Exclusively Inclusive

Following on the heels of a previous post (See: Just One Caveat, Or Two, Or Three…) that recounted an interaction I had with a woman who seemed very uncomfortable with the idea that she thought she was being offensive by having an opinion on spiritual things that I did not share.  The discussion on her end was thick with caveats: I don’t want to say you’re wrong, I’m not trying to offend you, I’m not saying you have to believe what I believe, and, I’m not saying I’m right.  It got to the point where I had to reassure her it was ok that we disagree, that there is nothing inherently wrong with believing your own opinions are correct and that other’s may be wrong.  After reflecting on the post and our conversation, I think there is something more afoot here than I first noticed.

The underlying foundation of the perceived offense that claiming one’s own position is correct is pluralism, that all views are as correct — or, true for you — as any other.  Or that exclusive claims are, to whatever degree, offensive or arrogant.  I know many people who, if you suggest they are wrong about anything, take it as a personal insult.

The first possible factor, pluralism, is insurmountably false and ultimately, the pluralist worldview is self-defeating.  Pluralism would have to accept as true worldviews that claim pluralism is false.  Every religion has affirmations that make exclusionary claims (See: Intro, Counterfeit Truth), they cannot all be true.

Ignoring the fact that arrogance is not a tester for truth, is there something wrong with exclusive claims?

There is no nobility in holding inclusive views while decrying exclusivists, since doing so places you among those you condemn.  If you think your view is correct, by definition you are an exclusivist.  There is no way to avoid this.  If you don’t think your view is right, why would you hold it?  If one tries to claim they are not exclusive because they hold to some form of pluralism, they run into the problem that their view is false as noted above.  In the same breath that they point to their inclusion of all or many views, while at the same time suggesting you ought to as well, they have entered into the realm of exclusivism.  They are telling you that you are wrong and they are right, i.e., inclusivism is true and exclusivism is false.  An exclusivist claim!

What’s more is they now (by their definition) display the arrogance that comes with exclusivism.  They are telling other religious views, not only are they wrong, but how they should be.  Parts of your religion are wrong, and you should change the parts of your religion I think are wrong to my way instead.  As an exclusivist, my worldview doesn’t prohibit such criticism.  But for the inclusivist, Do your religion my way — which is the essential the message — is highly hypocritical.  And ironically, it’s done all in the name of some mangled understanding of tolerance (See: Haters, Haters Everywhere).

My point is not that people shouldn’t tell others they are wrong, far from it.  It is that no one can be a consistent inclusivist and think their view is true at the same time — in the actual sense of what it means for a view to be true.  The inclusivist has only two options.  Either hold a false worldview by claiming all or most views are more or less true.  Or adopt the view they are claiming is false: Exclusivism.  All views at their core are exclusive, even if it is not obvious at first.


  1. Wow, I think you have made a large category logic mistake here. (forgot the technical name for it). That aside, I do agree that it is OK to tell someone they are wrong, of course, ask this comment illustrates.

    But anyway, here is your logical mistake:

    You said:

    If you think your view is correct, by definition you are an exclusivist.

    “Exclusive vs Inclusive” is applied to a category and is not a general character or intellectual trait.

    So, I may be exclusive in my choice of sexual partners (desiring only women, for instance) but may be inclusive in bowling club (allowing women even if it can hinder free conversation among men who “just want to relax”).

    So I can’t demand you to be consistent in your sexual exclusiveness by excluding women in your bowling league, so, you can’t declare someone is not inconsistent who is inclusive in their sotological position while feeling that exclusiveness in sotological positions is wrong (that is, they are not inclusive in a California sense where “everything is cool, dude”).

    • Sabio

      If you read the previous post referenced in the first paragraph, you’d have known the inclusivism and pluralism (which I made many references to in this post) refers to religious/spiritual inclusivism and exclusivism. You are over applying the concept and attaching it to subjects beyond the scope of my post.

      But even still, the examples you give are still exclusive.

