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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Caught Up in the Loopholes II

“Although I understand the connection between repentance and salvation, I don't understand the connection between belief and salvation. I don't understand why God would make belief in Him the door to salvation. That doesn't seem fair, especially when you consider the fact that, despite hundreds of years of missionary work, the vast majority of human beings on this planet are still not Christians. And of all those people, there are very many good, decent human beings among them- people who don't want to give up the religions they were taught, be it Buddhism or Islam- certainly (in my opinion) don't deserve to go to hell.“

The comment you made that you didn’t get the connection between belief and salvation reminds me of the argument “all roads lead to God”. The idea that all religions lead to God simply cannot be true. If Jesus’ words were true, “I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life- no man comes to the Father but by ME.”(John 14:6), then all other religions must be false. For any one religion to be claimed as truth, ALL others MUST be false. Just as one plus one equals two and therefore cannot equal three or four or five, Jesus was either the biggest liar that ever lived and all Christians who claim to have a personal relationship with Him are disillusioned nut cases, or He is God as He claimed to be. There can’t be any other answer. If you believe Jesus was who He said he is, then you also have to believe all that He taught and all that the Bible says. Jesus himself made the claim that He is the ONLY way to God the Father and therefore discards all other religions as a means of finding forgiveness of sins. The Bible also states, “For there is ONE God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. (1 Timothy 2:5) Also the verse: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) supports His claim of belief in Him being the only door to salvation.

It may sound intolerant to say that there is only one way to be saved from hell, but Jesus taught that the vast majority would reject Him and choose to live for themselves rather than for God. Listen to what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” I also know of many people I would consider to be “good people”- upstanding moral people who I don’t think deserve to go to hell. But, as you pointed out, this is our opinion, and our opinions count for nothing in light of God’s holiness. We may say that we are “good”, but God says that we are not (see Psalm 14:2-3). His opinion is the only one that will count on Judgment Day. He is the One who knows our every thought and intention. Looking at the Ten Commandments, we can see that we have failed miserably in “being good” and have broken every commandment. Anyway, how good would be good enough to enter heaven? What would be the standard of goodness? Moral relativism is the law of the land today, where everyone makes up their own standard of what’s right and wrong based on what feels right at the moment. Man made “goodness” is ever changing, whereas God never changes and His standard of righteousness is crystal clear. God requires perfection to enter His presence in heaven (Matthew 6:48), and since none of us is perfect, and Jesus was the only One to live a perfect sinless life, we must trust in Him as our means of salvation. All other religions are works based and a way for people to try to “earn” their right standing with God. If we are trusting in our own goodness to earn us a place in heaven, we are insulting the Lord by saying His agonizing death on the cross was in vain.

“That’s not fair!” is not an argument that will work with God on Judgment Day. “Fair” is that we all deserve an eternity of separation from a perfect and holy God because of our sin. Thank God for His grace and mercy that He chose to save us from the fate we were destined to! No one will receive injustice when standing before God at the judgment. We’ll either receive what we deserve (justice) or mercy- the choice is yours.

I understand your concern that people who “don’t want to give up the religions they were taught” don’t deserve to go to hell. It may be all they have ever known, but when they do hear about Jesus and choose to reject Him, they are making a choice just as any other person is making a choice and being asked to make a sacrifice to forsake their sin and follow Christ. Everyone has to give up something to follow Christ (see “Counting the Cost”), some just more than others.

It is also important to note that intellectual “belief” does not equal salvation. Simply “believing” in Jesus is not enough. Jesus taught that to be saved, we must be “born again”. This means trusting in Jesus and following Him with our lives.

11 Comments:

  • While I agree with your basic point, you've missed one thing. Although it is true that Jesus' words mean that He is The Truth, it does not necessarily follow either that Christianity currently possesses all truth, nor that all other faiths possess none.

