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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Religious Tolerance? Why I believe that Christ is the only Savior

Is Christ the only way to salvation? How tolerant of other beliefs should Christians be?

Tolerance, especially tolerance of the religious beliefs of others, is important enough that the Wikipedia has an article dedicated to it.

C. S. Lewis is often considered to be one of the most important Christian writers of the twentieth Century. Here's what David C. Downing had to say about this matter (in Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles, an important book about Lewis. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, an imprint of John Wiley & Sons, 2005):
. . . Lewis rejected both universalism and predestination as negations of free will. His position is better described as "inclusivism," the idea that Christ's reconciling work may sometimes apply even to those who are not aware of it. Lewis did not feel that he was being unorthodox in this matter. He refers several times in his letters to Christ's portrayal of judgement in which he welcomes those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the sick, saying that all such service done for the least of his brethren is accounted as service done to him. (84-5)

Note that Downing does not say that Lewis believed that salvation could be obtained without Christ. He did believe (As shown in The Last Battle, the final book in the Narnia series) in what Downing calls "inclusivism," which Downing explains in the previous quotation.

What does the Bible say? (I am taking, as a given, that, although we may not understand it perfectly, what the Bible says must be taken seriously, as the Word of God. I recognize that that, in itself, is religiously intolerant. So be it. One has to start somewhere. It seems to be as valid, and logical, as starting with what you want, or what you think God should have said.)

I believe that there is a sin problem in the world, and, particularly, in the humans who live in the world, including me. The Bible teaches that. So does today's news. Sin brings physical, and, more important, eternal spiritual death. Salvation means having sin forgiven, and being allowed to enter heaven. (I am aware of some of the controversies surrounding what sin is, and whether we can ever be free of it, but never mind.) The sin problem needs a solution. That solution, as presented in the New Testament, is Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 1:21, Jesus is called the savior. He is so called several times in the Bible.

Luke 2:22-32 describes Simeon's encounter with the infant Christ. In this passage, Simeon describes Christ as the Savior. Granted, Simeon is not reported as having said that Christ was the only Savior, but it seems pretty clear that he wasn't looking for any other means of salvation.

In John 8:12-30, John tells us that Jesus told the Pharisees that, unless they believed in His divinity, they would be condemned in their sins.

In John 10:1-18, Jesus explicitly describes Himself as the only way to salvation. He also predicts His death and resurrection, which brings up the question of why, if there is some other means of salvation, would Christ have been sent to die for us?"

In John 14:6b, Jesus says: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. . ." (ESV)

In Acts 4:1-12, Luke tells us that Peter spoke of Christ as the only way to salvation.

In Acts 10:34-43, Luke tells us that Peter told Cornelius that Christ makes forgiveness of sins possible.

In 1 Corinthians 3:11, Paul says that Christ is the only foundation.

In 1 Timothy 2, Paul tells us that God wants to solve the sin problem, and that we should pray that everyone will be saved. He says that doing pleases God:
3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (ESV)

The meaning of some of the book of Revelation is not always clear, but it seems to clearly present Christ, the Son of God, as triumphant over all others, at the end of the world as we know it. For example, see Chapter 7, which describes a great multitude, from every ethnic group, worshiping the Lamb, Christ, and saying that salvation belongs to Him.

A reader might think "well, he started out with an intolerant belief, so it's no wonder that he finds what he expected to in the Bible." Fair enough. But, at the least, I hope any such reader will understand why many of those of us who call themselves Christians, and who believe that the Bible is the word of God, also believe that there is only one way to eternal salvation, namely belief on Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord.

I recognize that many people are uncomfortable with the last belief. However, someone once said that, if there were a hundred ways to salvation, humans would want, and expect there to be, one hundred and one.

In previous posts, I considered the matter of what Christians believe, and said a little bit about how they should behave.

In a subsequent post, I have mused about how I think that Christians should act, given a belief that Christ is the only savior.

Thanks for reading.


Rob Rumfelt said...

I think this series of posts is among the most important you've done.

The Creeds, the Shema, the uniqueness of Christianity, all are extremely important for Christians to understand.

I don't believe you are intolerant. Christians have no need of postmodern sensibilities. We have a trans-modern view of the world.

I look forward to your future posts in this vein.


Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Rob Rumfelt.

I have another post, which I have linked to now (didn't before) in this one. That's about as far as I plan to go, at least for now.