Shuck and Jive

Friday, December 19, 2008

Will Christians Go to Heaven?

The Christian Post posted this article: Many Americans Say Christianity Not the Only Way to Eternal Life.

Most American Christians believe many religions can lead to eternal life and among them, the vast majority says you don't even have to be Christian to go to heaven, a new survey shows.

Sixty-five percent of all Christians say there are multiple paths to eternal life, ultimately rejecting the exclusivity of Christ teaching, according to the latest survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Even among white evangelical Protestants, 72 percent of those who say many religions can lead to eternal life name at least one non-Christian religion, such as Judaism or Islam or no religion at all, that can lead to salvation.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the survey results "a theological crisis for American evangelicals," according to USA Today. (Read More)

The fundies are in a crisis all right. More and more people, including their own kind, aren't buying it. The fundie preachers howl that people don't believe in the authority of the Bible, or in the authority of Jesus Christ, or in the authority of Holy Mother Church.

That isn't the case guys. People don't believe you. Your exclusive religion is a lie. It isn't true. It's false. The theological fantasy you promote is no more real than the tale of Three Billy Goats Gruff.

You can get red in the face. You can stir up your masses to vote against gay rights. You can try to get your school boards to throw out science. You can preach eternal damnation for the non-believers until you go hoarse.

Meanwhile, your flock is losing interest. Why? Because they are smarter than you are. And they are more compassionate. You are going to have to work harder to stir up that fundie hellfire love.

Here is a Christmas present idea for evangelicals and others who are looking for honesty in their religion. I highly recommend this book and the study guide to go with it. This is especially good for those who may have grown up with Christianity and have grown out of it.

The book is entitled, When Faith Meets Reason: Religion Scholars Reflect on Their Spiritual Journeys. There is a study guide that goes with it that you can access on-line.

This is a book of personal reflections and good honest searching from religion scholars who have gone through the process of rethinking their faith. Some have left Christianity; others have made peace with it; still others are not sure what they are looking for.

We will be studying this book in the future at our church. You are welcome to join us if you live near our mountain. If you have considered starting a study group of your own, this book and guide would be the perfect resource to get you going. You can decide on your own whether or not to invite your preacher.


  1. Just a passing question.

    Just why do you think it is "more compassionate" to "believe" non-Christians (of whatever persuasion) are or might be going to heaven?

    Here is the gambit.
    Let us assume that your pluralist view is correct. Now, one "Christian" believes that non-Christians are going to heaven (or whatever) and one does not. One or both might speak to non-Christian friends about the grace and love of Jesus. One believes the choice (wrongly in this perspective) has eternal consequences and the other believes that it does not. They both love their non-Christian friends--one might assume that the exclusivist might be more "pushy".

    Now the other scenario. The reality in this scenario is that salvation only comes through explicit knowledge of Jesus. You have the same 2 Christians and the same interaction with non-Christian friends.

    Why would one be more compassionate than another? If the exclusivist view of reality is correct, then the pluralist "Christian" is totally uncompassionate. But if the pluralist scenario is correct, then both are just as compassionate as long as one or the other is not beligerent. For the sake of argument, let us assume that they are both very sensitive and caring people.

    So, how do you explain your "more compassionate" comment?

  2. So, how do you explain your "more compassionate" comment?

    The explanation is a reflection based on reality, on the observation of patterns of behavior exhibited by exclusivists, along exclusivist corollaries, eg, End Times eschatology.

    Let's not search too far for an example...let's take you.

    You are an exclusivist. Your comments on this posts reveal a general ill-will towards others who don't share your brand of theology. Your language on this blog, and the anger that frequently comes through your words speak of a belief in an angry, wrathful God, the father of a violent Jesus who will even the score and punish those who so richly deserve damnation. It's hard to see the compassion, and hard to feel the love.

    You write that "salvation only comes through explicit knowledge of Jesus." Implicit in this statement is that you, as an exclusivist take a significant measure of responsibiility for your own salvation. Yeah, I know what Ephesians says about grace and faith. But you, and other exclusivists lead with your self-righteous chins. Exclusivists place a very prominent emphasis on their own actions and the role they play in achieving their salvation. Doing so emphasizes that salvation is not purely a gift from God, but something to be earned by personal piety. Isn't is part of your practice to "witness your faith?" which is publically declare how profoundly your own faith saves you?