    That is, although we believe that Jesus is The Truth, we ourselves do not have the totality of that truth. And, although other religions are mistaken, we cannot maintain that they have no insight at all. Indeed, that would be impossible, for there are undeniable similarities between Christian teachings and those of other religions, in various ways and various places. (Although there is no total match, of course!) And this is what we should really expect because, if we believe that "Creation declares the goodness of God" and that "Creation itself has made God known", we ought to find that all people know how they ought to behave. So, it shouldn't be a surprise that the great moral teachers say a great many of the same things. The difference is that Jesus wasn't merely a teacher but a redeemer.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 6/15/2006 04:27:00 AM  

  • What? Insight? Insight to what? I don't care if they are the most intelligent people(s) around! If they don't have salvation, they don't have it. Mrshammer is dead on the money here.

    I don't see any place in mrshammer's post where she discusses other religions being unintelligent. That has no place in her post, as she is talking solely about redemption and salvation.

    It is commentary like yours, with that small tidbit of "well, there is good insight in other religions", that leads people down a false path of believing that there is more than one route to salvation. Simply isn't true, no matter how "touchy feely" the world wants to be.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 6/15/2006 12:31:00 PM  

  • I just wanted to add that I don't intend to convey any disrespect, John. It just seems that your comment infers an awful lot that mrshammer wasn't stating at all.

    I am often concerned about the parallels of religions being drawn. There are similarities and things to be taught and learned throughout every culture in all of history.

    However, being intrigued by other religions and studies should be a superficial pursuit in a Christian. Too many times in current culture there are similarities drawn that promote homogenous beliefs and intertwined philosophies by those who long for there to be a more inclusive and diverse form of Christianity.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 6/15/2006 05:51:00 PM  

  • Rightthinker,
    Please read what I said. I am not saying at all that other religions are paths to God, routes to salvation, whatever.

    My point was the implication in the article that "Jesus is the Truth" necessarily implies that "all non-Christians have no truth in them at all". My comment merely points out the unarguable fact that there are a great many similarities between the moral codes of most (even all) religions. This doesn't mean that they have access to God. It merely reflects the fact that the Creator God reveals Himself to all through Creation.

    This shouldn't controversial - it's straight out of Paul, after all!

    Let me repeat, then, just to be sure: we need not, cannot and should not claim that everyone else is totally deceived about every tiny thing in order to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. But this in no way implies that we are saying that people are not in need of salvation by Christ.

    As I said in my first comment - Christ is not merely a teacher but is a redeemer.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 6/16/2006 10:35:00 AM  

  • Well, it is controversial in that you spoke about it as if it were a point of contention in mrshammer's post. She wasn't speaking about any other beliefs having any bits of truth, and I can't see why that was a point of your comment. All the "truths" of other religions are absolutely worthless in light of salvation.

    The Way, The Truth and the Life means just that. The truth is found only in the father. While other religions have some form of moral compass, if the destination of Jesus Christ is not known, the compass spins on the axis with no real direction.

    I'm just saying that your point is well known. Most beliefs have some moral impact on their followers. However, in the absence of conviction of salvation vs damnation, a tidbit of truth does little to affect the heart and soul.

    Therefore, I am saying it is a point that is null because it is the very point that many use to justify their denying Christ.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 6/16/2006 11:00:00 AM  

  • Rightthinker,
    Those truths are not worthless, because they give the Christian a point of contact. Instead of saying, "Everything you've learned is wrong, and here's why", we can say "These things you have learned are good but insufficient, and here's their fulfilment in Christ." This lets people keep the truly valuable parts of their past, putting them in their true perspectives in the light of Christ.

    Instead of seeing our relationship to those of other religions as purely antagonistic, it is better, I think, to view Christ as the fulfilment and transcendence of all the best human yearnings and human desires.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 6/16/2006 11:51:00 AM  

  • I agree. Evangelising and witnessing is a call of every Christian. Anyone who is truly witnessing for Jesus beneifts from doing so with love. However we can not dismiss the importance of the convicting "fire and brimstone" approach, as well.

    Additionally, we must be very careful when telling non-Christians that they can keep part of their religions.

    Many times, other religions and practices are diametrically opposed to the Word of God, therefore hanging onto these is not denying ones flesh and ones desire to remain in their old ways.

