“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’ [Psalm 118:22]
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to humankind by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:11-12
This passage of scripture, taken from Peter’s speech to the Sanhedrin, celebrates the exclusivity of the Christian faith. Salvation is found in no one else. Jesus said something similar about Himself:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6
And yet at other times in the scriptures, we see the radical inclusivity of the gospel, like in Galatians 3:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:26-28
Holding the tension of these two truths together is absolutely essential for orthodox Christian faith to exist. If all we have is exclusivity, we fall into error and become very closed and judgmental like the Pharisees. If all we have is inclusivity, we become polygamous in our beliefs and fall into infidelity to the truth of the gospel. Unfortunately, certain forms of conservative Christianity only stress exclusivity and certain forms of progressive Christianity only stress inclusivity.
The gospel, however, is not just about including the outsider. It’s not just about finding who is oppressed in trying to make them feel included in the Church. That is a part of the gospel but only part of it. Progressive Christians want this to be the sum total of what the gospel message is about and fall into error in doing so.
Imagine a job opening. In order for the hiring process to be healthy, you need both inclusivity and exclusivity. Everyone should be able to apply to the job (inclusivity) but not everyone can get hired for the job (exclusivity). If all we have is inclusivity without the exclusivity, we have chaos. What if, after a person is hired, someone were to say, “But you’re excluding people and the gospel isn’t about exclusion. You should hire everyone.” It would be nonsensical, right? Yet, this is the mindset of many Progressive Christians today when it comes to Christianity.
Or, how about marriage? Exclusivity is a necessary component. The word we use for exclusivity in marriage is fidelity. Inclusivity in a marriage relationship would be a polyamorous or polygamous relationship. Yet, once exclusivity is firmly established, that marriage can then invite friends, family, children, adopted children, etc. into their home and practice radical inclusivity within their family. But we can’t forget that it is exclusivity that secures the firm footing for radical inclusivity. Without it, inclusivity becomes chaos and, ultimately, infidelity.
So, are all invited to the table? Yes, all are invited to the table, but all are invited to partake in only one meal, the body and blood of Jesus.
Are all invited to the foot of the cross? Yes, all are invited to the foot of the cross, but not to champion our rights. Instead, we are all invited there to surrender all our rights to the King of Kings.
Are all invited to the throne room of grace? Yes, all are invited to the throne room of grace to bow our knee, totally abandon our way of life, and receive true life that comes only from Jesus and only by living His way of life.
For more on how exclusivity and inclusivity must be held together, read this great article.