is not a punishment for the believer, as it brings the saint into unity with Christ himself. Upon death, the saved enter immediately into the presence of God while the unbeliever enters immediately into Hell.

Glorification. The final stage of God's salvific order is to resurrect us into new physical bodies. While Heaven will be glorious, the Bible promises a brand new earth. Eternity will not be an endless church service. We will have perfect physical bodies. There will be recreation without danger, science without limits, and work without toil. It will be familiar yet grander, for we will all be like Christ. This promise brings us hope, and without specific knowledge of the cross, this hope is elusive.

The purpose of this mini-sermon is to show how Christ is integrated into the plan of salvation. Copious amounts of scripture point to Jesus as the only way or the Cross as the only means. To accept any alternative to exclusivism is to risk sweeping all this explicit teaching under the rug.

It also shows how salvation isn't simplistic or arbitrary, which is how we end up with contrary doctrines to being with. Salvation is intricate. It's a gigantic plan involving thousands of years of God's sovereign, active work. Once the scope of salvation is fully appreciated, it becomes that much more difficult to argue for anything other than exclusivism.

Philosophical Support

Exclusivism is further proven by the impossibility of the contrary. If one accepts that salvation can occur without profession of faith in Christ, then Jesus' command to "make disciples of all the nations" is both misleading and moot. Evangelism becomes categorically optional, and being a Christian becomes a matter of taste over necessity. If evangelism is not necessary then the gospel message itself is not necessary.


Exclusivism will always be a tough pill to swallow, but intellectually honest exegesis can reach no other conclusion. Jesus isn't merely a tool to carry out God's election. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6, emphasis mine) In fact, when you examine the entire process of salvation, it becomes increasingly clear that exclusivism poses no real problem in terms of limited salvation. After all, if both inclusivism and exclusivism result in the salvation of some and not all, then why does God the Almighty even need to operate under the notion inclusivism? He is surely capable of sending the gospel call to those he has chosen.


  1. Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. p. 670


Let begin by thanking Man-is-Good for his continued efforts running this tournament and KRFournier for his powerful opening. Despite what doctrinal disagreements we may have I’d like to reiterate that we share many positions.

I’ll argue for inclusivism based on a variety of things. While R2 is not for rebuttals, some of my arguments will naturally clash; they are not ‘rebuttals’ per se.

Just quickly, God is obviously omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent , among other qualities. That is a terrible oversimplification, yet this must be understood.

Let’s begin.

Implications of Hell and Exclusivism

Hell, in the traditional sense (we’ll leave universalism and annihilationism aside), is not something to be scoffed at (Revelation 20:11-15). Conscious, eternal torment is an infinite punishment, given for a finite crime. Then there’s the issue of those saved and bliss. Heaven is a place of total bliss (Revelation 21:4) , yet could a loving person be truly happy knowing that their loved ones are suffering in unimaginable anguish? Paul himself lent credence to this argument (Rom 9:2-3) – “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people.”

Aside from making a case for annihilationism, it should be clear that Hell is a terribly severe punishment, one that affects even those in the bliss of Heaven. An omnibenevolent God, a God who is love (1 John 4:8) and mercy (James 5:11), would never consign anybody unnecessarily to Hell, for then he would not be omnibenevolent. The question then is do people get consigned to Hell under exclusivism but not inclusivism, and would an omnibenevolent God be in the right to consign them?

To quote Ed Hinson, “...the faithful practitioners of the world’s great religions are ‘anonymous Christians’ who are responding in faith to the work of the Holy Spirit and would follow Christ if circumstances were such that they would have revelation of the gospel and opportunity to respond to it.” [1]

This is a crucial point. Exclusivism, as defined in R1 - the position “only [my emphasis] faith in Jesus Christ of the Bible leads to salvation or heaven.” But what about the millions, if not billions who never have had the chance to follow Christ through mere lack of exposure? To paraphrase Hinson, surely a loving God would not design the world in such a way that people must know about Christ to escape eternal damnation, but have no ability to acquire such knowledge. Remember, God is all knowing, and would know if his design was essentially consigning somebody to Hell based on a lack of knowledge.

And then there’s degrees of beliefs. What degree of belief counts? Can there be even a shred of doubt on one’s faith? Various questions abound when discussing faith in Jesus specifically, and it’s very difficult to determine whom should and shouldn’t enter Heaven on such a basis; do we let in the man who momentarily wavers in his belief, despite ardent preaching and altrusim his whole life? Degrees of belief complicate simply faith in Jesus being fine to enter Heaven. But the ideas of Jesus, living (as best we can) as he did, living a moral, just life, these are virtues to judge on. If one’s life and his actions are naught to faith, then is that not a disincentive to act righteously in our lifetime? The man who holds to the ideals of Jesus and spreads them despite not knowing of Jesus’s existence due to his upbringing... must he be consigned to eternal damnation? Furthermore, is such a course of action that of an omnibenevolent God? I won’t pretend to know the inner workings of His mind, but I humbly suggest that the action is most certainly not of an all loving being.