    By even obliquely, much less overtly, claiming credit for one's own salvation is move away from God's generosity and engage not in grace, but rather in hubris. It seems to follow as a matter of course that such hubris leads to judgementalism, self-righteousness, uncompassionate acts and a propensity to violence.

    It doesn't automatically follow that exclusivists are less compassionate than pluralists. I know exclusivists who are unusually kind, generous and compassionate, but I at least as many atheists who show the same characteristics and who live gentler, more self-aware lives. I also know many exclusivist Christians who come bearing mean-spirited fruits, who brandish an angry Jesus to vent their self-righteous disgust with the vast majority of the world.
    Compassion seems to be very low on their list. They seem to be our modern-day Pharisee's who cloak themselves in the law, the correctness of what they believe and profess, but largely miss the message of the Lamb.

    In the 7th chapter of Matthew, Jesus says, "21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

    In this, I believe that Jesus is talking to chest-thumping, exclusivist Christians.
    I believe that when Jesus says God will recognize those who do his will, he is referring to the scripture that notes the specifics of what God requires of us: to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with Him. (Micah 6:8)

    God is not angry. Jesus is not violent. Jesus does not come into the world with death and destruction. He is the Lamb of God, the Prince of Peace, the one who turns the other cheek.

    Bottom line. Exclusivists are not inherently less compassionate than pluralists or least that's the way it works on paper.

  3. There is a great difference between the Christian understanding of divine grace and the Muslim understanding of it.

    One belief that is generally held by most Christians is that only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God who underwent the Passion and died for their sins, will go to heaven. No matter that you believe in God and do good works; you will be in hell if you do not accept that Jesus died for you. And even if you lead a horrible life but believe at the same time that Jesus atoned for you in advance, you will be saved and go to heaven.

    In contrast to this, the Qur’an very clearly says what means:

    *{Those who believe [in the Qur’an], and those who follow the Jewish [scriptures], and the Christians and the Sabians,—any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.}* (Al-Baqarah 2:62)

    The point of the verse is that Islam does not teach an exclusive doctrine, and it is not meant exclusively for one people. The Jews and Christians hold on to their respective versions of exclusivism, whereas the attitude of Islam is entirely different. Islam existed before the preaching of Muhammad (peace be upon him) on this earth. From the Qur’anic perspective, all those who submitted to God before Muhammad (peace be upon him) were Muslims. Islam or submission to God's will has been and will be the religion for all time and for all peoples.

    So it is no surprise that the Qur’an calls Abraham a Muslim. The Qur’an says what means:
    *{Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a Christian; but he was true in faith, and bowed his will to God's [which is Islam], and he joined not gods with God.}* (Aal `Imran 3:67)

    To call Abraham a Jew or a Christian would be inaccurate, as Judaism and Christianity came after the time of Abraham. Indeed the very names of those religions suggest their beginnings generations after Abraham, while he could very well be called a Muslim, meaning one who submitted to God.

    This means that those descendants of Abraham who follow his path are also bound to be in the right. The Qur’an says what means:
    *{Without doubt, among men, the nearest of kin to Abraham are those who follow him, as are also this Apostle and those who believe: And God is the Protector of those who have faith.}* (Aal `Imran 3:68)

    So what should we say to those who claim that only Jews or Christians will go to heaven? Allah Almighty Himself gives us guidance. The Qur’an says what means:
    *{They say: “Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided [to salvation].” Say thou: “Nay! [I would rather] the religion of Abraham the Hanif (the truly-guided), and he joined not gods with God.}* (Al-Baqarah 2:135)

    *{Say ye: “We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma`il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to [all] prophets from their Lord: we make no difference between one and another of them: and we bow to God [in Islam].}* (Al-Baqarah 2:136)

    Thus ,we must understand that all the prophets of God carried the same Message of God and taught the same way to Heaven. And that is Islam.

    And Allah knows best.

    Thank you and please keep in touch.


    Useful Links:
    Jews & Christians to be Rewarded by Allah

    Is There Anti Semitism in The Quran?

    Disbeliever's Good Deeds: Can They Take Him to Paradise?

  4. DR,

    I will let other readers decide who displays more civility in this interaction. And I will not discuss individual actions by people I do not know.

