Evangelical Inclusivism; Recovering the Position of the 'Church Fathers'...

It is regrettable (but perhaps not surprising) that one may find some quite sarcastic and sneering comments towards what has become known as 'Evangelical Inclusivism' around the internet. Not surprisingly, most of these comments appear on certain websites which espouse what one can only call Hyper-Calvinism, which is really a doctrine of hatred towards 90% of God's human creation. It is alarming that even certain well-known Christian writers who set out to attack this position have evidently not even properly studied it. They make certain wild statements which reveal their lack of knowledge of a subject which they have nevertheless decided to attack. But is it not highly unwise to attack something before comprehensively researching it and ensuring that one's understanding is 'up to speed' on that topic?

Common Errors About Evangelical Inclusivism...

'Original Sin' and Election in Eastern Orthodox Theology

Whilst 'Original Sin' remains a very real doctrine in Eastern Orthodoxy, it is understood differently. and is seen as cleansed through baptism.

This view differs from the Roman Catholic (Augustinian) doctrine of Original Sin which has been inherited by most of Protestantism; within Orthodoxy, man is not seen as inherently guilty of the sin of Adam, but, rather, as inheriting the consequences of that sin, but not the guilt. The view of Orthodox theologians is that the difference came about because Augustine interpreted a Latin translation of Romans 5:12 as meaning that through Adam all men sinned, whereas the Orthodox reading (through the medium of Greek), interprets it as meaning that we all sin as part of the inheritance of flawed nature from Adam. Therefore, the Orthodox Church does not teach that we are born deserving to go to hell and Protestant doctrines such as the Predeterminism that result from the Augustinian understanding of Original Sin are not, and never have been, a part of Orthodox belief. So Christian Orthodoxy insists that the harsh Augustinian view of Original Sin and Limited Atonement did not come from the 'fathers' and were never doctrines of the early Church.
UK Apologetics, 2007.

Evangelical Inclusivism, then, seeks to recover a theological position which was accepted within the early Church before later finding some opposition from Augustine onwards (although Augustine himself certainly made some statements which sound like a support for this position, he nevertheless, at length, developed a hardened and highly restrictivist and exclusivist Christian approach towards salvation). The evidence is very strong that his influence here came from the Manichaeism which he had once embraced, with its strong tendencies toward separatism, exclusivism and fatalism; moreover, Augustine would later greatly influence Calvin. Calvin, make no mistake, was a great theologian, yet his Augustinian influences in the areas of election and restricted atonement were very strong. And so it is that - from this point - the Inclusivism of Jesus, Paul and the early church would be somewhat pushed onto the outside, or, the periphery of established Christian doctrine, and restrictivism would come to be seen as much more the 'mainstream' approach, especially within the Western, Rome-influenced church (even to this day, Eastern Orthodoxy has continued to be more 'open' on election, calling and salvation; see inset article). Of course, it remains the case that Protestant theology (mostly developing from an Augustinian/Roman/Calvin base), had many strengths but it also developed a somewhat confining and restrictivist view of Christian election, calling and of the efficacy of the Holy Spirit. Arminianism was never fully successful in redressing the balance because it set out to do so by its own form of restrictivist teaching, that is, by restricting the grace and sovereignty of God and by promoting human autonomy. At length, Arminianism came to be seen as inherently flawed.

So, simply to reiterate, Evangelical Inclusivism believes that Jesus layed down His life for the world, and for all men and women, just as the New Testament teaches. There is no New Testament support for the belief that Jesus is simply the Saviour of the 'Elect' - the concepts of the 'elect' and the 'little flock' are indeed biblical concepts but these, we maintain, occur in somewhat different contexts; when the full theological/salvific scope of our High Priest's sacrifice is outlined, the New Testament is unequivocal that that scope has no limit. Consult John 1:9; John 1:29; John 3:16-17; John 4:42; John 6:33; John 6:51; John 12:32; Acts 10:34-35; Roms. 6:15-19; 2 Cor. 5:4; 2 Cor. 5:19; Philipp. 2:10-11; Col. 1:20; 1 Tim. 2:4-6; Hebs. 2:9; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:14; Rev. 7:9-10.
Of course, this still does not mean that every single living soul of all the ages will be saved, but it does mean that God has not made a decision to cut off untold millions from the possibility of Eternal Life (as 'limited atonement' teaches).

Robin A. Brace, 2007.