For the rest of the week I’ll be blogging on a very important question: If Jesus is the only way, what about people of other faiths and those who never hear the gospel? In our world the claims of Christianity seem very exclusive and arrogant. Are they? More importantly, what exactly has God revealed about these issues? I’ll be sharing my thoughts in four posts. For now, two preliminary points:
(1) Salvation is about more than what happens to us after we die.
Our question assumes that God is most concerned about getting individuals into heaven when they die. But is this really biblical? Two quick points: First, salvation is God’s plan for the entire universe – not just human beings. Salvation is about all of God’s creation being rescued from the disastrous effects of sin. Second, even from a human perspective, salvation isn’t just about “where we go” in the end. That is obviously important, but salvation is about freedom from the power of sin and death right here and now. Please understand, I’m not trying to deny the importance of the future, but I am trying to remind us that asking whether a person is “saved” has as much to do with how free they are from sinful ways of thinking and living as it does where they’ll go when they die. As my friend Tyler puts it, “Following Jesus isn’t about getting out of hell and into heaven. It is about joining God in his project to reclaim of all of creation for his kingdom.” This whole debate is fairly thoroughly infused with an unbiblical portrait of salvation. Just keep this in mind.
(2) We must all ask ourselves if we’re willing to submit to God’s authority and trust the witness of Scripture.
Like all hot-button issues, many of us come to this question with our minds already made up. And if they’re not made up, we at least know what we want the answer to be. Some of us sense our culture’s negativity toward “evangelism” (or our own distaste for it) so we look for excuses not to have to share our faith. This is not okay. Others of us feel that Christianity is under attack and we have adopted a posture of defensiveness and closed-mindedness. This is not good either. We will all be tempted to make Scripture say what we want it to say (or set it aside altogether). This is no less true of me than anyone else. Let’s keep this in mind too.
Tomorrow I’ll post ten theses about this topic as well as a summary conclusion. Then I’ll post answers to objections from those who think my position is too strict, and after that I’ll post answers to objections from those who think it’s too loose. Feel free to share any and all thoughts at any point in the discussion. Even disagreement is welcome, but be kind.