Biblical Innerancy and Scripture

The studious reader would note that scripture is a large part of this debate. What’s important to establish is that the bible is not inerrant. This is of course a debate in itself! I’ll simply state that Deuteronomy 7:1-2 , Deuteronomy 20:16-18 are not acts of a omnibenevolent figure. I understand the grave nature of my statement. Let me quote C. S. Lewis to explain:

The ultimate question is whether the doctrine of the goodness of God or that of the inerrancy of Scriptures is to prevail when they conflict. I think the doctrine of the goodness of God is the more certain of the two.” [2]

My point is thus – scripture is most certainly crucial to this debate, but were scripture to conflict with what is The Good (as Plato might say) in God, we must support The Good.

Now I don’t mean to undermine Pro here, yet his case is heavily reliant on scripture. Mine is somewhat less so. While I do not contest his quoted scriptures too much, there are some which to rest one’s case on is not sound.

Arguing for Inclusivism

I’ve noted problems with exclusivism (namely, eternal torment being based on a lack of faith in figures one never got the chance to learn about) , briefly discussed why the nature of God can be more important than scripture, but I haven’t talked about why we ought to support inclusvism, at least not enough yet.]

God desires the salvation of all (2 Peter 3:9). Now, we established above that faith in Jesus is a way to get into Heaven, but it’s a condition such that millions will be consigned to Hell. We also established difficulties with what belief is necessary (ie. De re and de dicto) . Look at John 14:6 , then take a look at Matt 25: 34-40 . There is no clash that can’t be resolved. In the part of Matt cited the followed the ways of Jesus, believed in the good, and yet it’s clear that they did not know it. One need merely listen to the words of the King here.

As to John 14:6 , it says “Jesus answered ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” Note how it is the way, the truth and the life. These aren’t statements of belief in a figure, these are statements about how one should live their life. When Jesus says ‘No one come to the Father except through me’ he’s discussing his ways, benevolent ways of living. It’s important not to take every verse in an absolute sense; John 14:6 tends to be an exclusivist favourite for instance.

What’s important here is that we see John 14:6 and Matt 25: 34-40 both outlining ways into Heaven. There’s no need to discredit one of them. Faith in Jesus may be a sufficient condition for salvation, but it’s not a necessary condition. That said, I do want to emphasise the great importance in believing in Jesus. To those reading this debate, you have read about and have access to the knowledge of Jesus. To deny him and be accepted is not the same as the man who toils his whole life never hearing of Christianity.

To finish this section, let’s look at Matt 7:21:

Not everybody who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,; will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

If that is not a strong cry for inclusivism, then I fear my words are falling on deaf ears.


As per the rules, rebuttals are next round, so I’ll address Pro’s case in more detail then.

I ask though, what benevolent figure would wish anybody to Hell, a place of eternal torment? Not many, if any. So, to those whose circumstances prevent them from gaining knowledge of Jesus, should God consign them to eternal torment, especially considering that He knows that they are born without a chance of knowledge? No. Look at Rom 9: 2-3 for the anguish of those who should have bliss in Heaven.

Look at Matt 25: 34-40 and Matt 7:21. They cry for other ways than explicit faith. Faith in Jesus should get one into Heaven, but it’s one of many ways to enter, not the only way. A sufficient, but not necessary condition.


[1] - Ed Hinson and Ergun Caner, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: Surveying the Evidence for the Truth of Christianity, Harvest House Publishers, 2008
[2] -
Debate Round No. 2


Thanks to Logic_on_Rails for his rigorous opening round. We now enter into rebuttals. I will also remind the readers that additional arguments are permitted during this round.

Inerrancy of Scripture

My opponent enters into very treacherous territory by holding a view that Scripture can be wrong. This permits my opponent to decide for himself anything he wishes about Christianity. He can cherry pick the verses that are wrong and the ones that are right granting him license to invent any doctrine he desires.

Moreover, this approach weakens his position. The only conceivable reason my opponent would insist the Bible is wrong about some things is because the Bible contradicts his position. The Bible teaches exclusivism, ergo, he must argue that the Bible is wrong.

This debate is about Christian doctrine, and as such, we must have a standard to which we can point. If the Bible is not the objective standard of our theology, then we might as well just make up anything we want. Forget exclusivism or inclusivism, why not universalism? Why not treat the whole of Scripture as a big metaphor and just live in whatever way makes us feel "nice?"

The only standard we are given as to when the Bible is wrong is when something appears to conflict with "The Good." This poses a serious problem, because the Bible claims that God is good, i.e., the standard of goodness itself. If the Bible is right about that, then God is good and we must presume that God had a sufficiently good reason for his commands in Deuteronomy. If the Bible is wrong and God is not good, then my opponent's criticism no longer applies.

Con ends up begging the question here. He doesn't provide an alternative ethical framework by which to judge God's actions and yet he wants us to just accept his plea to ignore my scriptural evidence for exclusivism. Of course, he'll use scripture in his own arguments, which seems a double standard to me.

Implications of Inclusivism and Exclusivism

My opponent criticizes exclusivism for how many people are likely to enter into hell. Unfortunately, Inclusivism has the very same problem. While inclusivism does seem to result in an increase of saved souls (though this is only presumed and not really proven), it does not result in all souls being saved. I could easily throw Hinson's criticism back at Con and say, "Surely an even more loving God would just save everyone." If Con wants to eliminate exclusivism due to a contradiction with God's goodness, then he must also eliminate inclusivism for the same reason.

