Can an evangelical be an inclusivist but not a heretic?

Evangelicals are more likely to be labeled ‘exclusivist’ rather than ‘inclusivist’.  One controversial evangelical theologian, Dr. Clark Pinnock (now deceased), was well-known for his inclusivist views on salvation, which got him in trouble with exclusivists. Pinnock states:

“Inclusivism believes that, because God is present in the whole world, God’s grace is also at work in some way among all people, possibly even in the sphere of religious life.  It entertains the possibility that religion may play a role in the salvation of the human race, a role preparatory to the gospel of Christ, in whom alone fullness of salvation is found.” (Four views on salvation in a pluralistic world, p. 98)

He believed that the Spirit was not limited from operating within the sphere of human religions, and that God’s grace could work redemptively in the religious dimension of human culture.

For more of today’s evangelicals (like Rob Bell, author of Love Wins), this would not be difficult to accept, especially when put into the perspective that God is working redemptively to prepare people for the gospel of Christ.  I’ve just finished reading Pinnock’s book, A Wideness in God’s Mercy (1992), and was somewhat surprised that I could agree with the main crux in his theology.

If a conservative evangelical adopted this position, could such a person be considered an inclusivist without being a heretic?

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

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