Anyway, I’ve just finished reading Edward Dowler’s Grove Book, Inclusive Gospel? It’s a very interesting read. Essentially, his main points are:
- inclusivity is used (inside and outside the Church) without having been defined adequately;
- inclusivity is effectively homogeneity, especially of thought; and
- inclusivity as such is not found in Scripture, where instead the emphasis is on justice.
Dowler contends that justice amounts to giving each person his or her due. While inclusivity aims to treat others identically, justice allows the other to remain genuinely other. Here’s Dowler at length:
Justice acknowledges that individuals, and the various types of human community, might owe different things to different people and at different times. For example, in my ministry as a parish priest, I owe something different to the child in my congregation than I do to the paedophile in my congregation; something different to couple [sic] who are about to get married than to the person who is on the point of death; something different to the head teacher of my church primary school than to my clergy colleagues in the deanery; and so on. The virtuous path lies in determining as best we can what exactly we do owe to each of these different people and trying to act upon this as best we might. Of course, this provides no easy answers and raises many questions about precisely what is owed, and to whom—questions that cannot, as in the dreams of a utopian society, all be clearly answered from the outset. To some extent, we will always be working things out as we go along, since human beings never will create ‘systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.’ However, I believe that justice conceived in such a way sets a far more interesting and indeed challenging moral agenda than the rather flat requirements of inclusivity, fairness and tolerance that so dominate modern moral discourse. . . . Moreover, . . . justice is itself a gateway towards a further and more excellent theological virtue—that of charity or love, which is never less than just but, in the way of Jesus Christ, goes beyond what is strictly due to others and gives to each of us ‘more than we desire or deserve.’
There’s something in what Dowler writes here that convinces me. Concepts of inclusivity, fairness, and tolerance are all fine in theory; but without careful definition, each lends itself all too easily to homogeneity where the distinctiveness of each particular person within an inclusive, fair, and tolerant society is eroded over time. Is this not what many of the great dystopian novels from We, Brave New World, and 1984, all the way through to The Hunger Games trilogy, teach us – that while idealistic conformity leads to an arguably stable society (and church?), it’s at the expense of genuine freedom and, for Christians, our God-given identities as unique people before God and for whom Jesus died?
I recommend going through Inclusive Gospel? It’s not long, it’s not expensive, and, like most Grove books, it’s an engaging read.