As much as my opponent can't bring himself to reconcile God's love with the idea of eternal Hell, there are those in the world that cannot reconcile God's justice with the idea of everyone going to Heaven. This reveals an appeal to emotion on the part of my opponent, because he wants us to feel like exclusivism just isn't right. However, the fact that God is loving doesn't make the idea of eternal Hell objectively incompatible. My opponent has more work ahead of him if he wants to make such a case.

My opponent also criticizes exclusivism on the basis of degrees of belief, as though exclusivism leaves too much ambiguity. This is just not the case. In my opening round, I described in exhaustive detail just how salvation works from start to finish. The fact is exclusivism teaches that salvation comes by faith in Jesus. There is no ambiguity, unlike inclusivism, which turns out to be completely arbitrary. Exclusivism has the benefit that the believer can be assured of their salvation, which is never the case when one must earn their salvation.

Consequently, this is inclusivism's major flaw. It denies the Biblical claim that we are justified by faith alone. The whole premise of inclusivism is that people earn their salvation—unwittingly—via their inadvertent emulation of Christ. This implies that even Christians earn their salvation according to how well they emulate Christ, which completely contradicts Paul's explicit words, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph. 2:8-9, emphasis mine) Justification by faith is a fundamental Christian doctrine, and to dismantle it is to undermine all of Christianity.

Rebuttal to Positive Arguments for Inclusivism

My opponent—apparently deciding that 2 Peter 3:9 is not in error—uses this verse to claim that God wishes that all people will be saved. Unfortunately, he completely ignores the context of the chapter and the letter as a whole. Peter's audience was dealing with "scoffers" (v. 3) that kept questioning the return of the Lord. (v. 4) Peter reminds them that the Lord operates in his own time (v. 8) and that God continues to delay that none should perish (v. 9). But "none" does not "no person ever." Rather, "none" refers to God's elect. In other words, God patiently waits so that none of His elect should perish and that all of His elect should be saved. Thus, this scripture fails to single-handedly support inclusivism.

John 14:6 is one of those passages that simply cannot stand on its own since Jesus is clearly using figure of speech. When Jesus says he is "the way," one must look elsewhere in scripture to understand what this means. Thankfully, my opening round took care of this. His death on the cross justifies us. His life reveals God's plan of salvation to us. His Lordship exonerates us. But all of it means nothing if it is not followed with repentance, which is a demonstration of faith in Jesus. Jesus is the way, but my opponent engages in non sequitur when declaring that the "way" equates to "Jesus' ways of living."

Con's use of Matthew 7:21 receives the same criticism. We must again ask what the will of the Father is. My opponent just injects his own thinking into this one verse instead of extracting the Father's will from elsewhere in scripture. The will of the Father is to elect His people, give them the gospel call, renew their spirit that they might see the Kingdom of Heaven, and justify them through faith in Christ.

Exclusivism is Parsimonious

Another argument in my favor is that inclusivism adds unneeded assumptions. If God is omnipotent, and if God is an active participant in bringing His elect into salvation, then what does inclusivism actually provide that exclusivism doesn't? If God wants an indigenous person in Africa to be saved, He is perfectly capable of bringing the gospel to that person. He is, after all, omnipotent.

If inclusivism doesn't actually guarantee that more people are saved than exclusivism, then one must turn to Occam's Razor and ask which one complicates doctrine with frivolous assumptions. I contend that inclusivism, with its works-based philosophy, brings too much baggage to the table. On the other hand, exclusivism brings parsimony with its simplicity and equal capacity for bringing God's elect into Heaven.


My opponent's case appears to be nothing more than an elaborate house of cards. His scriptural support relies on taking scripture out of context or relying on ambiguity of terms. Worse, his case is undermined by his own view of Biblical errancy. His reasoning behind why the Bible can be wrong is circular, and he hasn't given us an extra-Biblical, objective "Good" by which to make these judgments. His criticisms of exclusivism apply just as much to inclusivism, yet inclusivism brings even more problems, making exclusivism the best fit exegetically and parsimoniously.

My opponent and I agreed that we both share burden of proof for our respective positions. On balance, I hope the readers can see that exclusivism is the more reasoned doctrine.



KRFournier presents a continued challenge, as expected. Let us not waste words – we have much to discuss.

Biblical Errancy?

Biblical errancy most certainly is a dangerous field to wade into, as my opponent notes. This is a most difficult subject to address, although it is somewhat of a more minor issue in this debate. Inerrancy basically means “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.” [1]

Let’s formalise my argument against inerrancy:

1. God exists and is morally perfect
2. Hence, God would not command acts such as genocide unless he had morally sufficient reason to do so
3. According to OT texts [see R2 Deuteronomy references] God did command acts like genocide
4. God did not have a morally sufficient reason to commit such acts
5. Hence, the entirety of the Bible is not true

Just to be clear on [3]:

"1 When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you" 2 and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally [emphasis mine].[a] Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. " [Deut 7:1-2]

Now, I hate to discuss the issue of biblical inerrancy, but it must be addressed. I’m sure KR agrees with 1. Basically, morally perfect beings don’t commit acts such as genocide without sufficient moral reason, which I believe God did not have. As I stated last round, when in conflict God’s moral perfection ought to prevail over biblical inerrancy.

