Contemporary culture purports to offer many paths to salvation. The modern premise now often seems to be that one God under different names presides over all religions. We even find this teaching popularized on a bumper sticker presenting the symbols of all religions as basically equal. The bumper sticker appears to suggest one great truth of universal tolerance that will bring peace and open the gates of heaven to everyone. Many Christians feel good about this bumper sticker even though in spirit, if not perhaps the letter, it may violate the First and possibly the Second Commandments. No one thinks to ask how the God who stated, “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20: 5) would view this bumper sticker.
The liberal leveling of all religions is not new. One of the world’s greatest ministers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, wrote of this cosmopolitan, liberal outlook over one hundred years ago when he noted that its typical advocate is:
“…found everywhere, now-a-days; manufactured sometimes in colleges, constantly made in schools, produced everywhere…. If you are a Mohammedan, and plead the claims of your religion, he will hear you very patiently. But if you are a Christian, and talk to him of Jesus Christ, “Stop your cant,”[i] he says, “I don’t want to hear anything about that.” This … gentleman believes all philosophy except the true one; he studies all wisdom except the wisdom of God; he likes all learning except spiritual learning; he loves everything except that which God approves; he likes everything which man makes, and nothing which comes from God; it is foolishness to him….”
“…. Another time he spoke well of all religions, and believed they were very good in their place, and all true; and he had no doubt that, if a man were sincere in any kind of religion, he would be all right at last. I told him I did not think so, and that I believed there was but one religion revealed of God—the religion of God’s elect, the religion which is the gift of Jesus. He then said I was a bigot and wished me good morning. It was to him foolishness…He either liked no religion, or every religion”.[ii]
Politically Correct; Biblically Wrong
The worldly wisdom described above by Spurgeon was politically correct (although the term did not then exist) in his time, and it is politically correct now. The problem is that being politically correct has nothing to do with being theologically correct and faithful to God. In fact, it is often the exact opposite. According to the Bible (Old and New Testaments), which is the constitution and handbook of the Judeo-Christian faith, the only door leading to the kingdom of heaven and adoption as children of God[iii] is through Jesus Christ (John 10:9)—and only faith can turn the key (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus Christ stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). To believe otherwise is to “die in your sins” (John 8:24). Jesus taught that those who believe in Him are “not judged,” but those who “do not believe have been judged already, because they have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).The Apostle Peter boldly proclaimed, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus did not say that He was a way; He said that He was the way, the truth, and the life.
Why does the Christian hold these quotes sacred? Because Jesus Christ is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews12:2). No other prophet or religious leader has made the claims that Jesus made or suffered the horrible sacrificial death that he endured. No other prophet or religious leader has conquered death and been raised from the dead so that each believer can be ransomed from their sins, washed clean, and inherit eternal life as adopted children of God. Having witnessed the risen Christ, the Apostles were so certain of the truth of Jesus’ claims that, with the possible exception of the Apostle John, they each died gruesome deaths while spreading the Gospel throughout the Roman world and beyond. And finally, Jesus’ story was attested to by Jewish prophecies stretching back over one thousand years before His birth.[iv]
Early Church History
Some will now claim that the Judeo-Christian religion is the religion of universal tolerance and that all of this sounds very intolerant. A study of history and the Old and New Testaments reveals that neither Judaism nor Christianity have ever been tolerant when it comes to fundamental articles of the faith. One will look in vain for the words tolerant or tolerance in Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible.[v] The Romans were polytheistic and had a broad pantheon of gods. They found it good administrative policy to permit conquered peoples to add their gods to the Roman pantheon providing those peoples were willing to worship the Roman Emperor. Rome would probably have had no problem adding Jesus to that pantheon had Christians been willing to worship the Emperor and accept both that religious truth was relative, and that the Judeo-Christian religion was just one among many equal religions. This the Christians resolutely refused to do. And even worse, from the Roman perspective, the Christians wanted to save the world. They evangelized and spread the good news of the Judeo-Christian faith everywhere they went.
The thing, more than any other, that brought thousands of Christians to martyrdom is that they refused to worship the Roman Emperor and to accept that there was any path to salvation other than Jesus Christ—the only begotten Son of the one true God. Christianity was and is the true religion of love and peace. It was spread voluntarily through missionary apostles and not through terrorizing armies, the sword, or the gun. Its adherents have always sought to live peaceably under established law and governance provided they are not asked to renounce the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The Christian seeks to love everyone as best he or she can while realizing that we also have an obligation to love God and honor His Word and direction for our lives. Jesus’ last charge to his disciples, known as the Great Commission, was to send them forth to make disciples of all nations, but it has always been understood that one’s turn to Jesus’ saving grace must be individual, personal, and voluntary. Salvation never springs from coercion or revisionist, non-biblical notions of collective salvation, social justice, or liberation theology.
