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Exclusivism, Inclusivism, and Pluralism

This world has frightened countless people and it continuously causes suffering to them despite their efforts in attaining a happy life. Many realized this to be a sign that people experience suffering in varying degrees because of a previous offense or sin. Some also thought that this is what life is meant to be and that everyone’s mission is to escape it, or more appropriately, to fix it. Religion played a major role in providing people relief and hope that there will come a time that their suffering will end.

Through the scriptures and teachings of prophets and wise men we are thought that life indeed is escapable or fixable. However, the varying religions raised to us the question regarding their validity and all have told that the answer to this question is faith. Certain religions teach their faithfuls that they are the only ones to be saved and those who follow “false” gods are subject to eternal damnation. This practice falls under religious exclusivism, a belief or teaching that a particular religion alone brings salvation.

Others are convinced that their religion is the most valid, but believe that people from other religion is subject to salvation through moral acts. This follows religious inclusivism, a belief that people can achieve salvation regardless of their religion. Lastly, some religions, or more suitably, some faithfuls believe that all religions are equal and all have the capability to send their followers to eternal salvation. This pluralism implies that, though there are differences in beliefs and practices, every religion leads to God and are empowered with man’s love for God.

Christianity in general holds a very strict belief in exclusivism. Backed by the bible, conservative Christian leaders are well convinced in their notion that the submission under jesus Christ will send faithfuls to eternal salvation. They believe that Jesus Christ alone saves, “and there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Religious exclusivism involves the conviction that no religion, except that which one is holding, can pay for one’s sins and bring them to salvation.

It denotes the very strong faith one has, almost a characteristic of fanaticism, over his God and the teachings he has been thought with. For an exclusivist, salvation is attainable only by following the one true God, which is his God. The Christian Exclusivism relates to the bible as a proof that no other religion can bring people to the real god and no other person, or god, can save people. Thus Paul says, “for there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Therefore Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and any other religion will not save one from their sins. It may give them some sort of comfort and well-being for the time they spent in this world, but in the end they are not welcome in God’s kingdom and will not receive God’s grace. Also, for Christians, sins are not paid by moral acts alone. One needs a mediator or somebody to die in their place to pay for their sins. In the Christian tradition, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was sent to save humanity from their sins.

He died on the cross in order for those who will believe in Him to be saved and be with God at the end of time. Thus the bible says, “for Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Also, “the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). In other words, only those who will submit themselves to believing that Jesus Christ, a God and human, died for them in order to save them will receive eternal salvation.

The criticisms posed against Christian existentialism started the increase in believers of in inclusivism. Though it is not centrally attributed to Christianity, inclusivism has been well used to described Christian counterparts of existentialists. Inclusivism posits the belief that a certain religion is true, but then all other religion can save people. Thus it implies that, in Christian tradition, following Jesus Christ is not the only way to be saved, though Jesus Christ is the real savior. People can attain salvation also by living morally and venerating God, whichever religion He comes from.

Inclusivists believe that God is all-loving, thus allows entrance to heaven even those who does not call Him as He is. The Christian conviction that those who reject Jesus Christ and do not believe in His deity and His dying and resurrection will not be saved is countered greatly by inclusivists by saying that rejecting Jesus Christ, or at least not knowing Him, is the reason why men and women go to hell. Inclusivism high notes morality as the biggest factor on who receives salvation and who does not. For them, good goes to heaven and the bad to hell.

Inclusivism also promotes the practice of religious tolerance. As opposite to the exclusivist tendency to prevent other people from other religion from practicing their rites and beliefs, inclusivists allow other religions to prosper and their followers to practice their faith. Religious tolerance also minimizes violence produced by religious conflicts, as evident in the past religious wars and discriminations. Pluralism though offers a very open-minded point of view. It denotes acceptance of other religion as true and equal to that being held by the faithful.

Pluralists hold that all true religion in the world leads believers to God. People, as long as they believe in God and eternal salvation and act morally, will reach heaven. Pluralists realize the differences in rites, holy people, sacred places, and religious laws. They also accept that religions stress man’s love for God and love for every living beings. No differences can erase the fact that all are equally made in the image of God and all have the capability and right to venerate Him the way they want in moral acts. There are similarities however even in the most varying religions.

Hinduism and Christianity both share the belief that God is an omnipotent and omniscient divine person who is just and compassionate to all; God is the one who will communicate in an encounter with us; God decides who to talk to; and God saves humans. Salvation is not exclusive to one religion nor there is only one true and valid religion. It is God who will decide on who is to be saved at the end of time. Bede Griffirihs, author of The Vedic Revelation, affirmed the emergence of the more open-minded society towards world religions.

He speaks of “new Christians” who believe that God has communicated with man in many ways, not just through the bible. “Christians begun to discover the riches that God has lavished to other nations,” he said. Not just limited to believing that Christianity is the only true religion loved by God, Bede is convinced that the world now emerges to sharing the gifts given to them by God who appeared in so many ways and whose words were transcribed in different books and by different prophets. It is doubtless to say that he is a pluralist, based on his description of the different revelations God made to man.

He says that the scriptures are eternal, thus given by God to man, whether it be the Koran, the Torah, the Bible, or the Vedas. Regardless, he admits that there are sure to be mistakes in the communication between man and God, particularly in how the Words are understood and written. But then they are still the Word of God, thus all the scriptures are deemed to be true, and must be followed accordingly for the love of God. Accordingly, I think that pluralism does create a more understanding and cooperative view of God between religions. Regardless of our held belief, we can never judge another’s faith as somewhat false or wrong.

Indeed, God has communicated with us in many ways and in many forms. Also, we can communicate with God in many different moral ways that we can. Exclusivism attracts conflict, with the possibility of religious discrimination. This view can result to more misunderstanding, even war, just like in the previous centuries. Also, the held view that only one religion is true, as shared by exclusivists and inclusivists, proves one great human error, the tendency of man to position itself perfectly against another without much open-mindedness for the unknown.

God is compassionate to His creatures and gives them the freedom to find their way back to their love the way they wanted to. Salvation is not achieved only by submitting under a single truth who disregard the right of other people even though they are also pursuing their paths back to God. Jesus Christ I think will not want His people to to look lowly at other people who are morally pursuing their paths. God wants us to love Him at the best way possible and He will judge us according to our actions. He will look at our deeds and will certainly, I think, punish more those who have closed the doors of heaven from equally good people.

Everyone is hoping that after suffering in this world they will reach a certain kind of peace and finally be removed from their fatal obligations here on earth. Even the bad people, deep in their hearts, are longing to be saved from their misery. Thus we are all thinking someone external from this world to save us. Our hopes prompt us to join other people and do moral acts. Certainly, we are not in the position to speak for Him who is far more understanding of one’s suffering than us. Let us believe what we think is best for us and make actions accordingly. Let Him judge us at the end of our time.

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