Is Jesus the only path to salvation?

The following comment and question was posted on my main blog on a recent entry, “Message for Oklahoma Christians: Muslims are NOT our enemies.” The comment was:

I have one thing to ask of the people who claim their respective religion is the “only” path to God, and that is to ask themselves what happens to people who are atheistic or of the “incorrect” religion, but are truely [sic] good people? Does this mean that they are never saved, never loved by God in heaven (or whatever you believe happens when you die)?It is an interesting question, one that I have wondered often, especially when some christians claim that the path to God is only through embracing Jesus.
Jeff – a high school student who stumbled on this article

Here’s my response:

Jeff: Great question.

In the case of Christianity, I go back to what CS Lewis wrote in “Mere Christianity.” A lot of people want to put Jesus in a box and say something like, “He was a good moral teacher but not the Son of God.” Lewis says Jesus was either a raving lunatic or exactly what he said he was: God on earth. Jesus in his teachings was clear about “the path to salvation” being through a narrow gate. This is a HUGE stumbling block for many people who consider themselves Christians today, but have a more unitarian / universalist view of salvation. It may sound much nicer to say “all religious roads lead to the same path” but that is not what you’ll read in the Bible. So a fundamental question to answer for yourself in this regard is, “Who do I believe Jesus was and is?”

Jesus, of course, did not endorse a terrible list of evils which have been perpetrated throughout time in his name: the inquisition, the crusades, actions by white supremacists, etc. These are big issues that keep many people from understanding Jesus and his message as well.

Christianity is differentiated from all other religions in the world in one significant way: Grace. In every other faith, you’ll learn about how you need to work and “do things” to earn your way to salvation. For the Christian, a transformed life is one filled with good works for God– but salvation is not a result of works. You don’t find this in Islam, Hinduism, or any other mainline religion but you do in Christianity.

My encouragement to you is to keep seeking the answer to the question you’ve asked here, keep asking other people, and keep praying to God to open your eyes and reveal Himself to you. Read the Bible and seek God’s spirit through it, especially reading the gospels.

Ultimately there are MANY things we don’t know and can’t answer with certainty, even when we have a strong faith and conviction in knowing God. He is infinite and so definitionally He’s beyond our limited abilities to fully understand. This is not a cop-out, I think it’s actually wisdom which you will find with many “religious” people, Christian and non-Christian alike. This does NOT mean truth is relativistic and “unknowable” either, but it does mean we aren’t going to get everything figured out while we’re still all mortals on this planet.

If you see or hear someone who claims to be a Christian espousing damnation and a condemning judgement on others, in a hateful spirit, be wary. When you read about the life of Christ in the Bible, you learn he never acted that way toward everyday people. He was most severe and condemning when he criticized the religious leaders of his day, the Pharisees. Believing that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” and the “narrow gate” through which we are able to be forgiven and accepted by God does NOT mean we are to go around condemning everyone we meet who doesn’t believe the way we do. Jesus simplified all the laws in the Old Testament in these two commands: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. There’s not any condemning in those commands.

What would you say in response to Jeff’s questions?

Memorial at Ponte Vedra Beach
Creative Commons License photo credit: minds-eye

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One comment

  • magnethart


    Great response to the question. In my experience working with youth, Jeff asks the question everyone is trying to understand. I think you did an excellent job explaining the important biblical view of who Christ is and how he loves everyone. Grace is such a difficult thing to understand when you don’t have an experience to draw from. The biggest thing to remember is that Christ did not come to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17 paraphrased).

    Thank you for your post.

    God Bless

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