Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Christianity the Only Means of Eternal LIfe? Some Disagree"

I found this to be interesting. 

A recent survey conducted by LifeWay Research found that while a majority of Protestant pastors believe Christianity is the only way to obtain eternal life, there is a small percentage who strongly feel other religions offer eternal salvation as well.

The survey asked 1,000 Protestant pastors the question, "If a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity."
Seventy-seven percent of the pastors questioned said that they strongly disagree with the statement and seven percent somewhat disagreed. Another seven percent somewhat agreed and five percent strongly agreed. Three percent said they are not sure.
The educational level of the pastor played a role in their decision making. Pastors with a graduate degree were more likely to strongly agree with the statement, and less likely to strongly disagree, compared to pastors with a bachelor's degree or less.
The study also found that evangelical Christians held stricter views on the universality of eternal salvation compared to mainline pastors. According to LifeWay, 85 percent of evangelical pastors were more likely to strongly disagree that there are other ways to eternal life other than Christianity than mainline pastors at 57 percent.
Only two percent of evangelical pastors strongly agreed with the statement, while 11 percent of mainline pastors strongly agreed.
Region also played a role in the survey results. The survey found that 11 percent of pastors in large cities strongly agreed with the statement. Only four percent of small city pastors agreed.
Four percent of pastors in suburban areas strongly agreed, while three percent in rural areas said the same.
The question of exclusivity and universality has been a long disputed issue in the church.
As noted by Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, "Rob Bell's book Love Wins kicked off a discussion about the exclusivity of the Christian gospel. But most pastors are more in line with historic Christian beliefs than Bell, who suggested that other faiths lead to heaven."
Bell, former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich., started somewhat of a firestorm in the evangelical community when he questioned whether the Bible teaches that there is an eternal hell. His 2011 book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, prompted a bevy of responses from evangelical leaders who released their own books to counter Bell's claims.
In a recent interview with Jake Tapper of ABC News, evangelical pastor Rick Warren said no one deserves to go to heaven; rather, eternal salvation can only be gained through Jesus' grace.
When asked if he believes the way to eternal life is through belief in Jesus Christ, Warren replied, "I do believe that. And I believe that because Jesus said it."
"Jesus said, 'I am the way.' He didn't say 'I'm one of the ways.' He said, 'I am the way, I am the truth, and I am the life.' I'm betting my life that Jesus wasn't a liar," Warren added, as previously reported by The Christian Post.
Warren is the lead pastor of Saddleback Church, located in Lake Forest, Calif. The megachurch's weekly attendance averages 20,000 people.
"I think the only way any of us get into heaven is God's grace. I'm not getting to heaven on my integrity. I'm not getting to heaven on my goodness. I'm getting to heaven on what I believe Jesus said is grace, and the fact is it's available to everybody," Warren added.


  1. What interests me most about it, from the perspective of a technical hyper-orthodox Christian apologist, is that the survey's wording and reportage focused on the idea of one or another religion being the means (much moreso the exclusive means) of how we receive eternal life (or rather staggeringly how we "obtain" it!)

    This mindset has been endemic in the Church since at least the 2nd century (maybe earlier)--but strictly speaking it is the heresy of gnosticism: the idea that we go to heaven or are otherwise saved by holding the proper beliefs like doctrinal passcards. It is very closely related to legalistic Judaism, where it is not our doctrinal beliefs per se but our doctrinal practices which get us into heaven. (Sometimes these concepts at least allow for God to have graciously bestowed these beliefs and/or practices upon us, but much more often the wording is that we obtain salvation by doing these things. Although then again a pastor may practically preach or even outright say such things, and then turn around later--maybe only moments later--and say something categorically different.)

    Meanwhile, despite what the report says, Rob Bell (whatever his other faults are, which are distressingly common) never once says or by connotation even implies that people are saved by what religion they hold--not in Love Wins at any rate. On the contrary, he writes strongly and consistently against that notion.

    But of course, someone (I don't mean you per se Nick {g}) hugely dedicated to the idea that we are saved by holding to some set of ideas, would be very likely to comprehend that as Rob meaning 'we can be saved by or through holding to other sets of belief'!


  2. Hey JRP! Welcome once again. ;)

    If I understand your comment, I think I agree. If my (very tired) memory serves me right, I think MacDonald and Kierkegaard believed the same thing. Possessing correct doctrine didn't ultimately save people.

    Of course, I could totally be missing your point.


  3. Along with Jason's comment, I would also add that the question is a bit misleading: It is not a religion, but a person through whom salvation is obtained. So I imagine that it is technically possible to obtain a relationship with Jesus 'through' (or perhaps in spite of) a number of religions (including Christianity!). How likely that is, is a separate question to be explored.

  4. Jason,

    Saweeet! ;-)

    I think I ultimately agree with MacDonald.