Obviously defeating every argument for ‘morally sufficient reason’ would take too long. Briefly put, firstly, the issue of whether everybody in the community ought to have been killed, especially children, who haven’t reached the age of accountability. Secondly, notwithstanding this, the fact that God commands slaughter by others hand is horrifying; think PTSD and what war can do to people. To quote Nietzsche, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster” [2] Finally, what’s to prevent a person claiming a divine command of genocide against whom they consider non-believers? Morality. The fact that genocide is an utter horror, that it is not the act of a morally perfect being – of God.

Relating back, God does not commit horrid acts. Torment in Hell is a horrid act, and not one of befitting a moral agent like God. When in conflict, the goodness of God prevails over biblical inerrany’s support of immoral acts, like eternal torment. In this manner, scripture which supports that which isn’t what God would do according to His nature ought not to be considered reliable. Furthermore, scripture I’m quoting doesn’t seem to conflict with God being morally perfect, although Pro may attempt to prove otherwise.

Of course, what God would do is the crux of this debate! Let’s not waste any more time on side issues!

Implications of Hell and Exclusivism

Pro attempts to attack inclusivism on the grounds that some people still go the Hell, and that I’m arguing for universalism, not inclusivism.

In R2 I outlined the case of ‘anonymous Christians’ deserving to go to Heaven because of their actions emulating Jesus somewhat. That’s not to say that everybody who goes to Hell under exclusivism is an anonymous Christian, as Pro presupposes. If everybody were to enter then there’s a lesser incentive to act righteously in our time on Earth.

It’s this time that we’re judged on, and some people simply don’t deserve everlasting bliss for despicable acts. That’s not to say that they ought to suffer eternally though, which brings up the point of annihilationism. Annihilationism resolves the moral issue of eternal torment for finite crimes quite nicely. [3] One doesn’t suffer if they’ve been annihilated.

The point is that inclusivism allows more people into Heaven, people who haven’t committed despicable acts yet lack explicit knowledge of Jesus. However it stops there – God must have a deterrent for heinous acts committed by us in our time, which is why Hinson’s criticism of inclusivism on universalist grounds can be rejected.

As to Con’s statement that “The whole premise of inclusivism is that people earn their salvation—unwittingly—via their inadvertent emulation of Christ” , it’s deceptive. Inclusivism acknowledges that the main way is still faith in Christ, but that there are other ways, such as one’s actions, that can gain one entrance to Heaven. Again, supporting moral actions is beneficial, so why not allow just actions to make a difference in entering Heaven?

Obviously Christians earn their salvation through belief in Christ. Emulation is a matter of importance when one doesn’t have the chance to gain explicit knowledge of Jesus. I ask again, why would God create a situation in which he knows that a person has no chance of gaining faith in Jesus and condemn them to Hell? God, by his nature, would create alternative ways to enter Heaven.

Positive Arguments for Inclusivism

What’s most important here is that if scripture seems to outline 2 (or more...) different methods of entry into Heaven then why shouldn’t there be 2? Sure, one side might be better proven than the other, but that doesn’t discredit the 2nd in and of itself. Unless there’s a reason to discredit the 2nd way, then why not let it stand?

For instance, Matt 25: 34-40 wasn’t challenged. Of course, I grant that refuting the stated implications every single piece of scripture is onerous and unreasonable, yet this is a particularly powerful piece.

On 2 Peter 3:9 , I would still maintain that it supports inclusivism to a certain extent. On John 14:6 and Matt 7:21, I’ve tried to discuss the flexibility of scriptural interpretation and how multiple ways into Heaven can occur given God’s perfectly moral nature. For instance, Con concludes talking about Matt 7:21 by saying “ The will of the Father is to elect His people, give them the gospel call...” , but at the crux of this is the point that not everybody seems to receive the gospel call! Given God’s nature, one must doubt that God’s purpose is precisely as outlined by Pro, hence my initial points about Matt 7:21 still stand.

Exclusivism is Parsimonious

My simple question on this point is why a state of affairs currently exists where God isn’t using his omnipotence to let the Gospel be known worldwide. If this is because there’s already a sufficient entry to Heaven due to inclusivism then this problem is resolved.

As to Occam’s Razor, firstly, it’s not always reliable, secondly, the situation differs as more people are saved under inclusivism.


The issue at hand is whether inclusivism or exclusivism makes more sense. Given God’s moral perfection, it seems plainly at odds with his nature to not let into Heaven, given his designing of a situation which prevents them from ever having the chance to learn of Jesus! Of course, one does mitigate this with annihilationism vs. the traditional concept of Hell, yet it’s still quite the problem.

I hope it’s clear that inclusivism is the preferable doctrine, and I look forward to KRFournier’s final round.


[1] -
[2] - Beyond Good and Evil", Aphorism 146 (1886).
[3] - To readers, there’s simply not the space in the debate to discuss annihilationism in depth + everything else.
Debate Round No. 3


I appreciate my opponent's thoughtful responses. It seems that much of our differences stem from our view on the authority of scripture.

