Thursday, December 29, 2005

Question 4: Is Jesus the only way to Heaven continued

Yesterday, I talked about the different views of Jesus and salvation. Today, I want to take a closer look at the view called exclusivism. An exclusivist believes that salvation only comes through believing in Jesus Christ. Anyone who does not confess that Jesus is Lord will not find heaven I do affirm with exclusivists the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. I think Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.”

Why I am not an Exclusivist
Again, an exclusivist holds that the only way a person can be saved is to confess a belief in Jesus. The difficulty of this statement arises when someone asks about the fate of those persons who never hear about Jesus. After all, there have been millions of people who have died never hearing about the gospel. There are also many people who live in a different culture that would not understand even the clearest presentation of it. The exclusive answer to this question is the reason I am not an exclusivist.

An exclusivist would have to argue that those people who never hear the gospel and those who cannot properly understand it will not be saved. This means that for a great many people, God does not desire their salvation. For instance, (1) If God is in total control of the world, then God can offer salvation to every person. (2) If the only means of salvation is Jesus and some people never hear about Jesus, then we have to conclude (3) God does not desire the salvation of everyone. This, I believe is contradictory to the heart of the biblical message. For example, the bible tells us that “God desires than none should perish and that all should come to eternal life.” It also tells us that “For God so loved the world that he gave his son for us.”

At this point, an exclusivist could argue that for those who never hear the gospel, God works in an agnostic sort of way. God judges people on the knowledge that they do have. However, I would suggest that this is not an exclusivist position. This is an inclusive position because the argument is saying that people can believe some type of truth and follow Jesus without confessing Jesus as God.

Sometimes exclusivist appeal to the types of revelation, which I wrote about yesterday in defending the justice of God in the face of God damning those who do not hear the gospel. They argue that everyone is a sinner and therefore held accountable for their sin. They believe every person is without an excuse because God reveals himself in nature. This is called “natural revelation.” The only problem is that natural revelation only makes us accountable for our sins, it never leads us to salvation. The knowledge of salvation is given through “special revelation.” This revelation is the gospel of Jesus. So, an exclusivist will argue that all people deserve hell because they reject God who has been revealed in nature. However, those who have been given special revelation will find salvation in Jesus. They believe this makes God just.

As well thought out as this is, I do not bye into it. For me it does not solve any problem, rather it creates more. For example, how could a God who loves the whole world give us natural knowledge which can only condemn us? Then, this loving God only gives some people special revelation, which is the only thing that can save us. Again, in this picture God does not desire the salvation of every person. Rather, it seems that this God cares more about damning humanity for their sins than he does about redeeming humanity from their sins. This is not the picture of God I see in the bible at all. Rather I see a God who goes to great pains to redeem fallen humanity. It seems to be that one of two things must happen. Either natural knowledge, which holds us accountable to God, can lead us to God or God gives special revelation to every person.

Next, I will examine pluralism.

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