Is christianity exclusive – approaching justice hp gas online booking


Christianity is, by definition, an exclusive religion. Anyone can become a Christian, but doing so means accepting an exclusive doctrine. According to Christ, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This, by definition, means other religions are “false.” It’s a bold claim’; there’s no denying that. But a lot of religions make exclusive truth claims..Nor is Christianity the only religion that views non-believers as adhering to a false religion.

As a descriptive account, this can’t be correct. It fails to capture what so many churches have said on this subject. One of those expressions is found with the National Council of Churches USA, which represents 38 Mainline Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Peace Churches, and African American bodies, including my own United Church of Christ. The National Council writes:

Every person embodies something of the divine image and therefore may possess some ray of truth, some aspect of the Mystery of God we know to be revealed in Jesus Christ. Christians know God through Jesus Christ, but understand that all human understanding of truth is inherently limited and conditioned. The reality of God, in contrast, is intrinsically unlimited. God will always be greater than any human can comprehend or any religion can convey.

Pew Research did polling among Americans and found 65 percent of Christians in the US believed that it is possible to relate to God in saving ways outside of their own religion. Only 29 percent said that their religion was the only true religion and only 30 percent identified true belief as the determining factor for eternal life. 29 percent said one’s actions matter the most, which cuts across religious boundaries.

Now I don’t have access to global numbers. But they do paint a portrait of American Christians such that it should make us question that “definitionally” Christianity must be an exclusive religion. It could be something of the American experience. where religious diversity is increasingly a fact of life that touches all of our lives.

In rural Montana, we have Friday prayers held at Montana State University Billings, we have an active Jewish synagogue in town, we have several Buddhist meditation groups, and we have the largest group of Montanans: those one in three that do not identify with any religion.

In almost any area of the country, you will be friends with people who do not identify with Christianity. What does one do with this as a Christian; especially as you relate to genuinely good people in your lives, folks who relate well to life and to one another? Especially if they are family members, which is the experience of those 1 in 5 who grew up in interfaith homes?

If we look at scripture, we are often presented with the passage “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Whatever the Gospel of John was doing, it was not arguing that Christian faith is required to be saved. There was no Christianity to join. There was various Jewish movements, and the “ Way” of Jesus was one of the movements. But that movement had not officially come to it’s own self understanding as a distinct religion.

‘No one comes to the Father except through me’, says Jesus. In other words if you are to be reconciled as a son or daughter with the God that Jesus calls ‘Father’ then it is in association with him and in walking his way that that becomes a reality: walking his way, not just having the right ideas about him, not even just repeating what he says, but following him.

So what is eternal life? William James writes this concerning the hope of religious faith: “she says that the best things are the more eternal things, the overlapping things, the things in the universe that throw the last stone, so to speak, and say the final word.” Or as 1 John 2:17 puts it this “world is passing away with all its allurements, but he who does God’s will stands for evermore”

Eternal life isn’t a spatial location and it isn’t something that happens after you die. It appears to be a quality of life one has by participating in God’s good intentions for the world. God’s will is eternal and when we participate in that, we share in the eternal our self. To quote the beginning of Colossians 3

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above… Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry) … and clothe yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal [there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

A resurrected life happens now, not after you die. It happens when we die to our old selves and embrace that self that God would have for us. Verse 10 leans towards a universal vision where the very ways we cut ourselves off from one another is relativized. The divisions of race, language, nation, and dare we say religion, does not have the importance that who we are before God does.

Robert Jeffress’ language is not just impolite while being “orthodox”. Instead his language does not make for peace and is the opposite of what we find in Paul and Pauline writings in the New Testament, of how we are to relate to one another.

From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

The language reflects the National Council of Church’s statement, that all people have the divine image in them. It reflects the Reform Judaism’s Gates of Prayer which says that we all came from one ancestor so that one could claim their lineage was greater than another. Or to quote John Dewey we are “in some metaphorical sense all brothers, [that] we are … all in the same boat, traversing the same ocean”

To see the divine image in others means that when we see 61 Palestinians murdered, many shot down by live ammunition, often by snipers, when we see that Gaza has become a virtual prison for 2 million, we can say that indeed God is being shot down, that God lives in prison conditions, that God faces occupation.

Palestinians and Israelis need salvation from the violence inherent in the region. The US needs salvation for throwing fuel to that violence and then endorsing it. Any definition of salvation that would allow us to disregard the humanity, the divine image in others is not salvation and is not good news. In this, I go with the dictionary definition of salvation as “preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.”

When we consign others to hell, this slips readily to creating a hell for others. In that, I would reject a lazy form of pluralism that claims everyone is equally right or equally wrong. It is, as Matt Lewis notes, an exclusive claim, that I hold, in saying that any idea that can disregard the other is not salvific and should not form a normative account of Christian faith, of eternal life, and of how we relate to others.