Biblical Inerrancy

My opponent continues to press this issue despite my criticism that, in so doing, he undermines his own case. As I pointed out previously, Con's position allows him to be arbitrary in his doctrine, cherry picking versus that he needs to make his case yet arguing that mine are in "error." Furthermore, it exposes that exclusivism is taught in scripture rather than inclusivism, hence the need to call the Bible wrong.

Con's syllogism clarifies his approach to scriptural authority although I never really was confused about his reasoning. Premise 4 is the very thing I was calling arbitrary when I pointed out that the Bible identifies God as the standard of goodness. Yet my opponent uses his own standard to judge scripture, and therefore begs the question. This debate is about doctrine, which comes from God. If the Bible is not authoritative, then what is? Con's approach is tantamount to begging the readers to accept Logic_on_rails as the final authority. "Thus sayeth Logic_on_rails?"

The problem is that there is plenty of philosophical tension in the Bible, and my opponent attempts to resolve it on his own terms rather than considering that he does not have all the data. The Bible says God is good yet God orders genocide. In his haste to feel better about this antinomy, my opponent concludes that Deuteronomy is in error, all the while ignoring the text immediately following the passage he hyper-focuses upon. We are later told that God gave the order because He had made an oath to give the Israelites that land. (v. 8) But that's not all, He was also casting judgment upon the "those who hate him." (v. 10). Keeping promises and judging the wicked are also actions of a morally perfect being, so what exactly makes God's command in conflict with his own character?

What becomes clear is that my opponent wants inclusivism to be true because he just doesn't like exclusivism, just as he does not like God's decision in Deuteronomy. It conflicts with his personal moral sensibilities, and he erroneously inflates his personal moral sensibilities into an objective standard. I submit that such reasoning is not an attempt at logical deduction as much as it is rationalizing away his heebie-jeebies.

Implications of Inclusivism and Exclusivism

It was not my intention to say that my opponent was secretly arguing for universalism. I think we both agree that universalism is a very dubious doctrine as it renders the gospel completely superfluous. My point was that if exclusivism is lesser than inclusivism based on the number of souls saved, then universalism is greater than both using the same logic. I am exposing my opponent's sword as having two equally sharp edges. Whenever he strikes a philosophical blow at exclusivism, he cuts inclusivism just as deeply. Therefore, his attempts to show inclusivism as somehow "better" don't cut the muster.

I understand that Pro is trying to argue that the sword has only one edge—that my criticism has no weight—but his only support for this is a bare assertion: "that inclusivism allows more people into Heaven." Such a baseless claim cannot be taken for granted given that God is omnipotent and omniscient. If God knows the future, has elected His people from the beginning of time, and has all power over this universe, then there is no reason to assume that exclusivism results in fewer saved souls.

In fact, election is core feature of this debate. It answers Con's question, "Why would God create a situation in which he knows that a person has no chance of gaining faith in Jesus and condemn them to Hell?" The answer: that person was not elected. My opponent has not argued against election at all in this debate, and it will be unfortunate if he only chooses to reject it in his last round, thereby denying me the chance to rebut.

Jesus was well aware of the implications. "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matt. 22:14) "For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matt. 7:14) The Bible makes no effort to be warm and fuzzy about this issue. It is a harsh reality to face, and the fact the Hell is eternal makes evangelism all the more necessary. Unless, of course, you subscribe to inclusivism, in which evangelism is really optional and you can just trust that people will find their own alternative way into Heaven.

Rebuttal Against Positive Arguments for Inclusivism

I didn't combat Matt 25:34-40 because my opponent only mentioned it in passing, so it's a bit unfair to hold that against me. He claimed the passage "[cries] for other ways than explicit faith," but didn't bother explaining how or why. So, now that he brought it up, let's take a look at it.

Jesus is telling a parable of what judgment day will be like. Unfortunately for my opponent, it does not contradict the salvific order. This is a picture of Jesus separating his people (the sheep) from the rest (the goats). (v. 32) Those whom the wicked did not feed or clothe (v. 42) are the Christians who the world ignored and rejected: those to whom the Gospel belongs and through whom the Gospel is shared. (v. 46). Yet again, my opponent has taken vague imagery and interpreted it according to his own tastes rather than against the whole of scripture.

Con just repeats his previous exegetics of 2 Peter 3:0, John 14:6, and Matthew 7:21, restating that they imply that there is more than one way to Heaven. I already showed how the vague language of these verses is inadequate to prove inclusivism and the rest of scripture teaches contrariwise. I'll say no more and let the readers judge. Suffice to say, my opponent has an uphill battle in showing that the Bible truly teaches multiple modes of salvation. Moreover, he hasn't explained why his scripture references are not in error and why mine are.

Exclusivism is Parsimonious

Con asks why God, in his omnipotence, hasn't gotten the Gospel to the entire world. In this, he ignores the doctrine of election. God need only get the gospel to His Elect. Since my opponent has not refuted election, his objection has a ready answer.

