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23Jan/160

Doctrine: Week #2–Are There Many Ways to God?

Is there only way to God?

What about other religions?

Isn’t it unfair to think everyone has to know Jesus to go to heaven?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMXRcFQnmo8

Recommended Listening:

How Good is Good Enough? By Andy Stanley

Exclusivity by Tim Keller

Mythbusters – There are many ways to God

 

From the oneChurch Doctrinal Statement About Salvation
We believe that the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross, provides the sole basis for the forgiveness of sin. Therefore, God freely offers salvation to those who place their faith in the death and resurrection of Christ as sufficient payment for their sin.

“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36

 

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

 

6 Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, NET)

 

Truth Matters…but Presentation Matters Too:

We value politeness and tolerance in our society—and those are great things to uphold in the way we communicate, do business, and enforce justice…to a degree. They make society pleasant. We should value peace and understanding in our general behavior—but we must also understand that there is a place and time for conflict, and that in some conflicts there truly is a right belief and a wrong belief. There must be a common standard for society to function from. At some level, we must have a basic level of values that we agree upon for justice to be consistent and enforceable. And if God exists, then ultimately there is a standard that they will be held accountable morally.

Unfortunately we often over-value tolerance or truth, but people need both. The Bible says that, “the kindness of God leads us to repentance”. When we present truth arrogantly or angrily people are more likely to be defensive or offended and not hear the message of our words for the sake of the message of our attitudes. However, being kind to people without representing the truth to them is also a failure. We can love people well, but if we fail to warn them that they are driving off a cliff spiritually, we have made their death pleasant, when our primary goal and calling is to rescue them from the danger.

 

The belief that all religions lead to the same place, is unfair, arrogant, and confusing.

The different religions all claim to have an exclusive view of faith and the afterlife. They don’t welcome or say that there are other philosophies that are correct. To redefine them or say that they are one way, is to tell them that they are wrong. To dismiss part of their beliefs and count others correct. It’s offensive, arrogant, and must mean that you are smarter than the creators of that religious system…because they way they recorded it, they didn’t make it compatible or even say that it was one of many ways.

It’s also confusing and makes lots of conflicting behavior acceptable to God because people can never decide on what’s fair or what the ultimate moral standard is…which means there’s no clear moral standard of action to live by in order to get to heaven.

Incompatible Beliefs:

  • Buddhists believe God is not personal.
  • Hindus believe there are many gods, not one.
  • Muslims believe that you can have no assurance that you’ll go to heaven, that Jesus was just a man, He did not die on the cross, and that He is less important than Mohammed.

It’s also offensive towards God’s character. If all the religions describe God differently, and describe the standard with which we enter heaven differently, then God must have double standards. What does that say about how trustworthy or how accurate His justice is? Also, if the Bible is true and we all are under the condemnation of being treasonous—because Adam and everyone after Him has rejected His rule over the world—then how can other religions correct that? And why would Jesus go to the effort to die if it wasn’t necessary? The problem doesn’t get simplier…it gets more confusing. And there’s no message from God to help us put the pieces together. That’s pretty mean of Him too! Why would He confuse us or leave us to figure it out on our own?

Different religions have common elements, but that’s to be expected in a world where we are all seeing the same created things, all watching the same human behavior, and (according to Christianity) all given a conscience wired by God with moral code. That’s not a sign that religions have it right, it’s a sign that we have perverted the basic wiring God gave us into more complex philosophies with superstitious beliefs.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened...Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them. ~ Romans 1:18-21, 32

 

For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them. ~ Romans 2:14-15

Isn’t Saying Jesus is the Only Way Prideful?

When we say that Jesus is the only way to God, we don't say that pridefully, as if we are smart, special, or more spiritual than anyone else. What God has done, He has done as publicly and dramatically as possible. He has sent us to tell every person about Jesus. He desires maximum attention and distribution of this message...not isolation or exclusivity. In fact, Christianity has been the most aggressively distributed religious message in all of history for a reason...and apart from a few eras of political control, it has nothing to do with the material gain of people.

We are not spreading a religious philosophy...we are sharing the true history and story of the world.

