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Short description: Belief that many different sets of beliefs are true

Inclusivism is one of several approaches in religious studies, anthropology, or civics to understand the relationship between different religions, societies, cultures, political factions etc. It asserts that there is beauty in the variety of different schools of thoughts, and that they can live together in harmony.[citation needed] It stands in contrast to exclusivism, which asserts that only one way is true and all others are erroneous.

Within religious studies and theology, inclusivism is the belief that, although only one belief system is true, aspects of its truth can be found in other religions. This is contrasted from religious pluralism, which asserts that all beliefs are equally valid within a believer's particular context.[1]

Broadly speaking, there are two schools of Inclusivist thought:

  • Relativistic inclusivism, which asserts that the believer's own views are true only in their particular context, and believers of other traditions have their own validity.
  • Absolutist inclusivism, which asserts that an unknown set of assertions are Absolutely True, that no human being currently living has yet ascertained absolute truth, but that all human beings have partially ascertained absolute truth.

Religious inclusivism

Ancient Greece

Interpretatio graeca was the tendency of ancient Greek writers to equate foreign divinities to members of their own pantheon. Herodotus, for example, refers to the ancient Egyptian gods Amon, Osiris, and Ptah as "Zeus," "Dionysus," and "Hephaestus." This could be seen an example of inclusivism, as could syncretism.

Syncretism functioned as an essential feature of Ancient Greek religion. Later on, Hellenism, a consequence of Alexander the Great's belief that he was the son of a god, reinforced by the Oracle of Zeus-Ammon at Siwa in Egypt, itself showed syncretic features, essentially blending Persian, Anatolian, Egyptian (and eventually Etruscan-Roman) elements within Hellenic formulations. After the Hellenization of the Egyptian culture initiated by Ptolemy I Soter, Isis became known as "Queen of Heaven" and worshipped in many aspects and by many names besides that of Hera.


A well-known Rig Vedic hymn stemming from Hinduism claims that "Truth is One, though the sages know it variously", proclaiming a pluralistic view of religion. Krishna, incarnation or Avatar of Vishnu, the supreme God in Hinduism, said in the Gita, "In whatever way men identify with Me, in the same way do I carry out their desires; men pursue My path... in all ways" (Gita:4:11). He also said that "Whatever deity or form a devotee worships, I make his faith steady. However, their wishes are only granted by Me" (Gita: 7:21–22). Another quote in the Gita states: "O Arjuna, even those devotees who worship other lesser deities (e.g., Devas, for example) with faith, they also worship Me, but in an improper way because I am the Supreme Being. I alone am the enjoyer of all sacrificial services (Seva, Yajna) and Lord of the universe" (Gita: 9:23).


Inclusive Christianity, also called inclusive theology,[2] is an interpretation of the Bible that maintains that God desires and has the power to save individuals irrespective of the tradition in which they are born.[3][4] Some Christians who hold to inclusive theology make a distinction between Christians and believers. These Christians maintain that all Christians are believers, however, not all believers are Christians. In this line of thought, Christians are believers in Jesus Christ, but not all believers trust in Christ. Inclusive theology is rooted in a larger growing movement called "interfaith"[5] which aims to create unity among various religions. The inclusive interpretation is a minority view, and is considered by many clergy not to be in line with the official doctrine of Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, as well as many of the largest Protestant denominations.

Christian supporters of inclusivism include Augustus Hopkins Strong,[6] C. S. Lewis,[7][8] John Wesley,[9][10] Clark Pinnock,[11] Karl Rahner, John E. Sanders, Terrance L. Tiessen, and Robert Brush (contributor to The Arminian Magazine). While Billy Graham mostly preached "salvation by faith in Christ alone" throughout his 60-year ministry as an evangelist, he later made controversial comments that border on inclusivism (although he stated that he did not like to refer to it by that term, because he was concerned that many people mean universalism when they refer to inclusivism). Graham said, “I used to play God but I can’t do that any more. I used to believe that pagans in far-off countries were lost and were going to hell—if they did not have the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them. I no longer believe that,” he said carefully. “I believe that there are other ways of recognizing the existence of God—through nature, for instance—and plenty of other opportunities, therefore, of saying ’yes’ to God.”[12]

Some Evangelical scholars[who?] believe that God judges all people based on their response to the Holy Spirit, citing Romans 2:14-15 as evidence that those following a natural moral law are still following God. Others have interpreted this text in an additional inclusive manner in the way that non-Christians also naturally (given by nature) carry a part of the wisdom of God in their hearts as part of themselves. In a similar manner they furthermore interpret Genesis 20, 9-11 as well as 1 Corinthians 5,1 as they would show examples of non-Christians or non-Jews that – based on their naturally given knowledge of the Law of God – would live out more god-pleasing lives than jews and Christians often would live.[13] In Romans 1, 19-20 it is often argued by inclusive Christians that this description would imply that God – in parts – can be recognized by any human being no matter its Religion or cultural background as well as independent from its geographic and/or its chronologic whereabouts. This would include as well the domain of modern science as it studies the universe (rel. the creation) as implied in Psalm 19,2-4. Other verses cited as supporting inclusivism include Acts 17:23-28, wherein Paul says that the (pagan) Greeks had been worshiping God without knowing it, and that their poets have partially recognized the true nature of God.[13] Inclusive Christians from different denominations furthermore argue that in Colossians 1,16 it would be mentioned that the universe – through its creatureliness – is part of the being of God: the ground-structure of the universe would be part of the eternal reality and being of Christ.[14] Another biblical verse inclusive believers use is Acts 10:1-48, which would state that whoever fears God and does good works is accepted by him, regardless of nation. In addition, the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) portrays the judgment of the nations as being based on each individual's compassion on others, not on their religious background.[citation needed] Finally it is sometimes argued that the inner connection between the biblical verses from Gen 2,7 and Gen 7, 21-22 would be a definite proof that every living organism would carry essential parts of the living God inside itself: namely through the living breath of God.[15]

