Jesus made many absolute statements such as the following:
John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (NIV).
Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (NIV).
Interacting with these statements, how would you answer someone accusing Christianity of exclusivism (as defined in Chapter 8 of the textbook)?
Christian exclusivism is the concept that there is only one way to God or to pleasing God. This is sometimes referred to as a restrictivist, or essentialist, view. It should be noted that the religious exclusivist phrase was coined in derision to the belief that there is only one way to salvation. It would be too general a statement to say that all religions are exclusivist, but it would be fair to say that most religions are going to believe themselves right, or they would simply not exist. Christianity, historically and overwhelmingly, has held this view. Christians, during the time of the Roman Empire, for example, were accused of being atheists because they believed in one Triune God, but did not believe in Caesar as a god. They held an exclusivist view, even if this view would lead to their persecution or death.
A Christian exclusivist view continues to be the norm as some two billion of the world’s seven billion people identify themselves as Christians (Pew-Templeton, n.d.). These people identify themselves as Christians, and in so doing, identify themselves as not something else. They judge themselves to be followers or adherents of Jesus of Nazareth. Like the followers of Christ nearly 2,000 years ago, many present day Christians face death for believing that God demands their exclusive devotion.