by Ethan Mack
Inclusivist: Allow me to explain how this distinction can rectify the “irrevocable uniqueness” of Christianity. The problem with the Christian religion is that Christ’s followers took the exoteric teachings of Christ too far and as a result failed to grasp the esoteric teaching. This overemphasis of the exoteric is also what led Christ’s followers to believe that Christ claimed divinity.
Exclusivist: The problem with this argument is that there is no evidence at all that there was an esoteric portion to Christ’s ministry. Christ’s ministry, from beginning to end, was a public one and he taught all things outwardly. He didn’t teach things in public and then meditate with his followers in private. Christ closest friends and followers, those who knew him best, didn’t pick up on this esoteric teaching at all. Therefore, if this esoteric teaching does exist then either Christ’s disciples were all incredibly dim or Christ was a terrible teacher. The first seems quite unlikely when you consider the fact that almost all the works of the New Testament were written by Christ’s disciples. The second also seems quite unlikely when you consider how much of Christ’s teaching is conveyed in the gospels.
Inclusivist: Doesn’t it mention several times in the Gospels that Jesus would speak in parables to the crowd so as to contain the true message contained in his teaching? Couldn’t this indicate an esoteric teaching under the surface of Christianity?
Exclusivist: Jesus’ predilection to speak in parables was due the fact that those in the crowds had not yet opened themselves to receiving the word of God. Jesus remarks constantly about how with faith all things can be done. Therefore, he doesn’t reveal knowledge directly unless one first had the faith to receive it. This why he did explain the parables to his disciples when they were in private. They do have faith and as a result, are open to receiving the word.
Inclusivist: I think you are too concentrated on the particulars on the surface, rather than getting to the esoteric core of Christianity.
Exclusivist: But don’t you see that the problem is that this “esoteric core” of Christianity doesn’t exist? In Eastern religions, the exoteric is means to the esoteric. For example, a koan is used a means to attain satori. Therefore, if there were an esoteric aspect to Christianity, then becoming a mystic would the overall telos of becoming a Christian. However, the goal of Christianity is to become a saint, not a mystic. In terms of canonized saints, there are both mystics and non-mystics. There are also many mystics who have not become saints. Therefore, it doesn’t seem that the Eastern distinction of esoteric and exoteric can apply to Christianity.
Inclusivist: Everything you have said seems quite reasonable; however, I still think you are missing the point.
Exclusivist: If my argument seems reasonable and you are not going to try and refute it, then why do you refuse to assent to my conclusion?
Inclusivist: You have to remember that for us in Eastern mindset, we don’t feel the need to assent to the law of non-contradiction. For us, it is completely possible to accept two conflicting ideas as being true.
Exclusivist: But, Guatama, didn’t you begin this discussion by questioning how I could hold to the doctrine of exclusivism?
Inclusivist: I did, indeed.
Exclusivist: Therefore, you see a difference between your doctrine of inclusivism and mine of exclusivism?
Exclusivist: And you also think inclusivism is true whereas exclusivism is not true?
Exclusivist: Then, Guatama, you have just assented to the law of non-contradiction by recognizing a contradiction between exclusivism and inclusivism and judging one to be true.