The Seduction of Doubt; the Justice of God
Many abandon the Judeo-Christian faith because they find it unfair that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. It is however very prideful to lack faith in God’s Providence or ongoing role as the ultimate Caretaker of His creation. One wonders how many people have died without salvation because they did not trust God to save the poor tribesman in the middle of the Amazon basin or the Congo. C. S. Lewis stated that the fact that God has not told us what His arrangements are with respect to people who have not heard of Jesus should not affect our acceptance of Christ’s free gift of salvation since we do know God’s plan.[vi]
The fact is that we do not know how God may be impacting those who conscientiously seek to live by the moral code inscribed in the heart of all human beings called the law of nature, human nature, right and wrong, or simply fair play. C. S. Lewis pointed out that all “men find themselves under a moral law, which they did not make, and cannot quite forget even when they try, and which they know they ought to obey” regardless of their country or culture.[vii] The Apostle Paul wrote:
“For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel” (Romans 2:13-16; See also Romans 1:20).
Jesus, himself, stated, “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask more” (Luke 12:47-48). The message is that God’s just final judgment will take into consideration the opportunities one has had in this life for embracing Jesus (Matthew 11:20-24, 12:41-42).
God Still Working Today
There is a wonderful, charitable, missionary outreach of the Campus Crusade for Christ (now called CRU) named the Jesus Film Project. Brave missionaries take a generator into some of the most dangerous and remote areas on earth and show the Jesus film, translated into the native language, to the local inhabitants. The film is often shown on the wall of a hut or a sheet draped over a line or any suitable surface. The film, showing the life of Jesus, is taken from the Gospel of Luke and every word spoken by Jesus is a direct biblical quote.
It is not uncommon after the Jesus film is shown, for the Jesus Film Project missionaries to witness miracles and conversions, similar to those described by the Apostles in the first century. There have been many stories that indicate that Jesus seems to have visited, in various ways, some individuals before the arrival of the movie team. Once the Jesus Film Project team showed the Jesus film in a remote village somewhere in the Amazon basin. After the viewing, an elderly tribesman approached a team member and said, “I have often seen this man in my dreams, but I did not know who he was.” Another time the film was shown in a dangerous part of India, known among missionaries as the missionary graveyard. Surprisingly, the film received a positive reception from the local villagers. One of elders told a member of the team, “We have seen this man walking in the clouds.” C. S. Lewis referred to this type of experience as “good dreams” sent by God and “scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men.”[viii]
The Jesus Film Project stories, albeit anecdotal, do seem to indicate that there are mysteries going on with respect to God’s grace and plan of salvation that we do not know about. These stories indicate that some good pagan individuals are aware at some level that salvation is possible through someone that they do not completely understand or know until they see the Jesus Film. There is a regrettable, and very prideful tendency among many twenty-first century progressive liberals to assume that God is somewhat primitive, unsophisticated, severe, capricious, prone to mistakes, and far from all-knowing. The root of this failure to know God is that many assume that a university indoctrination and ongoing scientific discoveries have made them smarter than God without realizing that God created the entire universe and has always known more than we will ever know.
Lift High His Banner
As with so many things, we need to have faith that: God is just;[ix] knows what He is doing; is never surprised; and does not make mistakes. As shown in The Beginning of Wisdom, the Bible is still relevant, reliable, and true as are the promises of God. Being a faithful Christian involves believing that all other religions, philosophies, and creeds are wrong where they differ from the fundamental doctrines of the traditional, orthodox Judeo-Christian faith. Sincere Christians, who are rooted in Scripture, do not have the luxury of believing that all religions, philosophies, and creeds are equal. We worship the God of Abraham, Moses, King David, the Prophets, and Jesus Christ. There is no other. We do, in fact, believe that the only path ordained by God through which salvation can be achieved is through belief in the atoning death of Jesus Christ upon the cross, His subsequent resurrection from the dead, and His ascension to heaven so that all believers might have eternal life. This salvation is God’s most magnificent gift, free of all cost, to any believer who is willing to repent, turn from their sins, and make the attempt to live under the lordship and teachings of Jesus Christ. So long as we are sincerely trying to follow Jesus, He will never forsake us even when we stumble.
The pull of our popular culture will almost always be away from the truth of God’s Word. Let our Cross not be hidden away amid the theological clutter of our increasingly pagan world simply to curry the fleeting favor of the powers of this life. Let Christians proudly lift the Cross high that we may be bold ambassadors to the world for Christ’s Church.[x] Let us imitate our first-century church fathers and try to save the world rather than simply join it.
[i] Cant: Term used derisively here to imply insincere, pious platitudes.
[ii] Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” Christ Crucified,” in Spurgeon’s Sermons (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC, 2019 , 1:97,98.
[iii] John 1:12; John 14:6; Romans 8:14-19; Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 3:26, 4:5-7; 1 John 3:1-2.
[iv] Micah 5:2-5; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7; Isaiah 53; Psalm 22; Psalm 69:20-21; Psalm 34:20, 22; Psalm 110; Zechariah 9:9-10; Amos 8:9.
[v] Young, Robert, Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC, 2018).
[vi] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), 64.
[vii] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 23.
[viii] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity,50.
[ix] Deut. 32:4; Isaiah 30:18, 45:21; Job 34:12; Psalm16:9-10, 89:14, 103:6; Rev. 16:7; Zep. 3:5; Romans 9:14.
[x] 2 Corinthians 5:20; James 4:4,8.