Question: "What is the gospel of inclusion?"
Answer: The gospel of inclusion is simply the old heresy of universalism re-packaged and given a new name. Universalism is the belief that all people will eventually be saved and go to heaven. The gospel of inclusion, as taught by Carlton Pearson and others, encompasses several false beliefs:
(1) The gospel of inclusion says that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ paid the price for all of humanity to enjoy eternal life in heaven without any need for repentance.
(2) The gospel of inclusion teaches that salvation is unconditional and does not even require faith in Jesus Christ as the payment for mankind’s sin debt.
(3) The gospel of inclusion believes that all humanity is destined to life in heaven whether or not they realize it.
(4) The gospel of inclusion declares that all humanity will go to heaven regardless of religious affiliation.
(5) Lastly, the gospel of inclusion holds that only those who intentionally and consciously reject the grace of God—after having “tasted the fruit” of His grace—will spend eternity separated from God.
The gospel of inclusion runs counter to the clear teachings of Jesus and the Bible. In John’s Gospel, Jesus clearly states that the only path to salvation is through Him (John 14:6). God sent Jesus into the world to secure salvation for fallen humanity, but that salvation is only available to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ as God’s payment for their sin (John 3:16). The apostles echo this message (Ephesians 2:8–9; 1 Peter 1:8–9; 1 John 5:13). Faith in Jesus Christ means no longer trying to secure salvation based on works, but rather trusting that what Jesus did was sufficient to secure salvation.
In conjunction with faith is repentance. The two go hand-in-hand. Repentance is a change of mind about your sin and need for salvation through Christ by faith (Acts 2:38). The act of repentance is one in which we acknowledge that, before God, we’re sinners incapable of earning our way to salvation. When we repent of our sins, we turn away from them and seek Christ by faith.
Jesus offers salvation to everyone who is willing to repent and believe (John 3:16). However, Jesus Himself said that not everyone will believe (Matthew 7:13-14; John 3:19). No one likes to think that a loving and gracious God would send people to hell, but that is exactly what the Bible teaches. Jesus says that, at the end, the Son of Man will separate all the nations as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep (representing those who through faith in Jesus Christ have salvation secured) will go into the kingdom with Jesus. The goats (representing those who have rejected the salvation that Jesus offers) will go into hell, which is described as eternal fire (Matthew 25:31–46).
This teaching offends many, and, instead of conforming their thinking to the clear teaching of the Word of God, some change what the Bible says and spread this false teaching. The gospel of inclusion is an example of this.
Here are some additional arguments against the gospel of inclusion:
(1) If faith and repentance are not required to receive the gift of salvation, then why is the New Testament full of calls to repent and place your faith in Jesus Christ?
(2) If salvation doesn’t require faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, then why did Jesus submit to such a humiliating and excruciatingly painful death? God could have just granted everyone a “divine pardon.”
(3) If everyone is going to go to heaven whether they realize it or not, then what about free will? Is the atheist who has spent his life rejecting God, the Bible, Jesus, and Christianity going to be dragged into heaven, kicking and screaming against his will? The gospel of inclusion seems to indicate that heaven will be filled with people who don’t necessarily want to be there.
(4) How can all people go to heaven regardless of religious affiliation if there are many religions which hold contradictory claims? For example, what about people who believe completely different things about the afterlife, such as reincarnation or annihilationism (i.e., the idea that at death we cease to exist after death)?
(5) Finally, if those who openly reject the grace of God don’t go to heaven, then it’s hardly a gospel of inclusion, is it? If all people do not go to heaven, do not call it the gospel of inclusion, because it still excludes some.
The apostle Paul called the message of the gospel the “fragrance of death” (2 Corinthians 2:16). What he meant by this is that, to many, the message of the gospel is offensive. It tells people the truth about their sin and hopeless state without Christ. It tells people that there is nothing they can do to bridge the gap between themselves and God. For centuries, there have been those (many with good intentions) who have attempted to soften the message of the gospel to get more people into church. On the surface, that seems like the wise thing to do, but in the end all it does is give people a false sense of security. Paul said that anyone who preaches a different gospel than the one he preached should be cursed (Galatians 1:8). That is strong language, but once you realize how vitally important the message of the gospel is, you also realize how vitally important it is to get it right. A false gospel doesn’t save anyone. All it does is condemn more people to hell and generate greater condemnation for those who purvey falsehoods such as the gospel of inclusion.