Pluralism and Jesus
I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior (v.11).
My friend was telling me about her tour of historic churches in New England. These buildings housed congregations that once proclaimed the gospel but had long ago turned to unorthodox views. In one church, the tour guide explained that wooden shutters concealed a beautiful stained-glass window of Jesus. “We only open these shutters on Easter,” she explained, “because we don’t want to privilege any one religion over another.”
Today, many Christians feel uncomfortable saying that Jesus is the only way to God. A recent US survey found that 47 percent of “evangelical Christians” agreed with the statement that “many religions can lead to eternal life.” Another poll found that 20 percent of evangelical Christians believed that “if a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity.”
If these surveys are reliable, then between one-fifth and one-half of born-again Christians in the US believe that people can be saved without being born again. They love their unsaved friends and don’t want to exclude them for having different beliefs.
But here’s the thing. The same arms that pull these religions in must also push Jesus out (John 14:6). We can’t declare that other religions have the power to save without also admitting that Jesus’ sacrifice was unnecessary. Augustine explained that if anyone can be saved apart from Jesus, then “Christ has died in vain.” Would Jesus have suffered on the cross if He didn’t believe it was essential for our salvation? (Acts 4:12). When we suggest that people can be saved by sincerely following their religion, we imply that Jesus and His sacrifice are not important or necessary.
We can’t love Jesus and endorse other religions. We must choose (Isaiah 43:10-11).
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16. What does Paul assume people need in order to be saved?
What would you say to a friend who asked you to accept her religion just as she accepts yours? How can you show people that you respect them but cannot accept their beliefs apart from Jesus?