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Why I believe Jesus is the only way

Posted by Chance on March 29, 2009

Christianity has the very politically incorrect belief that one must believe in Jesus and his sacrifice in order to be saved.  Many Christians, however, don’t hold this view.  They believe that good people of all faiths can go to heaven.

First of all, Jesus said he was the only way.  But, that isn’t enough for some Christians.

I want to point out that the belief is logically inconsistent.  If people could get to heaven just by being “good” (whatever that means), why would Jesus bother dying on the cross?

The reason Jesus was sacrificed in the first place was because no one is good enough to get to heaven on their own works. The purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice was to eradicate the whole idea of working your way into heaven.  So, if we are still getting into heaven by being a “good” person, then we are all back to square one.  We are treating Christ’s sacrifice as it it never happened.  Even in the Old Testament people didn’t get to heaven by being “good”, they had a system of sacrifices which pointed to the one True Sacrifice.  The OT code had stringent rules for behavior, but the sacrifices were always there with the assumption that the code would be broken.

Such a belief may make Christians appear to be arrogant, or even, make Christians be arrogant.  But Christians and non-Christians alike who truly understand this idea will see that it really is not that arrogant.  Isn’t it more arrogant to believe one is actually good enough to get into heaven?  For the Christian who truly understands the doctrine of grace, they will realize they have nothing of which to be arrogant.  It’s like saying you should be proud because you were drowning and had the presence of mind to reach for the life preserver thrown your way (and that analogy may imply too much effort on our part).  Or it is like saying you are hot stuff because you are a beggar who happens to know where the free food is.  As a Christian I often forget and think that my relationship with God depends on how good I am.  In reality, it is all about my dependence on Him, which results in a more righteous life.

In summary, the Bible points to Jesus being the way to the Father, through the teachings of Christ, his sacrifice, and the following epistles.  This belief may make Christians arrogant, but these Christians lose sight of the doctrine of grace.  It may make Christians appear arrogant, but that doesn’t undermine the veracity of the claim of Jesus being the only way.

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13 Responses to “Why I believe Jesus is the only way”

  1. Neil said

    Amen, Chance. Christians who say there are other ways drive me nuts. It isn’t just John 14:6 that makes that point. There are 100 passages that make the same point directly or indirectly (Stand to Reason has a great booklet with all of them). Saying something a lot isn’t what makes it true, but if the Bible repeats something that clearly and often it is a view that Christians must hold.

    And as you noted, it sort of mocks his work on the cross to say otherwise.

  2. Dan Trabue said

    What of folk like CS Lewis, who claim (or at least Lewis hints at) that those who follow Jesus ARE following Jesus, whether or not they name Jesus as the one they are following?

    What about the parable of the two brothers whose father asked them to do something. One said Yes, but didn’t do it and the other said, No, but DID do what his father requested? Jesus pointed out that it was the brother who followed his father’s wishes is the one who was in the right (even though his words said that he WOULD NOT follow his father’s wishes), rather than the one who merely said he’d follow his father’s wishes.

    That is to say, what does it mean to be a Christian? Are those who trust in God’s grace, who follow in Jesus’ steps, who recognize their own neediness and sin and repent of those sins and seek to follow Jesus – even if they ascribe their works to Allah or Buddha – are they not accepting Jesus and Christianity in every way but name?

    That sure appears to be Jesus’ point and CS Lewis’ point in his “The Last Battle” book and it makes sense to me.

    • Chance said

      Dan,
      Thanks for visiting the new crib (I think that’s what young people say these days). I’m no expect in soteriology (I just looked that up a second ago), but I’ll try my best.

      First of, we are not saved by following in Jesus’ footsteps, because that entails works. Jesus did show us how to live, and it is very important, but if anything, Jesus raised the bar higher. Now, I think your distinction between lip service and actually doing still applies, as James talks about faith without works in his book. So, where that would apply is someone just saying something like the sinner’s prayer, but they don’t have the changed life to show it, as opposed to someone who actually puts their faith in Christ and their life shows the change. It seems that doing will not get someone to heaven, as Jesus seems to point out in Matthew 7:22.

      But back to the mechanics of salvation – this is my personal opinion – but I believe it depends somewhat on the knowledge a person has. In other words, someone in a remote tribe may hear a story or see a vision (I believe those things happen) about a man who died for our sins. They may not know the exact details or even his name or a complete understanding of who he is, but they put their trust in him for salvation. Here in America though, we are without excuse. If somebody hears the story of Jesus yet rejects it, then they are without excuse. It doesn’t matter if they, in their lifestyle, mimic Jesus, because it isn’t works that saves us.
      I’m not completely familiar with Lewis’ theology, but based on my understanding of the Bible, this is what I believe.
      I’m not sure what Buddhism has to do with Christianity. From my understanding it doesn’t always involve a worship of a higher being, and it is focused on achieving happiness through good works, like every other religion that doesn’t focus on Jesus. Same with Islam, it has to do with good works and hoping it is enough for us to reach heaven. Paul said our works are nothing but debt, David said our works are nothing but old tampons, and Jesus said he is the only way.

      • dolphin said

        Is it your understanding then that everyone will, at some point in their lives, hear a story or have a vision of Jesus then? What of infants who die? I’m not trying to be contrarian, just interested in what your take is on such things. Theology is just one of those things I find fascinating.

        By the way, Buddhists do no seek to achieve happiness, whether through good works or otherwise. Buddhists seek enlightenment, which may sound like nitpicking but the difference is pretty substantial. A Buddhist who seeks personal happiness (or seeks to avoid personal unhappiness) is in fact causing their own suffering. While certainly Buddhists, as humans, DO both seek to attain happiness and avoid unhappiness, to declare either as a tenet of the faith would be to deny the Second Noble Truth!

