On January 23, 2021, the internationally recognized comedian Steve Harvey posted a video on his YouTube page which created quite a stir among Christians and a sense of delight among religious and spiritual inclusivists. Steve Harvey, recording his video from United Arab Emirates, a majority Muslim Persian Gulf nation where Islam is the official religion, made the bold claim that “There’s no one way to Heaven, no one way to paradise.” Steve Harvey went even further, comparing the so-called multiple pathways to heaven with a television with 800 channels:
“It’s like television; now there’s [sic] over 800 channels on cable, and they’re all pretty entertaining. So I’m pretty sure that to get to Heaven, there’s got to be more than one route. Because somebody watching another channel or taking another channel than you, they’re still getting entertained, and they’re probably still getting to Heaven.” (YouTube)
While I sincerely do not see the parallel between a television with 800 entertaining channels and their being multiple pathways to God, what is clear is that Steve Harvey is ‘pretty sure’ there are many roads to what one calls god.
As rightly expected, many Christians bum rushed social media to refute Steve Harvey’s claim by quoting such biblical passages such as John 14:6 where Jesus told his disciples in unabashed fashion, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (NKJV) Orthodox Christians strongly believe this because it came from the mouth of God incarnate (God in the flesh), so there is no reason to doubt what Jesus boldly said. Steve Harvey’s assertion, however, necessitates a deeper inquiry.
Universalism and Inclusivism
What Steve Harvey is ascribing to is none other than the age-old heresy of Universalism. Universalism, according to Britannica, is “the belief in the salvation of all souls.” This means that no matter what religion you are (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.), you will go to heaven when you die. Universalists reject the idea of a god who would exclude any human being from going to heaven, and they especially and rigorously reject the biblical teaching that those who reject Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will spend eternity separated from God in the terrible torments of hell. Universalists cannot (or will not) reconcile the idea of a loving God and the existence of hell. The justice of God seems to be absent from Universalist thinking. Universalism solely focuses on the unconditional love of God.
Inclusivism, on the other hand, according to Lexico, is “The practice of trying to incorporate diverse or unreconciled elements into a single system.” In the case of religion, inclusivists seek to unite religions together under one religious umbrella, in spite of irreconcilable differences theologically and philosophically. This approach to religious diversity inescapably leads to Universalism.
Now that we have a working knowledge of Universalism/Inclusivism, a deeper inquiry into Steve Harvey’s assertion that there are many pathways to God can begin. I will set out to show first that Universalism/Inclusivism is logically and practically impossible and exclusivism is the Modus Operandi of every known religion with no exceptions. Secondly, that in reality, Universalism/Inclusivism is in fact exclusivist in nature, and finally, that while Steve Harvey talks good inclusion rhetoric; he is actually an exclusivist himself.
Universalism/Inclusivism: Logically and Practically Impossible
While the thought of Inclusivism seems noble and the thought of the possibility of such unity among religions as emotionally moving and heartfelt, sadly this is logically and practically impossible; here’s why. Every religion known to humanity is philosophically and theologically exclusive. Furthermore, they contradict each other in such areas as God, sin and humanity, and the afterlife. Contradictory statements cannot be true. For instance, certain religions believe that God is a Uni-personal Being. That is to say that God is one person. This is true of both Islam and Judaism. On the other hand, there are religions which are polytheistic in their view of god. In this case, polytheists believe in the existence of many gods. This includes Hinduism and Mormonism. In the case of the majority in Buddhism, they do not believe in the existence of any kind of gods. They’re atheist! In the case of Christianity, however, God is viewed as a Triune/ Tri-personal Being; one God who exists as three co-eternal and co-existing persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The contradictory ideas about God are glaring!
In the case of sin, humanity and salvation, every religion–with the exception of Christianity–holds to the idea that humanity is basically good by nature. In Christianity, humanity is born with a sin nature due to the moral and spiritual fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen.3; Romans 5:12). Due to this reality, Jesus Christ came to die on the cross and by His blood atoned for our sins (John 3:16; Col. 1:14, 19-20; I Peter 1:18-19). In other religions, such as Islam and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they teach that doing good works and following their respective religion’s teachings will hopefully (not certainly) grant entrance into paradise with God. Again, we see contradictions in the understanding of sin and humanity.
Even the idea of an afterlife has contradictory responses from every religion. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism believe in the existence of heaven and hell. Buddhism, however, believes in rebirths or what is commonly called reincarnation. The goal of Indian religions such as Buddhism is to attain Moksha, which is the liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. Thus, when a person dies, they die and cease to exist. Once more we see clear contradictions among different religions concerning the afterlife.