My opponent also repeats his baseless assertion that inclusivism saves more people, which he still has not succeeded to substantiate in any useful way.


Note the difference in approaches between us. I painstakingly laid out an entire systematic theology on the nature of salvation citing plenty of scripture along the way to substantiate that case. I showed how the Bible as a whole tells a special story about the redemption of God's people for Himself. Step by step I showed how Christ is integral in that process. In return, my opponent takes a liberal view of scripture in order to sweep exclusivism under the rug, and the handful of scripture he does employ uses vague language taken out of context. Wayne Grudem writes, "I do not think that a true system of theology can be constructed from within . . . the "liberal" theological tradition." [1] (Emphasis mine)

My positive case for exclusivism is supported by scripture and carries no more damning philosophical implications than inclusivism. My opponent's case is rooted in wishful thinking, and he makes himself the authority on Christian doctrine in the process. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that the resolution is affirmed.

I'd like to thank my opponent for this rigorous discussion and the readers for their thoughtful, responsible votes.


  1. Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. p. 17


Thanks to KRFournier for more well thought out responses. In this last round I’ll try and sum things up, although such a task is difficult given such a controversial subject.

Biblical Errancy?

The whole reason this issue exists is that there exists a small degree of errancy in the Bible, and this means that contradictory scripture teachings (such as exclusivism and inclusivism) can be resolved more easily. However, it also has the effect of placing an emphasis on philosophical rather than theological concerns.

On Con’s attack of P4, his argument is somewhat doubtable. Con cites God as the standard of goodness (which he is of course!) , yet questions me when I question the bible’s authority. That’s what the entire errancy issue is about! Is it possible that the Bible may not have been recorded perfectly, done as it was by humans, or were they ‘inspired’ (a technical term in this instance)?

As to Deuteronomy, I agree on the keeping promises bit, and also the need to judge the wicked – KR’s attempt at justifying the passage. However, the methodology with which this is done is what is in question! It was not God himself who smote his enemies, rather he commanded his followers to do so. This supposedly was by God’s command despite his knowledge of things like post traumatic stress disorder, the things war can do to people (see my Nietzsche quote) etc. I also claimed a need to prevent false divine claims, and that this was grounded in morality, like an opposition to genocide. Also, most crushingly, God supposedly killed all the children, despite them not being at an age where they could be held accountable for their actions.

In a case like Deuteronomy it’s clear that the text is wrong, because as I’ve maintained this debate and as C.S.Lewis says “The ultimate question is whether the doctrine of the goodness of God or that of the inerrancy of Scriptures is to prevail when they conflict. I think the doctrine of the goodness of God is the more certain of the two.” Given the conflict, we ought to prefer God’s goodness.

Similarly, if scripture were to conflict with God’s goodness (as eternal torment of souls included under inclusivism but not exclusivism would) then God’s goodness prevails as opposed to the inerrancy of scripture. That’s all that biblical errancy entails for this debate – a focus on more philosophical issues. I don’t deny that the bible is mostly inerrant, but is has some errors, by human hand and misunderstanding though, not God.

Implications of Inclusivism and Exclusivism

Has my logic so far on ‘more saved’ been a double edged sword? No, because I’m not arguing on the simplistic basis that more saved is better. I’m arguing for a select increase based on a specific case – those who don’t gain knowledge of Jesus whom act in ways similar to Jesus and his teaching. This actions based method isn’t allowable for those whom get the chance to know Jesus; I’m not that disregarding of evangelism.

Now, I know that Pro’s argument to my question “Why would God create a situation in which he knows that a person has no chance of gaining faith in Jesus and condemn them to Hell?” is that that person wasn’t elected. Now, it’s true that I haven’t explicitly mentioned election so far this debate, yet the whole issue is why God would condemn somebody to Hell. So, if not being elected consigns you to Hell then why would God not elect everybody? If he doesn’t elect everybody then he necessarily consigns them to Hell. As a morally perfect God would not just have people live their lives before automatically going to Hell (or as Pro would say, thus sayeth Logic_on_rails) it seems the only alternative is inclusivism.

I understand that I didn’t explicitly mention this aspect of election before, although the general theme and idea (identical as it is to my argument for inclusivism!) is the same, so I believe this to not be a ‘new argument’ .

Finally, let me restate that allowing actions to be a manner of getting into Heaven (or be simply a contributing factor of sorts) provides an incentive for people to act morally in our lifetimes. If people are aware that actions don’t make a difference to entrance towards Heaven then worse actions will result in our lifetimes. For this reason as well as those mentioned above, inclusivism ought to be preferred. In this case it provides that deterrent to immoral actions in our lifetime.

Positive Arguments for Inclusivism

As Pro did, I’ll leave 2 Peter 3:9, John 14:6 and Matthew 7:21 for readers to decide on. We’ve both made our arguments for the respective verses having the meaning we claim they have, and they stand as stated. Readers can judge this for themselves without needing reminding. Now as to Matt 25: 34-40

"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

KR will probably chide me for ‘taking my own view of things’ , but I see that end being symbolic of being welcomed in spite of a lack of explicit knowledge. The righteous did not know whom they were serving and helping, yet they helped anyway. Furthermore, The King clearly supports their actions, and states for people to ‘take their inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world’ . Remember, these are people without explicit knowledge of God who nevertheless acted justly.

