Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Are We Growing Afraid to Affirm the Uniqueness of Christ For Salvation?

I recently received an article from the CS Lewis Institute that was originally in the Spring 2009 issue of "Knowing & Doing": Is Jesus Really the Only Way to God? (Complete text here)
The author, Dennis Hollinger, cites the large percentages of American Christians who support unorthodox views regarding salvation:
"Among all Americans who are affiliated with a religion, 52 percent believe that Islam leads to eternal life with God, 53 percent believe that Hinduism leads to God, and 42 percent even believe that atheism leads to God."
In his conclusions he offers the following,
"The growing number of Christians who are troubled by Jesus’ claims to be the single course of salvation indicates how much the world has come to live in us as we attempt to live in the world. We easily allow the push and pull of our culture to define our beliefs, commitments, and way of life, even while giving lip service to the name of Jesus. Perhaps the Pew Forum poll will be a wake-up call as to how much Christians have allowed the world to shape their sentiments."
I think that is an excellent observation. As much as people would like to tell you that they have come to this belief on their own, in all likelihood the current world view is what shapes their reason.
"Affirming the uniqueness of Christ for salvation and eternal life does not, of course, answer all our questions. There is much that God has not told us about the mysteries of life, death, and eternity. We naturally wonder what happens to those who never have an opportunity to embrace Christ. To such quandaries we must simply trust in a Savior who is both loving and just, and whose understandings are far beyond ours. We must acknowledge that from Scripture we know relatively little about heaven and hell. What we do know is that Jesus, the apostles, and the historic Church in all its variations have affirmed that Jesus is the only true way to God. And it only makes sense that if a person didn’t want Jesus as Savior and Lord on this earth, they would hardly want to spend eternity with Him."
There is a question Christians commonly face from non-believers (and increasingly from believers), "What about the poor guy in China who never heard the Gospel?" The old answer, "He is going to Hell" does not fly in today's pluralistic society. I myself pray that Jesus will reach out to those who did not get to hear His voice in this lifetime, but while we might answer that we don't know exactly what will happen to them, we can say with confidence what will happen to those who do accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and that is why it is so important to spread the good news of the Gospel to those who might not have heard it in this lifetime. How to do this without turning people away from Christ is the challenge for individuals and the Church.
"To affirm the uniqueness of Christ for salvation is not cause for arrogance and boasting. In fact scripturally it is exactly the opposite. Our salvation has nothing to do with our attainments, efforts, and native beliefs. In salvation we do not find God through our own ingenuity. Rather, God finds us as we respond to his loving mercy in Christ as evidenced on the cross. The embrace of Christ as savior and Lord can never be touted as cause for human triumph, smugness, or self-assertion. It is not a sign of our superiority, or cause for triumphalistic efforts in society.
The uniqueness of Christ is a sign that the triune God of the universe cares so deeply for his wayward creatures that he mercifully provided a path to forgiveness, a way to the Father’s embrace. It is in the Father’s embrace through Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, that we come to realize that we can never pull the Triune God apart. For indeed to know Christ is to know the Father, and to know the Father is to know the Spirit, who enables us to stay true to the One Savior in the midst of a pluralistic world." Dennis Hollinger was appointed in 2008 as President and Professor of Christian Ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, headquartered in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. He is a member of the C.S. Lewis Institute Board of Directors. Dennis and his wife, Mary Ann, have two adult daughters.
So what are we afraid of when faced with the possibility of having to express an opinion as to the uniqueness of Christ for salvation? Is it our general lack of confidence in our ability to communicate it as well as Dennis Hollinger, or is it our lack of confidence in the Gospel itself, or is it fear of retribution from an increasingly hostile world?


  1. Anonymous8:21 AM

    Perhaps the problem is the posing of the wrong question. We assume that everyone (should) want eternal life in God's presence and so we ask, "How shall we obtain eternal life?" When in reality there are a variety of questions being asked most particularly "How do I reconcile myself to life here and now given the nastiness of some of it?" "Why is there no justice?" "If there is a God how does He allow misery, tragedy, and violence to win?" And these are simply common Western questions...

    1. I do not think it is the wrong question at all. In fact, I see that there is a common answer to all your other questions once one can say with confidence that Jesus is the Way.

  2. "The road to eternity splits at the Gospel".
    Dietrich Bonhoefer.

    1. It sounds like Bonhoeffer would have been with us in holding the minority opinion if he were alive today.

  3. UP. You know why! IF someone especially a priest actually proclaimed the Uniqueness of Christ, I suspect deposition papers would be coming ASAP via registered letter. My Diocese (SC) has affirmed this in our convention. Believe it or not I think this was among the charges brought against Bishop Lawrence. SO no- not a popular stance unless you want to be deposed. sad indeed. :"-(

    SC Blu Cat Lady

    1. That would be fear of retribution from an increasingly hostile Church!

  4. If the scenario that SC Blu Cat Lady envisions is accurate then, can TEC still be considered a church or is it simply an NGO that has become a persecutor of the church?