Although these inclusive interpretations of the Bible as they are believed to be understood by many inclusive Christians state, that God – partially – can be experienced and found in other religions and/or disciplines such as science for example, they still normally mention that – at the same time – to fully experience the deepest and most intimate relationship with God it would be crucially necessary to find and unite with the reality and person of Jesus and therefore not only with the reality of the Universal Christ. At the same time, it is stated, that to fully be in relationship with God it also would be necessary to accept the inclusive and universal nature of the Christ and of God as a whole and therefore not only the relationship to a as internally concentrated believed and experienced Jesus.[16]

The doctrine of inclusivism is held by Unitarian Universalism which is considered a protestant denomination,[17][18] some Roman Catholics [19] and Seventh-day Adventists, asserting that while Christianity is the one true faith, other faiths are at least partially true.

An alternative use for the term "inclusive theology"[20] has to do with a movement called feminist theology which aims to include more women into religious clergy roles that has been historically unavailable to women.

Out of an inclusivistic / inclusive theological attitude believed in a faith-community can grow corresponding religious / spiritual / ecclesiastical / interdisciplinary institutions. Examples of this are the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Council for Culture or the Pontificial Council for Interreligious Dialogue. In all of these institutions of the Catholic Church the relationships to these other disciplines and religions are fostered because of the basic inclusivistic / inclusive theological understanding of the Bible. [21]

Baháʼí Faith

Shoghi Effendi, the head of the Baháʼí Faith in the first half of the 20th century, stated:

The fundamental principle enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh, the followers of His Faith firmly believe, is that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process, that all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony, that their aims and purposes are one and the same, that their teachings are but facets of one truth, that their functions are complementary, that they differ only in the nonessential aspects of their doctrines, and that their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society.[22][23]

See also


  1. Marbaniang, Domenic (January 2007). "Theology of Religion: Pluralism, Inclusivism, Exclusivism". Bangalore, India: ACTS Academy of Higher Education. 
  2. Queen, Chuck. "The Need for an Inclusive Faith". Progressive Christianity. Retrieved 28 February 2019. 
  3. Coppel, Paula. "Inclusive Christianity". Unity. Retrieved 28 February 2019. 
  4. Williams, Thomas D.. "Inclusive Christianity". Retrieved 28 February 2019. 
  5. "Interfaith". Retrieved 28 February 2019. 
  6. Strong, Anthony H. (1907). Systematic Theology. Old Tappan, NJ: Revell. pp. 842–43. OCLC 878559610. 
  7. Lewis, 1967, Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 65.
  8. John Sanders, 1992, No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 251–57.
  9. Wesley, 1986, "On Faith" in The Works of John Wesley, 3rd ed. volume 7, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 197.
  10. John Sanders, 1992,No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 249–51.
  11. Clark Pinnock, 1992, A Wideness in God's Mercy: The Finality of Jesus Christ in a World of Religions, Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  12. "I Can't Play God Anymore" interview with James M. Beam, McCall's Magazine, January 1978, pp. 154–58
  13. 13.0 13.1 Dr. J. V. Fesko: Die Schöpfung bezeugt den Schöpfer: Die klassisch-reformierte Theologie und die Verteidigung des Glaubens. In: 81375 Munich GER. , first published in: Tabletalk Magazin Editon July 2019 Ligonier Ministries.
  14. Richard Rohr OFM: The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe. In: A Universal and Personal God, pages 20-22 (eBook-Format) Durnell Wiley first published in 2019, ISBN 978-0-281-07862-2
  15. Dana M. Pike: The Latter-day Saint Reimaging of “the Breath of Life” (Genesis 2:7) - The Breath of Life” in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. In:, last checked 07.27.2023
  16. Richard Rohr OFM: The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe. In: A Universal and Personal God, pages 22-23 (eBook-Format) Durnell Wiley first published in 2019, ISBN 978-0-281-07862-2
  17. Keller, R.S.; Ruether, R.R.; Cantlon, M. (2006). Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America: Women in North American Catholicism. Indiana University Press. p. 1273. ISBN 978-0-253-34688-9. Retrieved 2023-02-17. 
  18. Gallagher, E.V.; Willsky-Ciollo, L. (2021). New Religions: Emerging Faiths and Religious Cultures in the Modern World [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 634. ISBN 978-1-4408-6236-6. Retrieved 2023-02-17. 
  19. "Nostra aetate". Vatican. 
  20. Randy L. Maddox. "Toward an Inclusive Theology: The Systematic Implications of the Feminist Critique". Retrieved 28 February 2019. 
  21. The Holy See:Statement by Card. Tarcisio Bertone Secretary Of State, last retrieved December 2023, First published September 2006.
  22. The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh" in World Order, Vol. 7, No. 2 (1972–73)
  23. "The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh: A World Religion". Bahai.