Is it my own view? Perhaps, but the Bible is not always perfectly literal, so interpretation is required to a point. Make of that what you will.

Exclusivism is Parsimonious

The issue of God’s Elect is covered in the implications section, with the moral perfection of God not being compatible with condemning people to Hell before their very existence (‘at the beginning of time’) .

As to inclusivism saving more people, it’s obvious – people without specific knowledge of Jesus yet sufficiently live up to his teachings and ways can enter Heaven. These people might be small in number, but they are not none in number as Pro would contend, hence inclusivism saves more people from unwarranted consignment to Hell.


Entry to Heaven via knowing Jesus is most certainly supported by scripture. However, there’s some scriptural evidence and a slew of moral arguments for entry via inclusivistic means. Do we need to discredit this second method and on what grounds, if any, could we disregard this second method?

The case for inclusivism is based on those who go to Hell, and whether they deserve it. Should people be consigned to eternal torment prior to their existence (or annihilationism, depending on your doctrinal beliefs) ? There are many cases where perhaps annihilation of a person who wasn’t elected is perfectly justified, but as long as there are those who don’t deserve to be annihilated by a morally perfect being, there is a place for inclusivism, and that’s why I affirm that the Bible teaches inclusivism.

Let me extend my thanks to my opponent, KRFournier, for a challenging, thought provoking debate. I would like to think that readers will walk away from this debate with a new appreciation for the arguments on both sides of this contentious issue. I trust that voters will carefully consider their votes, and not be biased in their judgement.
Debate Round No. 4
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by InquireTruth 5 years ago
I just read through this debate and also the RFD's. The one thing that caught me in the RFD by Roy was that it took a pretty obvious deductive misstep. If the Bible is innerant then it cannot follow that God is evil as that would require that the Bible not be innerant. Thus, the position of Biblical innerancy has within itself as a necessary premise that God is Good. Thus, to say that the Bible is innerant and God is evil is to assert an obvious contradiction and therefore need not even be addressed in any sort of meaningful way. Though I do disagree with many of the points used to make the case here, I think KRF deserves to have won this debate.
Posted by KeytarHero 6 years ago
I was asked to give the tie-breaker, so here's my vote.

I give sources to Con. Pro's source was great, but Con used more to support his point of view. So two points Con.

However, I am forced to give arguments to Pro. KR's case was based more on Biblical evidence, whereas Con's case was based more on philosophy. Philosophy is a great tool but since the Bible teaches us about salvation, then Scripture, not philosophy itself, must be used to argue against Pro's case.

As Pro pointed out believing the Bible is errant weakens Con's case (after all, if you can't trust one part, then you really can't trust anything it says). Pro used the Hinson quote against Con, that an even more loving God would send everyone to Heaven, but I felt that Con's rebuttal to that was reasonable. regarding people who don't believe in Jesus but haven't committed despicable acts. However, Con is using his own basis for despicable acts. God may have sufficient reason for the acts that Con considers unloving. Con asserts that God doesn't, but he never really adequately supported that.

Finally, Con did not adequately address the fact that the Bible says we can't earn our way into Heaven, so why can someone earn their way in without faith in Christ (especially when the Bible says that faith is necessary for salvation)? Finally, why would God create a situation in which someone would not be saved? This objection equally works against Con's assertions. So three points to Pro.

End result: Three to two, Pro.
Posted by Reason_Alliance 6 years ago
RFD (cont),

Every reason Con gave for Biblical inclusivism was consistent with the positive case KRF gave for exclusivism. Such is the nature of this type of debate but nevertheless Con gave me no positive reason to think that inclusivism is the doctrine to be exegetically taken from what scripture teaches.

It's thought that the scripture is inerrant, but not any one's interpretation of it... thus we ought to carefully approach the scriptures a gauge which is the most probable interpretation, both internally & externally.

Externally KRF showed inclusivism is sound. And internally, KRF gave many lines of reason for thinking inclusivism it the exegetical stance.

Well done... although I didn't like that KRF used bold words too much. Nobody likes bold words- they're offensive.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
Pro made a flawless case for the Bible demanding exclusivism. Con made a flawless case for the Christian God being good. Con made the case for exclusivism being immoral, and Pro didn't really dispute that explicitly, arguing in effect "that's the way it is." I think the presumption for the Christian God being good is stronger, so to overcome that, Pro would have to attack that doctrine directly. So I think Con had the advantage. I don't see how the issue can be really resolved except as a matter of faith, so I judges the debate on a fine point of the weight of evidence.

I have argued this issue repeated over the years with a strong Christian believer. He seems to me to concede that the Christian God has a dark side. Interesting to see this debate on the issue.
Posted by TUF 6 years ago
CONT: It doesn't seem to makes sense to me to simply be able to believe in a doctrine, and fulfill the eligibility for the end result without providing. Nothing in life works that way, so religously, why would it be any different?
I am a firm believer that all actions determine a person characters, not just their beliefs. Under the logic provided by the case for Exclusivism, someone can simply say they believe in a higher power and be accepted by god. But how can this be true, if they have not contributed enough towards the belief to believe that they are deserving of the results?

