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Are We All Bound for Heaven? Christian Theology and Other Religions. Is it possible?
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Is it possible?
“Western society is now irretrievably mixed, pluralist in character…It is a visible and obvious fact to be seen in every major city, where Caucasian and Afro-Caribbean, South Asian and Chinese ethnic types jostle on every street. The questions of the British census were available in English, Welsh, Bengali, Cantonese, Greek, Gujurati, Hindu, Italian, Punjabi, Turkish and Urdu…”
- Christopher Lamb
“One religion is best but salvation is possible in other religions”
Polls of 1006 people
of all respondents think religion causes division between people
Think religion is a force for good
of those from non Christian backgrounds are religious
- ‘For God so loved the world that he sent his Son…’ (John 3:16)
- ‘He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9)
- Jesus said “He who is not against me is for me” Gospel of Mark 9:40
- Jesus said “Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” Luke 12:10
- The Apostle Peter wrote of God: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9
- An aphorism common in some Christian circles: “All Truth is God’s Truth”
- The Talmud states: “The righteous of all peoples have a place in the World-To-Come” (Tos. To Sanhedrin 13:2, Sifra to Leviticus 19:18) and affirms that the great majority of non-Jewish humanity will be saved, due to God’s overwhelming mercy.
- Rabbinic tradition asserts that the basic standard of righteousness was established in a covenant with Noah: anyone who keeps the seven commandments of this covenant is assured of salvation, no matter what their religion. This is standard Jewish teaching for the past two thousand years.
- The Qur’an revealed through Muhammad, states “Those with Faith, those who are Jews, and the Christians and Sabaeans, all who have Faith in Allah and the Last Day and act rightly, will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow” (Qur’an, Surat al-Baqara; 2:62).
- “Our God and your God are one and we submit to Him” (Surat al-’Ankabut; 29:46)
- Gita states: “O Arjuna, even those devotees who worship lesser deities (e.g. Devas) with faith, they also worship Me, but in an improper way because I am the Supreme Being. I alone am the enjoyer of all sacrifical services (Seva, Yajna) and Lord of the Universe” Gita 9:23
– Ken Keathley
Passages such as Acts 4:12 indicate the ontological necessity of Christ's work, but not knowledge of that work.
People like Cornelius and Melchizedek show that one can be a God-fearer who pleases God, in right relationship, before hearing special revelation.
That infants who die are saved, without respect to faith or lineage (something that almost all proponents of exclusivism hold), shows that special revelation is not absolutely necessary for salvation.
That God is loving and good infers that God would save the unreached.
It would be unjust of God to damn those without knowledge of the gospel
Critics of inclusivism argue that general revelation, or anything else for that matter besides Christ himself, is not sufficient for salvation.
"...men, not professing the Christian religion, [cannot] be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. And, to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested, (Westminster Confession of the Faith, X.4, emphasis supplied, quoted in Robert Reymond's, Contending for the Faith, s.v. "The 'Very Pernicious and Detestable' Doctrine of Inclusivism", p. 367).
The only way to the father is through Jesus (John 14:6), furthermore, "he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:12).
Most emphatically, Paul declares: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent." (Romans 10:13-15)Arguments
1. "Christianity understands itself as the absolute religion, intended for all people, which cannot recognize any other religion beside itself as of equal right."
2. revelation of God in Christ took place at a specific time in history. Those who lived before, or who have not yet heard of it, would seemed excluded from salvation. This is incompatible with God's will to save all.
3. Knowledge of God, and God's saving grace must therefore be available outside Christianity, including other religions, despite their errors and shortcomings
4. faithful adherents of non-Christians religions should be regarded as "anonymous Christians"
"Somehow all people must be able to be members of the church."
5. Religious pluralism will always be part of human existence
Christianity and Christ have a unique and exclusive status that other religions do not share
knowledge of God (God's self-revelation) may be present in other religions
the grace of God and even salvation may be present in other religions
grace might be mediated by the lifestyle they evoke, e.g. selfless love
Consider the Old Testament, the outlook of a non-Christian religion, Judaism.
We discard some practices we regard as unacceptable (e.g. dietary laws)
We retain others as valid (e.g. moral laws)
We can do the same with other religions
- John Hick: paternalistic: "honorary status granted unilaterally to people who have not expressed any desire for it."
- Hans Küng: "It would be impossible to find anywhere in the world a sincere Jew, Muslim or atheist who would not regard the assertion that he is an 'anonymous Christian' as presumptuous"
- Hans Küng, On Being a Christian, p. 89