Overall, one can see that it is logically impossible for all roads to lead to heaven when the various roads actually lead us in various and contradictory directions and those roads will not ultimately get us to the same place. Especially in the case of Buddhism where there is no heaven or afterlife existence to look forward to. Furthermore, Universalism/Inclusivism is practically impossible because each religion has contradictory answers about who God is, sin, humanity and salvation, and what the afterlife will be like. This is so because each religion by nature is exclusive. Each religion believes they have the correct answers about reality (existence), the nature of humanity (anthropology), The Divine (God), and what happens after death (afterlife), and they believe that those religions whose answers are contrary to theirs is wrong. It’s that simple. Yes, it is true there is common ground religions share concerning what’s morally right and what’s morally wrong (ethics), but this alone is not enough to conclude that all roads lead to heaven. Subjects such as God, existence, sin, humanity, and salvation, and the afterlife are crucial topics of discussion and there is clearly no consensus shared among the various religions of the world about these subjects of vital significance.
Thus, this means that either one of the religions is the one true religion and the other religions are false or in the most perplexing case, all the religions of the world are wrong and we are left with either Agnosticism or Atheism; which neither one will lead us to any kind of an afterlife since one worldview is not sure if there is such a thing (Agnosticism) and the other outright denies such a thing (Atheism). Nevertheless, no matter from what angle a person approaches this, in the end all roads do not lead to heaven since they all theologically and philosophically contradict each other. Furthermore, each religion theologically and logically is exclusive because they believe that they alone hold the truth in the palm of their hands and the others don’t. Exclusivism is the Modus Operandi of the religions of the world.
Universalists/Inclusivists are actually Exclusivists
Universalism/Inclusivism as we have already seen makes the theological claim that everyone will be saved; regardless of one’s religious and philosophical convictions. Thus, they call on everyone from all the religions of the world to come together under the banner of religious unity. It is a call to inclusion. Inclusion, according to Dictionary.com, means “the act of including.” In other words, inclusivism seeks to include all and to exclude none. Religious inclusivism seeks to include all religions under the banner of religious unity, and excluding none; for to do so would be the opposite of inclusivism.
In light of this understanding of religious inclusivism, an important question must be asked: Do inclusivists include or exclude exclusivists from their call to inclusivism? Logically speaking, religious inclusivists, like the Universalists, and exclusivists, like Christians, cannot co-exist harmoniously because religious inclusivists include all religious roads to heaven while Christians claim that the Jesus of the Christian faith is the only way to heaven (John 14:6). So since the goal of religious inclusivism and is to unite like-minded inclusivists, it is only logical to conclude that religious inclusivists must exclude exclusivists like Christians who do not share in their inclusion agenda. For religious inclusivists to invite religious exclusivists to join their cause would be a recipe for disaster. Therefore, religious inclusivists are not really religious inclusivists, but rather they are actually religious exclusivists, since they must exclude religious exclusivists from their cause. So since religious inclusivists are religiously exclusivists about religious exclusivists, then religious inclusivists can no longer be considered religious inclusivists.
Steve Harvey the Exclusivist
Now that the factual realization has been established that there is actually no such thing as a religious inclusivist or a Universalist for that matter, then we must rightfully conclude that comedian Steve Harvey is not a Universalist/Inclusivist, but is himself an exclusivist. Wow! Isn’t that funny?! In his own words, Steve Harvey excludes the possibility of there being only one way to heaven. Remember, Steve Harvey said, “There’s no one way to Heaven, no one way to paradise.” That is an exclusive claim. He is excluding the belief of there being only one way to heaven. Thus, Steve Harvey is an exclusivist who excludes anyone who is not on board with religious inclusivism and Universalism.
It is sad that comedian Steve Harvey has chosen to embrace Universalism/Inclusivism. It is sad because I believe Steve Harvey knows better than this. Why? Because his mother was a devoted Christian woman. According to Steve Harvey, his mother instilled godly principles in him and his siblings. I think I can rightly assume that from the lips of his mother Steve Harvey heard the wondrous gospel of Jesus Christ who came from heaven to earth to die a criminal’s death on the cross for our sins; even though He committed no sin (II Corinthians 5:21). He heard from the lips of his mother that three days later after Jesus death on the cross, He rose triumphantly from the dead conquering sin and death. From those same precious lips Steve Harvey heard his mother tell him what he needed to do in order to be saved from sin and hell and that only Jesus could do so.
Mr. Steve Harvey, only Jesus could dare to proclaim, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus backed up His exclusive claim by not only dying on the cross for the sins of humanity (which includes you), but by rising bodily from the dead and victoriously and boldly asking “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”(I Corinthians 15:55) Mr. Steve Harvey, Jesus Christ now has the undeniable right to make that claim; both as the risen Savior of all humanity and as God Himself in human flesh. Jesus Himself said in John 5:22-23, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
Do you claim to honor God the Father? If you do, you must also honor God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Otherwise you do not honor the God who has committed all judgment to His Son. One day, Jesus will be your judge on Judgement Day. Are you ready to meet your God? I and every Christian are praying that you will turn from your sins and make Jesus the Lord and Savior of your life before death takes you from this earth to a Christless eternity in the torments of hell.
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24, as spoken by Jesus Himself)