I basically think of the story of the little red hen, when I think of Exclusivism, VS Inclusivism.

I feel KRF offered a very good case for exclusivism, but, in my opinion, Logic's were more soundly aquitted to the source of the actual bible. He qoutes several references that seem to indicate that according to the written text, the Justifying the means of acheiving the results, requires a working will towards the progression, thus I give sources to logic as well.

Good job to both debaters, and good luck throughout the rest of the tournament.
Posted by baggins 6 years ago
As per Quran, Jesus (Peace on Him) did not really die. He was saved by God and raised up into heaven alive. The Jews of that time were filled with a delusion that they have managed to kill Christ (Peace on Him). This act led to withdrawal of many of God's favor on Children of Israel (which they wrongly used to take for granted) and hence the final prophet was an Arab.

Towards the end times, when the Liar Christ would have declared his reign, Jesus (Peace on Him) would return and help believers in battle. Later he would reign on earth, live as a normal human being and finally die.
Posted by popculturepooka 6 years ago
And, despite my RFD, I disagreed with pretty much every substantive, contentious point that KRF made (wrt to hell, biblical inerrancy/genocides, "liberal" theology, inclusivism, and biblical warrant for his case).

This was actually a really hard one for me to judge.
Posted by KRFournier 6 years ago
Baggins, I'm curious, what is the Muslim position on Jesus' (Peace on Him) Resurrection?
Posted by baggins 6 years ago
As a Muslim, I do agree with many things said by the debaters. However there are lots of issues on which I differ also.
1. I believe in Jesus (Peace on Him) as a messenger of God. He was not God; nor literal Son of God.
2. Salvation lies in following the path shown by Jesus (Peace on Him). Merely taking his name will not lead to guaranteed salvation. On other hand, if we follow the Prophets of God (Peace on them), they will guide us safely to heaven as good shepherd (God willing).
3. Salvation does not come from death of Jesus (Peace on Him) at cross. Salvation comes from our following the commandments and God's mercy.
4. Automatic salvation was not teaching of Jesus (Peace on Him). It was a teaching invented by Church. We follow Christ Jesus (Peace on Him) and not the church.
5. We believe in miracles of Jesus (Peace on Him) and innocence of Mother Mary (Peace on Her) based on testimony of Allah through Quran and Prophet Muhammad (Peace on Him). Rejecting the message of Prophet Muhammad (Peace on Him) is equivalent to rejecting the message of Christ Jesus (Peace on Him); since the two messages are identical.
Posted by baggins 6 years ago
I would explain my own position on the issue later.


When Con says that bible contains errors, he walks into a huge problem. On what basis does he believe salvation depends on faith in Christ Jesus (Peace on Him) in the first place. There is no doubt that Pro and Con agree with each other on this issue. However it is not clear on what basis Con accepts that. This renders the Con's case weak.

Con's prime case was based on justice. This was not really addressed by Pro, who avoided the issue and relied on scriptures to argue it must be just. In my opinion if it can be established by The Holy Bible that people who never hear about Jesus (Peace on Him) will go to hell, then that must be part of Christian doctrine. If Con thinks that it is wrong, then clearly he has a problem with the doctrine. However that does not mean the doctrine can be changed to suit somebody's opinion.

I think the mistake made by Con was that he should have argued for the exception from The Holy Bible itself. Since he did not even try to do that, it appears that he agrees that Pro's analysis of bible is correct. I am not an expert of the Holy Bible, however I have read the Holy Quran. People who accept the message of Prophets (Peace on them) will go to heaven. People who reject the message (The Kaffirs) will go to hell. As far as I know there is no mention of people who never receive the message. Since the Holy Quran contains confirmation of earlier revelation, it is likely that same situation applies to The Holy Bible also. This would have left space for Con to argue that inclusivism 'might' be possible. He could have backed it up with the philosophical arguments.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by Reason_Alliance 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro is arguing that the Bible is inerrant and therefore the Christian God is evil. Con argues that God is good, so therefore the Bible is in error. Both make airtight cases that follow from their respective assumptions. I'm going to give the edge to Con, because Pro did not directly confront the implication that exclusivism is evil, and therefore God is evil. He needed to show the error in the common Christian belief that God is good.
Vote Placed by TUF 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Overall a really good debate, my congrats to both debaters. Let's keep in mind, that I am not a chrisitian myself. However coming from a christianity background, the case logic set forth seems to make more sense. Operating under exlusivism, it's detrimental to any religious entity, is what I have determined from reading the Pro's case. Applying to a real life scenario, it makes more sense. If you think something is morally permissable, but refuse to act on it, then are you not a hypocrite?
Vote Placed by popculturepooka 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The main point of contention here were the implications of the respective doctrines which revolved mainly around hell, justice, and how to understand the goodness of God. Pro's two contentions against a works-based faith (or some type of pegalianism) and stress of election seemed to go largely uncontested and those are important and bedrock points to Pro's case. While I feel the moral considerations weigh in Con's favor, I think Pro edged out the win the aforementioned points.
Vote Placed by baggins 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: 4:2 to Pro. RFD in comments...