 

What is unique about Christianity?

What makes it incompatible with and distinguishes it from other religions?

o We have God’s revelation through multiple authors over thousands of years—our “book” is not the work of a single author, a single group of authors who lived at the same time, or a single group of editors who picked and chose what they liked.

o Our revelation is tied to large scale historical events, not only recording them but predicting them across the ancient world on a national scale. Our religious guide is verifiable in historical events both normal and miraculous, not simply philosophy.

o Our revelation claims to be God speaking directly through a human author. Our Bible is the work of men who were certain they were putting God’s words on the page…not simply wise people who were passing human wisdom or ideas on.

o We have hundreds of miraculous events as evidence that God was at work, some on a HUGE scale…and we even see miracles happen today—particularly where the gospel has not been presented before.

o Our record of belief claims to explain the origin of the world and the future too. It’s not just trying to figure out the world…it claims to have a clear understanding of everything from beginning to end.

o Our system of salvation that involves forgiveness and justice both being fully satisfied, not a God who dismisses one in order to grant the other, or who makes emotional decisions that violate logic and order.

o Our religion does not require its adherents earn or contribute anything. Our contributions as people are out of gratitude and love for God and how He made the world to function, they are not out of obligation.

o Our belief claims that God actually indwells and empowers people internally.

o We believe that the physical world is good—just corrupted. God intends not to free us from the material world, but to restore it to perfection so that we can fully enjoy it.

 

“But Christianity has abused, killed, and been the instigator or bad things in the world.” Judging Christianity by comparing the moral behavior of its followers to that of other religions is misleading.

There are a few key responses to this argument:

1. The very nature of salvation in Christian belief means that we don’t have the belief that we need to do good in order to earn our way to heaven. Christianity is born from the understanding that salvation is a gift. That we don’t earn our way into heaven. That understanding does make us more lazy morally than other religions in some respects.

2. Every religious philosophy, including atheistic belief, has been the instigator of great evil. Christianity is not the worst by far…and the good that has come from Christian belief and ideas far outweighs the bad. Christians are the reason for racial and gender equality, universal human rights, etc. In addition to that, when Christians did great evil in the world, we were acting against our beliefs and abusing our status…whereas when evolutionary beliefs motivated people to genocide in world conflicts, they were acting out their beliefs.

Christianity is the most fair system there is.

  • · Everyone is welcome. Everyone can get in.
  • · Everyone gets in the same way.
  • · Everyone can meet the requirement: faith in Jesus.

 

What about those who have not heard about Jesus?

There’s no easy answer to this question, but there’s a lot to consider.

The Bible does not tell us specifically about what happens to those who have never heard, but it does say that Jesus is the only way to salvation (Acts 4:12) Everything in the Bible tells us that we don’t get to heaven on good behavior—so regardless of whether everyone hears about Jesus, salvation remains the same.

There are special cases that God will probably treat differently. Some Christian scholars have suggested that there may be special circumstances where God applies Christ’s atoning work to individuals who were, for various reasons outside their control, prevented from knowing about Christ. For example, God may be gracious to infants who die at an early age or those who are mentally incapable of hearing and understanding the gospel message. In this sense, they are reconciled to God “through” Christ, but not in conjunction with an explicit affirmation of faith.

Could it be the same for individuals who have not heard simply because of when and where they were born, and whom God discerns would respond positively if they did have the opportunity? To be honest, we don’t know for sure. Because we don’t know, it is imperative that Christians continue to share their message of hope with others. Perhaps God is so gracious to judge people based on what they could possibly know and nothing more. But this would not diminish a sense of urgency for both seekers and Christians. Transformation and a purpose in this life remains a motivation to place our trust in Christ and share the good news with others.

God wants EVERYONE to be SAVED…He’s not the one making it difficult. “the Judge of all the Earth” will “do right” (Genesis 18:25) God has promised us that, if we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). He is not eager for anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). “For there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:12-13). We do not know how God is dealing with people in lands yet unreached by the gospel, but from Scripture we can see that He will never condemn anyone unjustly, but will be faithful to reveal Himself to anyone who looks for His salvation.