  2. Marshall Art says:

    @ Sabio. A somewhat lame analogy. As I am exclusive in my choice of sexual partners (which at this point is–only my wife), it means that regarding sexual partners, I am holding an exclusive position on the issue of sexual partners specifically, not women in general. At the same time, that I might bowl on a mixed league would likely mean that I insist that every team be comprised of at least one member of each sex and on THAT issue I would exclude any alternative option. It’s an issue specific deal here. As I know there is only one God and He is the One described in the Christian Bible, this exclusionary belief does not mean I exclude non-Christians from my life. I am only excluding the possibility of other faith claims being true. Period.

    just sayin’

  3. Marshall Art says:

    As to the post itself, I try to hold a position of intending to persuade or be persuaded. Until the latter comes to pass, I am fixed on my beliefs on whatever topic is on the table. All other points of view are undoubtedly wrong with a persuasive argument to sway my point of view. I believe I can also hold the possibility of being wrong as…well…possible, but I am not until proven so.

    So, do you think my opinion is wrong? Fine. Make your case. I’ll listen. By listening, I’ll either at least begin to doubt the certainty of my position, or I’ll be unmoved.

    All the while, I have no issue with the other person’s opinion that I am wrong. I am not offended. I am simply not persuaded and likely saddened that the other person believes what they believe. I can be told all day long that I am wrong. I am not offended. Why others might be if told they are wrong is likely a fear of being wrong and having to adjust their lives according to the new understanding, especially if the new understanding results in a loss of friends or an increase in hostility from former allies.

  4. @ Marshall
    “Lame” — good conversation motivator.
    You don’t understand my meaning. I will let you re-read.

    @ John
    So, one has to be a serial reader or they can’t follow your posts?
    Since exclusive-inclusive claims must be focused on a subject, I suggest that you always accomplanying them as such.

    But, I think my point still stands — maybe not, but you tell me (though I know your mind will be highly motivated to rationalize rather than admit a post’s main point was wrong).

    When criticizing someone’s “religious exclusivism” people usually mean their soteriological positions: ie, “if you don’t believe what I believe, you burn in hell”.
    Many Christians are inclusivists. So a fellow Christian could claim that your soteriological exclusivist position is mistaken and yet you could not accuse them of being inconsistent.

    Don’t you agree?
    Otherwise (and I found the error) it would be http://www.fallacyfiles.org/redefine.html>a redefinition logical fallacy.

    Simple notice: without careful reading, avoidance of distracting, direct response to the substance of my comment, I will duck out of this “conversation” (too busy for much else).

    • Sabio

      You don’t have to be a serial reader, but my opening paragraph was a recap and a link to the previous post which I was expanding upon, Which I provided precisely because not everyone is a serial reader. But moving on…

      Yes, many people are decrying the soteriological exclusivity of religious exclusivists. The pluralist and inclusivist will attempt to dispense with the exclusivity of the soteriological doctrines by either holding to, or offering that exclusivity of religious claims either are not true, or should not be argued for. Many inclusivists/pluralists find soteriological exclusivity either offensive or arrogant. “who are you to say who goes where?” “who are you to say what people have to believe?”

      The problem is the inclusivist makes himself an exclusivist when he advocates his view is the true view, and other views are false. But for some reason, telling me my exclusive view is false is not seen as distasteful. If everyone (multiple religious views on soteriology) is right, the inclusivist has offered an idea that is self-defeating. “All exclusivists are wrong, and inclusivism is right”, excludes exclusivism, rendering it an exclusive view.

      I haven’t equivocated anything here. If you have one understanding and I have another, you say (rightly) that most people mean exclusive in soteriological language. I agree, but many also use it in generalities, that’s not equivocation. Perhaps you could show me where I used one meaning of a term, then argued against it using a different meaning, so I can be clear.

  5. @ John,
    Nope, I am done. You still don’t understand and I think I made myself very clear. You might want to ask a Christian friend who is good is logic and language — it may be easier for you to hear it from them. Or, I could be mistaken and you can ignore this. But I have no more time for this — too busy with far more interesting things. Thanx. See you again sometime in other post.

  6. Marshall Art says:


    Ah. You’re not a serial reader, but a serial drive-by commenter, making a cursory look-see at the post and believing that is good enough to add your two cents. And you obviously have NOT made yourself clear as neither one of us has apparently understood you to your liking. Thus, my “good comment motivator” seems somewhat understated now, doesn’t it?

  7. Some scriptures come to mind:

    For him that has ears to hear, let him hear.

    Don’t give that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine.

    Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him.

    Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

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