How do the various claims to truth of world religions relate to one another? Further, how should Christians think of salvation for those who have never heard? The traditional distinction to answer this question breaks into three categories:
- Exclusivism: Jesus is the only Savior of the world, and one must believe God’s special revelation culminating in the gospel of Christ to be saved.
- Inclusivism: Jesus is the only Savior of the world, but one does not have to believe the gospel to be saved.
- Pluralism: All paths are valid and lead to God.
Andy Naselli points to Christopher W. Morgan’s “Inclusivisms and Exclusivisms” in Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism (WTS books). Morgan drills down into these categories, and notes that while most theologians still operate within these traditional sectors as a framework, in reality there are nine discernible categories:
- Church exclusivism: No, outside the church there is no salvation.
- Gospel exclusivism: No, they must hear the gospel and trust Christ to be saved.
- Special revelation exclusivism: No, they must hear the gospel and trust Christ to be saved, unless God chooses to send them special revelation in an extraordinary way—by a dream, vision, miracle, or angelic message.
- Agnosticism: We cannot know.*