In “If inclusivism is true does believing in Jesus still matter?” I presented an analogy for those who would argue that if knowledge of Jesus is not necessary to be saved by Jesus then we ought not proclaim Jesus. The analogy I gave was this. Healthcare workers are concerned above all with maintaining public health. If advocacy for handwashing is more important for securing public health than providing proper information on the potentially dangerous microbes that are killed by handwashing, then we ought to focus our efforts on getting people to wash their hands rather than instruct them about the microbes since the microbial information is ultimately extraneous to the desired outcome. Likewise, one could argue that if there is some set of beliefs and/or behaviors more essential to being saved by Jesus than propositional belief in Jesus, then we ought to promote that set of beliefs and/or behaviors and marginalize the propositional proclamation of the gospel.
Since I’m an evangelical committed to the centrality of gospel proclamation, if this kind of argument were successful then it would serve as a reductio ad absurdum for the inclusivist position. Fortunately no such conclusion follows.
I agree that comprehensive knowledge of the microbes is surely not necessary for effective handwashing. But one might consider at least some rudimentary knowledge of the presence of microbes a crucial part of the way the healthcare workers secure their desired outcome. Thus, while it is possible that some other beliefs could produce the desired adaptive behavior of handwashing, it would always be the case that the healthcare workers ought to promote at least that rudimentary knowledge of the microbes as an indispensable ground to secure healthy handwashing.
Similarly, while it is possible that people might be saved apart from having heard the gospel of Christ (analogous to the adaptive behavior of handwashing) nonetheless it may still be that the normative way to enter into this salvific relationship would come through knowledge of Christ.
In closing let me deal with one common objection to inclusivism. People often ask things like this: “How can people be in relationship with Christ if they’ve never heard of Christ?” This strikes me as a strange question. After all, every one of us enters into networks of relationships with those around us from the moment we are born, without ever having the cognitive capacity to have propositional knowledge of this fact. Indeed, there is striking evidence that unborn fetuses already have an emerging relationship with their mothers since they have been shown to respond differently upon hearing their mother’s voice than that of other speakers. Given that the human experience is one in which relationship is not contingent upon the grasp of particular propositions, why would anybody think that relationship with God is always mediated propositionally?