Our shrinking global village is often cited as a major reason for the rise of universalism, pluralism, and inclusivism in the evangelical church. Technology and transportation have made us more aware of other people and other religions, and so we’re less inclined to think that believing in Jesus is the only way to salvation. This argument sounds plausible, until you realize that the first century Roman empire was also quite diverse. Then it just seems like an excuse.
Peter, John, and Paul were religious outliers. They considered almost everyone else to be a spiritual “other,” and yet they didn’t sway in their proclamation of the gospel, but told as many people as they could that salvation only came by believing in Jesus (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13-15).
Consider 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16. Paul says that the Jews “displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved.” Even though Paul is not trying to make the point, he is assuming that exclusivism is true. Unless he speaks the gospel to the Gentiles, they will not be saved. Paul said this in a pluralistic culture, in which he was decidedly the other. Most everyone he met believed differently, and yet he did not change his beliefs to fit in.
The pluralism that accompanies our shrinking global village may provide an incentive to relinquish soteriological exclusivism, but it’s not the deciding factor. If we could ask the apostles why many of us no longer believe like them, I suspect they would say we suffer from a lack of courage.
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