    A complete rebirth in Him should truly compel one to understand the value of their past in making them who they are, but that they can no longer be saturated in religions that teach Jesus is false-which all others do by default.

    I understand and respect what you are saying here, John. I simply disagree that there is a place for pieces of other religions within Christianity. All truth IS Christianity (not humans representing Christianity-but Christ Himself) and all other beliefs were born out of paganistic and self-serving studies which are opposed to Jesus.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 6/16/2006 01:42:00 PM  

  • Oh, and I fully admit that my position makes the rebirth a more difficult idea for those who are enveloped in strong culture and practices of beliefs.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 6/16/2006 01:45:00 PM  

  • Rightthinker,
    I think you've got it slightly the wrong way round: "I simply disagree that there is a place for pieces of other religions within Christianity."

    If we believe that all truth is in and from Christ, it's not that there are pieces of other religions in Christianity - it's that there are pieces of Christianity in other religions! If someone's previous religion already contained a truth (perhaps something as basic as "Do not commit murder"), they cannot and should not discard that truth, but should instead seek to understand it in the new framework of Christ.

    "Many times, other religions and practices are diametrically opposed to the Word of God"

    True enough - but, then, we were explicitly talking about the other parts, the ones that aren't opposed to the Word of God!

    "all other beliefs were born out of paganistic and self-serving studies which are opposed to Jesus"

    But that's exactly what I've been disagreeing with (and I thought you'd agreed with me). It's not true that "all other beliefs" are opposed to Jesus, for many of those beliefs (the component parts of "belief systems" or religions) are shared with Christianity. The religion may be mistaken as a whole, and not lead to God. But I say, with Paul, that all human beings know something of God, that being evident from Creation itself. As such, that knowledge (partial and imperfect though it is) is found everywhere. This does not form a saving religion, but does give a shared ground for reaching out to one another.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 6/16/2006 05:41:00 PM  

  • From my limited understanding, few religions have pieces of Christianity in them, in that Christ is denied as a savior (or the idea that salvation even needs to occur is denied) in every other religion upon this earth. That is what makes Christianity completely remarkable, just in a comparison sense.

    I see little common ground in other religions. Of course Paul has it completely correct that all people have a knowledge of God. That is about where the similarities stop. I cannot form any parallels with any other religion, beyond the idea that all religions place a higher power(s)/controlling force somewhere in their teaching.

    To me, believing that there is a force(s) which is responsible for some portion of what happens on this earth is as far away from Christianity as possible. I don't discount this knowledge of God in the heart as being the piece of the puzzle that leads to a person searching for truth. However, I don't believe this is common ground with or a parallel with Christianity.

    Additionally, in my beginning research into Christian history, I have learned that most religions are indeed an effort to find oneself-absent from a god(s), or placing emphasis on works, science or reincarnations, despite having this knowledge of God. In my view, this brings no one closer to Jesus than the idea that there is nothing or no one responsible for anything in this world but chance.

    I appreciate your point of view, but out of all the people I have discussed theology with that are of other religions/beliefs, none of them have any similarities with giving your life to Jesus.

    So, while these are extremely valuable people, equally loved by God and each one has the potential to be as close to Jesus as any Christian, they are not with Jesus. As I said before, I don't find these good people with any more insight than the Atheist or Agnostic who denies Christ.

    The Bible says that all those without Christ are without knowledge. In light of salvation or lack thereof, the knowledge or insight any person or group can offer is only of this world.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 6/16/2006 06:33:00 PM  

  • I heard a wise person once say that "the greatest lie is 99% truth." This would account for many of the false religions of the world having some similarities to Christianity (its principles), yet they're missing the most important part- Jesus! Yes, we are all born with a God given conscience that attests to the fact that there is a God. All other religions are works based. I think if we start with the common ground of "do you think you're a good person?" and show them the folly of thinking that "being a 'good person' can earn you a place in heaven", there's our common ground we can reach them at- our God-given consciences that reveal our sinfulness, and thus a need for a saviour, only offered in Christianity. Of course, speaking the truth in love.

    By Blogger mrshammer, at 6/18/2006 09:50:00 PM  

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