      • Chance said

        Good question. Concerning infants, I do believe they are covered by God’s grace, based on 2 Samuel 12:14-31, in which David’s son dies (his first child with Bath Sheba), in vs 23 David says “But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Am I able to bring him back? I will go to him, but he cannot return to me!’”” Some people refer to this idea as an age of accountability, before which people can do wrong, but not really “sin.” It’s the same idea with the mentally handicapped as well.

        Concerning people in remote countries, I have heard stories of people having visions of Jesus, including people who tried to seek knowledge of the higher power and as a result, had these visions. Still though, that is still a hard question to grapple with. I suppose all these people in remote countries having visions is possible, but I honestly don’t know if that is the case… so I won’t pretend to have the answer to this one. If someone hears a good answer, let me know!

        Sorry, as far as Buddhism, I was thinking Nirvana was equivalent to happiness, or some state of bliss. I may have to brush up on that stuff.

  3. Neil said

    Good points, Chance. C.S. Lewis was a great a man and a great writer but he was horribly wrong on that point. He is in conflict with the Bible, and Christians should always go with the word in those cases.

    “Christians” who believe such false things like “all religions can lead to God” should be sending out Reverse Missionaries to de-convert people from Christianity to their local religion. After all, if they really believe that then why should Christians in India, China, Iran, etc. suffer for their faith? Just worship “Jesus” in your local religion, right? Of course that sounds ridiculous. That’s because the logical conclusion of that kind of religious pluralism is ridiculous.

  4. Dan Trabue said

    For my part, you will notice that I did not say “all religions lead to God.” I clearly think that some religions – and many of the overtly religious – can and do lead away from God. Nor did I say that we were saved by works.

    My question was about those who believe that we are saved by God’s grace (by which, thank God, we ARE saved) through faith in Jesus – even if they don’t know that it’s Jesus in whom they have placed their faith – and who respond by following in Jesus’ steps? Is it not possible that they ARE saved by God’s grace, too, even if they did not know to say “In Jesus’ name?”

  5. Dan Trabue said

    Suppose there is a Muslim. He believes that Allah is a gracious God and that we enter paradise only by Allah’s grace. Being a good Muslim, he is aware of the teachings of Jesus and loves them. He believes that he is an infidel who can’t save himself, but that Allah is willing and able to save him by Allah’s grace. This Muslim accepts that grace and strives to live a life that is, in fact if not in word, in Jesus’ steps.

    Now, this Muslim is wary of Christianity because he knows from his life and from history that Christians have often sought to convert or kill Muslims – even attacking and killing Muslim children. He wants no part of that sort of belief system. He also recognizes that Muslim extremists do the same kinds of things to Christian children and he rejects that sort of belief system, too. Instead, believing Allah to be a God of Love and Justice who saves us by grace, this Muslim puts faith in that Allah and follows in the steps of Jesus – but steers clear of anything that hateful Christianity (in his experience) has to offer.

    What of that fella?

  6. Chance said

    “Christians have often sought to convert or kill Muslims”
    First, a detour…
    Okay, the killing part is bad, but it depends what you mean as far as “convert”. Converting by force, of course, is bad, but by convert you mean “preaching the gospel” (I don’t want to be too presumptive here) I don’t see that as a bad thing. For instance, Jehovah’s witnesses or Mormons may try to “convert” me, but I shouldn’t bear ill will toward them. Now, I do agree that if we try to “convert” in the wrong way (too aggressively or hatefully, and without love), then yeah, that can turn people off. I was just taken a little off guard by seeing “convert” and “kill” in the same phrase, unless you mean “convert by force.”

    …Now onto the gist of the question.
    It depends what the person believes about Jesus. According to my understanding of the Bible, if the Muslim just thinks Jesus is a swell teacher, I would say that would not constitute salvation. If the person believes in Jesus as their savior, but just is misguided and believes some parts of the Koran, then they would be saved. And again, the person doesn’t have to completely have to understand the nature of Christ (I’m not sure any of us do), but I would think Jesus would have to be viewed as more than a good teacher. I would have to go back and study the verses concerning salvation, as it is something I struggle to understand more.

  7. Dan Trabue said

    But what if all he knows about Jesus is that his followers killed his family? And as a result, he is not willing to “follow Jesus” (or, he tells his father, “No,” as in Jesus’ parable), but then he proceeds to trust in Allah’s grace to save him and the Allah he believes in is the God of Love and Justice we recognize in the Bible? And, as a result, he in fact, follows in Jesus’ steps?

    Given Jesus’ story and just some basic logic, all I’m saying is that I’m not as willing as I once was to say “all of you who don’t fit my narrow definition of who is saved are NOT saved…” I prefer to leave it to God. In the meantime, I still believe in good evangelism, or sharing of the Good News. But in the sense that Jesus and the disciples taught it, not some Romans Road shortcut.

  8. Chance said

    Dan,
    I believe, as I’m sure you do, that the Holy Spirit can work through whatever circumstances. I’m not saying such a situation you mention would not make it more difficult, but anything could happen. And part of loving God is seeking him, and I believe that if this person earnestly seeks God, he will find his way to Jesus. John 14 seems to state that the Son and Father are a package deal. 1 Corinthians 1 indicates that Jesus is a stumbling block – if someone is confronted with Jesus, they will have to do one thing or the other with him. Also, you mention the word “narrow”, that is a word Jesus used concerning salvation.

    Anyway, I’ll have to move onto other things, so if you comment again, I’m not ignoring you, I just have to work on other posts and, of course, work itself.

  9. […] view.  I’ve actually heard of the “inclusivism view” in response to previous posts, but never spelled out like […]

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