    I simply wanted to point out either your misunderstanding, or your attempt to obfuscate the question I am posing.

    You have assumed scenario one is the only true view of reality. But my point is that if scenario 2 is true, then the exclusivist position of appealing to others to be reconciled to God is more compassionate.

    Your posing the eschatological passage of Matthew is certainly a fascinating red herring. I would suggest you read a few detailed commentaries on the Sermon on the Mount before referencing that scripture. I will only point out that this is in part a separation of Jesus followers in word only (hypocrites) and Jesus followers in word and deed (faith and works go together -- works being also keeping the moral law). Nowhere is there a hint of salvation by works.

    One last point...both Luther and Calvin taught salvation comes only through explicit faith in Jesus Christ alone, and neither saw explicit faith in Jesus as some form of work for which to take credit. Somehow you have equated reception of an unmerited gift of grace with prideful achievement.

    The main point I wanted to highlight is the idea of compassion has to be rooted in one's perception of reality. Your perception of reality is a pluralist one, therefore for you compassion is measured by tolerance as defined as an acceptance of all views as equally valid, and actions that represent a full acceptance of almost every form of lifestyle.

    But if scenario 2 is reality, then what is taken for compassion in reality 1 is in fact the opposite of compassion.

  5. If the exclusivist view of reality is correct,

    Big if. Which exclusivistic view? If that is your criterion you should join all the exclusivistic religious clubs you can to cover your bases.

    They all offer the same threat: believe as we do or burn. Ho hum.

    Near our mountain we have loads of exclusivistic churches who think they are the only ones. They have elaborate theories to prove they are the chosen--just like Adel does.

    It is amazing that anyone comes out of these fear-based religions alive. Yet many do. The good news about this article is that more and more are rejecting exclusivism and are finding new ways to relate to each other, the world, and whatever it is they call G-d.

  6. John,

    "I would suggest you read a few detailed commentaries on the Sermon on the Mount before referencing that scripture."

    Such Holier-Than-Thou arrogance usually deserves a good slap in the face, but...

    Of all the fundy visitors you get, this is the one that I think most needs medical attention.

    (I don't mean that to be insulting, but I suppose it is anyway.)

    It makes me think that maybe it is just shades of gray... I mean, after all, the other fundies seem to approve and resonate well with him.

    Maybe all of religiosity is a form of mental illness, I don't know. It's not a new suggestion, that's for sure. But if not, then where do we draw the line?

    I ponder that fully aware of my own religiosity. It's that "thin red line". Maybe that is why we argue so hard. Down deep inside we are arguing for our own sanity, over and against the sanity of others we are sure need medical attention in the worst possible way.

    I think maybe that is why I have in recent years fallen back on a theology of ethical practice. It's not what we think that matters, its what we do. At the end of the day, it's the sheep that take the prize. The goats, so sure of themselves, walk away empty handed into outer darkness ,naked, hungry, and in the prison of their own minds.

    Or maybe that's empty hoofed.

  7. I think maybe that is why I have in recent years fallen back on a theology of ethical practice. It's not what we think that matters, its what we do.

    I'll go for that and not because doing so gets me to "heaven" but because it is the right thing to do.

  8. Adel,

    "Your posing the eschatological passage of Matthew is certainly a fascinating red herring."

    Thank you.

    "Your perception of reality is a pluralist one, therefore for you compassion is measured by tolerance as defined as an acceptance of all views as equally valid, and actions that represent a full acceptance of almost every form of lifestyle.

    Cmon. You're going to have to do better than a puny little reductio ad absurdum fallacy if you want to make any points. Give it another shot.

  9. John,

    Yea, whatever "heaven" is...

    At first it seems like it was a consolation prize for not getting a true Theocracy that would kick Rome's butt.

    Then something mysterious happened, and people merged the spiritual world and the after life and came up with "heaven".

    Then life sucked so bad that the only hope was to die already and go to a better place. The ultimate "grass is greener on the other side" syndrome.

    Somewhere in all of this there is a grain of truth.

    The message of Jesus was not really about getting to the other side. It was about living right and well in the here and now for its own sake. It was about following Him wherever he goes. And for emphasis Jesus said "Oh, and by the way, about the other side..., well..., don't expect any favors on the other side if you keep acting like such shits on this side"

    But the Kingdom of God comes to us, not us to it. That is what Advent is all about.