Even if they have not specifically heard about Jesus, they do know about God. God has revealed himself through creation and conscience to every person who has ever lived. And most of what He has done to reveal Himself in the Bible has been done on the world stage through dramatic events and documents that have been distributed widely throughout the world.

 

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:19,20)

We also know that John saw in heaven “…a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10). Not only every nation but every tribe will be represented in heaven.

God would not unjust or unfair if someone who has not heard about Jesus goes to hell.

Humanity is sinful from birth. We all have chosen our own way. We all deserve to go to hell. In Jesus, God threw fairness out the window and saved us…but fairness would be to send us ALL to hell. God is gracious beyond what we could have ever asked or imagined. We must not allow the sadness of the world ignoring God dim our view of how kind and gracious He is.

Ultimately, there are three groups of people to blame:

(1) Their ancestors are to blame for failing to pass down the truth of the history of the world. At some point, no matter how long ago, they knew the story of Adam and Eve to Noah. They knew a single God had given them a conscience and a way to have a relationship with Him, and they chose to ignore that truth and failed to pass it on.

(2) We are to blame. As aggressive and hard working as many Christians generations have been, we have failed to get the message out to the world fully. Our big challenge from Jesus before He left us in this world as the church, was to spread the message (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

(3) They are to blame. They have lived in a world that clearly expressed God’s divine attributes to them, with a conscience that pointed them to God’s law through their hearts, and where God was clearly at work publically through the Jews and then Christians of the world. They failed to look for God and respond to Him.

Homework:

1. Tell me about someone in your life who believes all religions lead to the same place, and how you might be able to reach them.

2. Tell me about someone in your life who believes in another religious system, and how you might be able to get through to them.

 

Additional Material: Brief Summaries of Other Religious Systems

Islam:

Islam is a religion that grew out of the middle east about 300AD when a man named Mohammed created a faith system that united various Arab tribes into a political and military force. Mohammed claimed to have been given God's final revelation to mankind in a cave where an angel spoke the words to him, and he in turn passed them onto a family member who wrote them down. The major indicators that Islam is a false religion are: (1) the Koran contradicts and rewrites the Old and New Testament in many key places, (2) the Koran contracts and changes it's own commands. Islam is expanding quickly across parts of the world due mainly to large families providing substantial population growth (you are born a Muslim) and military conquest and control, including forced conversions and executions of non-Muslims.

The Five Pillars of Islam are five basic acts in Islam, considered mandatory by believers and are the foundation of Muslim life. They are summarized in the famous hadith of Gabriel.

They make up Muslim life, prayer, concern for the needy, self purification and the pilgrimage. They are:

  1. 1. Shahadah: declaring there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God's Messenger.
    “there is only one God (Allah) and that Muhammad is God's messenger/prophet.”
  2. 2. Salat: ritual prayer five times a day
  3. 3. Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy
  4. 4. Sawm: fasting and self-control during the holy month of Ramadan
  5. 5. Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if one is able

Key Article: Contrast Islam with Christianity & How To Share Your Faith with a Muslim

 

Hinduism: (taken from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/260218/hell/260270/Islam)

According to the great texts of this tradition, the Vedas (c. 1500–1200 bce), the proper performance of sacrifices establishes right relations with the cosmos, enabling one to prosper in life and to join one’s ancestors in the sky in death. The ritually unprepared, and in later accounts the ignorant and morally unworthy, face the grim prospect of near-extinction or descent into a dark, cold underworld.

In the esoteric teachings recorded in the foundational philosophical texts of classical Hinduism, the Brahmanas and Upanishads, hope for a joyful immortality depends upon finding within oneself, and harnessing through spiritual discipline, the mysterious power brahman, which pervades the universe and dwells hidden in the sounds and gestures of ritual sacrifice. Those who die unprepared must be reborn (samsara) to live out the consequences of their past deeds (karma). Grave sins incur a miserable rebirth in hell or an interval in hell en route to rebirth on a low plane of existence. The goal of Hindu practice is to be freed from all forms of birth and to be restored to a state of perfect consciousness and imperishable bliss in communion with the divine.

 

Buddhism: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/260218/hell/260272/Buddhism

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