Is Christ the Exclusive Way to Eternal Life?

Well, according to a recent study published by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the overwhelming majority of Christians don’t think so.

A study released on Monday gave some surprising–and for us evangelical Christians, downright alarming–results. According to this article, 57% of evangelicals believe that there are multiple ways that lead to eternal life (I don’t know the specific definition for “evangelical” the researchers used in their study. But it’s safe to assume it was something very close to people who claim to belief in God and Christ as Savior, while believing that the Bible is the Word of God). Not just the idea that Baptists, Presbyterians, and Catholics can all claim the path to eternal life, but that a diverse group of religions and religious thought can all be valid.

It isn’t my purpose in this post to explain why exactly these 57% of evangelicals are misled in their beliefs. But, quickly let’s consider two things. One, let’s remember that Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And two, from a logical perspective we can’t all be right. Pluralists want it to be possible, but it just can’t be. Christians believe Jesus was God. Jews and Muslims believe he wasn’t. Well, either he was (in that case Jews and Muslims are sorely mistaken) or he wasn’t (and in that case we are sorely mistaken). It can’t be both ways.

Whether you are either someone who believes that many ways could lead to eternal life or someone who is appalled at the fact that 57% of evangelicals believe so, I think there is a warning we should all pay attention to. I think a couple of heart issues are at work.

The first question is where is our authority. Is it in Scripture or something else? We’d probably all say it’s in Scripture, but don’t we all in blatant or subtle ways add our own opinion to the mix. Isn’t our Christianity usually something more like “Christ plus Justin” or “Justinanity” rather than Christ and Scripture alone? But once our submission to God’s Word as our authority begins to be undermined, we can then go any number of crazy ways when it comes to our beliefs.

Researchers in this study made a point of mentioning that these results were much different for this generation than they would have been one or two generations ago. Some will point to this as proof that America is “going to hell in a handbasket,” and if we could only have it the way it “used to be” we’d be better off. This may or may not be true, but I think a more accurate commentary on the results is this: it proves that we are affected and changed by the world around us. A hundred years ago religious pluralism and moral relativism weren’t that influential. Today they are. And thus we must be warned to hold fast to our beliefs. Romans 12:2 tells us to not be conformed by this world. But isn’t that exactly what we’re seeing with these findings? And once again, to one degree or another, aren’t we all guilty of being conformed by the ideas and opinion around us?

And finally, this study shows us the overwhelming biblical illiteracy in America. Did you know that one of the favorite bible quotes of American’s is “God helps those who help themselves?” Look that up in a concordance or bible search and tell me what you find. Okay, I’ll save you the trouble, it’s not in there. It’s actually a quote from Ben Franklin. Yet many Americans believe it’s in the bible. 20% of people in a Gallup poll correctly identified who preached the sermon on the mount. But once again, aren’t we all guilty of this? Who reading this (or more pointedly, who writing this…) can honestly say that he knows his bible as well as he should? Who reads their bible, studies their bible, enjoys diving in their bible, as much as they should? Not me. And my guess is, not you.

So, as you read the article on MSNBC or hear it reported elsewhere: be appalled. Have a righteous anger at the bad representation Christ gets in our country today.

But then turn the tables on yourself. I misrepresent Christ with every breath. Shouldn’t we be appalled at our biblical illiteracy? Shouldn’t we repent from our submission to “Justinanity,” rather than Christianity? Shouldn’t we take stock of our lives and see all the ways we are conformed by our world, rather than redeeming it? My answer to all three is, yes, yes, and yes. What’s yours?

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